Downtown Benicia has its own brand of distinctive charm. A hodgepodge of retail stores, art galleries, salons, offices, bars, and restaurants jostle for space with historic markers, plazas, and plenty of benches to get off your feet and observe the bustle. Given that the street is a mile long, it’s easy to miss something unless you are an avid walker.
First Street is an ever-changing landscape, with new businesses coming in and older ones going out. Since Benicia’s downtown is not a square like Healdsburg or Sonoma but a mile-long, tree-lined street stretching from City Park to the waterfront, it can be challenging for the casual visitor to remember what’s where. To eliminate the guesswork, we are offering this “First Street Primer,” block-by-block, starting at waterfront and heading north. Each month we’ll feature one or two blocks; this month, we tackle First Street from A Street to C Street.
This area of downtown is highlighted with views of the Carquinez Strait and abundant open space along the promenade and First Street Green. It offers three restaurants, a pub, Benicia Main Street and the Tannery shops (the brick building on the west side). On this stretch of First Street, you’ll find art galleries, antiques stores, gift shops, restaurants and offices. New kid on the block: Estey Real Estate, which relocated here from First & J Street.
Benicia Main Street, inside the historic train depot on the east side of the street and Sailor Jack’s, opposite and up a block, bookend the promenade, which just received a spanking new iron railing. For dog walkers and other pedestrians, the west side waterfront path was recently extended from the promenade to the north side of the Tannery building, exposing stunning views of the Strait. Most of the shops here are inside the Tannery, and include Art by Gail, ArtO’Bay, Timeless Memories, Bonjour Fashions, Once Upon a Canvas, Fabulous Finds, Chars Hot Dogs, Tina Marie and Cullen’s Tannery Pub.
Continuing north, impressive art beckons inside two charming, historic buildings: the Plein Air Gallery and 621 Gallery of Fine Art. Opposite on the east side in the clock tower building sits The Loft Wine Bar and Restaurant and Yan Spa and Massage.
Between the waterfront and C Street, parking is generally ample along First Street and on the Spit, except during the farmers market, which runs April through October. During the market, parking can be found in spaces on B Street. The First Street Promenade comes alive in summer. It’s the perfect spot for a takeout picnic from the area’s eateries, people watching or waiting to see what the fishermen are catching. Restrooms and a water fountain are available in the yellow building on the Spit. Below is a complete list, courtesy Benicia Main Street, of the businesses in this section.
Benicia Main Street 90 First Street beniciamainstreet.org
Sailor Jack’s 123 First Street sailor-jacks.com
Art & Things by Gail 129 F First Street 510.660.9602
ArtO’Bay 123 E First Street artobay.com
Timeless Memories 129 First Street Facebook, Timeless Memories
Once Upon A Canvas 129 J First Street onceuponacanvasbenicia.com
Bonjour Fashions 129 B-C First Street 707.361.5053
Fabulous Finds 131 First Street 707.750.5777
Chars Hot Dogs 131 A First Street 707.745.4476
Cullen’s Tannery Pub 131 B First Street tannerypub.com
Tina Marie’s 131 C First Street 707.333.9687
Estey Real Estate 216 First Street esteyrealestate.com
The Loft Wine Bar 280 First Street wine707.com
Yan Day Spa 328 First Street yansdayspa.com