Benicia Staycation: Tourist for a Day

It’s no secret among Benicia residents that our town is full of fun activities and unique businesses. From parks and trails to restaurants and shopping, this little community on the strait is bursting with things to do. That being said, we can be creatures of habit. Walking our dogs on the same route every day, ordering the same thing from our favorite restaurant on Fridays, and meeting our friends at the same bar for Sunday mimosas. Now, I thrive on a good routine, but even the most introverted homebody needs to switch it up occasionally.

Let’s introduce a game to shake things up.

When I’m traveling in a new city, the first thing I do is find an interesting-looking coffee shop or bar near me, order a drink, and start chatting up whoever is serving me. Next, I ask them their favorite place to eat, drink, hike, etc., and add it to a list on my phone. Then, as I visit these places, I ask the same questions to whoever I meet there. This has led to some of my all-time favorite vacation memories. Experiences I never would have had if I’d stuck to whatever Google Maps or Lonely Planet recommended. 

This summer, I realized I could apply the same concept to a day in my hometown. This is how it went.

6am- Yoga at The Elevate Company

I’ve been meaning to try out a yoga class at The Elevate Company since they opened, but I hadn’t taken the leap yet. New experience number one…check! Everybody in the class was so lovely, and the room had an indescribable energy that helped me begin my day feeling energized and uplifted. As everybody rolled up their mats, I asked the woman beside me where I should get my morning coffee. She recommended Drift, a newer coffee shop that also sells pastries and pizza.

7:30am- Coffee at Drift Benicia

Drift opened in May, so this was my first time trying it. The cafe felt cozy and welcoming, with one of the owners greeting me as I entered. I ordered an iced oat milk latte and vegan croissant and found a spot at a picnic table outside. Then, I spent an hour reading in the sun before asking the family next to me where they’d suggest for breakfast in town. They were quick to name Benicia Grill. 

10am- Breakfast at Benicia Grill

I’d only been to Benicia Grill once before, and honestly, I’m not sure why I hadn’t been back until now. Benicia Grill has a small-town diner feel where 90% of the patrons are regulars, and the servers waste no time getting your brunch cocktail order in. The menu is massive, but I finally landed on the veggie skillet. Large portions and mindblowing country potatoes left me feeling satisfied and ready to get my body moving again. I usually drive into the hills of Oakland when I go for a hike, so I had to ask around for some Benicia trails to try out. 

11:30am- Bay Area Ridge Trail at Rose Drive

Ultimately, I landed on the Bay Area Ridge Trail. The trailhead is on Rose Drive behind Kinder Care and will pop you out either in Vallejo at Ascot Parkway or the Community Park in Benicia. I opted for the Vallejo path that passes the soldier memorial, where you get stunning views of Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Diablo, and Mt. Saint Helena. This hike took me longer than expected, so by the time I was back in my car, I was in dire need of a refreshing drink and a quick snack. With no humans in sight, I asked my friends on Instagram about their favorite lunch spots in town. I got a lot of great suggestions, most of which I already frequent, making this a difficult decision. 

2pm- Light Lunch at Mare Island Brewing Co. First Street Taphouse

I wanted to keep lunch light and quick. MIBC’s First Street Taphouse was perfect for this. Their menu had plenty of lighter options, with a nice seat on their front patio. I enjoyed their burrata & confit tomato crostini and a soda. First Street Taphouse has a large selection of beer and wine, but only a few non-alcoholic and vegetarian options are available.

3:30pm- First Street Shops and Activities

Before starting my adventure, I knew I wanted to check out Pink Arrows Boutique. I was trying to find some summer goodies and saw Wendi (of Sweetness & Light) rave about their clothes online. I immediately picked up much more than I needed (to be fair, there was a sale) and had so much fun trying things on in their gorgeous changing room area, complete with a large, selfie-worthy mirror. While checking out, I was pointed toward The Filling Station as my next destination.

The Filling Station, now located in what was the Camellia Tea Room, is full of zero-waste refill products, fun Benicia-themed accessories, and much more. With some stickers and a new journal in hand, I was searching for one last thing to do before dinner. Inspiration struck when I ran into some kids who had just picked up the mugs they painted for their mom at Artcentric

Artcentric is a long-standing First Street staple. I grew up going there for birthday parties and random weekend outings. I was a little nervous about going there solo as a 28-year-old, but I had a blast painting a little gnome with nothing but my audiobook for company. 

6pm- Dinner at The Rellik

By now, a few online friends knew about my mini staycation experiment, and one of them recommended I try out pizza at The Rellik. This was far from my first time visiting The Rellik on a Sunday, but I don’t usually order food. I loved this suggestion because I knew this bar had an NA beer I loved and bartenders I hadn’t seen in ages. So I ordered the pesto pizza, which came out surprisingly fast for how busy it was, and caught up with old friends. 

As a fan of early bedtimes, I ended my day here, feeling proud to call Benicia my hometown. The people I spoke to throughout the day were passionate about this little town and their favorite businesses that make it up, allowing me to see the town I’ve lived in for years through new eyes. 

Grab a friend and try this experiment; if you’re feeling shy, you can follow my itinerary. Let us know your favorite discoveries, and share your recommendations. Don’t forget to mix, mingle, and meet new friends along the way.