Arts and Culture Weekend Getaway in Mendocino
1After navigating the windy 27-mile stretch along CA-128 upon exiting Highway 101, stop to stretch your legs in Boonville, a small town with big charm in Anderson Valley's wine country. Boonville's easily walkable main drag is dotted with antique stores and small shops full of local art. Pop into the pocket-sized Paysanne for gourmet ice cream, handmade caramels and scrumptious cookies in flavors like sea salt chocolate.
2From Boonville, continue about four miles past downtown Mendocino on California 128 to Highway 1, which hugs the rugged coastline, until you reach the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. This historic light station, built in 1909, sits on a bluff overlooking the Pacific; though the lighthouse and innkeeper's building close at 4 pm, the surrounding nature preserve makes for a spectacular sunset walk and is open until half-hour after sunset.
3In Mendocino Village, as the downtown area is often called, take a pre-dinner stroll through the marvelous gardens at Café Beaujolais, housed in a cheery yellow Victorian cottage, which was built in 1893. Now that your appetite has been stoked, you'll find plenty of mouth-watering options on the French-inspired seasonal menu, but standby favorites include escargot, filet mignon, and sturgeon. The breads, which are made on-site, are a culinary masterpiece in themselves.
1Mingle with locals at the Good Life Cafe (formerly the Mendocino Bakery & Café). The menu features hearty, fulfilling breakfast staples, including a hefty breakfast burrito and a daily bread pudding, which have earned this café a cadre of new fans. (It's also a great spot for lunch, with a patio and views of the ocean.)
2Burn off breakfast while savoring some of the most spectacular views on the West Coast at Mendocino Headlands State Park, a gem of a spot just a few blocks from the village with several hiking trails. By midmorning, the coastal fog has usually burned off, giving way to breathtaking vistas of the craggy coastline. The best part? There are rarely crowds, so you can contemplate the overwhelming beauty of nature in blissful solitude.
3Pull up a bar stool at Patterson's Pub, where you can enjoy a friendly, local atmosphere and locally-sourced pub grub. The building is an old 19th-century rectory, but the patrons don't feel too bad that they're now serving 28 beers on tap. They also serve brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10-2.
4Take a self-guided art walk through town, starting with the Mendocino Art Center, the pioneering hub of the community's art culture. Watch artists at work with all types of mediums in their studios (the center also houses a theater company that performs in the evenings). From there, move on to the Artists' Co-op of Mendocino, which offers free refreshments at gallery openings every second Saturday. Finally, since acting is an art in itself, take a stroll past the Blair House Inn, which served as the home of TV sleuth Jessica Fletcher, played by Angela Lansbury in the long-running "Murder, She Wrote." Fans will recognize the iconic white picket fence, with the gate Lansbury opened after dismounting her bicycle.
5Libations are another art form at the Grey Whale Bar & Café, which is part of the historic MacCallum House, and feels more like a cozy living room of an old friend, with cushy sofas and windows. Kick off the evening with a creative cocktail — blood orange and huckleberry margaritas are year-round favorites, and others rotate through seasonally. In addition, the jaw-dropping wine list should impress even the most seasoned oenophile. The restaurant's locally inspired cuisine — think grilled clam flatbread, pan-seared scallops, and braised lamb shank — has pleased palates of locals and visitors alike for years.
1It's easy to linger over the weekly Champagne brunch at the historic Mendocino Hotel Garden Café, whose menu is sourced with local ingredients such as crab, mushrooms, and salmon. Choose from authentic huevos rancheros with housemade salsa, a fluffy omelette with Dungeness crab, and spicy house-made sausage or crab eggs benedict — all of which pair perfectly with a flute of bubbly.
2For thoughtful souvenirs, head to the historic downtown, which is dotted with quaint shops. Two must-dos: hit the artisanal Mendocino Chocolate Company for inspired truffles and chocolate bark in flavors like fresh raspberry-white chocolate; for a longer-lasting memento, the whimsical, wonderfully nostalgic Village Toy Store features classic, well-crafted playthings such as kites, wooden trains, and finger puppets are sure to thrill kids of all ages.
3Your final stop before hopping back on the 101: The Madrones in the tiny town of Philo, just off Highway 128. This sophisticated, European-style inn nestled amidst the vines houses four tasting rooms and a cheese shop, as well as a new eatery.