Make the most of my two-day vacation!
April 11, 2011 1:58 PM   Subscribe

How can I best spend my two days in (Mefi favorite) Mendocino?

Boy and I are going to Mendocino for two days this week. We found what seems to be a great hotel, but, having never been there, we are trying to figure out activities for our two days. We are looking for things that are relaxing, entertaining, delicious, or all of the above.

I've seen a few mentions of it in previous threads, but the more specific ideas the better!

I know there are some vineyards and breweries around, and while we will probably visit one or two, we don't want that to be the focus of our trip. We are up for things like leisurely bike rides and rambles along the cliffs or charming museums or bookstores. So what say you? What can we do that will find us returning home aglow with vacation serenity? Thanks!
posted by chatongriffes to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Forgot to mention, we are also on the prowl for your favorite restaurants around. We don't mind paying, as long as we get bang for our buck. Thanks!
posted by chatongriffes at 2:00 PM on April 11, 2011

Mendocino the town or Mendocino the county? Assuming the town: Gallery Bookshop and the nearby Point Cabrillo Light are my favorites. And the Big River beach is kind of our standby for chilled out beach hangouts. There's usually enough driftwood around to build a shelter if you feel like some adolescent fun.

There are some really cool neighborhoods along the cliffs that would make for fun bike rides. I'm thinking north of Mendocino's downtown, but I could be remembering wrong.
posted by circular at 2:06 PM on April 11, 2011

I always recommend Glass Beach, which is about 20 miles north of Mendocino. People say, "What, a garbage dump turned beach? Why would I want to go there?" But it's really impressive to see - the kind of thing I think everyone should see at least once. As a kid I didn't know the history, and I thought it was kind of magical - all that sea polished glass everywhere. The last time I was in Mendocino was when I was about 15 - we went every summer. Glass beach was always the highlight, though Caspar Beach is gorgeous, too.
posted by routergirl at 2:11 PM on April 11, 2011

Van Damme State Park has some very cool trails (pygmy forest!). North of Mendocino, Jug Handle Natural reserve is also very awesome.

Don't know what route you're planning on taking, but if you go up through the Anderson Valley (route 128), stop at the Navarro Vineyards - they have an excellent (and free) tasting room, and since you can't buy their wines in retail shops, you'll have to buy it there. We adore their dry Gewurz.

On preview: Glass Beach is weird and yet awesome.
posted by rtha at 2:13 PM on April 11, 2011

routergirl -- Glass Beach isn't nearly as remarkable now as it was years ago. We took a friend from Japan to visit and picnic there, but it ended up being really boring, lots of dirt around.
posted by circular at 2:14 PM on April 11, 2011

I'm mostly familiar with Fort Bragg, which about 10 miles north of Mendocino. If you like beer, you'll want to head up there and visit the North Coast Brewing Company.

Halfway between Mendocino and Fort Bragg you'll find Jughandle Creek Farm, which has some lovely educational hiking trails and also a beautiful, secluded beach.

North of Fort Bragg are miles of beautiful beaches and few people. When I was there, I would occasionally make an afternoon bike ride from Fort Bragg up to Westport (just another tiny, sleepy town on the coast), which made for a ~30 mile round trip.

Just inland and north of Fort Bragg, there are some great mountain bike/hiking trails that wind up into the hills, but I couldn't tell you how to find them. It's been to long. :(
posted by jon1270 at 2:22 PM on April 11, 2011

Aww. Then I hereby rescind my recommendation. Such a bummer to hear.
posted by routergirl at 2:24 PM on April 11, 2011

It's a little bit inland on State Route 128 but the Navarro River Redwoods State Park is a nice little diversion, particularly if you like tall trees.

Further up the coast in Fort Bragg is the North Coast Brewing Company, which is definitely worth a visit if you like craft beer.
posted by dhammond at 2:24 PM on April 11, 2011

Grab a veggie burrito from Lu's for lunch one day. Classic.

North Coast Brewing is just up the road in Fort Bragg and they make some fine beer. They have a grill that's decent food.

The main part of town is pretty small, so just walking around will cover most of the main galleries and shops. In terms of charming bookstores, the Gallery Bookshop is a great spot worth visiting. Also be sure to stop by Mendocino Jam for your fruity goodness needs.

For outdoor recreation options, Catch a Canoe (and bicycles too) has been around for ages and offers canoe and kayak rentals for self-guided trips on the river. Kayak Mendocino does fun sea cave kayaking tours too.
posted by zachlipton at 2:27 PM on April 11, 2011

In the event you do bike to Westport (which I would kill to be doing right now), this store makes (or used to make) good deli sandwiches to order.
posted by jon1270 at 2:35 PM on April 11, 2011

I loved the pygmy forest, as suggested above - if the weather is nice, it's a beautiful little stroll. Highly recommended.

And yeah, unfortunately Glass Beach is not much to see anymore. Most of the glass is gone now :(
posted by ORthey at 2:40 PM on April 11, 2011

The Mendocino Botanical Gardens, and, if you're artsy and there happens to be an event while you're there, the wonderful Mendocino Art Center. Also, nthing Gallery Bookshop.
posted by you're a kitty! at 2:43 PM on April 11, 2011

Forgot to mention a few other things:

For a fancier dinner, Albion River Inn is quite good, with tables overlooking the ocean (weather permitting).

There are some great massages and other spa services to be had in the area too. I can't remember the name of the place I used to go, but they have lovely outdoor wooden hot tubs to go with the massage. Or ask at the hotel.
posted by zachlipton at 2:47 PM on April 11, 2011

You don't need to plan Mendocino, just wander around town and drive to nearby beaches.

OK, that out of the way, go soak at the family friendly hot tub place in town. You can use the communal tub (a social but non-pickup scene mostly naked event) or rent one of the private tubs which are also quite nice.

There's a good hang-out cafe / sandwich shop in town that's popular with the locals - it's a few doors down from the grocery. I think they have WiFi, if you need your email fix.

Last time I visited Mendocino, maybe four years ago, they had no, zero, nada cell phone coverage for either T-Mobile or Sprint. Fort Bragg had the nearest tower. I think the residents were anti-cell. Don't know if this has changed, but if you're expecting to stay in touch while on the trip, take this into account.
posted by zippy at 3:12 PM on April 11, 2011

I've heard that the amount of glass found at Glass Beach largely depends on the tides now. But yeah, last time I was there, the bits of glass were much smaller. You should stop by and check it out on the chance that stuff has washed up.

Also in Ft. Bragg, eat at Mendo Bistro -- great food at prices that are reasonable for the area.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:30 PM on April 11, 2011

Response by poster: What wonderful suggestions! Thank you everyone. It's hard to mark a best, since you all had such great recommendations. The Gallery Bookshop, the pygmy forest, and Mendo Bistro are all on our for sure list.

If we go to Glass Beach, I'll be sure to report the seaglass status.

Thanks for helping us have a fantastic vacation!
posted by chatongriffes at 1:35 PM on April 12, 2011

Response by poster: So, for those of you who like followups: we ended up going to North Coast Brewing for awesome beer and lunch, rambled around all the little shops in Ft. Bragg, wandered along the bluffs, then to the Albion River Inn for an amazing dinner. Oh, the duck!

The next day we had breakfast at Egghead's in Ft. Bragg which was fantastic! Then we wandered around Mendocino proper, bought chocolate and jam, and popped in at Navarro on the way home.

The whole thing was idyllic. Thanks for all the great insider tips!
posted by chatongriffes at 9:38 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

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