Sonoma Valley is home to one of California's most breathtaking wine countries. The countryside is filled with vineyards, historic state parks, miles and miles of hiking trails dotted with wildflowers, and lush resorts engineered for maximum relaxation. This is your guide to an absolutely unforgettable 48 hours of charm, wine, and rustic serenity.
Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa is about 60 miles north of San Francisco. It's known for abundant wildflowers that can be seen from spring all the way through late summer. Lake Ilsanjo, located in the middle of the park, offers a scenic hike around its perimeter with plenty of photo opportunities. The lake also has some great fishing, as it's home to black bass and bluegill.
One of the most popular activities in the park is biking around designated bike trails. You can rent bikes from either Trek Santa Rosa or Getaway Adventures and Rentals (also in Santa Rosa) to explore the park without having to bring your own wheels. A great hotel to start out at is the conveniently located Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa, complete with outdoor pool for a fresh start.
With gorges and canyons galore, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is a great stop on your Sonoma journey. The park is home to stands of redwood trees and lush ferns, as well as a 25-foot waterfall that's at its best after a rainfall. Make sure to check out the nature trail that runs along Sonoma Creek... altogether, the park has 25 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, so you won't be wanting for chances to dive into the landscape. Camping at the park allows you to view the beautiful, unpolluted sky over Sonoma-- that means top-notch stargazing, so bring along your binoculars to see the constellations and planets on display. If you are not planning to bring camping gear, you could stay overnight in the charming Glen Ellen Inn.
Known as the "premier Asian woodland garden", Quarryhill Botanical Garden is a beautiful place to relax during your time in Sonoma. The botanical gardens are home to the largest collection of Asian plants in the world, and it does not disappoint. Call ahead and sign up for a walking tour, where you can get firsthand information about the varieties of plants that call the garden home. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students... a small price to pay for relaxation and serenity.
Known for being a biodynamic and organic operation, the Benziger Family Winery is a unique stop on your Sonoma Valley excursion. Benziger received the Best Winery and Best Tour awards in 2015 by the Sonoma People's Choice, so you know it’s the real deal. The most popular feature is the biodynamic tram tour, which provides a firsthand look at how the wine is crafted, from vine to bottle. The tour takes you through the vineyards, fermentation center, and even into the barrel caves for $25 per person and $10 for those under 21.
Named after the "Call of the Wild" author of the same name, Jack London State Historical Park is a beautiful stop on your trip. The park includes many places related to the late author, including the cottage where he and his wife lived, as well as both of their graves.
The park is also full of things to do, with tons of hiking and horseback riding trails. Another popular event is a summertime Transcendence Theater performance. The troupe performs a variety of concerts and musical revivals right in the middle of the park's beauty.
The Fairmount Sonoma Mission Inn is the ultimate Wine Country destination. It's an opulent place to stay on your trip through Sonoma, and if you're really looking to get pampered, check out the Willow Creek Spa, which is the only luxury spa in the valley that has its own source of thermal mineral water.
In addition to the spa, the hotel offers complimentary hiking and fitness classes, as well as a daily wine tasting at 4:30 pm in the lobby.
Designed by Mariano Vallejo (whose home can be seen at Sonoma State Historic Park), Sonoma Plaza is the perfect place to sit down and have a picnic. The Plaza has a rich history; it started with the Mission being founded here in 1823, and this was where a party of Republic of California occupants raised a bear flag in 1846. That banner was the inspiration for California's current flag.
If you're looking for a bite to eat, head over to The Girl and the Fig for some incredible rustic French cuisine. After you eat, get ready to shop at Vine Alley, a vine-covered walk of shops and wine tasting rooms. After all that eating and shopping, you'll probably want to kick back and relax... check out the nearby Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery, where you can unwind with a glass of vino.
With not one, but six historical sites on its premises, Sonoma State Historic Park is quite the adventure. The most notable site here is probably the 1823 Mission San Francisco Solano, which was the last mission built in Alta, California. The mission is home to an exhibit and museum and offers tours Friday through Sunday.
Another site to check out at the historic park is the Sonoma Barracks, which were once used by the Mexican army. These adobe barracks are now open to the public and are home to a museum and gift shop. Finally, don't forget to look at General Mariano Vallejo's Victorian mansion with a gothic touch from the 1850s. Home tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays, and it's as close to stepping back in time as you can get!
Known as a historic landmark, the Buena Vista Carneros Winery is a must-see on your journey across Sonoma Valley. The winery is the oldest commercial winery in all of California, having been established in 1857. It constantly offers new releases, as well as a score of older favorites, so you're bound to find something that will tickle your taste buds. The tasting room is open year-round, and the winery has a shaded picnic ground, which is the perfect place to relax and think about a trip well spent.
If you can't get enough vino, make sure to check out the Wine Tools Museum in Buena Vista. The museum is home to both 19th and 20th-century viticulture tools, which are all artfully displayed in a beautiful exhibit. It's a fascinating look at how much work goes into the wine you've been enjoying! Why not spend the night at Sonoma Creek Inn?
Of course, 48 hours is only enough time to scratch the surface of all of the beauty and culture Sonoma has to offer. From gorgeous scenery on the coast and rolling vineyards that serve up glass after glass of delicious wine, to the numerous historic sites and endless chances for incredible shopping and dining, you could easily spend weeks exploring all of Sonoma's attractions. But if there happens to be a must-see stop that you miss on your trip, don't stress too much... there's always next time!
Sonoma County offers an authentic Northern California experience: world-class wine region, miles of breathtaking Pacific coastline, towering redwood forests and over 60 state and regional parks. Unique adventures await. Enjoy farm-to-table dining, stunning sunsets and wine country lifestyle.