Despite the fact that Sonoma County, CA is a world-class wine region (better known as the chiller sister to Napa Valley), there are actually a ton of other things to do here other than wine taste. The sunny weather, relaxed atmosphere, foodie culture, and extremely friendly people keep visitors coming back!
Aside from the hundreds of wineries to explore within Sonoma County, you can expect to find charming towns, top-notch restaurants, towering redwoods, outdoor adventure, and a huge variety of accommodations to lay your head for a night or two. Some of Sonoma County’s best charming towns include Guerneville, Healdsburg, Sebastapol, and Bodega Bay. You could literally spend entire days just strolling and eating through these towns!
Being San Francisco Bay Area residents, with Sonoma County just 30 miles north of where we live, we’re continually exploring and discovering hidden gems within Sonoma County. Once every few months we have a free weekend, we make the drive up to explore a few of the charming towns within the valley. Simply put, there’s so much to do in the expanse area that makes up Sonoma County!
In this post, I’m going to help you discover the many unmissable things to do in Sonoma County, California. Continue reading to discover all that Sonoma County has to offer!
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Table of Contents
BEST TIME TO VISIT SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
Overview of Sonoma Valley’s weather: Sonoma Valley’s Mediterranean-like climate provides near-perfect weather year-round. Evening temperatures can be 30 degrees cooler than in the daytime, and daytime temperatures can vary as much as 10 degrees between the northern and southern portions of the valley.
You can visit anytime in the year without having to deal with harsh weather conditions, but our favorite times to visit include harvest season and in the wintertime.
Harvest Season: Late August to October
Thanks to relatively sunny weather year-round, California’s Sonoma Valley welcomes visitors throughout the year. You can come any time and still have a blast! But if you’re looking for that quintessential California wine country experience (wine grapes galore, sunny picnics, outdoor patio wine tastings, strolling around town in a sundress or shorts), then the best time to visit is during the harvest (late August through October), or even as early as June when the weather begins to warm up.
During this time, you’ll find vines filled with massive clusters of grapes and many sun-shiny days. The days are long and warm, sunny and the nights are cool and bearable.
One thing to note again is that this will be harvest season. Peak tourist season in Napa and Sonoma coincides with harvest season. While visiting during this time is ideal because of the great weather and abundance of activities to do, wineries are going to be much busier, there will be more traffic in the area, and you can expect to see higher rates for accommodations.
HOW TO GET TO SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
Sonoma County, located less than an hour from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, features more than 400 wineries and 50+ miles of stunning Pacific coastline. Now that you’ve made the decision to visit California’s more laidback version of wine country, the next big question is how to get there. What’s awesome about Sonoma County is that its location really isn’t too hard to get to.
Let’s use Sonoma, CA, as a point of reference. Sonoma is located near several airports:
- 30 miles from Sonoma County Airport (STS)
- 65 miles from San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- 60 miles from Oakland International Airport (OAK)
- 73 miles from Sacramento International Airport (SMF)
- 90 miles from San Jose International Airport (SJC)
Your best chances at finding cheaper flights would be to fly into SFO, OAK, or SJC.
From any of these airports, the most convenient option will be to rent a car. With such a manageable distance from the Bay Area to Sonoma, driving is definitely the best option. Even if you don’t have your own vehicle, you can easily rent a car at any of the airports and set your own pace for the trip up to Sonoma County. We love booking rental cars from Priceline because of the free cancellation and the flexibility to compare prices between various car rental companies.
Don’t want to rent a car but coming from San Francisco, Oakland, or Sacramento, CA? There are still some options for you.
There are various shuttle companies that offer transportation to and from Sonoma Valley. Consider Beau Wine Tours and Limo Services, Evans Airport Shuttle Service, or California Wine Tours–all of them offer transportation services to and from SFO, OAK, SMF, and STS. These companies can also accommodate complete wine tours and day trips, perfect for travelers who have a few extra bucks to spare and want more private transportation around the Sonoma Valley.
Visitors coming from San Francisco or Oakland can also consider the Sonoma County Airport Express. There are four stops in Sonoma County: Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport (STS), Santa Rosa Fairgrounds, Doubletree Hotel in Rohnert Park, and Petaluma Fairgrounds.
Coming from San Jose? Your best bet is to rent a car. The trip from San Jose to Sonoma, CA will take approximately 1.5 hours of driving.
Don’t want to deal with transportation at all? Some of the most affordable guided options for Sonoma/Napa are full-day tours. Here are a few great guided tours you could join from SF–transportation is included, so you won’t need to worry about the hassle of getting there!
- San Francisco Super Saver: Muir Woods & Wine Country Full Day Tour – Tour provides two popular tours at one discount price, allowing you to see and taste the delights of Marin and Sonoma/Napa counties.
- Napa and Sonoma Wine Country Full-Day Tour from San Francisco – Escape to California’s famous wine country on this full-day tour from San Francisco. Taste regional varietals at multiple wineries in Napa/Sonoma, including both big-name and family-run estates. Learn about the winemaking process during guided tours of vineyards and barrel rooms, and savor the area’s gourmet foodie culture in Sonoma Square Plaza or Yountville (a foodie paradise).
A quick disclaimer on guided tours: though guided tours are usually the most affordable and hassle-free way to tour Sonoma/Napa Valley, you may be stuck in a tour group without any choice about where you go or when you stop (most of them are going to highlight wine and wine history). Still, it’s a decent way to get your bearings if you’re new to the area!
MAP OF THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
- In red: things to do in Sonoma, CA
- In blue: things to do in the rest of Sonoma County, CA
27+ BEST THINGS TO DO IN SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
If you’re in Sonoma County, chances are you’re going to be spending a good amount of time in Sonoma, CA. Here are some of the best things to do in Sonoma, CA.
1. EXPLORE THE HISTORIC SONOMA PLAZA
The historic Sonoma Plaza offers a postcard-perfect start to your adventures. It’s a pedestrian paradise, so park your car and get to exploring!
There are so many local boutiques, tasting rooms, hotels, bars, restaurants, home decor shops, olive oil shops, and more dotted along the square. Our favorite stores include Figone’s Olive Oil, Sign of the Bear, Chateau Sonoma, and The Corner Store.
After you’re done perusing, snacking, and shopping, enjoy the greenery at the spacious park located in the middle of the plaza.
2. COFFEE AT CAFE SCOOTERIA
Good morning, Sonoma, CA! Let’s start the day off with some drive-thru coffee. Cafe Scooteria is Sonoma’s only true full-service drive-thru coffee cart. This spot is unique and well-loved by locals in Sonoma, combining traditional Italian-style coffee within a vintage scooter shop.
There is no real menu, you simply ordered what you want and they make it! You can either pull up in your whip (baristas will come take your order) or get out and stand in line yourself. They’ll serve you both ways, scooter not required.
3. BREAKFAST/BRUNCH AT SUNFLOWER CAFFE
Start the day right with some California-style breakfast! Head to Sunflower Caffé, one of the best places to enjoy stellar coffee drinks, breakfast, and lunch on their beautiful garden patio.
Sunflower Caffé is committed to buying produce from local and organic farms, which means the food tastes that much better. How it works: You order in the front and then they seat you. The food and service are beyond excellent! (Fun Fact: It was also featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.)
Pro Tip: They don’t take reservations and there’s always a line (on weekends especially), so head there early or be prepared to wait your turn.
4. GO WINE TASTING
Sonoma County is home to 60,000 acres of vineyards and more than 400 wineries, spread over 18 distinct wine regions all catering to different tastes. Chardonnay is the most popular grape in Sonoma, followed by cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. Despite these being the big three, there are over 50 grape varietals grown in the county.
Spend a few hours exploring the different wineries near Sonoma, including the picturesque Viansa Winery (pictured above and below), Robledo Family Winery, and Roche Winery & Vineyards. There are obviously hundreds of other wineries worth checking out, but these are some of our top recommendations.
5. SEE THE SAN FRANCISCO SOLANO MISSION
When exploring in California, it’s tough to not run into a historical mission or two. San Francisco Solano, the last California mission, was founded on July 4, 1823. It was the only mission built in Alta California after Mexico gained independence from Spain. On June 1, 1932, Mission San Francisco Solano was designated California Historical Landmark #3.
The now-restored mission complex includes the church, the padre’s quarters (now a museum), and a large quadrangle. This is now a part of the Sonoma State Historic Park, a scattering of historical attractions consisting of six midtown locations near Sonoma’s Plaza. The Sonoma Mission houses historical exhibits, an art exhibition, a museum chapel, and a courtyard.
Aside from Mission San Francisco Solano, check out the nearby Blue Wing Inn, Sonoma Barracks, the Toscano Hotel & Kitchen, and the Servants Quarters (the remains of La Casa Grande). General Vallejo’s Home, also called Lachryma Montis, is less than a mile west of the Plaza. The Sonoma Barracks (across the street from the mission) houses additional historic exhibits among several museum rooms along with a bookstore and gift shop.
6. EL MOLINO CENTRAL
I’m sure you’ve worked up an appetite with all that sunbathing, walking, and wine tasting. For an unmissable lunch/dinner spot, look no further than El Molino Central, the best restaurant for Mexican food.
We first discovered El Molino Central after falling in love with Primavera’s mole tamales at the SF Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. After finding out that there was another nearby establishment serving Karen Taylor Waikiki’s delicious food, we knew we’d be going back to El Molino for years to come. Any time we visit Sonoma, we have to stop by El Molino Central.
The true star of Primavera’s and El Molino Central’s tamales, quesadillas, and tacos is the fresh masa used to make them. Truly melt in your mouth deliciousness. If you’re stuck on what to order, get the chicken mole tamales, pork tamales, the chile relleno plate, or the fish tacos. Better yet, get all of it.
Pro Tip: On Saturday mornings from 10-11am only, you can grab their iconic plate of chilaquiles!
7. COOL DOWN WITH PALETAS AT LA MICHOACANA
Looking to cool down from the warm Sonoma County weather? After dining at El Molino Central, drive south a few blocks to La Michoacana for a delightful frozen treat. You can’t miss their colorful little shop as you drive down the Sonoma Highway. The building is painted in bright, festive colors and has an extremely welcoming atmosphere. Once inside, explore the various ice cream flavors, paletas (fruit bars), bolis (ice pops), and mangonada cups (sweet and spicy mango cups).
Since we tend to enjoy popsicles more than ice cream in hot weather, we opted for the tamarind and guanabana paletas, which cost about $3 each. If you find yourself really enjoying your frozen treat as you scarf it down outside the storefront, grab a new flavor for the road!
8. SHOP AT THE MANY SECONDHAND STORES
For those on the lookout for unique fashion finds, Sonoma County has many treasure troves of secondhand delights. Even when we’re not on the lookout for any specific home decor or article of clothing, we still love browsing through thrift stores. You never know what you’ll find!
Some of our favorite shops in Sonoma include Plain Jane’s and Republic of Thrift, both selling an assortment of items at really affordable prices (unlike various other consignment and antique shops with eye-gouging prices).
9. VISIT THE FARMERS MARKET
Sonoma County doesn’t just provide fertile land for wine grapes–it’s also home to some of the most sustainable agriculture practices in California. One of the best ways to experience what’s in season is by visiting one of the many local farmers’ markets in the county. Check out the farmers market website for a full schedule of the markets.
10. TAKE A SONOMA FOOD WALKING TOUR
On the Sonoma Walking Food Tour, you’ll get the chance to sample locally-made wines and artisanal cheeses as you stroll Sonoma’s historic downtown with a local foodie guide. From there, try fine chocolates and olive oil at a few gourmet boutiques. You’ll get to try the latest flavors at six curated tasting stops along a relaxed, route and learn the stories behind the region’s culinary legends, thriving vineyards, and remarkable artisanal renaissance.
11. TAKE THE KIDS TO SONOMA TRAINTOWN RAILWAY
TrainTown is a great pit spot if you’re traveling to Sonoma, CA with children. TrainTown features both train rides and amusement rides, as well as a petting zoo. The trains ride along a quarter-scale railroad on four miles of track. Each train trip lasts 20 minutes and goes through tunnels, over bridges and makes a stop at Lakeview, the miniature town and petting zoo. Amusement rides include a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, a mine train coaster, air scooter, and TrainTown Airlines.
General admission and parking are free, but it does cost extra for amusement rides and train rides.
NOTE: We are now leaving Sonoma, CA! The remaining activities and excursions are located within Sonoma County (and not within Sonoma’s city limits).
12. GO ON A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE
If you’re planning an epic Sonoma County vacation with very special people for a very special event, then this is the perfect activity for you. Experience world-famous wine country from the air on an early morning hot-air balloon ride (departs from Yountville, CA)! This is such a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I really can’t think of a better reason to get up at the crack of dawn. Your efforts to get up in the early morning will pay off in bounds when you catch your first glimpse of the entire valley from the Vaca Mountains to the Mayacamas Mountains (and everything in between). Enjoy a birds-eye perspective of rolling hills, expansive vineyards, and elegant estates during your flight while your pilot offers insights on ballooning and describes the landscape as you float above it all!
13. SAFARI WEST
Sonoma County is home to Safari West, a 400-acre wildlife reservation in Santa Rosa where visitors can actual experience a slice of Africa without the steep safari tour prices or a plane ticket! In my opinion, this is the best-kept secret of Sonoma County!
This wildlife safari is nicknamed the “Sonoma Serengeti”, allowing you to see animals such as cheetahs, oryx, gazelle, wildebeest, and giraffes. The property houses over 900 exotic animals and offers year-round tours and even overnight stays.
Safari West offers a 3-hour safari ride for you and your family to enjoy. If you’d like to experience a little bit more, there is a behind-the-scenes walking tour that takes you around the preserve and gets you up close and personal to some of the animals. If you’re looking for an even more immersive experience, you can opt for the nighttime safari to encounter all the nocturnal animals. You’ll need to book at least a few weeks in advance for the best tour times.
Pro Tip: If you can swing it, we recommend staying the night, sleeping among the animals, glamping in a luxury tent cabin at Safari West! They have rooms with bunk beds for the kids and on-site wine tastings for the adults.
14. EXPLORE DOWNTOWN SANTA ROSA, CA
Surrounded by various state parks and wineries, Santa Rosa attracts both nature lovers and wine lovers. The diverse culture and local cuisine also attracts art/history lovers as well as foodies.
Start with downtown Santa Rosa where you’ll find lots of coffee shops, restaurants, and breweries. This area is also a hotspot for antique, thrift, and vintage shoppers. In fact, popping into the various secondhand shops ended up being one of our favorite things to do in Santa Rosa!
While you’re here, pay attention to the Historic Railroad Square, located in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa. The buildings in and surrounding the square were restored and preserved to serve as a reminder of the impact that the railroad had on Santa Rosa. The square is home to various restaurants, shops, hotels, as well as the West End Farmer’s Market.
15. DINE IN SANTA ROSA, CA
There are too many good restaurants in Santa Rosa to recommend just one, so I’ve chosen my two favorites.
The Bird & The Bottle is a tapas-style bar and restaurant that features very creative, Asian fusion food. We haven’t had anything there that we didn’t love! Some of the best dishes include the smoked wild black cod, lamb meatballs, BBQ octopus, chicken skin cracklings, pastrami tacos, grilled skirt steak with trumpet mushrooms, and Mary’s smoked chicken wings.
El Coqui features traditional recipes of Puerto Rican cuisine passed down over generations. I absolutely love Puerto Rican food because of the fact that you get a plate filled with a bit of everything that comes together to give you a well-balanced meal. Try the pollo al horno–this is their signature dish and comes with rice, back beans, and fried plantain. Trust me, it’s absolutely amazing.
16. GRAB BREWS AT RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING COMPANY
Sonoma County has a long history of beer-making and was actually once known for having the best soil for hop yards. Today, there are still a number of popular breweries standing including the Russian River Brewing Company, known for its super popular ‘Pliny the Elder’ and ‘Pliny The Younger,’ only available in February.
Russian River Brewing Company is a great spot to grab casual beers before moving on to dinner at one of the many dining options in Santa Rosa, CA.
17. EXPLORE GUERNEVILLE, CA
Guerneville, CA makes for a great weekend getaway, especially if you really want to get away from it all. Due to its proximity to San Francisco and easy railway access, the Russian River Valley (where Guerneville is situated) became a popular vacation spot in the 1920’s. This laidback area has been entertaining local vacationers since! One of the best things about Guerneville is that it’s far quieter and more rugged than Healdsburg, Sonoma or Napa nearby. This makes it the perfect spot to enjoy the outdoors and truly unplug from the rest of the world!
Case in point: Johnson’s Beach, the popular beach that grants you access to float in the Russian River! Johnson’s Beach not only features the beach but also has a snack bar and watercraft rental service.
After your river float, head to Main Street, dotted with a variety of trendy coffee shops, boutiques, art galleries, dive bars, and diners. Don’t miss Guerneville 5 & 10, where you’ll find old-fashioned candy, vintage toys, and other fun gifts. If you’re into vintage and thrift finds, take the opportunity to peek into the various secondhand shops in town.
For lunch, we recommend boon eat+ drink (a cozy little spot offering California comfort foods with seasonal ingredients) or Brot (a modern german concept serving delicious classics in a warm Bavarian atmosphere). Looking for something significantly more filling? Order the prime rib at Main Street Bistro & Caberet–where you come for the prime rib and stay for the live music!
Follow up your meal with a quick visit to Guerneville Bank Club, a collective retail and art gallery space featuring art shows, handcrafted pies, homemade ice cream, and curated goods. Experience Chile Pies Baking Company, Nimble & Finn’s handmade ice cream, and the Russian River Historical Society all under one roof.
In terms of accommodation, see if you can snag a night or two at Autocamp, hosting a stylish collection of hipster Airstream trailers and luxurious glamping tents.
18. KORBEL WINERY
Korbel Winery, near Guerneville, CA, has been a staple of Sonoma County since 1882 when the winery was founded by the Korbel brothers. All of the sparkling wines are made in the traditional method and range from dry to sweet. And even if you don’t want to wine taste, stop by to enjoy the lush grounds–it’s absolutely beautiful!
Educational tours of the winery and the gardens are offered daily. Winery tours last around fifty minutes and include a peek at the history museum and historic champagne cellars, followed by a tasting. For tours and general tastings, reservations are highly recommended as they do tend to get fully booked during summer weekends.
19. ARMSTRONG REDWOODS STATE RESERVE
Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve is located just a short drive from Guerneville but will immediately transport you to your forest dreams. There are various hiking trails that wind through majestic sequoia trees that are over 500 years old and over 200 feet tall!
While visitors can drive through Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, walking through the park is the best way to experience the massive, towering redwoods. If you’re limited on time, take the Armstrong Redwoods Grove Loop Trail to experience a 1.6-mile self-guided walk in old-growth redwoods (this is an ADA-compliant trail).
FIRE CLOSURE: As of February 2021, there are closures in this park or area due to wildfire. For the latest information, please visit their website.
20. EXPLORE HEALDSBURG, CA
Cruise up to Healdsburg, CA, a town offering a less touristy but equally memorable wine country experience. Healdsburg is a small, charming town filled with modern amenities as well as an abundance of world-class wineries and farm-to-table restaurants. It’s the perfect base for exploring the countryside of lush valleys and redwood forests that surround Lake Sonoma and the Russian River.
It’s structured similarly to the city of Sonoma, with its historic downtown dotted with art galleries, tasting rooms, eateries ranging from super-casual to fine dining, boutiques, and kitschy antique shops.
You can expect to spend about 2-3 hours walking around and exploring all the town has to offer before hitting the road again. If you plan on doing some winetasting, expect to stay a lot longer! Healdsburg is surrounded by an array of great wineries within the Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley wine regions. If you’re looking for something more conveniently located in the city, check out the tasting rooms Banshee or La Crema.
Given the large variety of bed & breakfasts, hotels, and lodges here, Healdsburg will provide you with an unforgettable overnight experience. Opt to stay downtown, as you’ll be within walking distance of the many restaurants, bars, and shops surrounding the main plaza.
To start your day off, stop in to Flying Goat Coffee in downtown Healdsburg for some of the best coffee in town. Hungry? Grab a table at the New Orleans-inspired breakfast spot, The New Parish, serving up beignets overloaded with powdered sugar…as they should be.
Other recommended options for eats include Chalkboard (small plates), Bravas (tapas), and Madrona Manor (for that special occasion fine dining meal).
21. WINE AND DINE IN GEYSERVILLE, CA
In terms of a formal downtown to explore, there really isn’t much here as Geyserville’s “downtown” is comprised of only one tiny block worth of establishments. But please, don’t let that be a reason for overlooking this gem of an area!
For convenient wine tasting, check out Locals— they carry a ton of varietals and love teaching and talking about wine. Make sure you check out one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve experienced in the United States, Diavola Pizzeria and Salumeria–Michelin quality food for very very affordable prices. Seriously some of the best Italian-style pizza I think I’ve ever had (and I spent a whole month traveling around Italy!).
The surrounding countryside is where Geyserville really shines. Dotted along the area, you’ll also find many award-winning wineries, excellent B&Bs and inns, countless opportunities for outdoor adventure, and even a modern casino. If you’re limited on time and want to do some wine tasting, definitely check out the picturesque Ferrari-Carano Vineyards for the complete wine country experience (good wine, good vibes, beautiful scenery).
22. GET OUTDOORS AT FORESTVILLE, CA
A summer destination for bohemians, artists, and vacationers since the 1900s, this tiny town has all you need for a laidback natural retreat — the Russian River at your feet, the majestic forest spanning more than the eye can see, and a quaint town full of local flavor.
If you end up near Forestville, it is totally worth your time to pick up a few loaves of bread at Nightingale Bakery (favorites include the potato rosemary roll and chocolate chunk brioche). For breakfast, stop by the Russian River Pub. This local spot serves up seriously good eats, from crab cake Benedict to the homemade Irish soda french toast.
Canoe or kayak down the Russian River or just relax by one of the many beaches in the area– Steelhead Beach, Sunset Beach, and Mom’s Beach. If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure on wheels, bike the West County Trail through vineyards and orchards (a 5.57-mile flat, paved trail).
And of course, you can’t miss Front Street, the hippie, laid-back ‘downtown’ area of Forestville.
23. VISIT BODEGA BAY AND THE SONOMA COAST
Bodega Bay is jam-packed with hiking and biking trails that offer those stunning Pacific Coast views. It’s also one of the West Coast’s premier whale-watching spots. The whales can be spotted almost all year long, but the best chances will be during primary migrations (October through April). Interested in horseback riding? Well doing it here is a no-brainer, as the coastal views of Bodega Bay make for a wonderful backdrop.
Bodega Bay and the surrounding area is also a foodie’s paradise — fresh oysters and seafood are not to be missed here. Make sure to stop at Bodega Bay Oyster Company on your way in/out of town to try some of the freshest oysters in the area. If you’re not looking for anything fancy or fishy, check out Drakes Sonoma Coast Kitchen for breakfast, or head to Spud Point Crab Company for their famous crab chowder.
Sonoma Coast highlights include Bodega Bay, Jenner, and Sonoma Coast State Park, all of which offer rocky bluffs, sandy beaches, hidden coves, and absolutely stunning views of the Pacific coast!
24. EXPLORE THE ARTSY TOWN OF SEBASTOPOL, CA
Sebastopol, CA is a very unique place to visit, to say the least. One of the best things to do here is to pay a visit to Florence Avenue, where you’ll see some of the most imaginative sculptures in the front yards of homes. These works are playful, colorful, and made from recycled trash. Dating back to 2001, the sculptures were jointly created by Sebastopol couple Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent. Don’t be surprised when you see these sculptures dotted around town as well!
While here, you also need to visit The Barlow, an outdoor market that’s home to a collection of homeware and clothing shops, as well as restaurants serving local California cuisine. And for history lovers, head to West County Museum, showcasing the history of western Sonoma County with topics as movies filmed in the county, collections of historic toys, or historic Pomo Indian artifacts.
25. BUY BREAD AT WILD FLOUR BREAD
Is bread worth standing in line for 20-30 minutes on a weekend morning? The answer is yes, especially when it comes to Wild Flour Bread, tucked away in the small town of Freestone, CA. Wild Flour doesn’t just bake regular bread for the masses, they sell handcrafted, artisan bread made by people who know what good bread is!
The gouda flat, olive bread, and any and all scones are a must-try. If you’re not able to try them all, the absolute stars of the show are the scones. Don’t forget to bring some home for your loved ones! Seriously, this bakery has one-of-a-kind bread you really won’t find anywhere else.
26. TAKE A CEDAR BATH AT OSMOSIS DAY SPA
Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary is a one-of-a-kind spa retreat in the town of Freestone, on the historic Bohemian Highway just minutes from the Pacific coast. Osmosis features a unique “Cedar Enzyme Bath” deep-heat treatment, as well as massage and facials. The cedar enzyme bath involves bathing in the ground, covered with cedar and rice bran, which supposedly stimulates the metabolism and delivers a radiant glow.
Before or after treatments, guests are welcome to enjoy the extensive meditation garden, famous for its authentic Japanese landscaping, beautiful pond and serene atmosphere.
27. OTHER GREAT THINGS TO DO IN SONOMA COUNTY, CA
- Graton Resort and Casino
- Bennett Valley Golf Course
- Luther Burbank Home and Gardens
- Trione-Annadel State Park
- Charles M. Schulz Museum
- Ice skating at Redwood Empire Ice Arena
WHERE TO STAY IN SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
The Lodge At Sonoma Resort – This is where you go when you want some luxurious R&R. Retreat to luxury in the heart of California’s scenic wine country at The Lodge at Sonoma, an Autograph Collection resort and spa. Through thoughtful interior design and locally sourced amenities, the accommodations at The Lodge honor the attention to detail and vibrant character that makes Sonoma so memorable. All 182 rooms offer things like pillow menus and bathrobes, and there is a full-service spa, outdoor pool, fitness center, bar/lounge, coffee shop, and a snack bar on the property. There is also free self-parking!
El Dorado Hotel – El Dorado Hotel is perfect for travelers who want to experience the rustic charm of wine country but still crave that downtown bustle. This 27-room boutique hotel is situated smack dab on Sonoma Square, so guests can easily balance their itinerary between vineyard hopping, dining, post-wine napping, and exploring the town. Attached is the very popular restaurant El Dorado Kitchen, making your stay even more convenient. The hotel also has an outdoor pool, a bar/lounge, free WiFi, and free self-parking.
SANTA ROSA AREA
Safari West – For a more rugged stay, opt to do an overnight stay at Safari West after your safari tour. Safari West offers decorated tent cabins that’ll immediately transport you to Africa, a restaurant, a bar/lounge, and even spa services. There is free WiFi in public areas and free self-parking. All 31 accommodations offer furnished balconies, free bottled water, and ceiling fans.
Hotel E – A super stylish hotel that is conveniently situated next to the town’s courtyard square. Hotel E offers 39 air-conditioned accommodations, designer toiletries, and premium bedding. All 39 rooms boast tablet computers and offer free WiFi and flat-screen TVs. They have a bar/lounge, and parking is either valet or street parking.
Cambria Hotel Sonoma Wine Country – This hotel, pictured below, is our new favorite art deco-style hotel in the area! It’s located in Rohnert Park, near Graton Resort and Casino, and features a ton of awesome amenities that we fully enjoyed to the fullest during our last stay here. There is an on-site bar/restaurant, a heated outdoor pool, and a 24-hour fitness center (with Peloton bikes). The best part? It’s super affordable!
Hotel Healdsburg – This modern hotel in downtown Healdsburg features a complimentary breakfast buffet, a 60-foot garden pool, and a hot tub. There is also a full-service spa, gym, restaurant, cafe, lounge, and screened porch guests can enjoy. With more than 100 Sonoma County wineries within 10 miles, Hotel Healdsburg makes a great jumping-off point for a Sonoma County weekend getaway.
H2hotel – This LEED-certified hotel is in downtown Healdsburg, just a block from the Healdsburg Town Plaza. The entire hotel is modern, bright, super clean, well-appointed, and tastefully decorated throughout! It has a variety of earth-friendly features, including a solar-heated creekside pool. H2hotel also has an on-site restaurant, spa, and lounge.
boon hotel + spa – This boutique bed & breakfast and spa is wonderfully nestled among old-growth redwoods of the Russian River Valley in Guerneville, CA. All 14 rooms offer comforts like pillowtop beds and premium bedding and there are massage/treatment rooms and free use of bicycles on-site. This charming luxury hotel will certainly transport you from reality to tranquility and bliss.
AutoCamp Russian River – Perhaps one of the hippest spots to stay along the Russian River, AutoCamp Russian River offers 34 accommodations ranging from luxury tents to premium rooms within an airstream. All accommodations come with fireplaces and safes. Memory foam beds feature premium bedding and bathrooms include showers, bathrobes, and complimentary designer toiletries.
SONOMA COAST, CA
Jenner Inn – Enjoy the quaint, homey rooms overlooking the beautiful Russian River in Northern California’s Sonoma Wine Country. Jenner Inn features cozy accommodations complete with stunning views. A complimentary continental breakfast is available to guests.
ANNUAL / LOCAL EVENTS IN SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
- Sonoma County Restaurant Week (February)
- California Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma (March)
- Passport to Dry Creek Valley (April)
- Taste Alexander Valley (May)
- Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Festival (May)
- BottleRock – music festival held each year in Napa (late May)
- Beerfest in Santa Rosa (June)
- Country Summer Music Festival (June) – Northern California’s biggest country music festival
- Sonoma County Fair (August)
- Gravenstein Apple Fair (August)
- Bodega Seafood, Art and Wine Festival (August)
- Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival in Guerneville (September)
- Taste of Sonoma (September) – wine and food festival
- Sonoma County Wine Auction (September)
- Sonoma Harvest Music Festival (late September)
- Sonoma County Harvest Fair (October) – three days of wine tasting, chef demonstrations, and food pairings
- Luther Burbank Holiday Open House (December) – Victorian-style decor for the holidays
ESSENTIAL TRAVEL TIPS FOR SONOMA COUNTY, CA
- If you’re heading to Sonoma from San Francisco, you might notice the temperature gets significantly warmer there. Always check the weather beforehand and dress appropriately!
- July and August are usually the hottest months, with an average high of 87°F (31°C). January is the coldest month, with an average high of 56°F (14°C).
- Wine tasting in Napa Valley can be expensive, while tastings are much cheaper in Sonoma.
- Consider sharing a tasting to save money. Many wineries will offer for you to share a tasting or won’t mind if you ask to do so.
- While most wineries take walk-ins, many are by appointment only. Always check a winery’s website before you actually head there. It’s common to be turned away without a reservation, particularly on weekends in the summer or during harvest season.
- On a nice sunny day, consider bringing a picnic lunch with you on your exploration. You’ll be able to save money and enjoy it among the vineyards around you.
- Dressing up for your Sonoma trip? Make sure you wear the right shoes. Leave the stilettos at home. If you still want to look cute, consider stacked heels or wedges, and be mindful of open-toed shoes (there could be lots of gravel you’ll walk on throughout the valley).
- Bring a packable, lightweight jacket. The temperature cools down quickly, even on warm, sunny days. Something that will protect you from rain will be even better, like this packable windbreaker by Columbia.
- If you’re planning a Sonoma County trip last minute, you can find some great discounted hotel room deals using Priceline Express Deals.
- If you’re road-tripping and plan to continue up Northern California after Sonoma County, check out our post detailing the best stops on the drive from SF to Portland.
ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST FOR SONOMA COUNTY, CA
- License and registration | This is a no-brainer, but always good to check you have all documents before it’s too late and you get too far away from home. Do NOT leave home without them. They are road trip essentials!
- Roadside Emergency Kit | If you’re renting a car, you never know what kind of car trouble you may encounter on the road. This kit contains 42 roadside emergency components, including jumper cables, an aluminum flashlight and batteries, 2-in-1 screwdriver, duct tape, poncho, cable ties, bandages, towelettes, and zipper-lock bags.
- Trunk Organizer | With any road trip comes lots and lots of stuff to pack. Keep your road trip essentials organized with a trunk organizer. Not only will this make it so much easier to find what you need, but it will also lead to more space in your trunk for you to pack other necessities.
- Smartphone UV Sanitizer and Charger | Our phones gather all the grime and bacteria we touch throughout the day, and then they are stored in warm, dark places like purses and pockets, which make for great breeding grounds for bacteria to grow. They are the third hand we never wash, but should! Using a UV sanitizer such as PhoneSoap on a regular basis will help keep germs and illness at bay.
- Portable Cooler | Coolers are a must for any road trip, but especially in California Wine Country. How else are you going to keep your meats and cheese cool for your picnic? A portable hard cooler will allow you to pack picnic lunches, bring cheese and jams, and more. If you’re looking for the best cooler technology out there, the Yeti Portable Cooler is top of the line, with ColdCell Insulation that offers superior cold-holding compared to other soft coolers.
- Swiss Army Knife | A multi-tool is great to have in any car, regardless of if you’re going on a road trip or not. It can be useful in so many situations! There have been so many instances where I’ve needed to cut something or open up hard-to-open packaging while away from home, and this has been a lifesaver.
- First Aid Kit | It’s always good to carry a first aid kit around with you when traveling. Road trips make it easier to do this since all you need to do is toss it in the trunk! Note: This is not the same as the roadside emergency kit.
- Hiking Boots | If you plan on hiking, bring well broken-in boots with good ankle support and good traction. My all-time favorites are the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Boots. They’re one of the lightest boots in its class, very durable, and provide out-of-the-box comfort, which is extremely important if you want to prevent blisters from the start.
- Hiking Socks | Make sure you have a good pair of cushioned wool hiking socks. For extra toe protection and to prevent blisters from developing from skin-to-skin contact, go with a pair of Injinji toe socks.
- Puffy Jacket | If you’re traveling in the fall or wintertime, you’re going to need layers in the valley, which tends to get windy in certain areas. You have a lot of options here, but I personally have the North Face Thermoball, and it’s kept me warm throughout my many years of adventuring! For protection against potential rain, opt for a packable rain jacket that also serves as a windbreaker.
- Daypack | I’m a fan of the Osprey Daylite Daypack. It has ample room for all the snacks and water you’ll need, as well as for your camera and the safety essentials for the hike.
- Sunhat | Sun protection is key for any California destination. You’re in fancy Napa Valley, so embrace the ritziness and keep the sun off your skin with a fancy sunhat!
- Hand Sanitizer | Hand sanitizer gel or wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it! And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
- Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes | Feeling a bit gross after a hike or bike ride but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe. Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
- Portable Power Bank | You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures… the last thing you want is to be driving along with no phone battery! A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
- Soft Hydration Flask | Stay hydrated throughout the day with a water bottle that can go anywhere with you—and fold up when not in use. I love the packability of these bottles!