Arcata, City of Progress
Known as Sixties by the Sea, Arcata is one of the North Coast’s most progressive towns. Its civic life centers around a historic central plaza, frequented by Humboldt State University students, green activists and tourists. The plaza hosts numerous offbeat events including the Kinetic Sculpture Race, the Arcata Oyster Fest, the Harvest Fest and All-Species Parade, Pastels on the Plaza, and seasonal Saturday Farmers Markets.
The city’s enthusiasm for sustainability extends into great finds for guests, including excellent organic restaurants and produce markets, ecologically minded crafts and goods, and natural gems like the Arcata Marsh & Wild Sanctuary, which boasts low-tech water treatment engineering as well as a multitude of water birds, and the Arcata Community Forest, with miles of trails for hikes, bikes and horses through sustainably managed redwoods.
The town began with the more serious name of Union when settled in 1850 by pioneers, who built the central plaza and storefronts such as the circa 1857 Jacoby Storehouse, a California Historic Landmark that houses numerous chic shops and cafes. Across the way, the century-old Hotel Arcata still hosts travelers, though none arrive by rail or steamer like the old days.
Just off the plaza is the Minor Theatre; opened in 1914, one of the oldest structures in the nation built to show movies. A trapdoor on the stage, according to legend, was placed at the request of the illusionist Harry Houdini. What has not vanished are the town's Victorian homes, many lovingly restored and rented as overnight accommodations. Self-guided walking or driving tour maps and other travel resources are available at the Arcata Chamber of Commerce (707-822-3619 and https://visitarcata.com).