Often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor, Sonoma will surprise you with its rich history and beautiful scenery. As some would argue, it has better wine selection than that of Napa Valley. Explore this underrated valley that offers more than just wine on your next trip to the greater San Francisco region. While visiting Sonoma California, indulge on freshly made dishes from one of its award winning restaurants; learn about the role it played once as the capital of the California Republic; share a bottle (or two) with family and friends on the veranda of one of the stunning Sonoma vacation rentals available for you as your home away from home. With so much to offer, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are some suggestions for you to consider during your trip to Sonoma.
Things to Do While Visiting Sonoma California
Start from the Beginning
Sonoma’s human history dates back some 12,000 years with evidence of a number of Native American settlements scattered around Sonoma County. The region however, didn’t become the fine wine making place we know of today until the Spanish came and settled in the early 19th century. The Sonoma County History Museum, located in the nearby town of Santa Rosa, has over 17,000 artifacts that tell the story of Sonoma. From pieces of clothing to old photographs, the museum attempts to create an accurate historic representation of the diversity of culture that made the region what it is today.
Another attraction worthy of a trip while visiting Sonoma California is the Mission San Francisco Solano, otherwise known as the Sonoma Mission. Established in 1823 by the Franciscan priest Father Joseph Altimira; it was the first, last, and only California mission established under newly independent Mexican rule. Spend some time in the museum where you’ll see some of the same materials the priests used to run the church some 150 years ago. Visit the small chapel that features a handful of artwork on display mimicking the styles of Spanish greats. Finally, don’t miss the Courtyard, where you remnants of the pueblo lifestyle still remain.
Sonoma International Film Festival
Held annually in the early spring, the Sonoma International Film Festival is one of the best smaller film festivals in the country. If you’re a movie buff, then this event is a definite must-do when visiting Sonoma California. Entering its second decade, the festival hosts dozens of hand-selected films including a broad range of independent features, documentaries, foreign entries, and short films. The five-day event is held in a number of locations concentrated around Sonoma’s historic Central Plaza and attracts A-list celebrities such as Bruce Willis; the late Robin Williams and Susan Sarandon; in addition to local artisans, chefs and vintners from the region.
The Best Places to Eat
In a town like Sonoma, you’ll have plenty of great restaurants and eateries to choose from. Odds are, you’ll be able to satisfy whatever craving you have on that particular day. Here are a few of the best places to eat while visiting Sonoma California.
Bear Republic Brewing Co.
Demonstrating the diversity of Sonoma, those who want a break from wine tasting can spend some time at Bear Republic Brewpub. The family-owned and run brewery that’s been around for several generations. Sample their signature Racer 5 IPA or one of the specialty brews like Old Baba Yaga while munching on their popular black and bleu burger. This casual and homey spot located in downtown Healdsburg sits on the northern side of Sonoma County. It’s a mere 45 minutes drive from the city of Sonoma’s city center.
Address: 345 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Phone#: (707) 433-2337
Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant
The trip to the Michelin-starred Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant is worth every mile traveled on your rental car. The food itself is divine, with ingredients sourced from the local farmers around the area. The cuisine offered by chef Steve Litke focuses on Mediterranean-style dishes; that pairs extremely well with the wine selection carefully selected by master sommelier Geoff Kruth.
Address: 7871 River Rd, Forestville, CA 95436
Phone#: (707) 887-3300
Barndiva is a popular spot for weddings and special occasions and it’s easy to see why. Its combination of rustic and chic ambiance makes it the perfect place for family and friends to enjoy a great night of food and wine. As such, this restaurant that offers a variety of farm-to-table dishes, unique cocktails and wine grown from its backyard, also became one of the favorite hangouts of local chefs and winemakers.
Address: 231 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Phone#: (707) 431-0100
The Perfect Blend of Spirit and Harmony
Surely there are dozens, if not hundreds of wineries to choose from while visiting Sonoma, but there is truly nothing like Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves. Tucked in rustic rolling hills of Healdsburg; Bella Vineyards offers its guests with gorgeous sceneries and a welcoming atmosphere that embodies the more laid back ambiance of Sonoma. Families and their pets are more than welcome on the grounds that feature plenty of picnic tables and chairs. Spend an afternoon munching on cheese and light snacks from the nearby Dry Creek General Store that pair well with Bella’s zinfandels, which many consider as some of the best in the region. Tastings are available starting at $15 per person.
For a complete experience however, try their “Unleash the Beast Tour”; a 60-minute that includes a tour of the wine cave and a lesson on the science and art of wine making. At the end, you’ll get a sampling of the estate’s “monster zin” in addition to a handful other designated wines. The price tag is $35 per person.
Address: 9711 W. Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Phone#: (707) 473-9171