Weather Updated every 1/2 hr
As of the census of 2000, there were 26,865 people, 10,328 households, and
7,239 families residing in the city.
It was the first city in California to be founded by
Anglo-Americans, and briefly served as the state capital. The city lies in
the San Francisco Bay Area near San Francisco and Vallejo. Benicia is located on
the north side of the Carquinez Strait, directly facing the city of Martinez.
The town can be divided into three areas: Southampton (north of Military), East
Benicia (east of First Street), and West Benicia (west of First Street). Most of
the town's older homes are on the east and west sides. The far east side has an
industrial park, where the town's many local artists have rented out studio
space. Also in or near the industrial park are the Valero oil refinery, the 1859
Clock Tower and the 1850s Camel Barns. The Benicia State Recreation Area is on
the far west edge of the city. Southampton contains primarily stucco family
homes, most of which were built between 1970 and 2000.
The main retail area in Benicia is First Street, which attracts out-of-town
antique and boutique shoppers and those seeking small-town charm.
Connections to Benicia include Interstate 680 from Martinez to the south and
Cordelia Junction (Fairfield) to the north, and Interstate 780, Columbus
Parkway, and other local roads from Vallejo to the west. Amtrak also runs past
the city north towards Sacramento, but the train station lies in Martinez across
the Carquinez Strait. Railroad tracks carrying Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad
lines cross the strait alongside the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.
Francisca Benicia Carillo de Vallejo. The first intended name "Francisca" was
dropped because it sounded too much like "San Francisco", so Mrs. Vallejo's
second given name was used instead. Benicia was named the California state
capital in 1853, but the following year the capital was moved to Sacramento. The
restored capital building is part of the Benicia Capital State Historic Park.
Benicia was also the county seat of Solano County until 1858 when that was moved
From 1860-1861, Benicia was indirectly involved in the Pony Express. When riders
missed their connection with a steamer in Sacramento, they would continue on to
Benicia and cross over to Martinez via the ferry.  One of the earliest
companies in California, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, established a major
shipyard in Benicia in the 19th century. Benicia became an important wheat
storage and shipping site. It was also the site of the United States Army's
Benicia Arsenal. In 1879, the Central Pacific Railroad re-routed the
Sacramento-Oakland portion of its transcontinental line, establishing a major
railroad ferry across the Carquinez Strait from Benicia to Port Costa. The
world's largest ferry, the Solano, later joined by the even larger Contra Costa,
carried entire trains across the Carquinez Strait from Benicia to Port Costa,
from whence they continued on to the Oakland Pier. After California's wheat
output dropped in the early 20th Century and especially after the Southern
Pacific (which took over the operations of the Central Pacific) constructed a
railroad bridge at Martinez in 1930 to replace the ferry crossing, Benicia
declined until the economic boom of World War II, which doubled the population
to about 7,000 residents.
Two developments in the early 1960s would completely change Benicia: The closing
of the Benicia Arsenal in 1960–64, and the completion of the Benicia-Martinez
Bridge in 1962. The closing of the Arsenal removed Benicia's traditional
economic base, but allowed city leaders to create an industrial park on Arsenal
land which eventually provided more revenue for the city than the Army had. The
completion of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge made it possible for the city to
become a suburb of San Francisco and Oakland, and suburban development in the
Benicia hills began in the late 1960s.
Between 1970 and 1995, the population of Benicia grew steadily at a rate of
about 1,000 people per year, and the city changed from a poor, blue-collar town
of 7,000 to a white-collar bedroom suburb of 28,000.
The town is also the location of the Valero Refinery. The refinery was completed
in 1969 by Exxon Corporation, and bought by Valero Refining in 2000.
Torchlight Parade & Dance. Traditionally held on the July 3rd, Benicia’s 4th of
July parade stretches all the way down First Street and typically includes
music, dancing, floats, horses, clowns, and live entertainment. A street dance
and live entertainment traditionally follow the parade on First Street. There is
no entry fee for this event.
Picnic in the Park & Fireworks. On July 4th, there is a large community picnic
at Benicia’s City Park traditional starting at noon. Shortly after dark
(approximately 9pm) there is a fireworks display that originate at the foot of
First Street. There is no entry fee for this event.
Benicia Peddler's Fair. This outdoor event began in 1963 with a few
collectable and antique stores displaying their items on tables outside St.
Paul's Church. Today, over 300 antique and collectable dealers as well as other
vendors display their wares in booths that span approximately 11 blocks of First
Street. Unverified sources cite attendance in 2006 at approximately 20,000. This
event is sponsored by St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Benicia. There is no entry
fee for this event.
There is a Farmers' market on Thursday evenings during the summer months May
through October. According to the Benicia Main Street commerce organization,
this tradition began in 1992. There is no entry fee for this event.
First Fridays on First. On the first Friday of each month, May through
October, participating shops and restaurants encourage a festival atmosphere
with balloons and live music on First Street. During the summer months, outdoor
movies are shown at 9 p.m. at the Benicia State Capitol. There is no entry fee
for this event.
Sailing. Benicia is an active sailing community. In additional to individual
sailing out of the Benicia Marina, there are several organized events and
competitions. During the summer months, there is a yacht racing competition on
Thursday evenings sponsored by the Benicia Yacht Club.
Youth Sailing Program. The Benicia Yacht Club sponsors a Youth Sailing Program
that offers 5 Tuesday training sessions of approximately 4 hours each. These
classes are an introduction to sailing for those with little or no small boat
sailing experience. The classes cover parts of the boat, rigging and the basic
elements of boat handling and seamanship. Participants successfully completing
the class will be able to rig and sail a dinghy on a protected body of water in
light to moderate winds.