I haven’t seen any official statistics, but I’d venture a guess that many tourists come to Sonoma County to taste wine. Frankly, who can blame them? The wine is incredible and Sonoma County is one of the few places you can taste exquisite examples of many varietals in nearly every town you go to.
But, what if wine doesn’t interest you? Or worse yet, what if wine does interest you, but the idea of bringing your toddler in tow to your favorite wineries sounds like the 9th circle of h-e-double-hockey-sticks? Fear not. Sonoma County has much to offer even the non-wine-tasting tourist. Here is a list of my top alternatives to the tasting rooms:
Wine Free Option 1: Take a Hike
Oh, the places you could go. Take a walk through Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve and feel small among the ancient coast redwoods (thought to be the tallest living thing on the planet).
Or frolic in the meadows at Taylor Mountain Regional Park. If you’d like to learn more about Sonoma County’s ecosystems or see a spectacular wildflower display in the spring, schedule a guided nature walk with a docent at Bouverie Audubon Preserve. Want a 360 degree reason to move to Sonoma County? Hike to Gunsight Rock. Breathtaking.
Wine Free Option 2: Hit the Farmers Market
Farmers markets are wonderful way to discover what is in season in the county and find some delicious treats to boot. Also, I find that all of the colors and textures and tastes and smells are great for engaging young children in exploring a place and its agriculture.
Wine Free Option 3: Eat Something Delicious, Local & Unique
I could not possibly list all of the delicious restaurants or culinary experiences Sonoma County has to offer here. From Aventine to Zazu’s, there are too many to name so I will simply say this: I can’t remember the last time I was disappointed by a meal I had in Sonoma County.
Wine Free Option 4: Put the Baby to Sleep with a Scenic Drive
When I was a teenager, my favorite thing to do when I needed some time to think was to take a drive while blasting Dave Matthews Band. I would either drive a loop through the Valley of the Moon or out to Bodega Head where I would get some Clam Chowder (and sourdough) and sit at Bodega Head to watch the waves crash. Sometimes its fun to try to get a little lost, especially when that has the added benefit of putting your child to sleep.
Wine Free Option 5: Indulge in a Spa Treatment
Hand the kiddos over to daddy and indulge in some much needed relaxation. Sonoma Mission Inn’s Willow Stream Spa has extensive treatment options. If you’d prefer a treatment nearer the sea, Bodega Bay Lodge offers massages, facials and body treatments.
Wine Free Option 6: Check out Local Artists
Sonoma County has a vibrant art community. There is almost always a new exhibition going up or an emerging artist to celebrate. The Sonoma County Gazette maintains a calendar of shows and gallery openings you can check out here.
Wine Free Option 7: Head to the Beach
The Sonoma Coast is spectacular and every visitor to Northern California should dip their toe in this part of the Pacific Ocean. One of the things that amazes me about California is the vastly different coastlines that border its shores. See for yourself what makes this part of the California coast unique. Oh, and pick up some local clam chowder while you’re at it. So yummy!
Wine Free Option 8: Say Hi to the Peanuts Gang
Santa Rosa was home to Charles Schulz, creator of Snoopy and the Peanuts. Its now home to the Charles M. Schulz Museum which is conveniently located next to the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County and Snoopy’s Home Ice (aka Redwood Empire Ice Arena). Additionally, there are a number of larger than life statutes of Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Woodstock and Lucy individual decorated by local artists all over town. Take a picture with each!
Wine Free Option 9: Take a Walk on the Wild Side
Think you can’t go on a safari adventure in wine country? Think again. Safari West offers visitors a chance to see giraffes, cheetahs, monkeys, lemurs and reptiles (among other animals) up close. Children under age four are welcome on the walking tours, but only ages four and up are allowed on the driving safaris.
Sonoma County has so much to offer visitors and locals, outside of the wines and vines. Tag us in your pictures on Instagram and use the hashtag #OutsideTheSoCoVines to show us what adventures you discover!