Sitting in the San Benito County, Hollister is an in-land city located in Central California, surrounded by lush landscapes and enveloped with a deep history.
It’s one of the largest cities in the Monterey Bay Area and is less than an hour's drive away from the Central Coast.
The city is well known for its local agriculture, growing and producing a plethora of distinct Hollister fares such as Blenheim apricots, olive oil, and pomegranates.
Hollister is also home to a few vineyards producing California wines proudly.
Hollister also holds a significant history, from being a land inhabited by Ohlone Native Americans to being incorporated into the California Mission System.
Ready to explore the city?
Here are the 15 best things to do in Hollister, California:
Experience ye Old Days at the Northern California Renaissance Faire
Considered a signature in Hollister, the Northern California Renaissance Faire takes place from mid-September to mid-October at the Casa de Fruta grounds.
The faire is set in the fictional town of Willington in Derbyshire, England, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in the 1600s.
The fair takes visitors back as over 200 elaborately costumed performers put up over six-stop shows for California locals and visitors alike.
Visitors are treated to traditional jousts, complete with warriors in their lances, swords, and shields.
Different shows ranging from plays to musicals are also spread throughout the days.
In addition to all the performances, visitors are in for a treat as themed food and drink, as well as souvenirs, are available to round out the experience of living a day in the Renaissance era.
Sip Some Heritage Wine at Calera Wine Company
Stationed on an estate on Mount Harlan is Calera Wine Company, which is named after the presence of its limestone-rich soils, something rare in California.
Inspired by the deep rich reds of Burgundy, founder John Jensen pioneered the American Pinot Noir in this vineyard.
He purchased the once-limestone quarry estate in 1974 and planted 10 hectares of the grape a year after.
The vineyard produced its first vintage by 1978 and since then has expanded the selection to include chardonnay, aligoté, and viognier.
Visitors can enjoy a wine tasting experience on-site at the vineyard, pairing the different varieties of whites and reds on display with savory and sweet fare.
Visitors can opt to have these tastings in the vineyards' numerous halls or al fresco.
Virtual tastings are also available for visitors and guests.
A wine subscription is open for those interested to get a regular taste of Calera’s finest delivered to their doorsteps.
Bask in Pacheco State Park's Beauty
With views of the Central Valley to the east and the Santa Clara Valley to the West, Pacheco State Park is a must-see on a visit to Hollister for any nature lover.
Five generations of the family owned and maintained the land until 1992 when Francisco’s granddaughter Paula Fatjo donated it to be turned into a park.
Paula wanted her love for animals and unspoiled expanses for them to be preserved.
Pacheco State Park is a massive 6,800-acre estate, 2,800 of which are open to the public.
Visitors can take advantage of the six trails spread out around the park, perfect for hikes, biking, and running.
Camping can also be done in pocket areas of the park for those looking to spend more than a day basking in the picturesque views and sprawling nature the park has to offer.
Taste the Fruit of a Family’s Heritage at Casa de Fruta
Established in 1908, Casa de Fruta is a proud family-run business built through the hard work and perseverance of Italian immigrants living their American dream.
From the original orchards planted 110 years ago, the family’s business has grown to produce various locally-grown and produced fares, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, dried fruits, different types of nuts, handmade chocolates, and homemade jams and jellies.
Visitors can enjoy a few hours on the grounds, tasting various products and produce on display.
Casa de Fruta’s products are also the perfect take-home souvenir for friends and family, bringing them proudly local Hollister fare.
Have a Family Day at Swank Farms
Situated on the Pacheco Pass Highway, Swank Farms Is a great destination in Hollister, especially for families with young kids.
Swank Farms hosts a bevy of activities for young and old alike.
Visitors can enjoy picking out pumpkins on the farm’s pumpkin patch or go through the cornfield mazes.
Kids can also have fun interacting with the animals on the farm, with petting zoos and goat fishing available on-site.
There are also other play places in the area for kids to enjoy, such as the bouncy house, hamster roll, the jumping pillow, and haystacks.
The farm’s sunflower patch is also perfect for photo ops, the best souvenir to commemorate a fun day in Hollister’s Swank Farms!
Get an Adrenaline Rush at Skydive Hollister
There’s definitely an activity available for the adrenaline junkies visiting Hollister.
Skydive Hollister gives its visitors an exhilarating experience.
Skydive Hollister has one of the longest freefalls available in the area, providing riders with the most breathtaking views of Northern California and the Central Coast.
The experience is open to first-timers and experienced jumpers alike.
Visitors don’t need to worry about safety as the dives are operated by experts with over two decades of experience.
Visitors would also get to keep their memories of their skydiving experience; photo and video footage are also available with the packages.
It is definitely an experience you should not pass up when you get a chance to visit Hollister!
Stroll the Memory Lane at the Downtown Hollister Historic District
Listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, the Downtown Hollister Historic District tells a significant tale about the city’s olden days.
Centrally located in the City of Hollister, the area preserves the diverse architectural style of the various buildings on its blocks, starting from the 1800s until World War II.
The passing of time resulted in the influence and diversity of the look of the buildings in the district, mixing Craftsman, Neo-classical, Revival, Tudor, and Period styles in their exteriors.
Visitors can take walking tours to explore the old-world charm and the stories behind the buildings, hosted by the Hollister Downtown Association, a group pledged to preserve the district’s rich history.
Visitors can also enjoy good food and drink in various cafes and restaurants available on the district’s streets.
Feel the romantic charm at Leal Vineyards
A visit to Hollister’s Leal Vineyards brings about a certain romantic charm for tourists and locals alike.
Located southeast of the city, visitors are treated to the Lavanda, its sprawling fields, with picturesque spots perfect for capturing precious moments.
The Olea is also a gorgeous outdoor area, with its signature ‘LOVE’ letters decked out in the middle of the vineyard’s vast outdoor garden.
The vineyard is also a popular wedding venue in Hollister, with both the Lavanda and Olea popular venues for outdoor ceremonies.
In addition, they also have the Barrel Room available for indoor weddings and big gatherings.
Visitors can also taste the different wine varieties through the vineyard’s tasting room.
Get a Feel of Hollister’s Suburban Community at Frank Klauer Memorial Park
Situated east in the city’s suburbs, a visit to the Frank Klauer Memorial Park is perfect for families with kids looking for a great and peaceful place to spend the day in Hollister.
Spanning around five acres, the park is constructed around a stormwater retention basin.
The park is well-catered for little kids, with playground facilities that are also PWD (persons with disability) friendly.
Picnics are also a popular activity for families and visitors at the park, with barbeque grills available for public use.
Ride the Paths at the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreational Area
A great destination for mountain adventurers, there are many things to do at the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreational Area.
Located in the Gabilan Mountains, there are numerous trails in the area, such as Hudner Pass Trail, Bird Creek Trail, Sharky Grade, and Pepper Tree Loop, to name a few.
The trails are perfect for not only hiking but also for riding.
Visitors can ride anything from 4x4s, motorcross, mountain bikes, or ATVs on the trails.
Multiple campsites are also available in the area, ideal for pitching tents or having casual picnics with friends and family.
Admire the Views at Panoche Hills
Located between the Diablo Range and the San Joaquin Valley, Panoche Hills is an ideal destination for travelers looking for exciting land adventures.
Reaching 2,500 feet above the ground, visitors are treated to breathtaking views of the San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Visitors are open to hiking the trails up the hills or spending a night or two in the area through camping or parking RVs in designated areas on the site.
Apart from the recreation area for visitors, there is also an ecological reserve on-site, maintained by the California Department of Fish and Game.
Practice Your Perfect Swing at the Ridgemark Golf and Country Club Resort
With Hollister’s location in Central California’s inlands, the Ridgemark Gold and Country Club Resort is a gem of a destination in the area.
Just a short ride away from the heart of the city, visitors can spend the day relaxing in the laid-back atmosphere of luxury.
Visitors can learn to play golf and enjoy a few rounds on the resorts’ sprawling 18-hole grounds.
A wide selection of fine food and drink is also a treat for guests, as well as luxe accommodations for those looking to spend a night or more at the resort.
With its scenic views, the Ridgemark Golf and Country Club Resort is also a popular event venue for locals in the area.
Taste Award-Winning wines at DeRose Winery
Located South of the city, DeRose Winery is another destination to put on your Hollister to-visit list.
Established in 1854, the winery has had a rich history in the craft of wine making.
The DeRose and Cedolini families eventually acquired the property in 1988, with winemaker Pat DeRose salvaging over 100 acres of abandoned vines and cultivating the lands to produce more grape varieties.
By their first year of management, DeRose Winery has managed to make over 600 gallons of Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot St. George.
The DeRose winery is the “oldest existing winery” in the State of California, according to historian James Sullivan.
Its largest cellar was once considered to be the world’s largest covered wine cellar, spanning four acres with a capacity of 37,000 59-gallon barrels.
Visitors can take a stroll and see the different grape varieties planted in the vineyards – zinfandel, negrette, viogner, and cabernet frank.
The winery’s shop also has various labels of wine on-hand for visitors to take home, ranging from DeRose labels of current and library releases as well as imported wines from Chile, Argentina, France, and Italy.
Apart from the winery, there is also a vintage car museum on site that visitors can go to, stemming from the owners’ passion for cars.
Models on display include a 1925 Flint, a 1956 Continental Markll, and two vintage Ford Thunderbirds.
Sip a Glass of Chardonnay at Eden Rift Vineyards
Twenty miles from Monterey Bay lies Eden Rift Vineyards, considered the oldest producing vineyard in California.
The 120-acre estate was planted in 1849 by Theophile Vache and is part of the Cienega Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area.)
The vineyard was acquired by winemaker and Christian Pillsbury in 2016, focusing Eden Rift’s efforts on producing proudly Californian Chardonnay.
Together with Hollister local Cory Waller, the two winemakers are set to preserve and continue the legacy of presenting Central California-made wines to the market.
There is a myriad of activities for visitors to partake in at the vineyard.
Indoor and outdoor wine tastings are available at the Dickinson House and Indoor Fireside, respectively.
Picnics can also be set up on-site on vineyard grounds.
More adventurous visitors are treated to unique experiences such as ATV tasting tours around the vineyard, as well as a helicopter tasting tour overlooking the lush scenery of the Cienega Valley.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Walk the Grounds at San Benito County Historical Park
Just a 12-minute drive in neighboring Tres Pinos is the San Benito County Historical Park, an expanse along Airline Highway, preserving the area’s history.
Operated by the San Benito County Historical Society, the park is a mix of open grounds perfect for outdoor activities, as well as old preserved buildings scattered on the property, highlighting the early days of life in San Benito.
Visitors can stop by the Historical Village to see old artifacts, including a diverse collection of homes and buildings, vehicles, farm implements, and personal items.
The park’s grounds are also ideal for group picnics and family gatherings.
Admission to the park is free, and donations are encouraged to help fund the further preservation of the park’s artifacts for future generations to enjoy.
From the abundance of outdoor spaces and wineries to its rich history, Hollister is a melting pot of culture.
It offers something different from the typical coastlines and beaches commonly associated with the Central Coast.
Hollister is definitely a must to put on your bucket list when in California!