Beyond wineries: 11 fun things to do in Sonoma

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Kasey Tross

Views of Napa valley
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Sonoma may be known for its vineyards and wineries, but its rich history and scenic vistas also have a lot to offer. Whether you’re traveling with kids or wine just isn’t your thing, here are some things to do in Sonoma that don’t involve vino.

1. Hit the fairways

Founded in 1920 and billed as a vintage golf course, the Sonoma Golf Club offers breathtaking views of the Mayacamas Mountains across its 177 rolling acres. The  classic mediterranean-style clubhouse includes a steam room, spa, swimming pool and fitness room. Other top-rated area courses include The Links at Bodega Harbour on the coast with ocean views, Northwood Golf Club in Santa Rosa where you can play near towering redwoods along the Russian River, and Windsor Golf Club, which has hosted PGA and LPGA tournaments. 

2. Take a hike

Drink in panoramic vineyard views from the 3-mile out-and-back Sonoma Overlook Trail. The trail is a bit rocky so leave strollers (and dogs) at home. If you want to experience California’s soaring redwoods, head to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve for a hike through these inspiring giants, and enjoy views of the Russian River Valley. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is another prime hiking destination, and home to a stunning waterfall at the headwaters of Sonoma Creek.

3. Go wild

Safari West is a 400-acre wildlife preserve located just north of Santa Rosa. Take a safari in an open-air vehicle and interact with species usually seen only in zoos or Africa. Safari West also offers glamping and an onsite cafe. If you’re looking for native wildlife, Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue is home to a  variety of local critters, and offers both public and private tours. 

4. Get back in the saddle

Channel your inner cowboy with an old-fashioned trail ride across the beautiful Sonoma countryside. Sonoma Valley Trail Rides offers equestrian experiences at the Bartholomew Estate Winery and other Sonoma vineyards. Horse N Around Trail Rides in Bodega Bay can take you on a picturesque beach trail for views of the Pacific, or give you a true Western experience with a ride through a local cattle ranch. 

5. Treat the kids

What child isn’t intrigued by a train? At Sonoma Traintown Railroad, ride a miniature train as it chugs through the scenic 10-acre property to a petting zoo. Other rides at this family amusement park include a carousel, Ferris wheel and other carnival-like attractions. If your child has an active imagination, turn it loose at the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, where pretend play is king. Kids can become restaurateurs, scientists, dentists and more!

6. Get pampered

When you’re looking for more relaxing things to do, Sonoma has more than 40 spas and wellness centers. Osmosis Day Spa gets top billing from TripAdvisor reviewers, with its zen gardens providing a peaceful escape from everyday life. Other local spas with rave reviews include the holistic healing Soulstice Mind + Body Spa, The Best Day Spa in Santa Rosa and Magical Massage & Inspiration Gallery, a spa that actually began inside a wine barrel! 

7. Step back in time

Sonoma has a rich history, and among its many fascinating sites, Mission San Francisco Solano is a must-see. Part of Sonoma State Historic Park, it is the last mission established in California (July 4, 1823). If literary history is more your thing, check out the home of novelist Jack London at Jack London State Historic Park. The park includes 29 miles of beautiful backcountry hiking. Interesting area  museums include the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, where you can learn all about the creator of Snoopy and his pals; the Pacific Coast Air Museum, a family-friendly exploration of aircraft in Santa Rosa; and the quirky Hand Fan Museum in Healdsburg. 

8. Get an adrenaline rush

Sonoma isn’t all bucolic vineyard views and peaceful wine tasting —  some of the most fun things to do in Sonoma are quite exhilarating. At the Sonoma Raceway, you can watch pros or get experience on the track, and at Simraceway Performance Driving Center, you can blast down California’s longest go-kart racetrack at an adrenaline-pumping 70 mph. For nature-centered thrills, Sonoma Zipline Adventures offers both daytime and nighttime canopy tours through the forest. Or make your own way through Sonoma’s forests, mountains and ranches by venturing out on one of Sonoma’s many mountain biking trails.  

9. Shop ‘til you drop

Whether you’re into outlets or antiques, Petaluma is a shopper’s paradise and offers free parking garages downtown. Healdsburg is another shopping mecca, with a variety of boutiques, art galleries and artisan wares. If you want to stick closer to Sonoma, check out the shops in Sonoma Plaza. Bonus: If there are wine lovers in your group, they’ll have plenty of tasting options nearby!

10. Press your luck

If you’re ready to raise the stakes on your visit to Sonoma, the Graton Resort & Casino is happy to oblige. With 100 table games and more than 3,000 slot machines, you can play the day and night away. Just north of Healdsburg, River Rock Casino is a gaming destination more suited to the “low rollers,” with its Rockin’ Pennies Room that boasts the largest collection of penny slot machines in one location.  

11. Tickle your tastebuds

Wine isn’t the only thing worth tasting in Sonoma. Many local wineries like Williamson Wines in Healdsburg offer brunch, lunch and dinner menus to please every palate. For an alternative to a standard meal, why not try an olive oil or chocolate tasting? Round Pond Estate, Long Meadow Ranch and The Olive Press offer olive oil tastings, and small chocolate shops like Wine Country Chocolates and The Chocolate Cow are fun places to go for a sweet treat. 

Enjoy Sonoma from your second home basecamp

Considering all of Sonoma’s charms, you might be thinking it’s the perfect spot for a second home. Check out Pacaso’s stunning Sonoma listings, and learn how a co-ownership LLC can make your Sonoma dream home a reality. 

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