Some destinations rely on their notoriety to draw tourists back year after year. Mendocino County has a different agenda. Combining rich redwood forests, windswept beaches, and artsy towns with one-of-a-kind festivals, San Francisco's northern hippie neighbor makes it nearly impossible not to take advantage of her riches year after year.
So when, this past Fourth of July, my family from LA informed us they were coming to spend the holiday with us, we knew exactly where to go.
In just one short weekend there was Willits Frontier Days, The World's Largest Salmon BBQ, an art fair, and fireworks, not to mention family- friendly wineries, majestic hiking trails, quiet beaches with plenty of sea life on view and amazing eateries.
Willits Frontier Days didn't disappoint our desire for some true Americana on our country's birthday weekend. Being California’s oldest continuous rodeo and a weeklong celebration of July 4th weekend, there is something for everyone – the toddlers loved the tractors and carnival, my mom adored the cowgirls and my brother was into the bucking broncos.
That night we checked into Baechtel Creek Inn, enjoying a cool swim in the morning as well as a decent continental breakfast with views of a family of foxes across the creek.
The next day we headed to the beach to indulge in the World’s Largest Salmon BBQ. Each year Noyo Harbor (in Fort Bragg) turns into a party with live music, ice cream, coffee and of course some of the best salmon around. For twenty five bucks we each got heaping plates and felt good that we were supporting the Salmon Restoration Association restore salmon to our rivers and streams.
The next day we had to take advantage of Fort Bragg's natural abundance. Right from our hotel, the Beachcomber, we could walk down to a wakame covered beach. And it was a short drive to Glass Beach, where we found heaps of sea glass. As we were wandering along the path, a crowd of dolphins frolicked in the waves and a community of seals slumbered on the rocks. It is tough not to become smitten with the area, in spite of the chilly summer fog.
Often when we travel, we forget that the real sense of place comes from exploring the community vibe. Planning to attend a festival in these tight-knit communities makes a trip to Mendocino County even more awe-inspiring. For information about upcoming summer festivals, click here.