In the heart of Sonoma County sits a colorful community full of world-class breweries, picturesque wineries, farm-to-table goodness and the true artisan spirit: Santa Rosa. While the Northern California wildfires took a devastating toll on the region, most businesses were unaffected; the area has bounced back stronger than ever and there’s no better time to visit! Santa Rosa hits everything on your family’s checklist: adventure, nature, relaxation and the promise of full, happy bellies. So pack the car, load the kiddos and blast your playlist—there’s tons to explore in this wine country sweet spot.

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Benziger Family Winery/photo: Mae Respicio

SEE

Charles M. Schulz Museum
Charles M. Schulz, creator of the Peanuts, was a treasured local and this inspiring museum celebrates his life and work. Adults will love the nostalgic romp through through time while kiddos can get totally hands-on. There’s a bright art room, Instagram-ready dress up corners, and a movie theater playing all the Snoopy classics. Make sure to check out the fun sculpture garden with artistic surprises everywhere you look.

2301 Hardies Lane
Santa Rosa, CA
707-579-4452
Online: schulzmuseum.com

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
Just north of Guerneville sits 805 acres of preserved coastal redwoods. It’s every bit as majestic as you’d imagine, offering peaceful respite and quiet reflection through meandering trails. The Pioneer Nature Trail is mostly flat and level and ends in a large picnic area, so it’s perfect for families with toddlers in tow. Pick up a treasure map at the visitor center and keep an eye out for (tree-shaped) trolls and dinosaurs!

17000 Armstrong Woods Road
Guerneville, CA
707-869-2015
Online: armstrongredwoods.com

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Safari West
No need to travel for an amazing Serengeti experience when it exists right in the middle of wine country! This enormous 400-acre park is home to 900 exotic birds and mammals that freely roam the hills and once you’re immersed it feels like a true getaway. Lots of exploring options to get up close and personal with the animals including a jeep tour, easy walking tours and even overnight luxury glamping.

3115 Porter Creek Road
Santa Rosa, CA
707-579-2551
Online: safariwest.com

Pacific Coast Air Museum
History comes to life here through vintage aircraft displays and on selected weekends, little pilots can climb right aboard some of the planes. Hot Dog Thursdays (the first Thursday of each month from April through October) are fun and popular days, as are events like the Wings Over Wine Country airshow. Open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; youth 6 – 17 enter for $5; kids 6 and under are free.

One Air Museum Way
Santa Rosa, CA
707-575-7900
Online: pacificcoastmuseum.com

Santa Rosa Junior College Planetarium
The night sky comes alive under a dome that’s 40 feet in diameter and 27 feet high—one of the largest space science facilities in the California Community College System. During the Fall and Spring semesters, the planetarium’s public shows are held on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. (Note that show content is not recommended for very young children—sorry, toddlers!)

1501 Mendocino Ave.
Santa Rosa, CA
707-527-4372
Online: santarosa.edu

IMG_1228Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve/photo: Mae Respicio

ROMP

Farmers Market
One way to experience the fun richness of the local community is straight from the growers and artisans themselves. There are dozens of markets in and around Santa Rosa—enough where you could visit one almost every day of the week! A couple of the most popular are The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings, and the Santa Rosa Community Farmer’s Market at the Veteran’s Center on Saturdays. Check individual websites for market hours and directions (and don’t forget the sunscreen).

Various Locations in and around Santa Rosa
Online: FarmersMarkets.com

Children’s Museum of Sonoma County
This lively museum has become a the resident go-to for easy, hands-on discovery. It’s especially fun for younger kids up to age 10 with the creative exhibits, an awesome outdoor play area with a tiny creek for where minnows swim, and TOTopia, a sensory play area designed for active crawlers and curious toddlers.

1835 W Steele Lane
Santa Rosa, CA
707-546-4069
Online: sonomachildrensmuseum.com


photo: Kyle Magnuson 

Luther Burbank Home & Gardens
If your older ones are looking for biography report material this one-acre city park is the perfect inspiration, housing former home, gardens and greenhouse of celebrated 19th century American horticulturalist, Luther Burbank. The gardens are open daily from 8 a.m. until dusk and public tour season runs from April through October. It’s a gorgeous place to walk, wander, relax and learn.

204 Santa Rosa Ave.
Santa Rosa, CA
707-524-5445
Online: lutherburbank.org

Howarth Park
The possibilities here are plentiful: hiking and jogging trails, mini train rides, pony rides, a carousel, an animal farm and a huge lake for boating and fishing. Pack a picnic for your adventurous family and you’re good to go.

630 Summerfield Road
Santa Rosa, CA
707-543-3425
Online: howarthpark.com

Spring Lake Environmental Discovery Center
Sonoma County’s ecosystems are on display at this ultimate natural history museum, where elementary school-aged kids explore a multi-sensory experience by touching, crawling, climbing, and playing their way through the center. Knowledgeable naturalists lead family hikes every third Saturday in September and November through May; they also host Science Saturday experiments on the first Saturday of each month. Free admission; parking is $7 or free for Regional Parks members.

393 Violetti Road
Santa Rosa, CA
707-539-8092
Online: springlakediscovery.com

Snoopy’s Home Ice
Just across the street from the Charles M. Schulz Museum is a year-round ice skating rink with public ice times, hockey leagues, birthday party packages and the Warm Puppy Café to snack up. The Parents and Puppies Practice helps your teeniest skaters-in-training (with chairs!). We see a super fun afternoon in your future.

1667 W Steele Lane
Santa Rosa, CA
707-546-7147
Online: snoopyshomeice.com


photo: Safari West

TASTE

Benziger Family Winery
Atop a beautiful hill in Glen Ellen sits a family-friendly winery with panoramic views. Make sure to start with the Biodynamic Vineyard Tram Tour. It offers interesting local history and ends in a tour of the wine caves (the kiddos totally love this part). Of course, end your visit with some tastings—local wine for you while the littles get cheese, juice and yummy pizza.

1883 London Ranch Road
Glen Ellen, CA
888-490-2739
Online: benziger.com

Francis Ford Coppola Winery
You know that a winery loves families when they throw Halloween carnivals and smoothie-making events. This one also has a performing arts pavilion, an idyllic park, live performances and a huge, sparkling, fancy pool. The pool opens in spring and reservations go quickly so once they open, don’t delay.

300 Via Archimedes
Geyserville, CA
707-857-1471
Online: coppolawinery.com

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Dierk’s Parkside Cafe
On first glance this no-nonsense, roadside diner looks pretty unassuming but the crowds, happy faces and tastiest dishes tell another story. Locals swear by their breakfast menu and the laid back staff and typically boisterous dining area makes it an easy place to have the kids in tow. Don’t forget to check out whatever baked goods are hanging around on the glass stands by the register.

404 Santa Rosa Ave.
Santa Rosa, CA
707-573-5955
Online: dierksparksidecafe.com

Amy’s Drive Thru
Vegetarians rejoice because Amy’s Drive Thru has the great quality you’re already familiar with, but in a local drive-thru (or sit down) setting. The service is fast, the space is open and bright and the food is vegan! Definitely the place to start any wine country road tripping. Fun tip: Look up for the coolest living roof.

58 Golf Course Drive West
Rohnert Park, CA
707-781-7510
Online: amysdrivethru.com

Hopmonk Tavern
Tasty food, live music and home brew—you can’t go wrong. With a few locations in the North Bay, count this cool beer garden as the best family spot to chill over a leisurely meal or for re-energizing before your next road trip stop. Open every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

230 Petaluma Ave.
Sebastopol, CA
707-829-7300
Online: hopmonk.com 

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Bear Republic Brewpub
Lakeside patio dining beckons all kinds of crowds to this fun brewpub. They have an amazing menu of local craft beers on tap and plentiful menu options for even the pickets of eaters. Giant Jenga, foosball and other patio games will keep the kiddos occupied until your delicious meal hits the table.

5000 Roberts Lake Road
Rohnert Park, CA
707-585-2722
Online: bearrepublicbrewpub.com

Third Street Aleworks
This is a local hub pub to its core, welcoming everyone from families to beer buffs to pet owners (there’s a special dog menu and a pet-friendly patio!). Come for the amazing craft beer and stay for the cool atmosphere. If you’re opting for dessert, the giant root beer floats are bonafide crowd pleasers.

610 3rd St.
Santa Rosa, CA
707-523-3060
Online: thirdstreetaleworks.com

IMG_1509 (1)Bibi’s Burger Bar
On gorgeous days the huge wall to ceiling window is slid open, letting in sunshine and all kinds of interesting people watching as you salivate over juicy burgers and an array of delicious Indian dishes. This locally-owned and operated favorite hangout is a favorite among locals and they’re also big cheerleaders of community-based events.

630 3rd St.
Santa Rosa, CA
707-523-1400
Online: bibisburgerbar.com

photo: Bear Republic Brewpub

STAY

Hyatt Regency Sonoma
This modern, newly-updated hotel is the perfect home base right in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa. It’s a quick twenty minutes away from over four hundred wineries (you heard us!) and in walking distance to endless good eats downtown, the Santa Rosa Plaza shopping center, and Historic Railroad Square. When you’re walking through downtown, see how many Peanuts characters the kids can spot.

170 Railroad Street
Santa Rosa, CA
707-284-1234
Online: hyattregencysonoma.com

Flamingo Resort and Spa
Mid-century modern enthusiasts can step back in time here to a swanky 1950s setting, complete with a cool, wrap-around atrium. This family-friendly hotel is in walking distance to the Montgomery Village Shopping Center and an easy home base for Santa Rosa’s many fun-filled attractions.

2777 4th St.
Santa Rosa, CA
707-545-8350
Online: flamingoresort.com

—Mae Respicio

Photos by the author except where noted.