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Eureka July 4th Celebration: One day just isn’t enough

Sometimes, one day just isn’t enough. Visitors and locals are invited to stretch out the 4th of July holiday to five enjoyable days in Eureka. The diverse celebration combines the traditional with the unique, typical of this bayside community located on the northern California coast nestled between the redwoods and Humboldt Bay.

A scenic drive from east, north, and south, and only five hours from the San Francisco Bay area, the historic town’s built-in attractions, like stately Victorian architecture and boutique shops, are augmented during a celebration beginning June 30 and continuing through July 4th. A free concert, open-air market, musical performances, and a plethora of other activities, all within walking distance, make it easy to fill five fun days.

Cool coastal breezes will energize any visitor exploring Eureka’s Old Town district. That area of town, with several shops and buildings dating back to the mid- to late-1800s, will also feature street vendors offering a wide variety of locally made crafts, clothing, and food. Along the waterfront boardwalk, a carnival with kid- and adult-friendly rides will operate from Friday, June 30, through Monday, July 4.

First things first. You’ll need a place to stay, and Eureka offers plenty of lodging options. Whether you’re searching for a boutique hotel, a familiar chain, or something a bit more budget-friendly, ample accommodations are available.

Now, let’s take a look at the day-by-day schedule of events.

Thursday, June 30

Part of the Eureka Summer Concert Series, the classic rock band Beatz Werkin opens Thursday’s celebration with a free concert at Madaket Plaza along the waterfront. Bring your lawn chairs or stand and sway from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.

Friday, July 1

Experience authentic Humboldt flavor at the summer’s first Friday Night Market, hosted by Humboldt Made and the North Coast Growers Association. Local produce and other products are featured in this popular Old Town event. Beginning at 5:30 p.m. and continuing to 8 p.m., the market also includes locally grown garden fare. You can also experience the best of Humboldt-produced beverages, a wide variety of food vendors, and live music for dancing.

Saturday, July 2

Upon waking up after a night on the town enjoying a few of the many fun bars and amazing restaurants, enjoying the fresh air and a wetlands wonderland is a great way to start your day. Even better, the personal satisfaction of helping preserve the natural beauty accompanies an outing to the Herrick Ave./Elk River site just south of town at the southern end of the Bay Front Trail. Beginning at 9 a.m. and continuing for one short hour, the PacOut Green Team invites all volunteers to join the weekly litter and trash clean-up that focuses on keeping our waterways clean. The fun and friendly PacOut group provides all the equipment and holds a raffle for prizes and gift certificates following the event.

Bring your bikes and binoculars to view sea and shore birds, then take a ride along the six miles of paved pedestrian and biking route that transverses wetlands, Humboldt Bay, and the Eureka Waterfront.

As evening approaches, Old Town’s streets pick up the pace when galleries, museums, theaters, bars, and restaurants welcome all to the monthly First Saturday Arts Alive! It all begins at 6 p.m. and continues to 9 p.m. While you’re out and about perhaps enjoying the many murals, stop by Clarke Plaza for inspiring skateboard demonstrations and skateboard-themed art.

Sunday, July 3

Here’s your chance to rest and recover before Monday’s official 4th of July festival, or better yet, venture out to explore nearby attractions. One excellent option and a highlight of any North Coast visit is Eureka’s Sequoia Park Zoo & Gardens, home of the one-of-a-kind Redwood Sky Walk.

Start with what’s often described as a spiritual experience, a walk through the park’s roughly 60 acres of new and old-growth redwood trees. The trail system features both the tallest and the largest diameter trees found in any urban park across the nation. Upon emerging from the forest, it’s time to enjoy the zoo’s loveable and entertaining animal population. Feeding time at the otter exhibit is sure to evoke big smiles.

Inside the zoo grounds is the entrance to the Redwood Sky Walk, offering an other-worldly view of the stately trees from 100 feet up. After the gentle and ADA-accessible ascent, suspended walkways and hanging bridges provide a unique perspective of tree-dwelling wildlife and an awe-inspiring view. Interpretive tours are available to introduce you to forest science.

After exiting the zoo, head to the northern perimeter to visit the Sequoia Park Garden, a gorgeous collection of dahlias and other colorful blooms maintained by volunteers. The garden also features a wishing well and a gazebo seating area. On the south side of the zoo’s enclosure are an expansive playground and plenty of picnic tables, where you can keep an eye on the kids while enjoying lunch.

Monday, July 4

Following a tasty breakfast at one of the lovely Old Town eateries, it’s time to celebrate the July 4 street festival that begins at 10 a.m. in the heart of the district. Crafts and food vendors will line both sides of 2nd Street, and live musical performances at two different stages provide the soundtrack for more fun. Locals are always happy to answer questions, give directions, and make new friends.

Throughout the day, the Timber Heritage Association offers a flashback to the region’s foundational history from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rides on refurbished “Speeder Cars” follow a section of the original timber hauling route between the departure point at 1st and E streets to the Adorni Recreation Center and back.

While fireworks bring a traditional end to the celebration, the Eureka Waterfront venue is an inspirational and unique backdrop for viewing. As they glitter high above the inner channel of Humboldt Bay across from the Woodley Island boat basin, a flotilla of kayakers claim the closest spectator location. For the crowd of land-based spectators, Waterfront Drive and First Street will be closed to traffic at 6 p.m., with the show slated for 10 p.m.

After taking in Eureka’s Independence Day activities, one thing is for sure – the memories will eventually insist upon a return trip to the vibrant city. An expanded itinerary touring nearby beaches, redwood forests, and more will make for another unique experience that can be enjoyed any time of year.