Benicia, a charming waterfront town on the Carquinez Strait, was once the capital of California.
Born as a bustling 19th-century port on the Carquinez Strait, Benicia was California’s third incorporated city and served as its capital for 13 months, beginning in 1853. Today, the sweeping waterfront vistas remain, as well as Victorian homes, artists’ studios, and a lively mix of independent galleries, shops, and restaurants along First Street.
Head to the Camellia Tea Room and pair Darjeeling or one of more than three dozen teas with finger sandwiches, curry chicken salad, or scones with jam and rich Devon cream.
You almost expect legislators from yesteryear to materialize at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. In the restored senate and assembly chambers of the redbrick building, potbellied stoves stand in corners, chandeliers hang from the ceiling, and gentlemen’s tophats sit on desks.
Artists welcome the public during the open studio event May 4 and 5 at the Arsenal, a former army munitions depot that’s now a thriving arts haven. Among the works for sale are paintings, prints, and whimsical scrap-metal sculptures. Tyler Street at Polk Street, 707-747-0131.
Menu choices at the First Street Cafe include slow-braised pot roast, fruit crisps, and an open-faced crab-artichoke sandwich, all served in a cozy storefront dining room outfitted with an old bar and dark wood wainscoting.
This article was first published in November 2013 and updated in February 2019. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.