Early morning fog rolls over the vineyard-covered hills as the sun’s rays stretch out like a baby’s arms rising from slumber. The highways weave in and around redwood forests, climb through mountains, and dart out to coastlines dotted with beach cottages and tasty fish n’ chip spots.
Sonoma County is home, the gorgeous semi-rural place I grew up, where I held my first job at Walgreens Pharmacy, learned to drive the country roads in my parent’s monstrous Suburban, and how to eat, breathe, and speak wine. Nearly all my friends and family, along with my life’s most cherished memories, can be found in Sonoma County.
With Sonoma County’s amazing backdrops, award-winning wineries, thriving craft beer scene, and loads of fun activities for families, this picturesque county, one hour north of San Francisco, is the perfect vacation spot to trek, sip, and learn. Check out ten more reasons why your family should visit one of the most beautiful wine regions in the United States.
1. Safari West
A 400-acre private wildlife preserve that showcases species native to Africa, Safari West houses giraffes, rhinoceros, cape buffalo, antelope, cheetahs, zebras, hyenas, primates and a whole lotta of birds. The kids will be shrieking in delight on the 2-hour Jeep Safari tour, or get extra brownie points and “glamp” in one of their awesome tents equipped with all the comforts of home.
Location: 3115 Porter Creek Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
2. California Missions Museum at Cline Cellars
Featuring replicas of all of California’s 21 missions, this hidden gem provides an awesome glimpse into California history. These scale models, featured at the World’s Fair, will impress even the littlest history novice. After visiting the museum, parents can enjoy a glass of delicious wine and charcuterie in the courtyard garden while the kiddos enjoy the snapping turtles and jumping fish in the lagoon.
*Picnic tables must be reserved in advance.
Location: 24737 Arnold Dr, Sonoma, CA 95476
3. Sonoma Traintown Railroad
Housing a merry-go-round, mini airplane rides, and vintage Southern Pacific railroad cars, Sonoma TrainTown is a fun spot for the little train lovers in your life. Your kids will be all smiles as the fam rides the railroad train around the park through tunnels, bridges, and a mini old-town. The train ride also includes a stopover for the kids to feed hungry goats and llamas.
*You pay by ride, no entry fee. Look for the bundle of rides tickets for savings.
4. Howarth Park
A rock-climbing wall, playground, pony rides, carousel, beautiful walking paths, and paddle boat rentals will provide your family with a day of fun, sun, and water. The kiddos can even bring toy cars to drive on the finger car tracks! If you didn’t make it to Sonoma TrainTown, this local favorite has a quarter-mile train ride through the “forest, ponds, and beyond.”
Location: 630 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95405
5. Burke’s Canoe Trips
Ten miles of fun in the sun floating down the Russian River is a fun way for the family to enjoy the majestic Redwoods of Sonoma County. You can do this trip in approximately 3 ½ hours, however, most families stop to picnic, sunbathe, and swim, bringing you to a full day on the river. Basic paddling skills are helpful. Don’t forget water, snacks, sunscreen, towels, etc.!
*Must be at least 5 years old. Lifejackets are provided.
Location: Intersection of Mirabel Road at 8600 River Road, Forestville, CA 95436
7. Coppola Winery
Situated in the north end of Sonoma County, the Academy Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola’s winery is more like a family compound full of food, cinema, and adventure. In the center of the winery are two huge swimming pools surrounded by chaise lounge chairs, which will cool the fam as they visit the San Francisco Wine Chronicle’s 2017 Winery of the Year. For the lovers of The Godfather, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, and general movie memorabilia, the Coppola showroom will have your camera sizzling from the thousand photos you capture to impress your friends back home.
*Pool cabana rentals should be booked in advance.
Location: 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, CA 95441
8. Cornerstone Sonoma
With whimsical and innovative gardens designed by international and local landscape architects and designers, Cornerstone Sonoma is a “cultural and creative haven” bridging together art, nature, food, and wine. Your kids will love playing in the “tubular experience” and burning off steam in the children’s garden, while Mom and Dad sip wine from one of the three premier tasting rooms onsite. In addition to world-class shops, there is a tasty cafe and grill that offers coffee to go for the non-winos and casual dining al fresco. Don’t forget to take your family pic in the big blue chair!
Location: 23570 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, CA 95476
9. Charles M. Schultz Museum
If you love Charlie Brown, Snoopy, or comics in general, bring the kids to this funny, educational, family-centered museum. There is a drawing & comic book room on the upper level where kids can create their own comics. In addition to other interactive exhibits, you can get psychiatric help from Lucy for only 5 cents. (hey, we need all the help we can get, right?)
Location: 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
10. Larson Family Winery
Wine tasting and kids don’t usually go hand in hand, but wineries like Larson allow you to taste a flight of delicious wines and roll around with your kids in the grass without anyone even batting an eye. Their beautiful farmhouse offers bocce, kid-friendly games, and a beautiful setting to picnic with the most important people in your life.
*Reservations recommended for picnic tables or outside tastings.
Location: 23355 Millerick Road, Sonoma, CA 95476
Disclaimer: Wine-tasting is fun and fab, but please remember to drink responsibly. Especially, when you are transporting precious cargo (your kids, you crazy wino! Not the case of wine you just bought).