Wine Country. Who wouldn’t love such a place? Yes, folks, we’re talking about Sonoma, the little old historic city in northern California that sits at the heart of the renowned Sonoma Valley winemaking region. It’s famous for its array of art galleries, the significant 19th century adobe buildings like Mission San Francisco Solano and the Sonoma Barracks surrounding the colonial-era Sonoma Plaza, as well as the mere fact that the pleasures of eating and drinking are celebrated daily here.
Join in on the fun at famous wineries or trendy in-town tasting rooms where chefs transform local ingredients into feasts. There’s also small town charm all around in towns such as Yountville, Healdsburg, and St. Helena, which all provide luxurious inns, hotels, and spas in sublime natural settings. Let’s just say that the twin valleys of California’s second most popular and visited attraction (next to Disneyland) is a place to ignite the utmost of pleasures. Get ready to marvel away in a 17-mile-long bucolic valley. Here are the top ten things to do in Sonoma.
Spend A Weekend In Sonoma And Try These 10 Great Activities
1. Wine tasting
Just an hour’s drive northeast of San Francisco, you’ll find everything from Rutherford Cabernets and Carneros Chardonnays to Russian River Pinots and Merlot varietals.
The vine-covered hillsides of the Sonoma region are definitely reminiscent of Tuscany, serving as the home of nearly four hundred wineries. You could easily spend an entire week just flitting away among the massive amounts of tasting rooms in and around town. So get ready to sip up and savor to your heart’s content because fine wining (and dining!) awaits.
2. Ride a hot air balloon
Hot-air ballooning over golden hills sounds like something out of a fantastic dream. In Sonoma, it’s easy to make that fantasy a reality. Float among blues skies and fluffy cotton candy clouds safe inside the confines of a colorful and tastefully styled balloon. Get up, up, and away in the most unique of ways at heights of 500 to 1500 feet—you’ll be moving serenely above the most beautiful place on earth, kind of like taking a nature walk in the sky.
As you sail gently along the wind’s highway, expect spectacular views of the Pacific Coast, the graceful Russian River, and lush rolling vineyards to delight you. Celebrate today with a high spirited ballooning adventure to find utter peace and tranquility. Yes, please.
3. Bike riding
Get out among the vines by renting out two wheels and by taking a farm tour of the entire twin valleys. Even make a pit stop by joining in on the fun at a nearby hands-on harvesting camp, or just by taking in the stellar agriculture of wine yards as you roll through the hillsides to further inspire the inner oenophile in you. It’s just another fun way to garner a deeper appreciation for grapes and wine.
4. Russian River rafting
Rush towards those hillsides, which all turn lush green in the spring and summer and golden hued in the fall, by having some outdoor fun. Take a canoe on the Russian River while passing endless rows of bright-green vineyards. It’s the perfect way to enjoy both land and water in a more adventurous sort of way.
Splash it up by perhaps meeting up with Getaway Adventures—they will help you navigate some of county’s prettiest waterways in a fleet of yellow kayaks via two-person or small group excursions down the Russian River or along its coastal mouth in Jenner. Don’t forget to bring sturdy water shoes!
5. Restaurant hopping
From Marquee Napa chefs to Sonoma cheese shops, one of the best things to do in the region is simply savoring all the culinary hot spots. Some of the world’s best restaurants sit unobtrusively among the grapevines, all offering locally grown, organic, and sustainable produce in their dishes, as well as vegetarian and fast-food options that always go above and beyond. Nosh it out.
6. Relax and rejuvenate at a spa
Immersing yourself at a wine-country spa is the perfect way to restore, to refresh, and to relax. There are more than a number of health and beauty sanctuaries abound in the area, offering a range of opportunities for pure bliss-- from swanky vinotherapy paradises, satisfying herbal wraps, and couples’ massages, to bubbling tubs of volcanic mud and so much more. Get to soothing. Now.
7. Visit a weekly farmer’s market
Live like a local by checking out a famous farm market. There are open markets available almost every day in the area, all offering market fresh produce and prepared foods for noshing, live music for enjoying, and the chance to discover bunches of tasty new treats that’ll serve as the perfect souvenir to bring back home.
There’s a reason why Sonoma County is famous and it’s definitely because of its agricultural bounty. So explore those farmers’ markets for infinite amounts of local goods, artisan specialties, and heirloom treasures from baby artichokes, young garlic, and red-and-white striped beets, to tender lettuces, colorful cauliflowers, rainbow arrays of herbs, and bouquets of edible flowers. Try out the Healdsburg Farmers' Market on Wednesdays or Valley of the Moon Certified Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays.
8. Zipline through redwoods
Get a bird’s eye view of the towering redwoods in the region by taking on a seven-line course and by flying a couple hundred feet above ground. For those who aren’t afraid of heights, wild adventure awaits, as you’ll be able to streak between trees at up to thirty-five miles per hour and to traverse through lines at approximately 850 feet. Companies like Sonoma Canopy Tours even offer video cams for helmets that’ll log your entire flight journey! What’re you waiting for?
9. Cheese it up
Follow the Sonoma County Cheese Trail by discovering the actual producers of famous cheeses like Bellwether and Laura Chenel. You can chart your course with a printed or online version of the official Cheese Trail map, which will take you to delights such as the Achadinha Cheese Company of Petaluma, where almost a thousand goats graze year-round on verdant pastures.
Most of the cheese makers on the map are open to the public on a regular basis, while others are open seasonally or by appointment-- but if you happen to be a dairy fanatic, this one’s a must do for sure.
10. Take a hike
Dip in for as much or as little natural rejuvenation as you please at spots such as the Armstrong Redwoods Reserve, where more slow paced visitors can meander through short, flat loops under towering trees, or where more ambitious folks can tackle uphill ridges or mile long hikes to camp sites at the adjacent Austin Creek State Recreation Area.
Drive-in camping is also available, as well as family fun time via picnic tables and BBQ grills that are scattered all throughout the area beneath a quiet forest canopy.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.
Photo credit: Flickr.