A weekend visit to Mendocino: What to see, do, explore, eat and enjoy around town

A place where the river meets the sea amid rugged cliffs and coastline, Mendocino sits majestic if not quiet in its historic charms. There are so many fantastic things to do Mendocino hugging the coastlines and rugged cliffs that the town sits on top off. An enchanting, small town with a western rustic vibe around the historic downtown district, Mendocino is eclectic, colorful and fun to explore on this weekend visit to Mendocino. It’s just what the doctor ordered for you to do soon!

If you are looking for a short weekend getaway to Mendocino to relax and unwind, you’ll love exploring the cool and artsy town, walk along the cliffs to discover the hidden coves, marine life or even beach combing for treasures on the coastline or if your more adventurous do some kayaking or hiking in the many state parks round town.

Check out these Mendocino attractions and places to discover around town

Wander around Mendocino's downtown district

Wander around Mendocino’s downtown district

The historic district of Mendocino is basically two long parallel streets with some side streets to explore. Easy to walk through, the beautiful architecture is western style with interesting architectural details and houses a variety of art galleries, home stores, clothing boutiques and unique mom and pop operations like bakeries, artisanal foodie shops and coffee houses along with some delicious eateries around town.

Wander around Mendocino's downtown district

Check out the art scene in Mendocino

Check out the art scene in Mendocino

With a plethora of local artists that live in the surrounding area there’s a lot of galleries and shops supporting local artisans in town. Also, you can visit the Mendocino Art Center the local art hub which serves as a gallery coop, art and craft school and performance/events center to local activities in the area. The center is located on the grounds of the Preston Mansion that feature the very popular James Dean movie – East of Eden. The actual mansion burned down with only the carriage house intact and converted into the current art center that you can visit now. You can even take a short and easy class covering drawing, ceramics, jewelry making, painting and a variety of different mediums. Check the website above for more details to participating in the local programs offered there or new shows happening.

Visit a sweet garden filled with Art at Mendocino art center

Visit a sweet garden filled with Art

Visit this sweet garden that surrounds the Mendocino Art Center is filled with gorgeous sculpture, quirky objects and sitting areas, along with fountains, found object art and even some cool fantasy figures that will make you laugh and enjoy the whimsical journey walking through this garden.

Visit the state parks surrounding Mendocino town

Visit the state parks surrounding Mendocino town

There are so many beautiful places to explore around town and just outside and with so many wonderful state parks to visit, you’ll get your fill of exploring the natural treasures in the area with these state parks to visit.

Explore Mendocino Headlands State Park

Explore Mendocino Headlands State Park

Walking from river bluff areas to the jagged cliffs that line the state park trails, it’s fun to explore nature at its best. The Mendocino Headlands State park borders the town on three sides and offers excellent trails that area gentle, easy and fun to check out the secluded beaches, rugged headlands, tide pools and sea arches in the area. Head to the Ford Museum House which currently is visitors center for the state park to get oriented and see what’s available and currently happening along with the variety of trails you can visit in the area.  The Cliff trail is only .9 miles on the town perimeter, but you can extend it to include the entire 4-mile Mendocino Headlands trail.

Visit the Russian State Gulch Park

Visit the Russian State Gulch Park

One of the prettiest and diverse state parks to visit around Mendocino is the Russian State Gulch Park which weaves beautiful canyons filled with ferns and a nice waterfall, headland views and hiking trails to enjoy. Some of the more popular trails to try out include the easy .75-mile Headlands trail or the 5.4 to 6.3 Fern Canyon to Falls loop trail that ends up at the waterfall cascading 36 feet from the top.

MacKerricher State Park and the Sea Glass beach

MacKerricher State Park and the Sea Glass beach

Located in Fort Bragg about 15 miles north of Mendocino, MacKerricher State Park is pretty cool to visit with its Sea Glass beach and the Museum. You can experience a diversity of scenery here from dunes, wetlands, bluffs and headlands within the park and explore the beaches and tidepools in the area. The park is also very popular with the Sea Glass Beach and Sea Glass museum close by with the entire beach made of glass that was a dump site a long time ago and tumbled by the surf into particles and glass treasures for some who explore the beaches just for this experience.

Go wine tasting in Mendocino

Go wine tasting in Mendocino

There are some fine wines that Mendocino county boasts for you to experience and check out the local wine scene up here. Most are located in the interior areas along Highway 128 which includes Philo Ridge, Barra, The Madrones, Navarro and a slew of vineyards ready for you to explore their tasting rooms. Check out this winery website here for more details and a complete list of wineries that you can visit along the way to Mendocino or while you are in town exploring the area.

Ride the Skunk Train or Railbike Tour

Ride the Skunk Train or Railbike Tour

Located in Fort Bragg at the downtown train station, the Skunk Train Railway was originally founded in the 1880s to transport timber from the forest areas into town. Now you can take the train on a scenic route through the redwood forests into the Pudding Creek Estuary and ending up at the Glen Blair Junction and then returns back. You also have the cool option of doing your own railbike tour which allows passengers to travel down the old lines through self- powered two-man railbikes with guides that lead you along these tours.

Check out the Mendocino Botanical Gardens

The Mendocino Botanical Gardens are fun to explore the myriad of local California native flowers that thrive in the area along with a variety of perennials and annuals that adapt well to this type of environment and display a colorful palette of flowers for all to enjoy when the garden is in full bloom. The 47 acres botanical garden is expansive and covers the gamut of wetlands and coastal bluffs, canyon trail areas and pine forest and beautiful gardens that transitions from the wild into more curated gardens filled with floral displays, fruits and vegetable gardens and other botanical treasures for you to discover through the various gardens.

Kayak the scenic Big River

Kayak the scenic Big River

You’ll enjoy a quiet and pleasant time on the water on the Big River and kayak or even SUP board on the 8 mile long estuary leading to the open ocean waters. You can opt for a guided tour of the area or just DIY on your own and ask the operator for some cool places to explore in the estuary area. To rent a kayak, canoe or SUP board with Catch a Canoe or even rent a bike for the day to explore the area on bicycle.

Where to eat in Mendocino

Casa Del Sol – A delicious seafood inspired restaurant that offers Latin inspired and bistro style food that are fresh, wholesome and reasonably prices.

Café Beaujolais – located in a farmhouse built in 1893 and focuses on organically grown produce, local seafood and other farm to table sourced ingredients. A beautiful rose garden greets you at the entrance of the Victorian home to this iconic restaurant.

Trilium Cafe – Casual dining, modern California cuisine, fresh and good quality ingredients.

Goodlife Care & Bakery – whole organic, gluten free pastries, desserts and wholesome American style dishes

MacCallum House Restaurant – Classic victorian setting with organic, locally sourced seafood, meats, pasta dishes in beautifully presented dishes.

Where to stay in Mendocino

Where to stay in Mendocino

With a variety of local inns, Bnb and some mom-and-pop hotels located in and around Mendocino, you’ll have some fantastic choices of places to stay in the area.

Headlands Inn Bed and Breakfast – a top rated little Victorian New England style with great breakfast and comfortable rooms

Mendocino Hotel and garden suites – charming, comfortable and friendly service at this inn

Heritage House Resort and spa – worth the splurge for this magnificent property, excellent service and amazing views.

For reviews of the top places to stay in Mendocino, check out these best reviewed sites on TripAdvisor here for more details and current prices.

Other places to explore around Mendocino

Glass beach in Fort Bragg

Things to do in Fort Bragg

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