Arcata in Humboldt County is a rare gem among the tallest redwood forests, yet next to the beach. A wetlands provides wonderful coastal hikes, while the redwood forests offer a rare glimpse into a history of California spanning several millennia.
With Humboldt State University located in the city, visitors get the added benefit of a college town with shops, restaurants and entertainment focused to a youthful, cutting edge crowd.
Arcata is what many would consider "laid back" California style. As you enter the downtown square with a lush and lovely garden spot complete with park benches, green lawns and a statue, you just want to stick around in this old-fashioned city and watch people walk by. You can do it, though you'll also be tempted to explore the clothing, arts and other shops offering items a little less mainstream. In fact, when you look around and ponder which place you'll choose to eat, maybe you'll notice that there's hardly a chain restaurant or store in sight.
Stop on the Plaza to browse and
shop at Arcata Artisans, a gallery operated like a coop in which dozens
of local artists are represented and their original artwork is for sale.
Items range from ceramics and glass to jewelry, prints and photographs.
It's amazing, enjoyable, and very much a step into another dimension of California, completely in contrast to other cities along the same coast nearly 1,000 miles south in L.A. and San Diego.
When you go: Just know that it does rain in Arcata. Don't be surprised. It is part of the local experience to have rain. There are many things to see and do, and some events actually cancel when it rains, though most do not. Call ahead before planning to attend events and find out what the policy is, as rain is often a prospect during your visit.
One of our very favorite events in California is the World Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race held usually on Memorial Weekend in May. It set the standard for other races to follow and people from many countries visit just to see this amazing race.
Like other northern cities such as Sebastopol, Arcata passed the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Act, prohibiting work on nuclear weapons, and the storage or transportation of nuclear weapons within the city. An anti-panhandling ordinance was more recently passed due to the over-abundance of homeless, vagabonds and students looking for hand-outs. The ordinance prohibits panhandling within 20 feet of businesses.
Getting to Arcata:
Arcata-Eureka Airport in McKinleyville, one of the foggiest airports in the world, resulting in frequent flight delays or cancellations. Some arriving flights are diverted to Redding, California, a three hour drive to the east, or Crescent City, about 90 miles (140 km) to the north. On several trips to this airport we have experience both fog and rain. It is the nature of the weather in the region that provides such a great climate to support the giant redwood trees nearby, the tallest in the world!
Arcata is in Humboldt County, the gateway to the Pacific Northwest off Highway 101 near the Highway 299 junction, 110 miles south of the Oregon border in the heart of the Redwood country.State Route 299 connects to U.S. Route 101 at the northern end of Arcata. See map of Arcata.
Mild climate and beautiful scenery
attract thousands of visitors each year
to the forest and beaches. Arcata,
California Elevation: 33'
The downtown portion of Arcata includes an old fashioned square with centerpiece park where people love to read a book, look at the flowers and eat a lunch or sip coffee. Several of the hills leading to the downtown overlook the Humboldt Bay. Shopping, art galleries and restaurants are the main businesses in the downtown region.
Humboldt State University, one of the oldest colleges in the California State University system, was founded in 1913 as a teachers college and was called Humboldt Normal School. It has grown significantly since then and its programs are nationally known and imitated.
The Arcata Community Forest is a 575 acre forest with trails, redwood trees, and picnic areas. The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary is internationally known and features bird watching and trails for walking and jogging. The center of town is built around a Plaza with plenty of shopping, restaurants and is conveniently located for the walking tour of Victorian homes.