Located along the northern bank of the Carquinez Strait, the city of Benicia has transformed several times over the years.
From being appointed a military reservation by President Abraham Lincoln prior to the Civil War, to helping transport Pony Express riders across the strait, to ferrying trains destined for the Central Pacific Railroad, this little town has made a huge impact on the area’s (and the nation’s) history.
Today, the waterfront town is best known for its scenic views, artists community and shopping and dining. Here’s how you can spend $100 a day or less in Benicia.
Coffee and Toast at Farm & Flour ($12.75)
Start your day with a strong cup of coffee and oh-so-delicious toast from Farm & Flour. Crafting each loaf fresh daily, the First Street bakery piles thick cuts of its country, rye or whole wheat breads high with all matter of toppings. Go for the Homestead Avocado toast that’s generously topped with avocado, feta, house-made “Everything” seasoning, lemon zest and mint. Paired with a cappuccino brewed with Martinez’s States Coffee espresso and you are set for a morning of adventuring.
Hike Benicia State Recreation Area (Free)
Cyclists, runners, walkers, equestrians and roller skaters will enjoy the 2.5 miles of paved road and bike paths in Benicia State Recreation Area. Make your way through several different ecosystems, including marshland, grassy hills and rocky shoreline, for a picturesque outdoor activity. This is also a popular bird-watching and fishing area.
Brunch or Lunch at One House Bakery ($9 – $15)
If you’ve built up an appetite post-hike head to One House Bakery to nosh on anything from the eatery’s all-day-brunch or lunch menu. Co-owner and head baker Hannalee Pervan focuses on seasonal ingredients for all of the bakery’s items and freshly mills her own flour every day. Snag a spot on the patio or along the counter before diving into a croissant-loaf French toast (complete with Chantilly cream and real maple syrup) or a ham, cheese, butter sandwich on a fresh baguette (with rosemary ham and semi-soft cheese) that’s softly pressed.
Stroll and Window Shop Along First Street (Free, unless you buy something)
As the main thoroughfare of town, First Street is perfect for an afternoon stroll and a bit of window shopping (or real shopping if you’re so inclined). Lined with small- and family-owned businesses, restaurants and shops, the avenue leads down to the water, offering visitors scenic views of the strait. Pop into Collektive or Pink Arrows Boutique for some women’s fashions or catch the sunset before dinner.
Treasure Hunt in the Tannery Building (Free, unless you buy something)
The Tannery Building, located in a beautiful brick structure at the end of First Street, is home to small antique shops, boutiques, eateries and local artists’ galleries. Pop into The Little Art Shop to peruse a collection of 25 artists’ works that range from photography to metalwork to jewelry to paintings, or comb through the curated treasures and trinkets found at Art & Things by Gail.
Dinner at Bella Siena ($25 – $30)
Wrap up your day with a waterfront seating at Bella Siena Restaurant and Bar. Inspired by the Tannery’s facade, the owners pay homage to the brick-clad Italian city of Siena and have a luxurious menu to match. Deeply rooted in Italian fare with a touch of California seasonality, featured dishes at the restaurant include the Siena Sampler (calamari, bruschetta, skirt steak satay and crab cake) or the Pollo Ripeno (oven-roasted chicken stuffed with ricotta, fontina cheese, spinach and wild mushrooms).