Willits is a city in Mendocino County on the North Coast of California. It is best known as the Heart of Mendocino County. It offers an amazing array of shopping and amusements for a city with a population of 5,000.
The City of Willits was originally a town of loggers and ranchers. In the wake of San Francisco's Summer of Love, an influx of hippies changed the character of the populace to today's mix: first, second, and third generation hippies coexisting with third, fourth, and fifth generation settlers. Add a sizable cohort of the artistically and liberally inclined with a certain tinge of New Age beliefs, and you definitely have a town with people watching possibilities while shopping the local galleries and craft shops.
Many of these boutiques are not easily seen by the passing traveler. One has to stop and look about to wring the greatest satisfaction from the Willits experience.
The City of Willits is 135 miles north of San Francisco on Highway 101. The highway passes south to north, bisecting Willits as Main Street; highway addresses change to city addresses at the city line. In the center of town, just after passing under the Heart of the Redwoods arch over 101, Highway 20 runs its winding way westward to Fort Bragg.
Coming from the Sacramento Valley, take Williams exit 578 from I-5 westward onto California Highway 20. When it merges with Highway 101, turn north. Again, you are entering Willits from the south.
A visitor to Willits will find the majority of its attractions are located the two blocks before the Commercial Street light, or just around the corner on Commercial Street as far as the Center for the Arts. Downtown Willits is easily walkable; this less than half mile flat loop will take you past an eclectic array of shops, eateries, and galleries.
Willits' central location makes it an ideal hub from which to explore the rest of Mendocino County on day trips.
- The 1 Willits Rider bus (Mendocino Transit Authority, +1 707-462-1422 or +1-800-696-4682, MTA) supplies local flexible route service 10 times per day.
Attractions are listed from south to north.
- Black Bart's boulder (5.6 miles south of Willits). On the southern edge of Ridgewood Summit, marked by a historical marker "honoring" the poetic bandit.
- Heart of the Redwoods Arch (Main Street at the railroad tracks). Offers photo opportunities to those who missed it when the arch was still Reno's "World's Biggest Little City" sign.
- Frontier Days. The oldest continual Rodeo in the State, over the Fourth of July week, complete with the Black Bart Gunfighters shooting it out in the streets (with blanks, of course).
Besides Willits' good old-fashioned walkable downtown featuring shops full of arts, crafts, and goodies, it also offers other attractions. Handily enough, the attractions begin in that same downtown block that ends at Commercial Street and Main Street.
An easy walk from shopping takes one to:
- Willits Community Theatre (37 W. Van Lane, email: email@example.com). Features semi-professional theatre and occasional musical soirees. From Main Street, take the last possible left before the Commercial Street light to find this hidden treasure. For tickets via credit card, call 707-459-0985. Price of admission: $10/$15, depending on the performance.
- Noyo Theatre (57 E. Commercial Street, 707-459-6696). The offers digital projection of first-run movies in a lavish 1930s movie palace. Price: $7.50 tops, with a $1.50 upcharge for 3D. Kids, seniors, matinees at $5.50.
- The Willits Center for the Arts, 71 E. Commercial St, ☎ . Tuesday-Thursday 4PM to 7PM, Saturdays and Sundays noon to 3PM. For exhibitions by local artists. Donations requested.
- Bud Snider Park (East Commercial & Humboldt Streets, across from the police station). Has a kiddie playground under tame redwoods.
The other attractions are a bit further down; the traveler may want to drive to them:
- Skunk Train, 299 East Commercial St, ☎ . Ride in vintage railway cars through the Redwoods on the world's crookedest railroad.
- Mendocino County Museum (400 E. Commercial Street, 707-459-2736). The contains fascinating material concerning the unique cultures of northern coastal California. Open from 10AM to 6PM Wednesday through Sunday. Admission donations: $4 per adult, $1 per youth ages 6-18, under age 6 free.
- Roots of Motive Power, 420 E. Commercial St, ☎ . The adjacent Roots of Motive Power is a community volunteer project under the auspices of the County Museum; it is a specialized exhibit of lovingly restored antique locomotives, railroad rolling stock, and steam-powered logging equipment. Call museum first for details.
- Recreation Grove. Across Commercial Street from the County Museum and the library, this recreation area has public BBQ pits, sheltered picnic tables, kid's playground, and sports fields.
- Frank Grasse Dog Park. Your canine will love this park, further out E. Commercial Street across from the Rodeo Grounds.
- Celebrate 2013 Frontier Days at the Rodeo Grounds:
- Horse Show on June 23 at 8AM. Free. Gymkhana to follow the show, also free.
- Sweetheart Judging, June 23 at 10AM, selects the Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Free.
- Truck Pulls, June 28 from 6PM to 9PM, Adults $13, Kids $5.
- Street Dance at the Rodeo Ground following the Truck Pulls. Free.
- The Carnival opens at 4PM June 29th.
- Cutest Little Cowboy and Cowgirl Contest, 10AM June 30th. Free.
- National Anthem Contest, noon on June 30th. Free.
- Junior Rodeo, begins 4PM June 30th. Adult ticket: $5. Kids free.
- The Sweetheart of the Rodeo will be crowned following the Junior Rodeo.
- CCPRA Professional Rodeo, with local team roping afterwards, 7PM July 3rd. Box seat: $15; Adults $12; kids $5. Followed by a free admission western dance session.
- CCPRA Professional Rodeo, with local team roping afterwards, 4PM July 4th. Box seat: $15; Adults $12; kids $5.
- Frontier Days events held elsewhere in town:
- The Hometown Celebration is an open-air bazaar on downtown Main Street. June 27th, 5PM to 9PM. Free.
- The Water War will take place at Commercial and Humboldt Sts in front of the fire station at 5:30PM July 3rd. Free.
- The Lions Club Cowboy Breakfast is at Recreation Grove from 7AM to 11AM June 30th. Adults $8, kids $3.
- Horseshoe Contest is 9AM July 4th at the Recreation Grove. Free.
- Grand Fourth of July Parade, 11AM July 4th on Main Street downtown. Free.
- Barbecue at Recreation Grove, noon July 4th. Adult $15; kids/seniors $8; family pack for 2 adults, 2 kids $40.
- The authentically garbed and armed Black Bart Gunfighters make a scheduled appearance at 3PM July 4th in Recreation Grove. Free.
- Sherwood Valley Rancheria Casino, 1 Kawi Pl (Take Route 20 towards Fort Bragg; take the first left and follow Blosser Lane to the end). Located on the outskirts of town and good for those desiring gaming entertainment. The souvenir shop features low prices for tobacco, with cartons of all-natural cigarettes from $23.50 to $31.50. Free admission.
Downtown Willits offers travelers a beggar's dozen shops in two short blocks; a quarter mile stroll can reach them all. From south to north, and back again:
- Roselina Books & Antiques, 217 S. Main St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Sa 11AM-5PM. An old-fashioned San Francisco-style antiquarian book store with 34,000 items, plus book-related antiques.
- Body Rituals: A Center for Massage and the Healing Arts, 91 S. Main St, ☎ . Tu-Fr 11AM-4PM, or by appointment. Offers a calm setting where health, beauty, and well-being can flourish.
- LightupCoats.com, 39B S. Main St, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. We-Sa 11AM-about 5PM, Su noon-about 4PM. Offers unique hand-crafted custom clothing and accessories.
- Off the Cuff, 39A S. Main St, ☎ . Features fine women's clothing and accessories.
- Cat's Meow, 29 S. Main St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mo-Sa 10:30AM-6PM, Su 11AM-4PM. A contemporary mercantile boutique.
- Blue Sky Gallery, 21 South Main St, ☎ . Gallery dealing in paintings, photography, prints, sculpture, wood, glass, jewelry, and fine art.
- Buttercup Children's Boutique, 15 S. Main St, ☎ . Winter hours: Mo-Sa 10:30AM-5:30PM. Offers stylish kid's clothing, toys, and accessories for ages 10 and under.
- Mazahar, 38 S. Main St, ☎ . Mo-Sa 9:30AM-7PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Offers ladies fashions with an exotic and/or naughty flair.
- Tiger Lily's Boutique, 150 S. Main St, ☎ . Mo-Sa 10:30AM-6PM. An eclectic selection of women's contemporary fashion.
- Monkey Wrench, 154 S. Main St, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Mo-Fr 10AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-5:30PM. Offers quality men's and women's clothing.
- The Book Juggler, 182 S. Main St, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Winter hours: M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su noon-5PM. Used and new books, music, and movies, with over 80,000 items available.
- Country Skillet, 708 South Main St, ☎ . 6AM to 2PM M-F. Family dining with the locals in immaculate surroundings. Moderate prices.
- Paradise Juice & Coffee, 349 S. Main St, ☎ . M-F 6:30AM-5PM, Sa 8AM-4PM, Su 9AM-3PM. The locals' alternative to Starbucks, with soup, sandwiches, smoothies, and a variety of coffees. All menu items under $10.
- Al's Redwood Room, 207 S.Main St, ☎ . M-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su 4PM-9PM. Diner's choice of Thai-American or steakhouse food. Moderate prices.
- Loose Caboose Cafe, 10 Wood St (behind The Book Juggler), ☎ . Salads, sandwiches, and soups in a funly funky setting, with patio dining available. Moderate prices.
- El Mexicano, 166 S. Main St, ☎ . Inexpensive prices.
- Buster's Burgers and Brew, 150 S. Main St, ☎ . M-Th 11:30AM-8:30PM, F-SA 11:30AM-9PM, Su 11:30AM-7PM. Moderate prices.
- Anna's Asian House, 47 E. Mendocino Ave (65 yards off Main Street), ☎ . , M-Sa 11AM-2PM, 5PM-9PM; SU 5PM-9PM. Diner's choice of a sushi bar and/or Szechuan cooking. Moderate prices.
- Ardella's, 77 South Main St, ☎ . Features family dining with a locovore twist. Moderate prices.
- Zaza's Bakery/Bistro & Gallery, 35 East Commercial St, ☎ . winter schedule M-F 7AM to 4PM, Sa 8AM to 2PM. This shop has delectable freshly baked goods, homemade soups, sandwiches, and salads, plus an unusual array of coffee and healthy soft drinks. All menu items under $10.
- Scoop's Frozen Yogurt & Deli, 110 N. Main St, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-Th 11AM to 9PM. Offers refreshing alternatives to chain fast food with fresh yogurt and deli treats. All menu items under $10.
- Al's Redwood Room, 207 S. Main St, ☎ . 11AM-2AM 7 days a week. Sports bar with an Old West patina; in business since 1901.
- Shanachie Pub, 50 South Main St, ☎ . An Irish-style pub with live music on weekends and in midweek.
- Best Western Willits Inn, 1777 South Main St, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. $88 and up.
- Edgewood Motel, 1521 S. Main St, ☎ .
- Baechtel Creek Inn & Spa, 101 Gregory Ln, toll-free: . Check-out: 11AM. The only hotel in Willits that sits one turn off the Hwy in a quiet cul-de-sac. Complimentary hot homemade breakfast.
- Western Village Inn, 1440 S. Main St.
- Lark Motel, 1411 S. Main St, ☎ , toll-free: . Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. Pet friendly. $55 and up.
- Pine Cone Motel, 1350 S. Main St.
- Old West Inn, 1221 S. Main St, ☎ . Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. Offers theme rooms to the weary traveler. No worries if you wake up in Jail! $68 and up.
- Super 8, 1119 S. Main St, toll-free: . , Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. $88 and up.
- Pepperwood Motel, 452 S. Main St, ☎ .
- Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital, 1 Madrone Street (across Main Street from the Best Western Motel), +1 707-459-6801, .
- Willits Fire Department, 74 East Commercial Street, +1 707-459-6271.
- The Willits News, 77 West Commercial Street, +1 707-459-4643, .
- Willits Police Department, 125 East Commercial Street, Suite 150, +1 707-459-6122.
|Routes through Willits|
|Eureka ← Garberville ← Jct S ←||N S||→ Ukiah → Santa Rosa|
|Ends at ← Fort Bragg ←||W E||→ Jct S → Clearlake → Yuba City|