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by Jill Loeffler •
Published: May 23, 2023
Some of the best things to do in Santa Rosa include enjoying delicious wine at one of its many wineries, visiting a few of its historical museums, and spending time enjoying the outdoors at one of its many parks.
Highlights include the Railroad Square Historic District, Spring Lake Regional Park, and the Charles M. Schultz Museum and Research Center.
It's also a great place to stay when visiting other Sonoma County wine regions, which is why I provided several hotels and other accommodation recommendations for your stay here toward the end of the page.
My guide also includes some of the best places to eat around town.
Read on to learn more about the best things to do while visiting this Northern California city.
Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.
When it comes to things to do in Santa Rosa, the Railroad Square Historic District is the perfect place to start. The Old Town is a charming place to walk around, and the Square is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In many ways, this is where Santa Rosa began with the advent of the railroads.
There are many good international restaurants in and around Railroad Square, lots of quaint shops of many varieties, and a highly regarded theater. This is the Santa Rosa cultural quarter, and you will learn about the town here.
One of the best things to do in Santa Rosa is to head out for some wine tasting. In this area, you will find a few wine regions, including Russian River, Green Valley, and the Sonoma Coast.
The top varieties grown in these Sonoma County wine regions include pinot noir, chardonnay, and zinfandel. Others grown here include merlot, sauvignon blanc, and cabernet sauvignon.
Some of my favorite wineries nearby include Hanna Winery, Old World Winery, and DeLoach Vineyards. You will find more than a dozen places to go tasting within 20 minutes of downtown Santa Rosa.
>> Find a list of my favorite places to go tasting in and around Santa Rosa
If aviation interests you, then the Pacific Coast Air Museum definitely deserves a visit. A superb collection of historic aircraft that tell the story of flight throughout the ages is just the start of an exciting day. Adults and children will love the flight simulator; there are jet engines to marvel at, a collection of WWII flight equipment, and more.
With three acres of land housing the aircraft collection, you will see an eclectic mix of entire aircraft and rare parts. Favorites include the RF-86 Sabre, an example of an early US jet fighter and a truly iconic plane, and the parts on display from the legendary SR-71 Blackbird are fascinating.
American legends such as the F14 Tomcat, F15 Eagle, and the venerable F16 are represented, and there are some rare models you are unlikely to see elsewhere. They also have a cute gift shop to remember your visit here.
The museum runs events throughout the year, including flying displays, so I recommend you check their calendar and make the most of your visit. It is located at One Air Museum Way, and the hours are 10 am to 4 pm, Thursday to Sunday.
Spring Lake Regional Park offers 10 miles of trails, with a paved 2.3-mile loop making up the main section. This is popular with walkers, runners, and cyclists and is wheelchair accessible and largely flat. Off the paced trail, things get more challenging, and many areas are not wheelchair accessible.
The lake is perfect for boating - no powered boats are permitted - and for paddle boards. The Water Park is open seasonally for swimming and features fun floating obstacles to keep the kids entertained.
The park is home to many attractive picnic areas and campsites, some with RV hookups. Check the website for advice on booking a site.
Among the most popular public parks in Sonoma County, there is something for everyone at this quite spectacular facility. The are two entrances: One is 5585 Newange Avenue, and the other is 393 Violetti Road, about 15 minutes east of downtown Santa Rosa. It is open 7 am to sunset every day.
Sonoma County may be famous for its fine wines, but what goes best with a glass of your favorite? Cheese, of course! The Matos Cheese Factory is just one stop on the fun and educational California Cheese Trail, and it's a fascinating place to visit.
The Matos family came to Santa Rosa from the Azores and have made fine cheese ever since. They brought the trademark cheese from their homeland and took it from there. When you arrange a visit, you can sample cheese made on-site using traditional methods, which is intriguing to experience.
The St George cheese is their main product, and they will happily cut a chunk for you to sample. It is a rich, delicious, and rewarding cheese, and once you have sampled it, you can buy some in the shop. Then all you need to do is select a fine wine from one of the local wineries and enjoy the pair together!
They are open to the public from 9 am to 5 pm daily. They are located at 3669 Llano Road, about 10 minutes south of Santa Rosa.
The Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is a truly enjoyable day out. Mr. Burbank was an esteemed horticulturist, and the gardens now reflect his interest in unusual and rare plants and native species. These are the greenhouses and gardens where he worked for 50 years.
Burbank's house is preserved in a period of time, and I recommend a guided tour as the best way to enjoy and understand his life and home. The house is now a museum to the great man who became world-famous for his pioneering horticulture and was an early celebrity.
There is plenty to see and do at Burbank's home. The historical exhibits allow visitors to see how this part of California changed during his lifetime. Look for events throughout the year, such as plant sales and open house days, and plan a trip to this iconic house while in the region.
The Luther Burbank Home & Gardens are open daily from 8 am to sunset. They are located at 204 Santa Rosa Avenue.
Among the popular things to do in Santa Rosa is a trip to Safari West. Billed as "The Sonoma Serengeti," you will be nearest to an African safari as you can be in the USA.
Whether you choose a day trip or indulge in an overnight stay in the beautiful glamping pods, you will see animals only usually seen in zoos and their native countries.
Stay the night, and you stand a strong chance of watching giraffes, buffalo, and other large animals pass close by your accommodation. Take the guided Safari West tour and look for cheetahs, caracals, and a vast selection of exotic bird species in the park.
Safari West is a fascinating place to visit whether you are an adult or a child, and it's far more engaging than a zoo. Overnight guests enjoy a traditional African Braai - the equivalent of a BBQ - and will sample some delightful food while listening to stories from experienced guides.
Book Safari West in advance and stay the night if possible, as the evenings can be magical.
Safari West is located at 3115 Porter Creek Road. Even though it will feel like you are in a different world, it is only a quick 20-minute drive from downtown Santa Rosa.
The Children's Museum of Sonoma County is highly recommended if you are looking for an exciting and engaging destination for children. The exhibits are all themed and aimed at keeping kids occupied and satisfied, and range from a kitchen - where they can indulge in actual cooking - to a replica hardware store, a tree house, and an art studio.
The effort and imagination that have gone into creating the diverse attractions of the Children's Museum shine through in the dedication and passion displayed by the staff, for whom nothing is too much trouble.
From the Fairy World Garden to the Raised Vegetable Beds, via a science-themed railroad, a Victorian dolls house exhibit, and many more excellent and well-designed attractions, the Children's Museum of Sonoma is a delightful place to spend a day with the kids and there is something for everyone here.
The museum is open Wednesday thru Monday from 9 am to 4 pm. You can find them at 1835 West Steele Lane in Santa Rosa.
There are so many things to do in Santa Rosa that picking out those to recommend is a difficult task. However, some fall into place, and the George M. Schulz Museum and Research Center is one such. Located in downtown Santa Rosa, this famous attraction is about Peanuts - perhaps the most famous strip cartoon of all - and the great man himself.
Take a basic museum tour and learn more about Snoopy and pals, or a more in-depth Director's Tour, which helps you learn about the life of Schultz and what inspired him. This is a place for adults and children, and you may be surprised at what you learn during the tour.
With Snoopy-inspired events throughout the year, it is worth checking on the website regularly to plan your visit to coincide with an event that takes your fancy. This is a must for Peanuts fans and is a great day out.
The museum is located at 2301 Hardies Lane and is open Wednesday to Sunday, with hours ranging from an opening time of either 10 or 11 am and closing at 5 pm.
Note: If you like ice skating, check out Snoopy's Home Ice Rink, which is a skating rink combined with special Peanuts cartoons and memorabilia. It is just a block or two away at 1667 West Steele Lane.
Graton Resort and Casino offers the dual delights of superb accommodation and a fantastic casino experience. The thrill of the casino is a unique one, and here is where they do it best in Sonoma County. With all the regular table games, a great choice of slot machines, and more, this is a place to spend some happy time - but remember to set a limit!
Guests can take advantage of a luxury spa and salon, plus a fantastic pool, and enjoy fine dining and entertainment after a few hours of playing. Later, it's back to your luxurious room to relax and enjoy a good night's sleep. Graton Resort and Casino almost always gets great reviews from satisfied guests.
Look for events and promotions regularly that may give you a better chance of success or discounts, and enjoy all the luxury that this wonderful California resort offers. Note that guests at the hotel must be 21 or over, so it's a child-free zone.
It is located at 288 Golf Course Drive West in Rohnert Park. This is about 15 minutes or so south of Santa Rosa and an easy drive down Highway 101.
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is nestled in the mountains between Napa and Sonoma Valley. A perfect choice for hiking trails - 25 miles in total, and through some of the most diverse ecological systems you will encounter in one place - you will have superb views from the 2700-foot tall Bald Mountain.
Much of the trails are somewhat challenging, yet the sheer wonder of the different plant life that thrives between 600 feet to the summit mentioned above is worth the effort. This is prime wine country, as several wineries are within easy reach, and some accommodation units are within the park, RV sites, and camping areas.
This beautiful and rewarding State Park is among the most exciting in Sonoma County and should be on your shortlist of things to do in Santa Rosa.
It is open for day use and camping seven days a week. Located at 2605 Adobe Canyon Road.
Named after the celebrated author who made his name here in Sonoma County, the Jack London Historic State Park remains in the memory of the great man who gave much of his time to the region. With several historic buildings on site - including the grave of London himself - there is plenty to explore in this beautiful slice of California.
Jack London's Cottage is preserved as it would have been in his lifetime, a perfect time capsule that is quite fascinating to see. Visitors can enjoy a free guided tour which is both educational and engaging, and learn about the park from an experienced guide. Events are held throughout the year, so check your dates.
Jack London Historic Park is one of the most popular Santa Rosa attractions, so booking in advance is recommended if you want to enjoy this unique and interesting park.
There are fees to enter, and the hours are from 9 am to 5 pm. It is located at 2400 London Ranch Road in the gorgeous little town of Glen Ellen. It is about a 30-minute drive southwest of Santa Rosa, but it is well worth it and quite beautiful.
One cannot visit Sonoma County without checking out some of the best wineries in California Wine Country, and what better way to explore than by an organized cycling tour? Starting and finishing in downtown Santa Rosa, the route takes spectacular scenery and views and stops at a few chosen wineries.
The tour lasts half a day, and the bike and necessary accessories are provided at no extra cost. You even get a wine bottle carrier to take your purchases home safely! Depending upon availability, the 16-mile route will stop at two or three local wineries.
This is a leisurely bike ride that is suitable for all and a chance to experience the beauty of Sonoma County and Santa Rosa while enjoying fine wine along the way. Booking in advance is strongly recommended as these bike tours are popular, and spaces are limited.
The meet-up area is located at "A Place to Play" at 2375 West 3rd Street in Santa Rosa. It usually runs every day of the week and starts at 10 am.
The spectacular rock formations seen in the Trione Annadel State Park are worth the trip alone. Located at the eastern edge of Sonoma County, the rocks stem from volcanic eruptions in ancient times and fascinate hikers and cyclists who enjoy exploring the area.
Accessed from Santa Rosa, the park offers a choice of trails of varying degrees of difficulty and has a rich and ancient history going back to prehistoric times. The region's archaeology suggests a quarry was based here as many as 3,000 years ago! You can visit and take in the stunning views and exciting trails today.
The park is famous for its diverse flora and fauna - especially the many wildflowers that bloom in season - and its fabulous selection of redwood trees. Visit in the summer when the wildlife is most active.
It is open year-round at 8 am and closes at sunset. It is at 6201 Channel Drive, about a 20-minute drive east of Santa Rosa.
Just a few miles east of downtown Santa Rosa is Hood Mountain Regional Park, one of the most impressive examples of wilderness in Sonoma County. With 19 miles of trails for hikers, cyclists, and horseback riding, this is a place to visit for a genuine '"back to nature" experience in a beautiful part of the USA.
Hood Mountain and Gunsight Rock are the places to be for the best views of the Sonoma Valley, and the animal and plant life in the park is of great interest. Be aware that most trails are somewhat challenging, but the reward for reaching the higher ground is simply stunning.
Enjoy passing through wonderful mixed conifer forests across several creeks and many un-spoilt meadows in this glorious Regional Park, where you can take your time and enjoy the great outdoors.
Hood Mountain Regional Park is located at 1450 Pythian Road and is open from 7 am to sunset every day of the year. It is about 25 minutes east of Santa Rosa.
The city of Santa Rosa is proud of its rich cultural heritage, and recent improvements to Old Courthouse Square have created the perfect place to stop and relax while exploring this wonderful place. The Square has been reunified, and walkways widened and improved, while side streets have been remodeled to enable outdoor dining.
With many eateries to choose from, this central square is the place to be in Santa Rosa and features ample car parking, public Wi-Fi, and sustainable landscaping giving the square much of its original charm. Take in the shops, find somewhere to have lunch, or wander around this downtown Santa Rosa square.
With two park areas combined to give the town one large open-plan space, there is plenty to enjoy at Old Courthouse Square. This is where locals meet to catch up and where visitors can enjoy the friendly atmosphere of Santa Rosa. If you are looking for things to do in Santa Rosa, this is the place!
It is located at 4th Street and Santa Rosa Avenue.
Snoopy's Home Ice - the Redwood Empire Ice Arena - is a historic ice rink traditionally the home of Snoopy, of Peanuts cartoon fame. The rink hosts exhibitions and displays, and you can also enjoy skating lessons. The rink is open for public skating at certain times and is easy to reach is that it is in downtown Santa Rosa.
Local hockey teams use the rink, and there are regular hockey training sessions for those who wish to learn to play. You can also book 'Snoopy Parties,' which kids love, and learn figure skating for beginners or improvers. It's a popular destination with the younger generations in Santa Rosa.
Once you've enjoyed your time on the ice, the Warm Puppy Cafe is the place to be for local organic coffee and snacks served with a smile. Keep an eye open for community events at the rink throughout the year.
Go for a skate at 1667 West Steele Lane in Santa Rosa. There are many different skate times and events, so you'll want to check ahead to get the right one for you.
Santa Rosa and Sonoma County may be famous as wine country appellations, but also many fine breweries also produce ales and other beverages. One of the best ways to take in a few and sample some beer - while also enjoying the Sonoma Valley's stunning views - is the Santa Rosa Bike and Brewery tour.
The tour takes you from downtown Santa Rosa through the charming town of Sebastopol. Along the way, you will visit a few breweries accompanied by an experienced guide who will inform you of the history of brewing in the region. The bike, accessories, and safety equipment are provided within the cost of the tour.
You'll get to sample four fine beers at the popular Hopmonk Tavern, and if you wish to buy some to take home, your bike is fitted with a beer carrier and handlebar bag! Book early, it's popular, and spaces are limited.
The tour usually starts at 10:30 am, takes about 5 hours, and the meeting point is at 175 Railroad Street in Santa Rosa.
>> Find out more about this tour and check for availability for your stay
The Luther Burbank Center for the Arts is the premier venue for art and music performances in Santa Rosa. Named after the celebrated horticulturist, a man who did much for Sonoma County and Santa Rosa, the various events performed at the center could not be more diverse.
The venue features a fascinating and unique sculpture garden worth a visit by itself. It is also home to regular concerts, spoken word events, and dance troupes. Guitar lessons, dance, and many other art and performance genres are taught in the center, which is a great place to visit to meet like-minded individuals.
I recommend you check out the calendar on the website, which is regularly updated with new events and upcoming concerts, and plan your visit to Santa Rosa when something is happening that interests you. Enjoy the very best in arts in Sonoma County.
It is located at 50 Mark West Springs Road, about 5 miles north of Santa Rosa.
The Museum of Sonoma County is a fantastic place to learn more about this region's history and admire beautiful contemporary art at the same time.
The museum first opened in 1985 and is a Smithsonian Affiliate museum.
Their permanent collection features more than 18,000 pieces. Some of their exhibits are on the recent Tubbs Fire (2017), Fountaingrove (built in 1875 as a utopian colony), and Santa Rosa's Chinatown.
They also feature traveling exhibits in their Contemporary Art Gallery and a chance to step inside their Historic Post Office.
They are open Wednesday - Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.
You will find everything from historic hotels and budget-friendly accommodations in Santa Rosa. Here are just a few of my favorites.
This historic downtown gem is just steps from Historic Railroad Square and dozens of great restaurants.
Originally built in 1907, this spot is the perfect place to stay when exploring the region.
Their room selection includes traditional queen and king rooms. You can also stay in one of their historic two queen-bed rooms or their deluxe carriage house king room.
If you need more space, you can choose one of their deluxe suites. They also offer ADA-accessible rooms with both one king and two queens.
You will find them at 308 Wilson Street.
>> Find recent reviews and pricing details
Another historic boutique hotel across the street from Old Courthouse Square is Hotel E. This four-star luxury option features valet parking and 71 rooms and suites.
You can choose from their premium, deluxe, or standard king rooms. They also have deluxe queen and ADA-accessible rooms.
They are just steps from all that downtown has to offer, including amazing restaurants, shops, and several nightlife options.
>> Find out more about their rooms
The Astro Motel is a hip, urban motel in the heart of downtown. Originally a motor lodge, it was transformed into a funky and fun 37-room motel in 2017.
Each room faces out into the garden courtyard and offers modern pieces from local auctions. This makes each room unique.
You will find it within walking distance of Santa Rosa metro, Julliard Park, and the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens. It's about a 10-minute walk to dozens of great restaurants and nightlife options.
This budget-friendly motel is highly rated and one of the less expensive options in the area.
If you are looking for a high-end experience, I recommend you check out Vintner's Resort. This resort sits on a working vineyard, and each room includes either a private balcony or patio.
On its 92-acre estate, you will also find redwood trees, beautiful gardens, and lovely fountain courtyards. It's the perfect retreat away from the chaos of the city.
Onsite, you will find one of the first Sonoma County farm-to-table restaurants, John Ash & Co., a relaxing spa, and an outdoor heated pool.
You'll find it at 4350 Barnes Road, which is about 10 minutes north of downtown.
>> Find out more about staying at the Vintner's Resort
While you will find dozens of great places to eat all around Santa Rosa, my list will help you narrow down your options. These are just a few of the best eats around Santa Rosa.
One of the best places to eat in the Railroad Square Historic District is Stark's Steak and Seafood. This high-end spot offers dry-aged steaks, a variety of seafood dishes, and a great selection of whiskeys.
Some of my favorites on their menu include the Ahi Tuna Tartare starter, the Steakhouse Cesar Salad, and the Niman Ranch Filet Mignon. You'll also find Maine Lobster, Chicken "Under a Brick," and several great burgers. Make sure to also leave room for dessert!
It's also one of the best places for Happy Hour, with a great selection of small plates and cocktails.
You will find them at 521 Adams Street.
Grossman's is another local favorite set inside the Hotel La Rose.
This New York-style deli offers a great selection of Jewish dishes. It's perfect for breakfast, lunch, or an early dinner. You can also grab something to take with you.
They also offer a great selection of tasty cocktails and wines. I love their outdoor seating too!
You will find them at 308 Wilson Street.
Carmen's Bistro and Bar is a great gastropub with various comfort food dishes. You'll find burgers, fish tacos, and salads. They also have some tasty starters, pasta, and amazing desserts.
Their cocktail list features a variety of yummy drinks, such as The Mule, Carmen's Margarita, and Wrong Number. You can also sample a variety of local wines.
They are open for both lunch and dinner.
They are downtown at 619 4th Street.
One of my absolute places is Willi's Wine Bar. This local favorite features a variety of small plates and a few larger entrees.
They also offer some of the best local wines. It's fun to order a few of their two-ounce samplers to taste various wines. You can also order their wines by glass or bottle.
I love it for its great food yet casual atmosphere.
Over the years, the San Francisco Chronicle has named it as one of the Best in the Bay Area on their annual Top 100 Restaurants list.
You will find it on the northern end of Santa Rosa at 1415 Town and Country Drive.
Comments? Questions? Suggestions?
I would love for you join me in my private Facebook group!
It’s a great place to interact with me and others that know the area well.
You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It’s a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!