17 Fun Things to do in Mendocino, California
Mendocino County, California is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It attracts visitors who come for the natural beauty, unforgettable experiences, and unique history. After enjoying your morning coffee looking out at the phenomenally beautiful coastline and realizing hours have passed like minutes, you may start thinking maybe you should get out and do something. Though it may be hard to pull yourself away from the ocean breezes and beautiful view, there are all sorts of wonderful things to do in Mendo, and the beauty will follow you on your day’s activities. Here are 17 fun things to do while enjoying your beautiful day in Mendocino County.
1. The Mendocino Experience Cannabis Farm and Wine Tasting Tour
Cannabis farms have been a part of the Mendocino culture ever since the hippies from the Summer of Love in the Haight Ashbury decided to head back to the land, and discovered Mendocino has the ideal terroir – that perfect combination of climate and soil – for growing the very best cannabis, and no trip to Mendo is complete without visiting a pot farm.
Fortunately, the lads at the Mendocino Experience have you covered. Chris and Misha have been working as professional tour guides for years in the San Francisco tourism and wine tourism industries, and have crafted a fun and educational experience for everyone, regardless if you consider yourself a cannasseur or you don’t even touch the stuff, and are just curious about this fascinating, up until recently hidden piece of Mendocino’s history and culture. If you can’t decide between this and wine tasting, the Mendocino experience offers wine tasting at award winning Rivino Estate Winery as an optional part of their tour.
2. Ford House Museum
Mendocino’s Visitors’ Center is in the family home built in 1854 by Jerome Ford, the superintendent of Mendocino’s first sawmill. At the Ford House Museum you can learn about Mendocino’s history through photos, artifacts, and video presentations, and you can see a scale model of what the town looked like in 1890. Docent-led tours are available if you call ahead to schedule one.
3. The Mendocino Art Center
As you might expect, the incredible beauty of Mendocino inspires a lot of art. If you enjoy looking at art, buying art, or making art, the place to visit is The Mendocino Art Center. It features paintings, drawings, ceramics, photographs, and sculptures by local artists. You can pick up some lovely art souvenirs to bring home with you to remember your experience by, or, if you’re feeling inspired by the beauty of Mendocino yourself, you can attend all manner of art classes there.
4. Mendocino Theatre Company / Helen Schoeni Theatre
At the northeast corner of the Mendocino Arts Center Campus, lies the Helen Schoeni Theatre, where the Mendocino Theatre company has been staging performances for the last 56 years. In that time they’ve produced over 200 plays, ranging from the classics to cutting edge works. The intimate 82 seat theater has a full bar serving cocktails, beer, wine & snacks in the lobby.
5. Point Cabrillo Light Station
If you just can’t get enough of the intensely beautiful Mendocino coast, (and, frankly, who can?) one of the best ocean views is from the Point Cabrillo Light Station. From there you can get a phenomenal view of ocean mammals frolicking around Frolic Cove, named for the ship whose wreck motivated them to build the lighthouse. You can tour the lighthouse and the museum at the first assistant lightkeeper’s cottage, and imagine what it must have been like to live at this beautiful spot, but why imagine? You can also rent cottages on the property, and stay a while.
6. The Temple of Kwan Tai
The Chinese helped build America, and though their contributions often went unappreciated, their mark on the west is undeniable. Many people know that San Francisco boasts the oldest Chinatown in the United States, but many don’t know the west was full of Chinatowns ever since the 19th Century. Mendocino had its own Chinatown in the mid 19th century, and one remnant of that Chinatown is the Temple of Kwan Tai – the Chinese god of war. One of the oldest Chinese temples in the United States, the historic California landmark was restored in 2001. It’s open to visitors, and offers guided tours by appointment.
7. Whale Watching
Is anything as magical as seeing these gentle giants of the ocean? Whales pass by the Mendocino coast on their seasonal migrations, and at different times of the year different kinds of whales pass by. In November and December you can catch the California Gray Whales on their way down to the warm waters off the coast of Baja California for breeding season, and in March and April you can catch them on their way up to their feeding grounds in the Arctic. From April through November you can catch Humpback Whales. The towns of Mendocino, Little River, and Fort Bragg all hold whale watching festivals each year.
8. Coyote Valley Casino
Maybe you wanted to go to Las Vegas or Lake Tahoe, but your significant other’s choice won out, and you’re disappointed that Vegas style casinos are not allowed in California. Well, fear not, good traveler. There are other nations inside of California that belong to the first nations peoples who have lived on this continent for thousands of years, and they do have Las Vegas style casinos, complete with slot machines, gaming tables, shows, pugilistic bouts, hotel rooms, and multiple dining options. One such casino in Mendocino’s beautiful Redwood Valley is the Coyote Valley Casino. If you need an excuse to go there, go for a fill up! They also have the cheapest gas prices in Mendocino County.
9. North Coast Segway Tours
How do you make environmental education awesome fun? Cruise the Mendocino coast with North Coast Segway! Cruise along the Pacific coastline on one of North Coast’s Segway Ninebots as you learn about the ecology and history of Fort Bragg and all of the beautiful coastal flora and fauna that so many people flock to the area for.
10. Horseback riding at Ross Ranch
What’s even better than walking along a deserted sandy Mendocino beach or through a majestic redwood forest? Riding through these amazing settings on horseback! Ride past sea stacks and other rock formations, driftwood, and rolling surf on Mendo’s unspoiled sandy beaches, through primeval redwood forests, and sunny meadows with sweeping views of the majestic valleys below. Ross Ranch provides horses to suit every level of riding skill.
11. Explore Mendocino’s coastal sea caves with Kayak Mendocino
Explore the Mendocino coast’s incredibly rich and diverse sea caves aboard a sit-on-top ocean kayak with Kayak Mendocino on one of their professionally guided sea cave tours in Van Damme State Park. Get up close to harbor seals, sea otters, giant anemones, kelp and other marine flora and fauna in easily navigated sea channels. No kayaking experience is necessary, and tours are safe and enjoyable for all ages. All instruction and equipment are provided, including wetsuits, booties, life jackets and helmets. Walk-ups are welcome, but reservations are preferred because space can be limited.
12. The C.V. Starr Community Center
The C.V. Starr Community Center, created by the Mendocino Coast Recreation and Park District, has just about all the activities a vacationing family loves to do. Their four acres of facilities include an off leash dog park, 10,000 square foot skate park, sun deck, BBQ and picnic area, petanque courts, and free public Wi-Fi. The coolest attraction is the Sigrid and Harry Spath Aquatic Center; an indoor Water Park with a 146 foot long twister slide that drops you into their plunge pool.
13. Emerald Dolphin Mini Golf and Fun Center
More fun for the whole family can be found at the Emerald Dolphin Mini Golf and Fun Center. They have a full 18 hole mini golf course, the first 9 of which are accessible to the disabled. All of the 18 challenging holes are situated among beautiful streams, fountains, and waterfalls and are perfect for all ages and experience levels. The club house has pool tables and all the top arcade games like Dance Dance Revolution, pinball, air hockey and Big Buck Hunter. Their food court has all the family favorites – pizza, nachos, ice cream, ice cold sodas, beer and more.
14. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Right on the ocean’s edge is a magnificent 47 acre horticultural paradise. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens boasts everything from breathtaking fern covered canyons and coastal pine forest groves to formal gardens. Their vibrantly colorful perennial garden with flowering rhododendrons and fuchsias, and bluffs overlooking the wild Pacific Ocean make Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens a favorite spot for nature lovers and both amateur and professional gardeners, and for hosting weddings in a lovely setting. They even offer references to wedding planners, catering services and equipment rentals to make planning your event easy.
15. Catch a Canoe, and Bicycles, Too!
Catch a Canoe & Bicycles, Too! Has been providing rentals, sales and service of a wide selection of kayaks, canoes, and outriggers to visitors and locals alike since 1972. Besides their wide selection of outdoor equipment, they offer professionally guided tours of Big River State Park, and its eight-mile long Big River estuary on redwood outriggers that offer a secure, and ultra stable ride. The Solar Wind outrigger can hold nine people – including the guide, and their Redwood Cruiser holds four people. They offer both daytime and nighttime cruises. Their options include boats powered by a variety of sources – solar-powered, human-powered, wind-powered, and electrically powered. They even have a dog-friendly Canine Cruiser available to guests traveling with canine companions. And they also offer bike rentals for those into biking the variety of beginner to expert trails through the natural beauty of Mendocino.
16. Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area
If you’re looking for great fishing, look no further than the Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area. This over one thousand acre wilderness is on the south fork of Mendocino’s Eel River, where several Northern California fish species abound. It’s a popular place for kayaking and swimming as well. Standish-Hickey also boasts over 150 campsites in three separate campgrounds. No reservations – campsites are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
17. The World-Famous Skunk Train
Since 1885 Mendocino’s famous Skunk Train has been steaming its way through the giant redwoods, through tunnels, and over spectacular trestle bridges through the Noyo River Canyon between Willits and Fort Bragg, and the scenery has remained pretty much unchanged over the past 137 years. It’s the closest thing to time traveling that Mendocino County has to offer. They run 5 different historical locomotives, or you can pedal a two person rail bike along the route to enjoy some exercise and fresh air as you get up close and personal with all of the beautiful Northern California wilderness.
With such a variety of things to do, and such a phenomenally beautiful setting, Mendocino County is the ideal place to visit any time of the year. We look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful county.