The beautiful Sonoma County area is located right in the middle of the Northern California wine country. Surrounded by mountains, coastal redwoods, the great Pacific ocean beach towns, thousands of acres of the country’s best vineyards, and dining establishments offering the freshest local ingredients, you are sure to find plenty of things to do in Sonoma County today or any day of the year.
Sonoma County finds itself on many bucket lists due to its proximity to Napa, yet mostly for its many offerings for family vacations, girls weekends, and couples getaways. All ideas on our list are family friendly, but with the exception of one or two, they are all great fun for just adults too!
I was born and raised in the heart of Sonoma County and am now raising my own family in this beautiful place we call home. I am excited to share all of the popular favorite things to do as well as hidden gems that many tourists wouldn’t know to look for! Get your notes ready so you can start building your own Sonoma itinerary!
Things to Do in Sonoma County Today (with kids or without)
Sonoma Walking & Hiking Trails
Armstrong Redwoods Natural Reserve
This majestic grove is one of the highlights of Sonoma County’s things to do. The massive size of these gentle giants alone is enough to make you hold your breath, but you won’t want to, because the fresh air in this forest is just what the doctor ordered. Breathe deep friends, and bring along a picnic so that you can stay awhile. Hiking trails range from easily ADA accessible flat trails to steep options that go up into the hills. The beauty here is unrivaled and you just might find that you never want to leave.
Walk Around or Rent a Paddleboard on Spring Lake
Spring Lake Regional Park is located in Santa Rosa and offers a paved trail a couple of miles long around the lake, great for walking, biking, and strollers. There is one stretch on the back side of the lake that is our favorite nature-y section, but is a little tough on wheels for several minutes due to the rocks.
If you’d rather be on the lake rather than around it, you can rent a kayak, canoe or paddle board (or launch your own) seasonally for a low rate per hour (about $10).
Waterfall at Sugarloaf State Park
Rainy season you say? We call it Waterfall season! Our favorite local cascade is in Sugarloaf State Park and is accessed via a short trail from parking spots along the road. The trail is about ¼ mile long and is lined by Redwoods and moss-covered rocks reminding us of the troll scene in Frozen. Sweet bridges help you cross the creek, and we always bring shoes that can get wet so that we can play in the water. The Sugarloaf waterfall gets pretty forceful in the winter and spring and slows to a trickle in the summer. It is a gorgeous, peaceful spot for a picnic that is only a few minutes away from restaurants and winery, so very easy to add into your itinerary.
Jack London State Historic Park
This beautiful park pays tribute to Jack London and his contributions to society. The walking trails are beautiful through the forest, and the various signs allow for self guided tours to learn more about his life. He built a stunning home in the woods and sadly never moved in as it burned down before he could. The museum and picnic areas make this park worthy of spending a full afternoon to explore.
Annadel State Park
Also located in Santa Rosa, Annadel State Park appeals to hikers and bikers alike, although it isn’t an easy ride with the rocky area of the trail! The most popular hike is to Lake Ilsanjo on the Canyon Spring Creek Loop Trail which is just under 3.5 miles long. Our kids can manage this one with plenty of water, snacks, and a dip of toes in the lake one reaching the lake before turning around. Enjoy the journey as much as the destination on this one with a trickling creek, diverse plant life, and gorgeous views.
Best Desserts in Sonoma County
Beignets at Parish
If you are looking for a sweet breakfast treat that rivals those made in the South, look no further than Parish Café and their dee-licious beignets. Pillowy soft and melt in your mouth, they are great accompanied by one of their main dishes of seafood and grits, but are also worth stopping for on their own with a hot beverage.
Noblefolk Ice Cream & Pie Bar
All I have to say is Yum. Whether it is a hot summer day or a chilly winter one, this spot on the Healdsburg Plaza is sure to hit the spot. From classic flavors to fancy ones, there is something for everyone and seasonal favorites will keep you coming back from more as the leaves turn colors or wildflowers start to bloom. The Blood Orange Raspberry is always my favorite and a cone is perfect to grab and go while strolling around the cute shops nearby.
Amy’s Wicked Slush
When Amy’s made their appearance on the banks of the Russian River a handful of summers ago, I don’t know if they could have imagined what a following they would gain. Boston inspired slushes in a variety of flavors are tasty and refreshing on a hot summer day. When paired with a complementary soft serve, they are simply divine.
I am typically satisfied by the smallest “pipsqueak” size due to the intense sweetness, but most of those around me purchase the larger sizes to satisfy their sweet tooth. The menu revolves meaning that you never know what flavors will be offered each day, but if they have the option to get Blackberry Slush paired with Cheesecake soft serve, don’t pass it up. You’ll thank me later.
Costeaux’s Holiday Cookies & Nutcrackers
Costeaux is a family favorite any time of the year with its tasty brunch quiche and weekly offering of a Monte Cristo. But the holiday season bring something extra special to this adorable restaurant as they line their shelves with a thorough display of nutcrackers and fill its bakery windows with themed sugar cookies that are as delicious as they are beautiful.
Scones from Wild Flour Bread
Wild Flour Bread is a popular spot is on Bohemian Highway on the way out to the coast, and its popularity is not overrated. Bring cash because that’s all they’ll take and plan on lines, but I promise its worth it. You can taste before you buy and the only problem you’ll have is choosing what to purchase. They sell out of their scones daily, which are offered in flavors like white chocolate, apricot, double chocolate, ginger, hazelnut and espresso. Sit in the sweet garden out back with your bakery deliciousness and soak up the morning.
Adventurous Things to Do in Sonoma
Glamping at Safari West
One of Sonoma County’s most unique activities is the African Safari in Santa Rosa known as Safari West. This 400 acre Sonoma Serengeti allows visitors to observe many different animals, like exotic birds, giraffes, rhinos, and zebras in their habitat via a jeep ride similar to what one would experience on a real African safari.
Visitors can take the experience up a notch by staying overnight in a luxurious tent with an en-suite bathroom and private viewing deck. The glamping experience is enriched by the sounds of the sounds of wildlife as they fall asleep. Tents sleep up to 6 people, and park tours as well as meals are optional additions to your stay.
Safari West believes strongly in conservation, exploration, education, and funding efforts to protect these species from threats that endanger them and raising awareness for wildlife issues. When wildfires attacked the Santa Rosa area in October 2017, Safari West was in great danger. It’s founder worked tirelessly through the night to save each of the 1000 animals and was successful in doing so.
Zipline through the Redwoods
Zip lines are always an adventure, but they exceed all expectations when they zoom you through the California Coastal Redwoods with Sonoma Canopy Tours. This zip lining experience is deep in the forest near the the coast, and offers multiple zip lines, sky bridges, and rappelling opportunities. We have experienced this adventure twice on each of their tours and the beauty in unrivaled. This experience is exhilarating and is a must-do!
Note* It gets COLD in the redwoods! Dress in layers and bring warm gloves! They will give you work gloves, but cozy warm ones underneath would have kept my fingers from turning to icicles on our December adventure!
Wine Country Hot Air Balloon Ride
If you are looking to take to the skies in a graceful and peaceful manner, Wine Country Balloons has just the thing! Nothing beats soaring over the Russian River Valley, orchards, redwoods, vineyards and a glimpse of the coast if you are lucky! My husband proposed to me in hot air balloon in 2004 over these beautiful landscapes, so it hot air ballooning will always hold a special place in our hearts!
Take in the Beautiful Vistas
Schedule a Vineyard Photo Shoot
If you have been around awhile, you know that we are huge fans of scheduling photo shoots while on vacation. Professional photos in beautiful places with your favorite people make the very best souvenirs! Sonoma’s wineries and vineyards make for beautiful back drops and the perfect opportunity to capture images from a special family trip, anniversary, honeymoon, or babymoon. The photo shoot itself is so much fun in itself, and you also get to come home with gorgeous captured memories to print on canvases for your home or use for Christmas cards.
Photograph the Mustard Fields in the Spring
Sonoma County is filled with colorful things to do and Spring is no exception of course. In February, the fields turn to a sea of yellow as the mustard fields grow in abundance. You won’t have to look very far to find a beautiful a field worth stopping on the side of the road to view; they line the freeways up and down Highway 101. Please respect private property when soaking up the views.
Stroll the Vineyard Path at Vintner’s Inn in the Fall
Ahhh…this place holds a special place in my heart. My husband and I spent the first part of our honeymoon at Vintners Inn on a November day 14 years ago. This gorgeous resort offers cozy rooms with fireplaces and a delicious restaurant. But even for those not staying on the property, there is a one mile stroll through the vineyards that is open to the public. Enjoy the views and watch the colors turn in the leaves. It is a beautiful spot for a fall day!
Cherry Blossoms in Healdsburg
This won’t take long, but it is such a sweet walk. Matheson Street in Healdsburg turns to pink when the cherry blossom trees bloom in the Spring. Pair this short walk with a brunch at Costeaux and you will have the perfect small town morning.
Star Party at Sugarloaf Ridge
Sugarloaf State Park offers seasonal star parties at their Robert Ferguson Obseratory. Family-friendly and such a fun educational experience here! Docents set up their telescopes in the parking lot and and eagerly share what they are focused on the night sky, and astronomical lectures and videos can be enjoyed inside the observatory, along their their three main telescopes. A solar telescope is available during the day as well to safely view the sun. Entrance fee is $5 for adults and free to children. Red cellophane will be provided to cover the lights on your flashlights for optimal star viewing.
Things to do in Bodega Bay
Build Sand Castles in Bodega Bay
If the weather cooperates, make sure you don’t visit Sonoma without heading to the beach, especially if you are visiting from a landlocked area! Just about a half hour drive from most areas of the county, Bodega Bay offers beautiful views, whale watching in winter, and quaint beach towns to enjoy.
The Northern California Coast is beautiful but can be ROUGH. Don’t turn your back on the water – ever – and make sure you have researched the beach and are sure that is safe to even dip in your toe.
Doran Beach is our favorite family-friendly beach as it is one of the few where the waves and undertow don’t put kids in danger. Gentle waves are fun for playing in, but expect it to be bone achingly cold anyway! Tide pools gather along the jetty making for a fun time of exploration.
Goat Rock is our favorite spot for watching the waves without getting in. Seeing the powerful waves crash on the rocks is powerful and gorgeous at the same time. Pack a picnic and your jacket, no matter how warm it is inland, even summer days are chilly on the coast.
Stop by Patrick’s Salt Water Taffy
This pink and white striped building is instagram worthy and completely worth a stop to fill a bag with tasty treats. Flavors like watermelon, popcorn, and coconut will make your mouth water at this cute little spot. We can’t even drive by without our children asking us to pull in and pick up a treat!
Warm your Belly at Spud Point Crab Company
Spud Point Crab Company is a popular spot with an old fashioned feel and clam chowder that is worth traveling for. This family run operation has a small menu but everything on it will make your mouth water. Long lines attest to their popularity but you won’t regret the wait. Their crab sandwich and clam chowder are their top sellers, but if you’d like one of their fresh crab cakes, stop by after 1:00pm and pull up a picnic able and enjoy!
Summer Day Things to Do in Sonoma County
Canoe or Inner Tube Down the Russian River
The Russian River offers canoe, kayak and tube rentals at Veteran’s Memorial Beach in Healdsburg. You can arrange your own transport and ask them for advice where to launch, or you can book their tours and they’ll take care of the drop off and pick up for you. The river is pretty shallow in most spots with a gentle current, so don’t expect any white water, just a fun and relaxing day. You can pull over onto the shore when you come to a great swimming spot and jump in to cool off. You might even find a local’s rope swing if you get lucky!
Head to the Coast
Bodega Bay brings cool breezes and icy water which are perfect for a hot day inland. Check the section above for tips on best beaches, salt water taffy, and tasty crab sandwiches.
Sonoma Museums, Shows & More
Charles M. Schulz Museum
The Charlie Brown Peanuts creator, Charles M. Schulz was from Sonoma County and so the area gives tribute to him in many ways. You will see many life-sized statues of Peanuts characters around the County in outdoor and indoor spaces from parks to banks offering a fun décor and great spots for photos. Our local Sonoma County airport is also named in his honor.
The Charles M. Schulz Museum shares the story of his life and history of his legendary cartoon strip with interactive exhibits and beautifully artistic cartoons. If you have little ones, stop by on a Monday for a reduced admission fee for adults and free fun seasonal crafts for toddlers and preschoolers.
Snoopy’s Home Ice Arena
The Snoopy Ice Rink Sits next door to the Museum and provides a uniquely designed rink for year-round ice skating fun. Daily open skate times make the rink accessible to many for an afternoon of fun. The Puppy Café offers seasonal snacks and a table devoted in memory of Mr. Schulz right where he used to sit each day. Fun fact: When I was 8 years old, I approached Mr. Schulz at this table and asked him for his autograph. He agreed and I promptly lost it at home. *face palm*
Pacific Coast Air Museum
The Pacific Coast Air Museum is the perfect stop for all wannabe pilots, those young and those not so young. Visual flight simulators, open cockpit weekends, Hot Dog Thursday, the annual Wings Over Wine Country Air Show in the fall, and the arrival of Santa in a helicopter each December, means that there is never a dull moment at this sweet and educational museum. At $10/adults, $5/child, and free under age 5, admission is a steal for all this gem has to offer.
Broadway Under the Stars
I set out to make a list of things to do in Sonoma County that happen mostly year round, however Broadway Under the Stars is worth mentioning even if it only is offered a few times each summer. Taking place at Jack London State Park, this theatrical and artistic phenomenon is only enhanced by the gorgeous outdoor location and setting sun in the surrounding vineyards on the hills. Pack a picnic or buy from the food trucks, but either way, make sure you buy tickets early and arrive early in order to fully enjoy all the experience has to offer.
Visiting Sonoma with Kids
Everything on this article is tried and tested and is family-friendly, yet also great fun for adults. However, here are a few things that are geared specifically for children (and the only things you might want to skip if you are on a sweet couple’s getaway or girls’ trip).
Children’s Museum of Sonoma County
When the dream of the Children’s Museum came to fruition in Santa Rosa, our family imagined many fun and exploratory days of play there to come. We were not disappointed! We have been annual pass holders for three years, and have enjoyed every corner of the museum many times over. From the replica Russian River outdoors with pretend fish to catch, the beautiful Ella’s Art Studio with rotating projects, the alligator in the dentist chair with the giant toothbrush, and the magnetic maze building wall, the place has brought so much joy and entertainment to all children who step through its doors.
Search for Secret Fairy Doors in Healdsburg
The hidden fairy doors around downtown Healdsburg make for a fun activity for those young and magical at heart. While you window shop or stop for coffee or wine tasting, children will enjoy the walking experience especially with their Fairy Map in hand as they spot the tiny doors with wonder at each secret location. My children squeal with delight each time they spot a new door and their imagination starts to grow.
Soak Up Sonoma’s Agricultural Roots
Take a Farm Tour with Sonoma County Farm Trails
Sonoma County Farm Trails offers visitors and locals to personally visit farms across Sonoma County to see first hand the agricultural roots that support this area’s economy on a daily basis. Some farms are available daily during certain hours, others are by appointment only, and others open their doors twice annually for Fall and Spring Events that allow families to visit several farms in one day. Our children have fed baby chicks, tasted water buffalo gelato and taken a creamery tour, visited horses and sheep, taken walks through vineyards, tasted fresh honey, and picked wildflowers.
Go Apple Picking in Gravenstein Apple Country
When late summer and early fall hit the area, everyone knows it is time for apple picking. Driving down Bodega Highway through Sebastopol will lead you through orchards on both sides of the sweet winding road. Our very favorite spot is Ratzlaff Ranch which is typically open September through early November if the weather cooperates.
Grab a bag or bring your own as well as an apple grabber (technical term, I know) upon arrival and go search for the juiciest apples you can find! Be careful, they add up fast! My three children picked 18 pounds in about a half hour last year – whoops! Luckily, they kept well and we made many batches of our very favorite apple muffins.
Before you leave, taste their free samples of apple juice, buy a jug (because you will have to after trying it; its heavenly), and then buy some apple bread or cookies. Drive back home smiling and full because this place is tasty!
Go Blueberry Picking at Duckworth Farm
We can’t say enough about this little gem, Duckworth Family Farm, and their annual summer blueberry picking open to the public. We had the pleasure of visiting this sweet farm a few years ago for a private event, and were THRILLED when we heard that they were open to the public this summer for their 6 week blueberry picking season.
Competitively priced at $4.50 per pound, with a welcome to taste while you pick, we happily went home with 4 pounds of blueberries. They were so delicious that we ate them all in two days and didn’t have enough to even bake!
Don’t miss the homemade blueberry ice cream! It this incredible and free with just a donation in the tip jar.
Take a Tour at Bohemian Creamery
Bohemian Creamery is located just outside of downtown Sebastopol and is a sweet dairy goat farm offering tasty variety of cheeses as well as tours of their facilities. For $20 per adult (children are free), you can learn about their cheese making process as well as taste their cheeses, which includes those made from goat milk, sheep milk, and milk from water buffalo.
Family Friendly Wineries in Sonoma
While finding a winery in Sonoma County is about as easy as spinning in a circle with your eyes closed and pointing in any direction, sometimes finding one that is family friendly can take a little more work. Most find that the Sonoma wineries are much more welcoming to children than their neighbors in Napa who cater more to the adult crowd. Here are a few of our favorites with great spaces for kids to play.
Larson Family Winery
Larson Family Winery is the perfect picnic spot! They one of few wineries in the area that allow you to to bring your own picnic on the property. We discovered it last Easter when we planned a family get together for 25 people and it was such a perfect find. The country feel with plenty of picnic tables available for reservations, huge expanse of green lawn for littles to run and play, local cheeses for purchases, and openly dog-friendly attitude makes it the perfect family-friendly winery. Offering small lot wines with plenty of awards under their belt is sure to please anyone tasting wine here.
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery
This gorgeous spot in the heart of the Dry Creek Valley is on the northern side of the county. The drive out to the winery is almost as beautiful as the winery itself. Ferrari-Carano is best known for its vineyard views, walkable path through the flower gardens (especially beautiful in Spring when the tulips are blooming), and its over two dozen varieties of wines. For a special treat, I recommend booking their Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Pairing Tour.
Benziger Family Winery Tour
Benziger is located in the Sonoma Valley in Kenwood. It offers two different tram tours, Tribute Estate Tour and Biodynamic Tram Tour (kid friendly with a reduced rate for children), which are not only educational, but fun and give you the best views of the property. You can visit the wine cave before or after the tour for a special tasting of their award winning wines. The gorgeous vistas can’t be beat at this winery, so grab a glass and then tour the property at your leisure.
Fun Places to Eat in Sonoma County
Visit a Brewery with games
Sonoma County is known for their infamous breweries and you will find them on almost every block. None are more famous than Russian River Brewery and their lines out the door in downtown Santa Rosa pay tribute to that. Their newest location in Windsor also offers brewery tours in their large facility.
Due to the amazing weather in Sonoma County, most breweries offer great outdoor spaces with lawn games like cornhole or putting greens to keep kiddos and their parents entertained for hours. Check out Bear Republic Brewing Company or Lagunitas Brewing Company for more great options with outdoor spaces.
Make your Own Pizzas at Rosso’s
Nothing beats a tasty dinner with kids who are happy to be there! Rosso’s offers a delicious menu of pizza and salads with a sweet way to entertain the kiddos by letting them make their own pizzas. It’s a win-win!
Tea Party at Tudor Rose
Tudor Rose English Tea Room brings a bit of British elegance to Sonoma County with a beautiful tea house offering unique flavors, tasty sandwiches and desserts, and fancy hats to wear which each reservation. It is a sweet place for a girls’ brunch or mother-daughter date, though men are welcome too! I love the Coconut Cream Rooibos tea and the Florence Nightingale lunch, and I usually don’t even like tea. It’s that good!
Whether your trip to Sonoma County is a romantic couple’s getaway, a wine tasting bachelorette weekend, or a family vacation, I hope this list gives you plenty of ideas for things to do! Taste delicious wines, breathe in fresh air in the redwood forest, and take in the beautiful views while you much on salt water taffy – it is the best of Sonoma in a nutshell!
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