Roadtrip To Yesteryear

Holiday Shopping in Eureka's Old Town

As the old song tells us, this is the time of the year to journey "over the river and through the woods." For many, the tune harkens back to youth and holiday experiences that included families, couples, and friends enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday season.

For out-of-towners, a winter shopping trip to Eureka fulfills the desire for whimsical travel, crossing a few incredibly scenic rivers and passing through forests with the tallest trees in the world. If you're heading over the mountain passes on routes 299 or 101, you might even see some snow. But getting here is only the beginning of the season's splendor.

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In Eureka's Historic Old Town and Waterfront, also an officially designated California Cultural District, the magic begins with your first step onto the sidewalk. The National Register of Historic Places officially recognizes all of Old Town for its valuable and unique period architecture, which, this time of year, instantly transports visitors back to days of Christmas past.

Compact and walkable, Eureka’s Old Town shopping district extends the length of First, Second, and Third Streets, between C and M Streets. Throughout the year, musical performers provide a soundtrack from the picturesque Gazebo that marks the district's unofficial center. 

In its early days, this city traded mostly in timber, not gold. This helped the area avoid the "bust" many similar Victorian towns across northern California experienced when gold became scarce.

The city’s location, behind the “redwood curtain” also played a role in avoiding urban redevelopment trends that led to the tearing down of original architecture across most of the country. The result is a classic, Victorian appearance of many building through Eureka’s Old Town. It is said that more than 60% of the city’s architecture is original, much of it dating back to the town's founding in 1850 and stretching through the lumber boom of the early 1900s.

The stores throughout Eureka’s Old Town and Waterfront district are eclectic and full of delightful surprises. There are shops with elegant household wares, hand crafted chocolate shops, fine local and imported clothing with great stories behind every stitch, intriguing second-hand shops, diverse artisan galleries, and gift stores filled from top to bottom with unique finds that will make you smile fondly thinking of the special person that will appreciate just, exactly that very special present.

"Shopping here is a lot more fun," said Astra Burke, owner of Many Hands Gallery.

"Old Town gets busy, but it's more festive. There's always a lot going on. Sometimes there's music or activities. You run into a lot of people you know and make new friends. Everyone is in a pretty great mood."

And, if all the shopping leaves your legs weary, Brendan, and his horse, Pearl, of Old Town Carriage are usually close by and willing to provide a memorable and scenic excursion. They’ll point out the nuances of local architecture and share stories you wouldn’t hear otherwise, And, of course, the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh…err, buggy.

We digress.

"You get a great experience walking in and out of shops, smelling the candles, interacting with people, checking out the local goods," said Sarah Land, owner of two Old Town shops - Land of Lovely and Humboldt Mercantile. There are also local makers who make the product and benefit. It's a chain event that benefits the community in many ways."

Adjacent to the waterfront, Eureka’s Old Town also hosts uniquely Eureka events, like an annual boat parade that heralds the arrival of Santa Claus each December. Be sure to check out the Visit Eureka Event Calendar to plan out your stay and make sure you leave enough time to catch everything you hope to experience.

Redwood Sky Walk

The Redwood Sky Walk at Sequoia Park Zoo, a family photo in front of the Carson Mansion, and a short hike along either the Waterfront Trail or inside one of the city’s two urban redwood groves is sure to round out your adventure. And, if you venture over to the Samoa beaches, this time of year you might just find yourself whale spotting. Early mornings September through January and March through June are the best times of year to get lucky. Bring your binoculars and keep an eye out for spouting. No luck? Stop by Woodley Island Marina and ask the fishermen what they’ve been seeing out on the water. They’re sure to have a story or two.

Feeling Hungry?
When you need to refuel to sustain your shopping energy, 27 restaurants are within a 3-minute walk of the Eureka Visitor Center, located at 108 F Street. If pub fare is your chosen option, Lost Coast Brewery offers a tasty menu and 16 craft beers, including Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout that’s hard to turn down. The recently opened Tavern 1888 is an intriguing new fine-dining option, and Five Eleven Bar & Grill features farm-to-table North Pacific cuisine.