By Margaret Flores May 21, 2019
Located between San Francisco and Sacramento, Solano County is a distinctive place, featuring a unique mix of rural lifestyles and urban amenities. With rolling hillsides, waterfronts, and fertile farmland, Solano County offers a plethora of open space, and thanks to its proximity to lakes, rivers, and mountains, locals and visitors alike can enjoy year-round outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, boating, and skiing.
Visitors seeking a quaint waterfront escape should head to Benicia. Situated along the shores of the Carquinez Strait, this historic hamlet served as California’s capital from 1853 to 1854 and is home to the Benicia Arsenal—a former U.S. Army armory whose grounds contain several landmark buildings, including the Jefferson Street Mansion, Camel Barns, and Clock Tower. The arsenal also features converted workspaces and artist studios, making Benicia a hotbed for the arts. The town’s First Street, meanwhile, has long attracted out-of-town antique and boutique shoppers due to the sheer number of stores lining its sidewalks. And the Benicia State Recreation Area and the Benicia Marina are both popular among outdoor aficionados.
Another waterfront destination, Vallejo is the largest city in Solano County and is best known for being the location of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, an award-winning theme park with thrilling rides, live entertainment, games, and animal encounters. But Vallejo visitors can also enjoy craft brews and San Pablo Bay views at Mare Island Brewing Company, grab a bite at a local hole-in-the-wall, play a round at Hiddenbrooke Golf Club, learn about the region’s history at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, and spend time in nature at Blue Rocks Spring Park.
And in Fairfield, the Solano County seat, visitors with a sweet tooth can’t miss the world-famous Jelly Belly Factory, where they can go on a tour and get a behind-the-scenes look at how the iconic jelly beans are made. Outdoor activities abound, too, especially at Rockville Hills Regional Park—the largest regional park in the county—which offers various hiking and biking trails as well as scenic views. In addition, there are plenty of shopping destinations (Solano Town Center), family-friendly attractions (Scandia Family Fun Center), golf courses (Paradise Valley and Rancho Solano), and gourmet restaurants. Fairfield is also home to olive oil company Sonoma Harvest, which has been crafting delectable liquid gold for more than 20 years.
Neighboring Fairfield, Suisun City boasts a thriving yet unpretentious wine country, where more than two dozen growers have planted grapevines and opened tasting rooms, drawing visitors from both near and far with their delicious wines. Visitors to Suisun City can also kayak on Suisun Bay, hike or birdwatch in Suisun Marsh, meander through the downtown district, and enjoy ethnic cuisine or fresh seafood along the waterfront.
Though the cities of Solano County are usually overlooked or dismissed, they often surprise and delight visitors who take the time to explore them.