Avant Garden sign

Enjoy the Avant Garden, Benicia

You might know by now that I love gardens. When I was wandering and discovering Benicia I really enjoyed finding the Avant Garden on First Street in downtown Benicia. What a great name for a community garden!

Sign for the Avant Garden. It says: Join us!It turns out, and not surprisingly for Benicia, it also has a cool history. The first community garden in Benicia was established in 1999 on East 2nd Street on a lot owned by the Heritage Presbyterian Church. A chair and some garden plots.Named after its founder the late Dr. Ed Swenson, the Swenson Community Garden teaches organic farming practices. In 2003 Swenson founded the Benicia Community Garden (BCG) which is now a county wide organization and known today as Sustainable Solano. Swenson believed that community gardens can produce a “second harvest” of social, economic and ecological benefits. Way beyond gardening, Sustainable Solano hosts free classes on local foods, has a community share plot to share produce for people in need, and teaches sustainable urban agriculture methods. 

Sign at the gate of the Avant Garden welcoming people.This Avant Garden is open to the public to enjoy, take classes, and hang out. To apply for one of the 43 plots you have to sign up on the BCG waiting list. A plot is $85 annually and covers maintenance and the water bills.  

What is your favorite community garden?

Benicia State Capitol

Visit the Former Capitol of California

Sign reading Benicia Capitol, State Historic ParkLast week I told you many fun facts about Benicia. Did you know that in 1853 Benicia was the state capital for 13 months? 

California’s state capitol moved from San Jose to Vallejo, to Benicia and then to Sacramento. In 1849 the Constitutional Convention assembled in Monterey and one of the items on the agenda was to establish the state capital. From 1849 to 1851 San Jose was chosen. Many despised the accommodations in San Jose. General Vallejo came up with the winning bid to move the capital to Vallejo. It turned out to be a similar situation, the building was not finished and the city itself was not ready for the entourage that the legislatures traveled with. After back and forth discussion, Sacramento hosted the Senate and Assembly as backup. When Sacramento was recovering from a flood in 1853 Benicia offered their newly built City Hall. The assembly quickly outgrew the temporary home and Sacramento’s generous proposal won the bid. 

Benicia Capitol State Historic Park in downtown Benicia is the oldest original California State house that remains. 

A top hat on a small tableThe furnishing shows the upper and lower chambers and some of the tables are original. On each of the tables is a hat showing off the fashion of that time. I really liked the coonskin cap that is mixed in with the top hats. Additionally, I really liked the old printing press and the Mythological Theme Screw Press for the State Seal. 

Admission to see the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park is $3 for adults, children 6 to 17 pay $2 and under 5 admission is free. Opening hours are Thursday Noon – 4pm, Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 5pm. The State Park is located at 115 West G Street in downtown Benicia, CA.

The Mythological Theme Screw Press for the State Seal.Resources:

California’s State Capitol’s



Entrance to the Benicia Historical Museum

Learn Fun Facts About Benicia

There is always something to learn if you visit a local history museum. Benicia’s Historical Museum held a few more surprises and the city has an amazing list of ‘firsts’.

Camel figures

The first thing that you will notice when entering the beautiful sandstone building is the abundance of camel figurines. In fact the museum is housed in the camel barn. As we learned from the museum’s education director, who led us into the building, this building itself was never used for the camels. Nonetheless, the first and only camel corps, from 1856 to 1866, when the US army ran a camel experiment, were housed nearby. These animals were perfectly suited for the rough climate of the West, but due to political quarrels were auctioned off in Benicia. 

A list of Benicia's first accomplishmentsAnd that is just the beginning of fun facts. Benicia’s firsts include the first town to disclose the discovery of gold (1848), first hotel in Solano County (1849), the first public school and the first public hospital in California (1849), the first Masonic hall in CA (1849) and the first girls’ school in California (1852). Notable Benician’s include the first American heavyweight boxing champion, John Heenan (1860) and Jack London, who lived in the town from 1892 to 1895.

Tule hut exhibit at the Benicia Historical MuseumThe museum exhibits also acknowledge the Patwin, Solano county indigenous people’s history, the shipyards, and the military arsenal which was used to supply several US wars, e.g. the Civil War. A new Gold Rush exhibit is the latest addition to the educational experience.

The Benicia Historical Museum is located at ​​2060 Camel Rd, in Benicia. Opening hours for a self-guided tour are Wednesday to Fridays 10 am to 4 pm and Saturday to Sundays 1 to 4 pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 children, and free for active military. 

Events at the museum

On March 24th, 2023 you can join the museum for the first annual trivia night. A $30 per person fun 1920s theme party. Or enjoy a band and bar at First Fridays At The Museum, every first Friday of the month, admission varies.

What is your favorite Benician fun fact?