Located in Humboldt County, California, just south of Redwood National and State Parks, the small city of Arcata is a vibrant place on Humboldt Bay. With redwood forests just steps from downtown, beaches full of clams and some of the most pristine natural sand dunes on the West Coast, Arcata is a great place to explore much of the different geographical wonders that Northern California has to offer. The city itself has great eateries, historic architecture, and lots of culture to enjoy.

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1.Arcata Community Forest

Arcata Community Forest
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Only a few blocks from downtown Arcata, there’s a redwood forest just waiting to be explored. Arcata Community Forest has been designated the rare title of a ‘model forest’, which it shares with only 20 other forests in the US, for its excellent forestry. The forest is comprised of 790 acres of land, which vary from 250 to 1010 feet elevation throughout the premises. The ravines and wooded hillsides contain many tall and ancient redwood trees, and visitors can access the forests via a number of ways. There are corduroy roads, bridges, and trail steps along the way for hikers to access some of the steeper and more difficult terrain, and also plenty of trails that are accessible for bicyclists and horseback riders.

14th and Union Street, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-822-8184

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2.Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary

Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary
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The 307 acres that make up the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary are part of the city of Arcata’s ingenious and cutting edge wastewater treatment facility. There are freshwater, salt, and brackish marshes, as well as sloughs formed by the tide, mudflats, and grassy land as well on the property, and by combining wastewater treatment with the natural ecosystem of a constructed marshland, Arcata is proud to say that they’ve created an ecological resource out of their wastewater. There are thousands of birds that migrate along the path of the marsh, and over 300 unique species of bird have been spotted in the area. At the Arcata Marsh Interpretive Center on the premises, visitors can learn about the creation of the marshes, the birds that fly through it, and the ecological impact of marshes.

569 S G Street Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-826-2359

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3.Arcata Farmers' Market

Arcata Farmers' Market
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Farmers Markets are popular these days, and even the smallest towns can sometimes claim one as their own. But the North Coast Growers’ Association’s Farmers Market in Arcata was one of the first four certified farmers markets in the entire state of California, and today it bears the distinction of having been run continuously for longer than any other certified farmers market in the state. This farmers market’s vendors are all smaller farms, with the stalls run by the farmers themselves or their direct employees, and there are no middle men between the grower and the the seller. This way, visitors can be sure that they are receiving fresh, local food created by the vendors themselves. Here, visitors can find not just fruits and vegetables, but also products like cheese, seafood, mushrooms, plants, flowers, and honey.

PO Box 4232, Arcata CA 95518, Phone: 707-441-9999

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4.Clam Beach County Park

Clam Beach County Park
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The nearby city of McKinleyville is located right along the Pacific Coast, and in McKinleyville, visitors will find Clam Beach County Park. This quaint beach park is named for the abundance of razor clams which can be found there, and visitors can dig for them if they wish. There are also camping sites at Clam Beach County Park, with sites for RVs as well as for tent camping. Both overnight guests and day trippers will enjoy the scenery, the beach, and the trails in the area, including the Hammond Coastal Trail which runs from Little River State Beach to Mad River Beach and is suitable for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.

Clam Beach Dr, McKinleyville, CA 95519

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5.Mad River Beach County Park

Mad River Beach County Park
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A visit to Mad River Beach County Park will actually feel like exploring two completely different parks. The first part consists of the Mad River, located only a few miles from where it meets the Pacific Ocean, and the large tidal influence here makes it great for kayaking, canoeing, and other types of boating. There is a boat ramp in this part of the park as well as a parking lot and restroom facilities, and visitors will often find the water full of people paddling and enjoying the water. The other part of the park is the beach, which is great for long walks or days of relaxing. The sandy, grassy dunes make for lots of fun and exploration for visitors, and the beautiful views of the Pacific are simply breathtaking, especially at sunset.

1 Mad River Rd, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-445-7651

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6.Humboldt State University Natural History Museum

Humboldt State University Natural History Museum
© Humboldt State University Natural History Museum

With admission prices for adults, seniors, students, and kids, and even a perfect family admission pack that includes up to two adults and four kids, the Humboldt State University Natural History Museum is a great destination for families. The educational exhibits inside this university-funded museum will teach visitors about the redwood forests of the region, prehistoric mammals that once lived in North America, and animals, insects, and plants that live here now. The museum also hosts many hands-on educational programs on topics such as wildlife tracking, honeybees, and other topics, many of which are family friendly.

1242 G St, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-826-4479

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7.Humboldt Crabs Baseball

Humboldt Crabs Baseball
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There’s nothing quite like a ball game: the hot dogs, soft pretzels, ice cream, and popcorn hawked by sellers in the crowd, the music blaring over the loudspeakers, and of course, the joy of watching the game with friends or family. The Humboldt Crabs are a collegiate team that play every summer at Arcata Ballpark since their founding in 1945, and visitors in Arcata during the summertime will not want to miss the excitement and fun of a baseball game. The Crabs’ game schedule can be found on their website, and visitors can purchase tickets either online or by calling the Humboldt Crabs’ information line.

PO Box 4422 Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-840-5665

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8.Mad River Fish Hatchery

Mad River Fish Hatchery
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Operating since 1971, the Mad River Fish Hatchery is dedicated to preserving populations of chinook salmon and steelhead fish in the region. For decades, the hatchery stocked lakes all over Northern California, like Ruth Lake and Freshwater Lagoon, with trout and other fish. In 2004 the hatchery was forced to close, but not for long. In 2005, the Mad River Fish Hatchery reopened its doors and has been raising fish ever since. The hatchery is open to the public every day from 7am until 4pm, and there, visitors can go fishing, have a picnic, or explore the river area, as well as learn about the important role the hatchery plays in the fishing world.

1660 Hatchery Rd, Blue Lake, CA, Phone: 707-822-0592

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9.Alchemy Distillery

Alchemy Distillery
© Alchemy Distillery

In 2015, Alchemy Distillery officially made its first batch of whiskey, but the dream to open a distillery was much older than that for its owners, who first dreamt up the idea in 2010. Alchemy Distillery is focused on running a grain-to-bottle company that took part in every aspect of the liquor making process instead of purchasing liquid grain neutral spirits like many other distilleries do. Alchemy’s product, called BOLDT, can be found at retailers all over the West Coast, and it is made from fresh grains from local farms. Visitors who wish to visit the distillery may do so on the second Friday of each month as well as the last Saturday of the month, and on those Saturdays, the Alchemy Team offers free tours every hour from 2pm to 6pm.

330 S G St, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-822-8013

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10.Arcata Theatre Lounge

Arcata Theatre Lounge
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Built in 1937, the neon, vertical marquee sign of the Arcata Theater Lounge is hard to miss in the city’s downtown area. This historic place features elements of Art Deco design as well as a decidedly Art Moderne touch, all of which can be plainly seen in the geometric light fixtures in the theater and the sweeping curves of the other interior elements. Today, the Arcata Theatre Lounge has undergone several renovations but still maintains its historic style and atmosphere. The theatre shows classic films, cult favorites, and new releases, and on Sundays they even show NFL games so fans can watch their team play on the big screen.

1036 G St, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-822-1220

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11.Ma-le'l Dunes Cooperative Management Area

Ma-le'l Dunes Cooperative Management Area
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Located at the upper end of Humboldt Bay, the Ma-le’l Dunes are a sandy stretch of dune-filled land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the southern end and by the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge in the northern portion. The 160 acres that make up these dunes comprise huge sandy dunes, unique forestlands, and marshy coastal wetlands. The name Ma-le’l comes from the Wiyot tribe who once called the land home, and the Ma-le’l Dunes are one of the most pristine sand dune systems in the country, and certainly the most pristine in the Pacific Northwest region of the US. Trails through the area are suitable for walking, biking, and horseback riding, and provide a gorgeous look at a unique geographical feature, just a few miles from downtown Arcata.

1 Young Lane, Arcata, CA 95521

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12.Holly Yashi Store and Design Studio

Holly Yashi Store and Design Studio
© Holly Yashi Store and Design Studio

When Holly Hosterman and Paul “Yashi” Lubitz first combined their respective talents in art, jewelry making, industrial technology, and music, it was 1981. Together, they created a signature style using a metal called niobium, which looks dull until dipped into electronically charged water, which turns it to brilliant colorful hues. Their unique cut-metal designs can be found all over the country, but their flagship store is located right in Arcata, and after over 35 years of making jewelry, visitors can find hundreds of unique designs in their shop. From earrings and necklaces to anklets and rings, Holly Yashi has something for everyone, and the jewelry in this store makes a perfect souvenir or gift for someone back home.

1300 9th St, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-822-5132

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13.Arcata Playhouse

Arcata Playhouse
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You can’t go wrong with the classic combination of dinner and a show, and the Arcata Playhouse has certainly got that second part covered. Formed in 2006, the Arcata Playhouse has been putting on great productions for over a decade, with an emphasis on teaching the community the power of theater with their passion and talent. The small, 160 seat theater often teams up with local talent such as the Redwood Jazz Alliance and the Humboldt Arts Festival to put together performances and programs for the community, and puts on series’ throughout the year such as the Family Fun Series, which teaches young theater patrons about theater from all over the world and puts on fun, colorful, and educational productions for a young audience.

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14.Wrangletown Cider Company

Wrangletown Cider Company
© Wrangletown Cider Company

Wrangletown Cider Company and North Story Wines has been creating fantastic vintages of ciders and wines for years, with a young, talented owner who sources her ingredients from local and family owned farms in Humboldt County, California. Every year, Wrangletown adds more and more fantastic and unique vintages to their collection, and lovers of dry cider will find paradise inside the rustically labeled bottles of Wrangletown’s products. Located in the Creamery district of Arcata, Wrangletown Cider Company opens its doors to the public on Fridays from 3pm to 7pm and on Saturdays from 1pm to 7pm, and visitors can try some amazing product in their small, quaint tasting room. Private tastings can also be set up by appointment.

1350 9th St, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-508-5175

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15.Phillips House Museum

Phillips House Museum
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The historic Phillips House on the corner of 7th and Union Streets is not a grand mansion or a unique design, but the small white house with its little front porch does represent very well an example of what a typical farmhouse looked like from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century. Inside, visitors will find a living museum which quite accurately depicts the daily life of a farmer and farming family in Humboldt County. There are historic furnishings inside the house and detailed touches that show visitors what a typical family ate, how they spent their spare time, and how they lived their daily lives. Guided tours of the house are offered from 2pm to 4pm on Sundays, or by appointment.

71 7th St, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-822-4722

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16.Baywood Golf And Country Club

Baywood Golf And Country Club
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The history of Baywood Golf and Country Club goes back to 1933, when the original nine hole course was designed by famous player Chandler Egan. Since then, the golf course has expanded to become one of the best-rated courses in the region, which has even been rated the best private course on California’s North Coast. Players here can enjoy a peaceful eighteen hole course set among rolling green hills and tall, majestic redwoods. The club itself is luxurious and has every amenity players could ever need, including outdoor seating with a great view where members can enjoy delicious food, refreshing drinks, and great company.

3600 Buttermilk Ln, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-822-3686

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17.Kebab Cafe

Kebab Cafe
© Kebab Café

As the name suggests, Kebab Cafe serves up some amazing kebabs, but this little Mediterranean eatery doesn’t stop there. Other offerings on the menu include authentic gyros, delicious falafel, and other great food like burgers. The owner, a London native, was born on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, and brings his heritage to America with this delicious restaurant through not only the food, but also the decor. Guests eating at the Kebab Cafe will love everything from the souvlaki kebab skewers and halloumi cheese to the homemade baklava, all offered at extremely affordable prices.

5000 Valley W Blvd #19, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-826-2121

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18.Los Bagels

Los Bagels
© Los Bagels

Los Bagels brings together cultures across the world through bread, a food which is shared by ethnicities and traditions all over the globe. With an emphasis on Jewish and Mexican traditions, Los Bagels proudly celebrates a multitude of multicultural holidays from Dia de los Muertos to Passover with bagels, empanadas, challah, and more. Their homemade chorizo is fantastic, as are the bagels and lox, and this Arcata classic happily sells platters for large groups that include enough delicious food to feed a small army. From toasted breakfast bagels with cream cheese to sandwiches stuffed with meat, cheese, and homemade guacamole, Los Bagels has something to suit everyone’s palette. They even have gluten free bagels, so everyone can get in on the fun.

1061 I St, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-822-3150

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19.The Big Blue Cafe

The Big Blue Cafe
© The Big Blue Café

Perhaps the most iconic cafe in Arcata, the Big Blue Cafe offers an all day breakfast menu as well as a wide selection of salads and sandwiches for customers. Big Blue Cafe has a full espresso bar where customers can purchase lattes, chai, cappuccinos, and of course, a steaming hot cup of coffee made from the cafe’s own unique blend of roasted beans. There’s always something new on special at the Big Blue Cafe, from a special sandwich to a unique seasonal drink, and the comfortable atmosphere, great food, and outdoor seating area make it a great destination for a meal or a few hours spent chatting with friends. The Big Blue Cafe is open Sunday to Thursday from 8am to 3pm, and on Fridays and Saturdays from 7am to 3pm.

846 G St, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-826-7578

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20.Mazzotti's Ristorante Italiano

Mazzotti's Ristorante Italiano
© Mazzotti's Ristorante Italiano

Mazzotti’s Ristorante Italiano has amazing food, but that’s not the only reason it’s on this list. The Italian restaurant, which now has several locations in Arcata and Eureka as well as other parts of the country like Arizona and Colorado, has been around since the 1970s, when the restaurant opened in Eureka and became a local favorite. Mazzotti’s menu includes Italian classics such as antipasto, frutti di mare, and chicken marsala, but also features plenty of other dishes like “the Hitman sandwich”, which is loaded with tri-tip steak, cheese, and veggies, and then served drizzled with ranch and Italian dressing.

773 8th St, Arcata, CA 95521, Phone: 707-822-1900

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20 Best Things to Do in Arcata, CA