Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Arcata, CA

  • Published 2021/11/17

California sums up what American Dream is all about.

Its wanderlust appeal and the endless surprises are enough to make everyone include this place on their bucket list of places they need to visit in the United States.

While its significant cities give you the most ideal and common vacation scenarios, California’s suburbs are where its natural beauty shines.

One of its hidden gems is found in the small city of Arcata in Humboldt County.

It’s one of those cities for people who want to escape the city stress because of its vibrant but tranquil atmosphere.

Arcata is a perfect destination for outdoor buffs, as it’s near Redwood National State Park, and the city itself is nestled along the coastal area of Humboldt Bay.

Arcata is a true nature lover’s haven since it pretty much has northern California’s natural wonders.

Arcata has historical landmarks that tell you a story of its past, good food to eat, and warmly hospitable locals.

The city is 280 miles north of San Francisco through Highway 101.

It has a population of roughly 18,000 inhabitants.

So, here are the 15 best things to do in Arcata to give you an excellent what awaits you there:

Spot Exotic Birds at the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary

Great Blue Heron at Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary

Robert Mutch /

Spend your day in Arcata in its 307-acre protected nature reserve, the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary.

This spot is a must-visit place in Arcata City for birdwatching since thousands of migratory birds spend time on the marsh and its mudflats to feed themselves.

It would be great to bring a good camera to get a nice photo of some of the 300 species of birds that you can spot there.

Great Egret at Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary

Carolina K. Smith MD /

Plus, the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary’s staff offer tours for those who want to learn more about marshes and their role in nature.

To visit this place, it is at Gearheart Marsh, Arcata, CA.

The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary is open from 7 am to 8 pm.

Watch a Movie at the Historic Arcata Theatre Lounge

The Arcata Theatre Lounge is witness to the city’s history as it has served as one of its entertainment centers since 1937.

The Arcata Theatre Lounge is easily distinguished when you pass by because of its vintage-designed marquee vertical sign that lights up every sundown.

The building itself lets you travel back in time because of its vintage Art Deco design and elements.

To maintain its old beauty, the Arcata Theater Lounge underwent numerous renovations with its new owners.

Watch the latest movies at the Arcata Theatre Lounge or perhaps catch some classic films they regularly show.

To find out what the theatre is currently playing, visit its official website.

Roam Around the Arcata Community Forest

View of Arcata Community Forest

R. Alan Meyer /

Upon arriving in Arcata, treat yourself to a beautiful hike at the Arcata Community Forest.

The community forest is known for its lush vegetation and towering ancient redwood trees.

The Arcata Community Forest earned the title ‘Model Forest,’ a coveted award only given to 20 other forests for excellence in forestry.

View of Arcata Community Forest

Adurable Creations /

The entire community forest covers 790 acres of protected land and has a varying elevation of 250 feet to 1,010 feet.

The place is famous for outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, jogging, and nature photography.

To visit this place, it is at 14th and Union St. in Arcata, California.

Outdoor activities are allowed from 7 am to 6 pm.

View of Arcata Community Forest

R. Alan Meyer /

Buy the Local’s Best Produce at the Arcata Farmers’ Market

Arcata Farmers’ Market, organized by the North Coast Growers Association, is one of California’s four certified farmers’ markets.

Today, this farmers’ market is also the longest-running farmers’ market in California.

Arcata’s farmers’ market is run by around 70 farmers, with their best produce.

So, you’re pretty much guaranteed to enjoy fresh local produce and food straight from the farmers in northern California and Arcata.

The farmers’ market is also famous for its delicious food stalls, pastries, etc.

Arcata’s farmers’ market is open every Saturday morning to afternoon.

It is located at the city block of 8th and 9th streets in Arcata Plaza.

Taste Fantastic Local Wine at the Wrangletown Cider Company

The owner, Pat Knittel, who grew up in the neighboring town of Eureka, naturally has a keen eye on soils, thanks to her father, who was a geologist.

She used that skill by starting her own winemaking company in 2000 by perfecting the French wine variety, Pinot Noir.

Since then, Knittel has produced fine wine and ciders from locally sourced grapes from Humboldt County’s farmers.

Each year, Wrangletown Cider Company introduces new wines to their extensive collection, which gives not just locals but northern California more choices of fine wines.

Plus, they also serve exquisite bottles of dry cider from their winery.

Wrangletown’s tasting room is at 955 I St, Arcata, CA.

They are open every Friday and Saturday from 2 pm to 7 pm.

Experience College Campus Life at the Humboldt State University

View of Humboldt State University

Adbar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Arcata might be a small city, but it boasts one of the most affordable higher-education programs in the country: the Humboldt State University.

The State University offers 48 majors, around a dozen graduate programs, along with other under-educational programs.

View of Humboldt State University

hakkun, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The reason why you should visit Arcata is because of its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful campus buildings.

Plus, the university has several activities you can watch, such as sports, art exhibits, and other school-related activities.

To get to the Humboldt State University, it is at 1 Harpst St, Arcata, CA 95521.

View of Humboldt State University

Ajay Tallam, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Munch on Freshly Baked Bagels at Los Bagels

Los Bagels is a one-of-a-kind bakery in northern California that emphasizes different cultures and traditions.

It proudly celebrates different multicultural holidays through its pastries and bread.

Their branch in Arcata is no different from the others, which serves freshly baked bagels and bread every day.

They are most known for their chorizo, empanadas, and other delicacies, which typical bakeries don’t have.

Their signature toasted bagels topped with cream cheese and guacamole are something you shouldn’t miss eating when going there.

To visit this bakery, head to 1061 I St, Arcata, CA.

They open from 7 am to 2 pm.

Tour Around the Historic Phillips House Museum

Arcata is also home to several places with historical backgrounds relevant to the city’s past.

One of them is the Phillips House, seated at the corner of 7th and Union Streets in Arcata.

The house may not look too lavish, but it holds significance to Arcata’s history.

This simple white house represented the typical farmhouse in the 19th century.

This type of house was the most common design in Arcata back in the day.

However, due to modernity, many of these houses have already adopted the innovation.

Thus, only very few remain, and one of them is the Phillips House.

The Phillips House was eventually converted into a mini-museum.

Today, it houses a comprehensive collection of housewares and artifacts that depict Arcata’s locals’ simple farm life back in the day.

There is a guided tour for those who want to visit the museum every weekend from 1 pm to 4 pm.

Stand Beside the Gigantic Redwood Trees in Redwood Park

Gigantic Redwood Trees in Redwood Park

Jeffrey Schwartz /

A redwood tree forest reserve is found within Arcata City.

Redwood Park is a famous picnic area in the 790-acre Arcata Community Forest.

It is a must-visit place if you want to get a closer look at the majestic giant redwood trees, which are already thousands of years old.

Gigantic Redwood Trees in Redwood Park

Jeffrey Schwartz /

Don’t forget to take tons of excellent photos while standing beside these giant trees to complete your Arcata City travel experience.

Plus, the park has a picnic area where you can relax, eat, and do outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding, and biking.

The Redwood Park is open from 6 am to 6 pm.

Gigantic Redwood Trees in Redwood Park

Jeffrey Schwartz /

Catch the Crabs Play a Baseball Game at the Arcata Ballpark

If you’re a baseball fan, you shouldn’t miss the city’s beloved baseball team’s games, the Humboldt Crabs.

The Humboldt Crabs baseball team is a collegiate team that has competed every summer since 1945 at the Arcata Ballpark.

Visiting teams from around Humboldt County and even Southern California come to visit Arcata Ballpark to play baseball.

Every Crabs game packs the ballpark with locals to watch their home team score a home run.

It’s a highly-recommended thing to do in Arcata to rub elbows with the city’s locals.

Although the Crabs only play baseball every summer, you can still visit the Arcata Ballpark for some pictures.

To get to the ballpark, head to 888 F St, Arcata, CA.

Enjoy Mediterranean Food at the Kebab Café

Kebab Café at 5000 Valley W Blvd Ste 19 serves the best Mediterranean food in Arcata City.

The small restaurant serves mouthwatering kebabs, gyros, falafel, and other Mediterranean cuisine cooked and prepared the authentic way.

Born in Cyprus Island, the owner brought his delicious heritage to the United States through his restaurant, becoming a local favorite.

If you’re hungry in Arcata, head to Kebab Café to satisfy your kebab cravings.

Kebab Café is open daily from 11 am to 8 pm, except on Sunday.

Stroll Around the Scenic Mad River Beach County Park

Scenic View of Mad River Beach County Park

BlossomCreativeCo /

Don’t forget to visit and stroll around Mad River Beach County Park, one of Arcata’s top attractions.

The entire County Park consists of two natural attractions, the Mad River and the beachfront.

The Mad River is perfect for water activities, such as boating, kayaking, and canoeing, since it has a boat ramp, boat rentals, and a convenient parking lot on the side.

Meanwhile, the beachfront is perfect for breathing the fresh air from the Pacific Ocean’s Sea breeze.

It is also perfect for relaxing long walks.

The sunset and the view of the Pacific Ocean offer you a breathtaking view of nature.

The Mad River Beach County Park is at 1 Mad River Rd, Arcata, CA.

Outdoor activities are allowed from 5 am to 11:45 pm.

Be Amazed by the Ma-le’l Dunes

A barren and desert-like land that you’ll only see in the Middle East lies on the outskirts of Arcata called the Ma-le’l Dunes.

These dunes are one of the unique attractions near Arcata that you shouldn’t miss visiting.

The Ma-le’l Dunes’ jurisdiction is divided into two authorities.

One is the Ma-le’l Dunes Cooperative Management Area for the southern portion of the area in Arcata City.

The Ma-le’l Dunes is a national natural landmark covering 160 acres of sandy barren land adjacent to the Pacific coast.

This natural attraction is also a nature reserve and is part of the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Have Long Relaxing Walks Along Clam Beach County Park

View of Clam Beach County Park


The Clam Beach is found in the city of McKinleyville, a 10-minute drive up north from Arcata City.

The beach is named for being abundant in razor clams, which you can easily dig with your bare hands on the sand.

This beach park is well-known by locals as the perfect place for long walks.

View of Clam Beach County Park


But it also has a camping site for both backpackers and those who brought their recreational vehicle (RV).

This place is also known for its beautiful scenic backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, which has a lovely sunset every afternoon.

It has nearby nature trails in Hammond Coastal, Little River State Beach, and Mad River, all nice for hiking and other outdoor activities.

View of Clam Beach County Park


To visit the Clam Beach County Park, head to Clam Beach Dr, McKinleyville, CA.

Clam Beach County Park is open from 5 am to 11:45 pm.

Shop and Dine at the Old Town Eureka

View of  Old Town Eureka

calimedia /

An 11-minute drive south of Arcata takes you to the charming town of Eureka, which boasts a premier shopping and dining center called “Old Town Eureka.”

This district in Eureka houses around a hundred Victorian buildings that serve as shops, restaurants, and art exhibits.

The Old Town Eureka covers the town’s first, second, and third streets between B and M.

View of Old Town Eureka

Daniel Lane Nelson /

Final Thoughts

Arcata’s attractions prove that far-flung suburbs in the United States have a lot to offer for those willing to explore there.

Its museums and its promising college community make the city lively without spoiling its peaceful vibes.

Meanwhile, Arcata’s nature reserves and forests make it the perfect destination for outdoor adventure.

This small city virtually has it all for a nice short vacation.

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