10 Best Things to Do in Arcata, CA

Arcata is situated on the northern coast of California, nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the dense forests of the Redwood National and State Parks. It is approximately 280 miles north of San Francisco and 90 miles south of the Oregon border.

Arcata has a rich history that dates back centuries. The area around Arcata has been inhabited by indigenous peoples for thousands of years.

The Wiyot Tribe is the original indigenous community in the region, and its presence and cultural heritage continue to be recognized and celebrated today.

Did you know that the name the city’s name was derived from the term “Arcadia,” symbolizing a place of natural beauty and abundance?

One of the prominent features of Arcata is Humboldt State University, a well-regarded institution known for its focus on environmental studies and natural resources. The university’s presence contributes to the city’s youthful and progressive atmosphere.

Arcata is mostly visited because of its advantage of being close to the Redwood National and State Parks. This makes it an ideal gateway for exploring the majestic Redwood trees that are iconic to the region. The city offers access to numerous hiking trails, natural reserves, and scenic viewpoints.

If you are still not convinced yet that Arcata is a great place for a short gateway from the big city, then let’s have a look together at the best 10 things to do in Arcata, CA and let me change your mind.

Things to Do in Arcata, CA

1. Explore the Arcata Plaza

Arcata Plaza
Image source: visitredwoods.com

Start your adventure by strolling through the Arcata Plaza, the heart of the city. Arcata Plaza holds historical significance, dating back to the city’s establishment in the mid-19th century. The plaza’s layout and architecture maintain a sense of the past, providing a glimpse into Arcata’s history.

This picturesque square is surrounded by shops, galleries, and restaurants, offering a vibrant atmosphere and a great opportunity for people-watching.

Whether you’re interested in shopping, dining, enjoying local art, or simply taking in the city’s ambiance, Arcata Plaza should be the starting point of your visit.

2. Visit the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary

Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary
Image source: cityofarcata.org

Nature lovers shouldn’t miss the chance to explore the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary. The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary is an extensive marshland and wetland complex encompassing over 300 acres.

It serves as a vital habitat for a diverse array of plant and animal species. The sanctuary provides nesting, foraging, and resting grounds for numerous migratory birds, making it a prime destination for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

3. Enjoy a Meal at a Café Brio

Café Brio in Arcata invites you to savor a delightful culinary journey in a cozy and inviting setting. As you step inside, the aromatic scents of freshly brewed coffee and gourmet dishes greet you warmly.

Take a seat at one of the charming tables, where you can peruse the menu and embark on a culinary adventure.

Grab a cup of artisan coffee or indulge in a delicious brunch at one of the cozy cafes in town. Don’t forget to try some locally sourced pastries or vegan treats.

4. Explore Redwood National and State Parks

Redwood National and State Parks
Image source: visitredwoods.com

Just a short drive from Arcata, you’ll find the awe-inspiring Redwood National and State Parks. Redwood National and State Parks are renowned for their majestic coast redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens).

These towering giants can reach heights of over 350 feet (107 meters) and have been known to live for more than 2,000 years. Walking among these ancient trees is an awe-inspiring experience that evokes a sense of reverence for nature’s grandeur.

Take a hike through the towering ancient redwood forests, marvel at the majestic trees, and connect with the breathtaking beauty of nature.

5. Discover the Arcata Community Forest

Arcata Community Forest

If you planning on going to Redwood National National Park then you better lace up your hiking boots and explore the Arcata Community Forest, a 790-acre forested area with an extensive network of trails.

The forest is known for its stunning natural beauty, featuring lush greenery, towering trees, and a diverse range of plant and animal species. It offers a tranquil and serene environment for hikers to enjoy.

6. Visit the Arcata Farmers Market

People talking at the farmers market

If you’re in town on a Saturday, head to the Arcata Farmers Market. This vibrant market offers a wide variety of locally grown produce, handmade crafts, live music, and delicious street food.

The market offers an opportunity to connect with farmers and producers who proudly display their freshly harvested goods. From seasonal favorites to unique varieties, you’ll find a diverse array of produce that reflects the region’s agricultural bounty.

It’s a perfect opportunity to support local vendors and experience the community spirit.

7. Delve into the Natural History Museum

The museum features exhibits that showcase the natural history and biodiversity of the region, with a particular focus on the North Coast of California.

This museum serves as a gateway to exploring the diverse natural wonders of the Humboldt region and beyond, fostering a deep appreciation for the environment and the creatures that inhabit it.

The Natural History Museum houses diverse collections of specimens, including plants, animals, fossils, rocks, and minerals.

So, if you want to deepen your understanding of the local ecosystem or a family seeking an educational outing for children, the museum provides an engaging and immersive experience that encourages exploration and a lifelong appreciation for the natural world.

8. Dine at Local Restaurants

SALT Fish House
Image source: saltfishhouse.com

Arcata has a couple of restaurants to choose from, something to satisfy every palate.

One restaurant I personally recommend is the SALT Fish House. This is mainly seafood based, but they also have pasta and wine if you are more in the mood for that.

9. Attend a Performance at the Minor Theatre

Theatre performance on the stage

Established in 1914, the Minor Theatre has stood as a beacon of entertainment and cinematic experience for over a century. The building itself showcases architectural elements from the early 20th century, adding a touch of nostalgia and character to its presence.

This beautifully restored theater offers a unique cinematic experience and hosts a variety of events, including film festivals and live performances.

10. Experience the Arts at the Creamery District

Arts at the Creamery District
Image source: playhousearts.org

This creative hub is home to galleries, studios, and artisan workshops. The Creamery District gets its name from its history as a hub for dairy and creamery operations in the early 20th century.

The Creamery District is known for its artistic and cultural offerings. It is home to numerous art studios, galleries, theaters, and performance spaces where local artists and performers showcase their talents.

The district often hosts art walks, live music events, theater productions, and other cultural activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Arcata CA worth visiting?

Arcata, CA, is definitely worth visiting for its unique charm and vibrant community.

What is Arcata CA known for?

Arcata is known for its progressive atmosphere, proximity to the stunning Redwood National Park, and Humboldt State University.

Is Arcata a nice town?

Arcata is considered a nice town, offering a welcoming environment, cultural events, and natural beauty.

Is Arcata CA walkable?

Yes, Arcata, CA, is walkable, with a pedestrian-friendly layout that makes it easy to explore its shops, cafes, and local attractions on foot.

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