If you haven’t spent the past few years living under a rock, you’ve heard the buzzword of the great economic meltdown of the late 2000’s: staycation. According to Wikipedia (yes, this term is Wiki-worthy), “staycations achieved popularity in the U.S. during the financial crisis of 2007-2010.” Webster’s Dictionary went so far as to add the term to its ranks in 2009, although Microsoft Word has yet to delete it from its spellcheck list.

At least the economy is finally picking up at the pace of a limping gastropod, but most of us middle-class folks still won’t be shelling out cross-country plane fare for the whole fam this season. So we at Benicia Magazine would like to jump on the bandwagon before it heads to the nearest local beach, and embrace this strange new American tradition. In fact, I’ve always fancied myself a bit of a trendsetter, so I’d like to take it one step further and welcome staycation’s rebellious younger sibling: the daycation. The daycation is more than just a twist on its predecessor, the day-trip, because it packs all the excitement of a vacation into a single day—sans layovers and jetlag—and is way more fun-loving than its serious older sibling, the staycation, because it looses the implications of having to stay behind.

The daycation is hip to the thrifty, eco-friendly and exercise-nut vibes, as it offers up the possibility of free transportation. Some daycations are bike-able, even walkable. Of course, one can come at the daycation from different angles. There’s something to be said for that simple, sweet take-only-what-I-can-fit-on-my-back mentality, which is quite conducive to a trip on foot, by bike, or even via skateboard, rollerblade or unicycle. This approach kinda goes out the window when you have young kids. Plus, a motorized vehicle can make that daycation destination oh-so-accessible, and open up a plethora of new options—we’re talking barbeque fixings, sports equipment (Frisbee, football, soccer, croquet), comfortable seating for optimal tanning purposes (bring sunscreen), shade to avoid the lobster look, fishing gear, kayak— you name it. But it’s all about having options.

For our readers, we have taken the liberty of choosing three prime daycation spots in Benicia for their beauty, versatility and accessibility. All three are foot-worthy, bike-worthy and car-worthy—easily tailored to any individual or family’s needs.

Lake Herman is a 22-acre reservoir located on Sulphur Springs Creek. It was completed in 1905 and is owned by the city of Benicia. Since it’s used as a secondary water supply, no human contact such as swimming or boating is allowed, but it’s a great spot for fishing, picnicking and hiking. It’s a catch and release lake, home to bass, catfish, crappie and sunfish. Reports vary as to the availability of fish in the lake, but wildlife abounds with sightings of otters, osprey and herons, to name a few. According to one testimonial, “There’s a family of otters that live at Lake Herman and they have first choice on the big large-mouth bass.” The lake is connected to the 50-acre Community Park as well as the Bay Area Ridge Trail, and has a quiet, peaceful feeling—perfect for the contemplative style daycation or the hiking enthusiast. Lake Herman is a 5.5 mile one-way bike ride from the bottom of Rose Drive or a short walk from the park.

The Benicia State Recreation Area is a treasure with an uncertain future. The park is slated to close in 2012 along with nearly 70 others in California. Benicians are searching for a local solution to keep this and the Capital and Fischer-Hanlon House open. Meanwhile, this summer is the perfect time to visit and appreciate the beauty and resources this park has to offer. For veterans and first-timers alike, the park has more than can be experienced in one visit. Also part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, features include a par fitness course, 2.5 miles of smooth trails for running, walking, roller-skating and biking, picnic tables, bird watching and fishing. Wetland preserves encompass 70% of the park, and are home to river otters, beavers, herons, muskrats, and the endangered California Clapper Rail. The Forrest Deaner Botanical Garden is a newer feature of the park and comprises 3.5 acres of land. It includes butterfly and hummingbird gardens, a wildflower meadow, residential and sensory gardens, and a Native American garden. This colorful display of native flora is a collaborative project by the California Native Plant Society and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. A labor of love by many committed individuals, the garden is an educational gift for the senses. Adding in a little bird watching and wildlife spotting makes a State Park visit quite the informative daycation, while also allowing plenty of chill time in the sun with a fishing pole in one hand and a BBQ-fresh burger in the other. The main park entrance has plenty of parking, but is less than a five-minute bike ride from the bottom of Rose Drive, and less than a 2 mile ride from First and Military Streets.

My favorite spot to grill growing up in Benicia was always Ninth Street Park. Flipping burgers on a bluff over the straights while a warm breeze blows—that’s quintessential Benicia. This beach is the perfect place to hunker-down for a full-on daycation extravaganza with family and friends. Sand and swimming for the kids and their four-legged companions and a beach volleyball court are among Ninth Street’s assets. It’s a stellar place to launch the kayak or canoe and paddle around the local inlets. A picnic blanket, beach umbrella and cooler full of beverages keep the grownups content while the kids run free on the sandy beach. Plenty of grass for touch football and soccer also makes for the perfect kite launch pad, especially when that telltale Benicia breeze picks up. Biking distance is less than 2 miles from the bottom of Rose Drive and about 1.2 miles from First and Military Streets.

If our readers permit my brief pontification, I’ve prepared a pair of philosophical points in summary of our plot. First, that the neurotransmitter serotonin is a well-known contributor to feelings of well-being, and that the following are also known to increase said serotonin levels: physical exercise, Vitamin D, and feelings of love. In other words, playing in the sunshine with friends and family causes happiness (beware folks)! Second, if happiness—as they say—is a state of mind, physical location may just be secondary to these other factors. Money spent and distance traveled are not how memories are made. Good times with good people are really what it’s all about. Throw in a little nature, some fine eats and one of those nifty nylon Frisbees, and it’ll be a daycation to remember.