DISCOVER HISTORIC DOWNTOWN HOLLISTER
An Authentic “Small Town America” Destination in San Benito County, California
By Lisa D. Smith
About a 2-hour drive from San Francisco, Hollister is the main eastern gateway destination for Pinnacles National Park, and its charming historic downtown district is within a few miles of the region’s award-winning wineries, and is surrounded by picturesque rolling hills, golf courses, sprawling ranches and organic orchards and farmlands.
Let’s Go Downtown Hollister!
Belly Up in Hollister’s Biker Culture – A stroll downtown and you will see some of the saloon murals portraying Hollister’s popular title of being ‘The Birthplace of the American Biker’, and Johnny’s Bar & Grill along with the Annual 4th of July Hollister Freedom Rally, play a big part of that history.
It all started in 1947 when Wino Willie and his Boozefighters motorcycle group came to Hollister for the 4th of July Gypsy Tour Races. It’s said that things got a little wild and one of the bikers drove his motorcycle through Johnny’s Bar & Grill. This supposed rowdy happening caught the attention of Life Magazine, who apparently gave an exaggerated impression in an article that later inspired the movie ‘The Wild Ones’ with Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin. Today, known as ‘The Friendliest Little Bar in Town’, Johnny’s continues to be a favorite place for locals and visitors alike.
Step Back in Time – Founded in 1968, today Hollister is the county seat of San Benito County. It is worth making an appointment to visit the downtown San Benito County Historical Society’s Museum, where you can view exhibits highlighting the region’s colorful history that includes Pinnacles National Park, the local Native American culture and heritage, and stories of the area’s ranchers, pioneers and settlers – including John Steinbeck’s family!
If you love historic buildings and architecture, there’s a self-guided walking tour you can take to see the numerous historic buildings that are now inhabited as people’s homes, shops and businesses. The architectural styles are fascinating and include: Pioneer (1860s-1870s), Gothic Revival (1860s), Italianate (1860s-1870s), Queen Anne (1880s-1900s), Eastlake (1880s-1890s), Craftsman Bungalow (1900-1920s), Prairie School (1910-1920s) and Mediterranean Revival (1910-1940s).
Tour de Art – From a totem pole in a community garden to the artistically etched canopy roof at the Superior Court building, a mural in a tunnel to a painted utility box, there are over 20 colorful stops to visit on a self-guided public art tour of downtown Hollister. Through murals, sculptures, terrazzo and architectural design features, the public art pieces add a vibrant atmosphere to the downtown whilst portraying the stories of the history, nature, people and commerce of Hollister and San Benito County.
Shop It Up & Get a Taste of Hollister! Hollister’s downtown makes for a fun day of shopping and exploring a diverse array of boutique stores and gifts shops, offering a bounty of unique treasures that range locally produced and handcrafted gifts, to stylish pieces of décor, fashion accessories, art and jewelry.
Dining options range from hearty farm-style breakfasts at Country Rose Café to decadent baked goodies at Lighthouse 55 and Heavenly Bakery, mouth-watering Mexican fare at La Catrina Mexican Grill to tasty wood-fired dishes and craft brews at the Running Rooster. Being a farm and ranching community, farm-to-table food is a big and delicious part of the menu at restaurants like Fischer’s and Farm House Café. Plus, there’s a wonderful Certified Farmers Market on Wednesdays, from May-September.
Get Festive! “Life’s a Parade” in Hollister with the downtown being the ultimate venue for local events, annual festivals and parades that include: Downtown Wine & Beer Stroll, Plant Sale & Garden Expo, Hollister Police Explorers Annual 5K Foot Pursuit, Portuguese Festival, San Benito County Chamber Saddle Horse Show & Rodeo Parade, Hollister Independence Rally, Street Festival & Classic Car Show, Downtown Beer & Bacon Stroll, Mexican Independence Day Parade, Veteran’s Day Parade, Lights On Celebration & Holiday Parade.
Historic preservation, community and culture come together in downtown Hollister, providing a fun and inviting experience for all who visit. It’s a delicious slice of that ‘Small Town America’ life!
Be sure to visit the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau in downtown Hollister to get restaurant and lodging recommendations, event news, history and public art self-guided walking tour maps, brochures and visitors guides. Learn more at www.DiscoverSanBenitoCounty.com.