Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Sonoma County, CA

  • Published 2023/04/16

Sonoma County is in the northern part of the Golden State.

It’s renowned as one of the nation’s top wine regions.

This county covers over 4,579 square kilometers of gorgeous coastal areas, rolling hills, and unspoiled natural beauty.

It’s also home to over 486,000 Californians who take pride in residing in the nation’s “Top 100 Places to Live.”

Its biggest city, Santa Rosa, is ranked No. 14 in the nation’s best places to live by various organizations and publications.

There are plenty of reasons why Sonoma County is your next travel destination.

These reasons include outdoor adventure, top-notch wine tasting, historic tours, sightseeing, and excellent leisure activities.

Sonoma County is a few hours away from San Francisco and other major California cities, making it a convenient travel destination.

Read on to discover the best things to do in Sonoma County, California.

Feel the Breeze at the Sonoma Coast State Park

Sunny day at Sonoma Coast State Park

Roman Khomlyak /

The Sonoma Coast State Park is one of the most visited attractions in Sonoma County.

You can visit this state park along CA-1 Interstate in Bodega Bay.

The state park comprises mostly coastal areas facing the vast Pacific Ocean.

It spans from Jenner and 17 miles south to Bodega.

Visiting this state park lets you explore its unspoiled jagged coastline filled with gorgeous sandy beaches, coves, and headlands.

A trail Sonoma Coast State Park

Roman Khomlyak /

These areas are teeming with marine wildlife, offering visitors a top-notch viewing experience.

In addition, it also boasts breathtaking sceneries making it an excellent location for nature photography.

Also, hiking, picnicking, beachcombing, and camping are trendy activities at the Sonoma Coast State Park.

The waters of Sonoma Coast State Park

Ken Schulze /

Shop ’til You Drop at Sonoma Plaza

City hall at Sonoma Plaza

randy andy /

Sonoma Plaza is one of the county’s top leisure destinations.

You can visit this outdoor leisure destination along 1st Street E in Sonoma.

It’s situated in the heart of downtown Sonoma.

Historically, the plaza is the largest in California.

Shops at Sonoma Plaza

Takako Hatayama-Phillips /

It was initially a Mexican military outpost and a mission village founded in 1835 by Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo.

Vallejo, who also founded Sonoma, transformed an eight-acre area into what it is today — a thriving city home to this upscale leisure destination.

The plaza has over a hundred shops, from mainstream brands to small and local businesses, restaurants, and over 20 wine-tasting rooms.

At the same time, enjoy a bit of a historical side trip at Sonoma Plaza since it’s also home to a national historical monument.

A theatre at Sonoma Plaza

Lynn Watson /

Channel Your Inner Child at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center

Charlie Brown statue at Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center

Stan DaMan /

Check out Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, which houses the most extensive Peanuts cartoon character artwork collection.

You can visit this one-of-a-kind museum along Hardies Lane in Santa Rosa.

The museum is dedicated to showcasing the life and art of Charles M. Schulz, famous for his comic strip Peanuts.

Exterior of Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center

BrokenSphere, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visiting this museum is a fantastic experience where you’ll learn plenty of fascinating stuff about Schulz’s quirky characters, such as Snoopy, Woodstock, Charlie Brown, and others.

You’ll be amazed to see life-sized sculptures of the Peanuts characters and watch documentaries about them at its theater.

Spend your day at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center for an unforgettable nostalgic experience.

Interior of Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center

BrokenSphere, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Connect with Nature at the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Nature scene at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

weriset /

The Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is known for its towering redwood trees and lush temperate rainforest.

You can visit this fantastic place along Armstrong Woods Road in Guerneville.

Besides being a natural reserve, it’s also a state park, a famous hiking and camping destination.

Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts love to explore the lush Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.

Tall redwood trees at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Photos by Michi /

At the same time, marvel at the towering redwood trees, some already a thousand years old.

Some redwood trees you’ll come across in this state park stand as high as 30 stories tall.

You can also head to its campground and enjoy outdoor activities with fellow parkgoers.

A flower at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

weriset /

Mingle with Locals at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market

Take a break from exploring Sonoma County’s gorgeous attractions and head to the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market.

You can visit this charming farmers’ market along Mark West Springs Rd in Santa Rosa.

This farmers’ market, established in 1967, is one of the most visited markets in Santa Rosa and the entire Sonoma County.

It’s where most local farmers from all corners of Sonoma County converge to sell their best products.

It includes fresh produce, pasture-raised meats, handicrafts, and preserves.

Many locals flock to this farmers’ market to shop for farm-to-table products and other homemade goods.

The farmers’ market opens every Saturday morning year-round.

So, grab the chance to shop for freshly harvested fruits and vegetables.

At the same time, enjoy mouthwatering homemade goods at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market.

Sip California Wine at the Buena Vista Winery

Welcome sign of Buena Vista Winery

John Philip Green, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Buena Vista Winery is one of the most famous wineries in Sonoma County.

You can visit this winery along Old Winery Road in Sonoma.

Many wine connoisseurs and tourists flock to this winery to taste its finest products.

At the same time, explore its history, which spans way back to the mid-1800s.

The winery boasts numerous historical buildings, a gorgeous garden, and a tasting room everyone can tour.

Buena Vista Winery was founded in 1857 and is considered one of the pioneering winemakers in California.

Amazingly, it remains one of the industry’s premium wineries today.

Ride the Trains at the Sonoma Train Town Railroad

Roundhouse at Sonoma Train Town Railroad

JeffSoares, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Sonoma TrainTown Railroad is a one-of-a-kind train ride experience.

You can visit its train station along Broadway Street, a mile south of the Sonoma Plaza.

This attraction features a quarter-scale railroad that runs through four miles of track.

The ride takes you to numerous attractions throughout Sonoma City.

Trains at Sonoma Train Town Railroad

ChesPal (Debra Heaphy), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Each trip lasts around 20 minutes, taking you to bridges and tunnels and stops at a petting zoo in a miniature town.

In addition, the train ride also passes through scenic areas throughout Sonoma, making it a wonderful experience, especially with your loved ones.

The Sonoma TrainTown Railroad has provided everyone with a memorable and fun train ride experience since 1968.

People aboard a train at Sonoma Train Town Railroad

JeffSoares, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

See the Spectacular Animals of Safari West

A giraffe at Safari West

Elysium Imaging /

Safari West is a vast attraction that houses almost a thousand animals worldwide.

You can visit this safari along Port Creek Road in Santa Rosa.

The entire facility spans over 400 acres.

It’s a private wildlife preserve owned by couple Peter and Nancy Lang.

A bird at Safari West

*~Dawn~*, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The safari opened in the 1980s after the couple converted their former cattle ranch into a real-life safari that conserves and breeds wildlife.

This safari lets you see over 900 animals from over 90 species.

Some animals you’ll encounter at this safari include giraffes, zebras, antelopes, addax, cape buffalo, cheetahs, caracals, striped hyenas, lemurs, etc.

Ultimately, you and your loved ones can stay the night at Safari West’s luxurious tent to complete your experience.

Barbary sheep at Safari West

MJLepper, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Revisit the Past at the Jack London State Historic Park

Ruins at Jack London State Historic Park

Andriy Blokhin /

The Jack London State Historic Park, or the Jack London Home and Ranch, is a historic park.

It features the life of a renowned adventurer and writer, Jack London.

You can visit this fantastic historical attraction along London Ranch Road in Glen Ellen.

This historic park on the eastern foothills of Sonoma Mountain is known for many fascinating things.

People walking along Jack London State Historic Park

Ryan C Slimak /

It’s where you’ll find London’s home comprising a cottage and a ranch now serving as historical sites.

You can check out London’s books, memorabilia, and belongings at the House of Happy Walls Museum.

Besides history, the Jack London State Historic Park is a terrific outdoor destination.

It features over 30 miles of scenic trails and vistas on Sonoma Mountain’s foothills.

An old winery at Jack London State Historic Park

Ryan C Slimak /

Unwind at Cornerstone

Sculptures at Cornerstone

mccown /

Cornerstone is an upscale marketplace home to dozens of shops, restaurants, distilleries, and wineries.

You can visit this place along Arnold Drive in the city of Sonoma.

Both locals and visitors love to unwind at this marketplace known for its top-notch leisure activities.

It’s home to many California winemakers’ tasting rooms, making it a haven for wine connoisseurs.

At the same time, it has an eclectic collection of upscale brands for shopping and more than a dozen eateries and casual dining spots.

Remember to include Cornerstone in your itinerary for some relaxation.

Celebrate the Sonoma Wine Festival

Your Sonoma County travel adventure won’t be complete without experiencing the Taste of Sonoma Wine Festival.

This one-of-a-kind festival happens every June at the Jackson Wines Estates and Gardens in Santa Rosa.

Over a hundred wineries serve their best wines to festivalgoers in this annual event.

Enjoy guided wine seminars, limitless wine tastings, garden tours, winery tours, beer gardens, and plenty more exciting activities awaits you at this festival.

The Taste of Sonoma Wine Festival is one of the best events showcasing California winemakers’ quality and passion.

Remember to visit Sonoma County at this time of the year to join this unique festival.

Dive into History at Downtown Petaluma

A river at Downtown Petaluma

Kwanchanog Noiinwong /

Downtown Petaluma is a known historical attraction in the City of Petaluma.

It’s known for its beauty, entertainment, and well-preserved historic architecture.

Strolling through the downtown streets lets you travel back to the mid-1800s.

It features dozens of well-preserved iron-front buildings, cobblestone roads, Victorian-era and Colonial Revival architectures, and other historical attractions.

Buildings at Downtown Petaluma

John Martinez Pavliga from San Pablo, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fascinatingly, most of these buildings are already included on the National Register of Historic Places list.

Its most famous historic buildings include the American Trust Company Building, the Temperance Fountain, Masonic Building, and the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum.

You can also drop by the Downtown Petaluma visitor’s center for maps and directions for your self-guided tour of this historic attraction.

Relax at the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens

Cacti at Luther Burbank Home and Gardens

Barbara Ash /

The Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is one of the parks in the City of Santa Rosa.

You can visit this park along Santa Rosa Avenue.

It’s renowned for its historical past, featuring the former home of world-famous horticulturist Luther Burbank.

Visiting this park lets you explore Burbank’s humble home, greenhouse, garden, and final resting place.

A water fountain at Luther Burbank Home and Gardens

Zack Frank /

See the well-preserved original furnishings of Burbank’s home, garden, and greenhouse up close.

Besides history, the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens boasts a tranquil atmosphere, perfect for those who yearn to shake off stress.

It has gorgeous landscaped gardens and green open spaces to relax and enjoy nature.

Trail lined with flowers at Luther Burbank Home and Gardens

Jeffrey M. Frank /

Explore the Petrified Woods at the Petrified Forest

The Giant tree at the Petrified Forest

Sarah Stierch, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Petrified Forest is a fascinating prehistoric attraction in the city of Calistoga.

It’s California‘s lone petrified forest from the Pliocene Epoch and has the world’s biggest petrified trees.

It’s an excellent place for prehistoric enthusiasts and nature lovers to visit, mainly for its well-preserved petrified redwood giants.

The queen tree at the Petrified Forest

James St. John, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most of these petrified redwoods have been preserved for over three million years.

You can hike through its trails to see these unearthed petrified redwoods over three million years old.

To complete your visit to the Petrified Forest, head to its gift shop for some unique souvenirs, including jewelry made from petrified woods and fossils.

Bask in the Scenic Beauty of Goat Rock Beach

People at Goat Rock Beach

Frozen Bayberry /

Goat Rock Beach along Highway 1 in the town of Jenner is a famous scenic location.

This long stretch of sandy coastline is situated in Sonoma County’s northwestern portion, facing the Pacific Ocean.

It’s a worthwhile place to visit, especially if you’re looking for the best scenic locations in Sonoma County.

Seals at Goat Rock Beach

weriset /

It boasts a gorgeous sandy beach and incredible rock formations, adding drama to the breathtaking scenery.

Enjoy picnicking, kayaking, beachcombing, and seal watching at Goat Rock Beach, making it a recommended attraction.

Birds at Goat Rock Beach

weriset /

Final Thoughts

Sonoma County is more than its world-class wines and picturesque vineyards.

It’s a year-round travel destination letting you explore northern California’s unspoiled natural beauty and charming communities.

You’ll never have enough of the best things to do in Sonoma County, California.

© All rights reserved.