Located in the heart of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa is the perfect destination for farm-fresh food, handcrafted beer, wine and all things artisan.Just 55 miles north of San Francisco, the city is host to several farmer’s markets, a thriving music scene, a variety of museums and plenty of outdoor activities.
Santa Rosa offers five historic walking tours, a charming downtown arts district and many parks and nature trails. Both on and off-road cyclists will enjoy the many biking opportunities and bike shops in Santa Rosa.
Downtown Santa Rosa has made many improvements in recent years and is now a designated Arts District with many public art fixtures throughout the area.
The Downtown walking tour can guide visitors to all the art installations available to view. The Sonoma County Museum is also located in the Arts District. View the historic photographs, 19th-century paintings, or take a stroll through the sculpture garden.
A mile south of Santa Rosa’s downtown district is the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens, the former residence of famous horticulturist, Luther Burbank. For roughly 50 years, Burbank lived and experimented here developing hundreds of new edible plant varieties and ornamental flowers.
The property is a Registered National, State, and City Historic Landmark. Among his many achievements, Burbank is best known for creating the spineless cactus, Burbank Russet potato, and his beloved Shasta Daisy.
Another popular Santa Rosa attraction is the Charles M. Schulz Museum. Home to the largest collection of original Peanuts artwork, the museum is great for children and adults who grew up with Charlie Brown and the gang.
Visitors can view original Peanuts comic strips, learn about the art of cartooning, draw their own cartoons and watch animated Peanuts specials and documentaries. Occasionally, the museum will host events that give visitors an opportunity to meet expert cartoonists and learn different cartooning techniques from the professionals.
Just a short drive up Highway 101 is the Pacific Coast Air Museum with more than 30 vintage aircraft on display. Every third weekend of the month, the museum hosts Climb Aboard, an event for guests who wish to sit in the cockpit and learn about the aircraft from restoration crew members.
Although Napa Valley is nearby, northern Santa Rosa provides its own wine country experience with plenty of prosperous vineyards and wine tasting tours. If beer is your preference, there’s no shortage of handcrafted microbrews in Old Courthouse Square near Downtown Santa Rosa.
Visitors can smell the beer from 4th Street and try a pint (or a pitcher) at the Russian River Brewing Company. Hop over to Third Street Aleworks to sample the award winning Blarney Sisters’ Dry Irish Stout.
Unique and interesting retail shops are easy to find, especially on one of the city’s walking tours. Railroad Square has several antique, vintage and secondhand shops for bargain hunters while Montgomery Village to the east, is great for contemporary, upscale shopping .
Visit neighboring Courthouse Square for additional shops and a variety of restaurants. Bookworms will want to browse the extensive mystery selection at Copperfield’s, located in Montgomery Village, and the wide assortment of used books at Treehorn Books, back on 4th Street.
Younger children may prefer a trip to Howarth Park, often referred to as the “jewel” of Santa Rosa. This wonderful park offers plenty of recreational activities or a chance to relax in this scenic community park.
In addition to the lake, Howarth Park spans 152 acres and includes hiking trails, playgrounds, a miniature train ride, carousel, pony rides and an animal barn with pigs, goats, chickens and other critters. Most of the attractions are limited to weekends and the animal barn is open during the summer months only.
For a more exotic animal adventure, take the 12-mile drive to Safari West, also known as the Sonoma Serengeti. Visitors can experience an African safari much closer to home as they tour the park which mimics the animals’ natural habitat.
While promoting conservation and environmental education, Safari West cares for the more than 800 animals including giraffes, zebra, lemurs, wildebeests and much more. Tours are offered year round, however, advanced reservations are required. Children must be at least three years old to tour Safari.