The Absolutely Best Places to Go in Sonoma County
Cheetahs, redwoods, and Peanuts, oh my! Set your alarm clock early on this trip. Sonoma County offers so much to see and do that you won’t want to waste time sleeping. Whether you enjoy nature or the arts, wine or beer, history or shopping, the area is packed with can’t-miss attractions. Here are the top things to do in Sonoma County:
Why not visit the wilds of Africa while you're in Wine Country? Located in Santa Rosa, Safari West is a 400-acre wildlife preserve home to more than 700 exotic animals, many of which are endangered. Guests can go on safari to see giraffes, cheetahs, gazelles, warthogs, white rhinos, and more in their natural habitats. Guests can even stay overnight in luxury safari tents on the “Sonoma Serengeti.”
Francis Ford Coppola Winery opened in Geyserville in 2010. The family-friendly destination offers tours of its winemaking facilities and sustainably farmed vineyards, tastings of its 40-plus wines, RUSTIC restaurant for Italian cuisine, and swimming pools with private cabanas. For a true Italian experience, play a game of bocce in the bocce courts or classic board games at the gaming tables for free.
Uniting history with the best of Sonoma County food, wine, and shopping, Sonoma Plaza is the eight-acre park at the heart of the town of Sonoma. A National Historic Monument, the plaza is surrounded by historic buildings including Mission San Francisco Solano, built in 1823, as well as wine-tasting rooms, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and popular restaurants including Café LaHaye, the girl & the fig, and LaSalette.
Peanuts fans can spend the day with Charlie Brown and Snoopy at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, where the comic-strip creator lived and worked for 30 years. Take a 30-minute, docent-led tour through the museum to see exhibits that explore Schulz’s life and the development of his beloved characters. You can also go skating at Redwood Empire Ice Arena, also known as Snoopy’s Home Ice, just a few blocks away.
Cornerstone Sonoma, near the town of Sonoma, is not your garden-variety garden. Some of the world’s top landscape artists were invited to create cutting-edge designs, and the result is nine acres of the most fascinating gardens you will ever see. The one-of-a-kind destination also offers three wine-tasting venues, numerous boutique home and garden shops and art galleries, and a gourmet café.
Armstrong Redwoods State Park in Guerneville protects a grove of the ancient coast redwoods that carpeted this region before logging began in the 1800s. Some of the more famous trees in the park include the Colonel Armstrong Tree, the oldest in the grove at 1,400 years, and the Parson Jones Tree, the tallest at 310 feet. It’s a great spot for picnics, short walks, and longer hikes.
Although the sun sets every day, the day that you watch it set over Bodega Bay, preferably accompanied by local wine and seafood caught in the bay that morning, will be one of the more memorable. Many area restaurants offer ocean views, including the Duck Club for coastal cuisine, the Bay View for authentic Italian, and the Blue Water Bistro for seafood and Wine Country cuisine.
Is there beer in Wine Country? You bet. Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma is one of the country’s fastest-growing craft breweries, and its trademark India pale ale is one of the best-selling IPAs in California. Plan a visit to the brewery’s taproom to sample ales, pilsner, stout, and creative seasonal beers, as well as weekly live music.
Live jazz in the town square, year-round art walks, a short film festival, and more than a dozen galleries featuring local artists make the Healdsburg art scene a destination unto itself. Each June, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival showcases fantastic music, and every September, the Healdsburg Arts and International Short Film Festival bring the best of the area’s rich creative efforts together.
Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen is a memorial to the author of Call of the Wild and White Fang. Once a part of the writer’s Beauty Ranch, the site preserves a museum, the remnants of London’s dream house, a bathhouse, ranch buildings, and his grave. Visitors can enjoy scenic hikes through fir and oak forests.
—By Kelly Crumrin
Kelly Crumrin is a freelance writer based in San Francisco.
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Lagunitas Petaluma TapRoom & Beer Sanctuary, 1280 North McDowell Blvd., Petaluma
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Lincoln Theater, 100 California Drive, Yountville
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Lake Chalet, 1520 Lakeside Drive, Oakland