Best places to stay in Sonoma?
If you are visiting Sonoma County with children then Santa Rosa has much to offer for families. A superb community park has fishing, boating and a children’s amusement area while a planetarium, a wildlife park and several family friendly museums might keep them occupied long enough for you to sample the odd bottle or two!
When you have amused the little ones some of the wineries to consider visiting are Deloach Vineyards, Benovia, Carol Shelton, Siduri and Harvest Moon Estate & Winery.
Food in Santa Rosa is inspired by the wine and the fresh produce of the county and restaurants can be found that will appeal to casual diners and gourmet experts alike. Farm-to-table dining is very popular here with an abundance of meat, seafood, dairy products and the freshest vegetables. Award winning brasseries and contemporary bistros vie for your custom as do the non-wine and food related activities of golf, gambling your dollars away at the casino and the state-of-the-art health clubs.
Nightlife in Santa Rosa is lively and vibrant with about twenty nightclubs offering not just music and dancing but variety acts and theatrical entertainment. Railroad Square is the place where it is all happening with dozens of wineries to visit and for a change of flavour there are a couple of micro-breweries to pop into for a pint or two. A Playhouse is the centre for the performing arts and Sonoma State University is home to the Santa Rosa Symphony Orchestra.
Shopping is amazing in Santa Rosa with about 200 hundred chic boutiques and trendy stores in and around the Fourth Street area while Railroad Square has the more traditional shops. The Plaza & Coddington shopping centre has all the designer brands under one roof as well as many smaller individual shops. Montgomery Village is an outdoor shopping centre where you can shop amongst pretty fountains surrounded by colourful flowers. If all that isn’t enough the outlet village of Petaluma Village will save you hundreds of dollars on all those must-have items.
In Santa Rosa you can bring your tent and camp under the stars at designated camps sites or hook up your RV. If sleeping outside doesn’t appeal then there are places to stay ranging from B&B’s and two star motels right up to the big brand name hotels. From boutique hotels to holiday resorts there is so much to choose from including gay-friendly accommodation and a unusual African Safari camp.
With small town charm, superb landscapes and beautiful weather Healdsburg is a very popular destination in Sonoma County. There is five star cuisine and world-famous wine growing appellations in a setting of rolling hills that will give you an unforgettable holiday. Some of the recommended wineries to visit in and around Healdsburg are Bacigalupi and Porter Creek, Graciana and Papapietro Perry. If you would like a private tasting Rafanelli is the place to head for.
Healdsburg Plaza has been the same for about the past 150 years with plenty of unique shops to visit and there are tasting rooms as well as many restaurants to try. If you don’t drive the Plaza is great as there are so many wineries within walking distance and afterwards you can settle down in the shade and indulge in some people watching! If all the wine gets too much there is a small brewery for a quick pint or two.
If you fancy grabbing a favourite bottle or two from the Dry Creek general Store and dining al fresco the picnic grounds at Truett Hurst are a great place to go to or Lake Sonoma in the coastal foothills is nearby. There are vibrant and colourful festivals in Healdsburg and in April it is Seafood Festival time or for a completely different aroma you can you can help pick roses at the Classic Perfume Rose Harvest. If you happen to be in town the day after Thanksgiving the Healdsburg holiday party has to be seen to be believed.
Healdsburg has many hotels ranging from hip and trendy to romantic and olde-worlde. There are several big brand hotels as well as an assortment of privately owned rentals and several B&B’s.
Sonoma and Sonoma Valley
Sonoma is a small town in the Sonoma Valley and despite only being 75 kilometres from San Francisco it is truly a different world. A recommended way to experience the joys of the town and the Sonoma Valley is to take a drive along Highway 12 where wineries line the road and are just begging to be stopped at.
Along the route Landmark Vineyards is set in the foothills of the Mayacama Mountains and offers food pairing and wine seminars while at The Imagery Estate Winery they have an on-site art gallery where you can peruse some great works while sampling the delicious wines. Californian sunshine and a glass of wine make perfect companions and at the Valley of the Moon Winery you can relax outside and enjoy the best of both worlds. Other wineries to consider in the area are Arrowood Vineyards and Winery, Chateau St. Jean, Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyard, Ravenswood, Loxton, Benziger and Gundlach-Bundschu.
Under a canopy of shady and majestic trees the Plaza in Sonoma is brimming with beautifully preserved buildings waiting to reveal their secrets. Surrounding the Plaza there are numerous chic boutiques, superb restaurants and quaint shops all just waiting to be visited. A short distance away from Sonoma in the village of Boyes Hot Springs is a Michelin starred restaurant as well as the springs that the town is named after.
The Sonoma Cheese Factory is in the Plaza and a great place to visit to learn about the different local cheeses and of course sample a few. The original Sonoma Jack cheese was first produced in 1931 and with exciting flavours like habanero, garlic and hot pepper as well as traditional cheddar there is bound to be a flavour for everyone to try.
Sonoma has another main attraction and that is fast cars. There are a number of performance driving schools where would-be F1 racers can try their hand at a few laps or novice drivers can learn some valuable advanced driving skills. For families with young children one of the few non-wine related things to do is take them to Sonoma Train Town Railroad. In a ten acre park there is a petting zoo, carousel, airplane ride, swings, mini-train and a Ferris wheel.
The famous author Jack London lived and died in Glen Ellen and his name was given to the local state park where a small museum details his life and the ruins of his mansion and lakeside bath houses can be walked through.In the summer the Transcendence Theatre’s Broadway Under the Stars concert takes place in the park in the setting of the old winery ruins.
In the town of Kenwood you can stop to shop for hand-made folk art and unique wine racks at a craft shop with a distinctive three metre high metal dinosaur in the front yard. The Kenwood Market sells great picnic supplies or you can enjoy relaxed dining at the local Italian trattoria. At the Robert Ferguson Observatory the PlanetWalk is a walkable scale model of the solar system. If you are travelling with older children they will love this and there are organised star parties and solar observations as well to give them a break from the vineyards!
Visitors can choose to stay in Sonoma itself or in and around the Valley in places like Kenwood or Glen Ellen where there is a wide selection of accommodation. You can opt for boutique hotels, B&B’s and private rentals or spend hundreds of dollars a night at a luxurious hotel with full facilities including beautiful swimming pools and spas.