Sonoma County is one area that people fall in love with almost instantly, the moment that they visit for the very first time. Why? Not only is the region incredibly charming, but it’s also home to some of the best vineyards in the country, a relaxing restaurant cuisine with modern offerings, and some of the friendliest people that we could meet on the West Coast. It’s also a place that feels like home, even if you are thousands of miles away from your own home. That’s just how cozy, comfortable and inviting Sonoma feels for many of its first-time guests.
If that weren’t enough, it’s also a great family-friendly location with so much to offer for young children of all ages. The area is all about slowing down, enjoying the great outdoors, and of course, a nice, delicious and mouth-watering beverage. After some time spent here, tourists might find themselves never wanting to leave. With that being said, here are 20 reasons why everyone should consider visiting Sonoma County this year.
20 The Charles Schulz Museum
It doesn't matter if you are a Charlie Brown lover; this museum should definitely be on your list of things to do while in Sonoma County. As a matter of fact, the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center is great for guests of all ages. Located in Santa Rosa, it’s a great place to enjoy the legacy of the Peanuts gang with comics picked out by Charles Schulz’s own family. Some people would even call it Peanuts Heaven. For a lot of people, it’s considered an international tourist destination and a wonderful experience. In addition, there’s also an ice-skating rink, a Snoopy-inspired café and a well-stocked gift shop next door.
19 Safari West
Safari West might be located in the middle of Sonoma County, but you will definitely feel like you are in the Serengeti Desert. That’s just how authentic this beautiful wildlife preserve feels. In other words, you can get all that you would in a classic African safari. The park’s mission is to promote conservation by providing a unique recreational educational experience including information about propagation. As of 2017, Safari West had over 1000 animals of approximately 98 animal species and offers daily tours and guests an opportunity to spend the night in one of its luxury safari-style tent accommodations.
18 The Francis Ford Coppola Vineyard
The Francis Ford Coppola Vineyard is perhaps one of the most family-friendly places in the area and a place where you can enjoy an afternoon by the pool, have a food and beverage pairing and take a trip down memory lane thanks to the dozen or so Hollywood memorabilia scattered all throughout the property. The director’s larger-than-life style is evident just about everywhere in this near Geyserville, in the north end of Sonoma County. For a lot of guests, it feels like a resort, just because there’s so much to do and see here.
17 The Armstrong Redwoods
If you think that Sonoma County consists solely of vineyards, you might want to think again. That’s because it’s also home to one of the most stunning state parks on the West Coast: the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve. It was established to reserve the over 805 acres of coast redwoods and is located just north of Guerneville. There are so many cozy spots with tables that are perfect for a day picnic or a BBQ with the family. You will also be amazed at just how vast the redwoods look while you get both up close and personal.
16 Bodega Bay
If you are looking for a place to go fishing, hang out at the beach, or just stay at a place that is both romantic and family-friendly, than Bodega Bay might be the place for you. It is also quintessentially Californian and there’s no way that you can ever get bored in this area. From whale watching, to paddling around the bay or even jumping in the saddle at a nearby western horse ranch, you’ll be busy all time. In addition, you can also visit “The Birds,” or rather the building that was used to film the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie.
15 Sonoma Coast State Park
Sonoma is considered one of the best looking counties in the state of California for a reason. There are miles of scenic shoreline for endless beach activities that will make you never want to go home again. Yes, California is just that easy to fall in love with. Two highlights include Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and Salt Point State Park, with rocky shorelines, great places for camping, and even an astronomy observatory. So yes, you can check out the waves during the day and catch the stars by the time night falls and be in awe over everything Mother Nature has to offer on this side of the country.
14 Al Fresco Dining
One of the best things about visiting San Francisco is that there are so many places where you can enjoy a world-class meal while overlooking the beautiful Pacific ocean. In other words, al fresco dining is the norm around here, and it’s a meal that you have to enjoy at least once during your stay. SFTravel writes, “You know that terrific restaurant you’d love to try? This is the best time to score the best table. Whether you’re craving a contemporary three-star Michelin dining experience or a traditional wood-fired pizza that’s bubble-charred at the edges, your table is ready. And the weather may be nice enough to sit outdoors.”
13 Low-Season Deals
Sure, a lot of people love taking bucket list trips to nearby Napa, but one advantage to visiting Sonoma County is that the area offers incredible low season deals for the entire family. Or better yet, you can visit both areas together, especially when the timing is right. Try out the spa scene in Napa before heading over the Sonoma for the drinks. SFTravel suggests, “From Halloween to Easter, take advantage of the attractive pricing being offered by hotels and resorts throughout Napa and Sonoma. Choose a cozy inn, a golf resort, a downtown hotel or a spa retreat and stay longer for less.”
12 History Tours
When we said that Sonoma County had a little of everything for everyone, we weren’t kidding. There’s also plenty of choices as far as historic tours and museums go, too. Needless to say, the area is rich with history. Visit California says, “An easy hour’s drive north of San Francisco, the journey through Sonoma County begins in the historic town of Petaluma, with its classic stone buildings. You could zip straight up U.S. 101 to arrive at the county’s northernmost town, the poshly perfect Healdsburg, but that would be missing the essence of this nook-and-cranny region—like the towns of Sonoma, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, and Guerneville.”
11 A Different Kind Of Lifestyle
One of the best things about Sonoma County is that it truly does have a different kind of lifestyle. Here, you turn off your cell phone. It’s where you leave your troubles behind, enjoy several glasses from some of the best vineyards and enjoy life just the way it is: nice and slow. You don’t have to take any phone calls, you don’t have to go anywhere, and you certainly don’t have to stress about anything. Visit California also notes, “It’s all about slowing down here, mingling with locals, and knowing that it doesn’t get much better than this.”
10 Santa Rosa
Sure, we can talk about Sonoma County’s vineyards all day long, but let’s not forget about Santa Rosa. Traveling Nine to Fiver also says, “Northern California has some of the best craft breweries you can find. And Santa Rosa is home to many of them. Especially the Russian River Brewing Company. Beyond that, Santa Rosa is a great place to stay as you explore more of the area as it’s a short drive to spots like Healdsburg, Sebastopol, and more.”
9 The Kendall-Jackson Vineyard
It’s no secret that the Kendall-Jackson name brand isn’t only one of the best known all throughout the world, but it’s also got a world-class vineyard right in the heart of Sonoma County. And just like so many other vineyards in the area, it’s incredibly family-friendly, too. Adults can enjoy great food and beverage pairings while the kids get to run outside in the back terrace or check out the farm and chicken coop in the back. Their dining room is also incredibly exquisite. Either way, you will easily find yourself spending an entire day here and not get bored.
8 Fort Ross
Fort Ross is a historic former Russian colony that features that Rotchev House (which was built back in 1836), a chapel and a museum, and yes, access to the wonderful beach nearby. Unless you are a local, a lot of people don’t know that the Russians actually had an outpost in Northern California back in the early 1800s. They established the first Orthodox church in the continental United States right in the heart of Fort Ross. One person wrote on Trip Advisor, “A piece of Russian culture and history. It looks absolutely authentic. Thank you for taking care of this place, everything is in very good condition.
They even have some traditional Russian sweets at gift shop.”
7 Salt Point State Park
This scenic, rocky coastline will make all of your followers completely jealous on your Instagram account. It’s just that beautiful and that panoramic. The area has great hiking trails and secluded coves along with several different campgrounds to choose from for your perfect weekend adventure of getaway. The best part is that it’s also secluded, which means that a lot of tourists don’t know about this place. One local guide put it this way on Trip Advisor: “Salt Point is a gem on the Mendocino coast. 6,000 acres of open space with 20 miles of hiking trails. The sandstone beaches at times seem otherworldly. The area is abundant with wildlife from harbor seals to Wilson's warblers.”
6 Jack London State Historic Park
As the name implies, the Jack London State Historic Park is dedicated to the man himself, and features his gravesite, a museum, historic trails and so much more. Situated on the eastern slope of Sonoma County, there are 29 miles of trails that include 1400 acres of stunning vistas and scenery. One recent traveler wrote on Yelp, “We are not Jack London people but are park/outdoors people so we spent a few hours here. Received a tour of London's house from a friendly volunteer docent. Learned a lot about him and his wife in a short amount of time. Otherwise, it's a spread out area with lots of trails and easy parking.”
5 Goat Rock Beach
The Goat Rock Beach is a sand beach in northwestern Sonoma County and is owned and managed by the State of California. Keep in mind that the beach is not for swimming, as it's considered one of the most risky beaches in the area due to its undertow. But it’s one that you can’t miss with its large waves and its scenic environment. There’s also a strong possibility that you might run into a grey whale and her newborn baby or better yet, a nursery of sea harbor seals in their element. Make plenty of storage room in your iPhone because you’ll need it.
4 The Flamingo Hotel and Resort
The Flamingo Hotel and Resort has a great 1950s vibe and is considered a historic landmark in the city of Santa Rosa. Built in the 1950s, this historic, family-run resort hotel is a 9-minute walk from the Montgomery Village Shopping Center and just a few short miles from the Charles M. Schulz museum and ice rink. It’s also incredibly family-friendly, with two large swimming pools and a great, laid-back vibe and atmosphere. Also, there’s plenty of nods to the history of Sonoma County all throughout the hotel, including quirky statues of the Peanuts gang, a dedicated wall to the San Francisco Giants, and so much more.
3 A Little Bit Of Village Life
One of the best things about Sonoma County is that it’s situated only an hour's drive north of bustling San Francisco and its city life, yet it offers all of the quaint, small town life that you would expect from the area. At some point, you will almost even forget that you are still in the state of California, because that’s just how different things are here. People actually take the time to stop and say hello to you. The Huffington Post writes, “Sonoma Plaza is a charming slice of village life with cafes, galleries and restaurants nestled in historic buildings and sunny courtyards. You could spend a whole day here without having a single sip.”
2 Many Vineyards To Choose From
If that weren’t enough, there are also a lot of vineyards to choose from: 425, to be exact. The area stretches from the Pacific Coast in the west to the Mayacamas Mountains to the east. It’s home to almost 60,000 acres on vineyards, too, along with some of the best in the country. In other words, you won’t leave the area empty handed or hungry. But you will definitely leave happy. Huffington Post also notes, “You’ll find stellar vineyards all over the county — with more than 400 vineyards to tour, you’ll definitely come home with a few favorite bottles.”
1 Show Your Support
There’s another personal reason why so many guests are being encouraged to visit Sonoma County: and that’s to show their support for the area. Back in October of 2017, there was a series of about 250 fires that burned at least 8,9000 buildings. However, now the area is flourishing, but no one has forgotten the sad event that affected the region.