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. 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.

photo: Kate Loweth

Stay

Flamingo Resort
This family-friendly hotel just completed some major renovations and it's the mid-century modern resort of your dreams from the minute you walk into the gorgeous lobby. Families will love the deluxe family king room that has a king bed for parents and a bunk bed in a separate room (with a door that closes! Hooray!). A mini fridge will keep your beverages chilled and the room's electric kettle is perfect for morning tea or hot cocoa.

For breakfast, Wild Bird serves up breakfast sandwiches and gorgeous yogurt parfaits that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters. For lunch, you'll definitely want to snag some lounge chairs and order up a crispy chicken sandwich and a frozen beverage for some poolside dining while the kids swim. In the evening, the onsite restaurant morphs into the upscale Lazeaway Club where tropical prints are preferred and the island vibes are fierce. Order up the scallion pancakes to start and the seasonal curry for your main. Kids will love the smashburger, we guarantee it. 

Spa facilities are available onsite so definitely book your massage to take full advantage. You can also check out the yoga classes and other wellness programs offered at the health club. 

2777 4th St.
Santa Rosa, CA
Online: flamingoresort.com

Editor's note: This visit was paid for by the Flamingo Resort but all opinions belong to the author. 

photo: The Sandman Santa Rosa

The Sandman Santa Rosa
Right off of 101, The Sandman's Santa Rosa location is super convenient for families visiting wine country. The welcoming staff and chill mid-century modern decor will make you feel relaxed the minute you arrive. Families will especially love the family suite—with a king bed and a twin-over-full bunk bed everyone is able to spread out. Spend your days lounging by the heated pool where you can purchase snacks, ice cream and their homemade Froze (for the parents) at the Pool House & Bar. Summers at The Sandman bring their food truck nights and live music by the pool.

3421 Cleveland Ave.
Santa RosaCA
Onlinesandmansantarosa.com

Hyatt Regency Sonoma
This modern 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
Online: hyattregencysonoma.com

photo: Kate Loweth

Play

Epicenter Sports and Entertainment Complex
This state-of-the-art fun and fitness center features a trampoline park, an arcade, bowling alley, an indoor soccer field, laser tag, dining and more. Put this on your list in case you encounter a rainy or super-hot day on your wine country weekend.

3215 Coffey Lane
Santa Rosa, CA
Onlinevisitepicenter.com

Charles M. Schulz Museum and Snoopy's Home Ice
Kids of all ages will enjoy learning about long-time Santa Rosa resident and Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz at this museum with interactive exhibits, animated Peanuts specials, original comic strips and more. Then head next door to the ice rink that Schulz had built in 1969 for some family skate time and snacks at the Warm Puppy Cafe.

2301 Hardies Lane
Santa Rosa, CA
Onlineschulzmuseum.org and snoopyshomeice.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
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
Online: santarosa.edu

photo: Safari West

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
Online: safariwest.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
Online: cmosc.org

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
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
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. 

393 Violetti Road
Santa Rosa, CA
Online: springlakediscovery.com

photo: Belden Barns Farmstead & Winery

Taste

Belden Barns Farmstead & Winery
While Mom and Dad taste wines at Belden Barns Farmstead & Winery above Santa Rosa in central Sonoma County, the kids can borrow the winery’s scavenger-hunt-style “adventure” backpacks and wander the 55-acre property in search of flora, fauna, and random or whimsical items. The backpacks are filled with field guides to local birds or insects, magnifying glasses, sketchpads, crayons, and a checklist of things to find. The kids are encouraged to check off as many items as possible, searching for things like an acorn, an owl pellet, a feather, something heart-shaped, or a piece of trash. The goal is to keep kids busy and engaged while their parents taste wine. Wine tasting by appointment only.

5561 Sonoma Mountain Road
Santa Rosa, CA
Online: beldenbarns.com

Matanzas Creek Winery
Plan your visit to this Santa Rosa gem when the lavender is in bloom. The calming scent takes over the property and you will want to spend the day sipping sauvignon blanc as the kids play cornhole under the massive oak trees. Swing by the lavender market if you want to bring home some lavender-scented bath products or even a bunch of lavender grill sticks for your next barbecue.

6097 Bennett Valley Rd.
Santa Rosa, CA
Onlinematanzascreek.com

photo: Kate Loweth

Nosh

Bird & the Bottle
You'll love the shared plates at this relaxed spot that's just down the street from the Flamingo Resort. Definitely order up the fried chicken to share and the mini burgers for the kids. Adventurous eaters will love the crispy skin salmon wings and the everything greens. Be sure to save room for the desserts; they are plenty big enough to share (but you'll want your own). 

1055 4th St. 
Santa Rosa, CA
Online: birdandthebottle.com

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
Online: dierksparksidecafe.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
Online: thirdstreetaleworks.com

—Kate Loweth & Mae Respicio

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