The band’s all here for the 4th of July Celebration at Green Music Center in Rohnert Park, sure to be one of the main highlights of summer. The festivities begin in a family-friendly Independence Day orchestral concert on the lawn and in Weill Hall, and end in a dazzling fireworks display lighting up the Sonoma County sky.
Yet that’s just one grand affair, amid an array of al fresco music events playing in Sonoma County the next few months. Indulge in wine country’s long warm days and cool nights for an entire array of al fresco concerts, ranging from music festivals, rock-n-roll parties, and elegant symphony performances.
We recommend you check with each venue to see whether you should pack a picnic, or if food and drink are available for purchase on-site. Some gatherings also encourage folding chairs or blankets.
Rodney Strong Vineyards Summer Concert Series, June 22 through September 1.
Every year for the past 23 years, fans of this winery’s lavish celebrations have looked forward to seeing such intimate performances by world-class musicians in a stunning vineyard setting topped off by sweeping views of the Russian River Valley. This season, the party kicks off on June 22 with headliners like Michael McDonald, followed by BWB - Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown on August 23, Dwight Yoakam on August 4, Dav Koz & Friends on August 17, and B.B. King on September 1. Bring a picnic meal to enjoy on The Green, or purchase an assortment of delectables from local purveyors who will be onsite. You can also stock up Rodney Strong wines, to sip while you sing along.
Details: 11455 Old Redwood Hwy., Healdsburg, 800-678-4763, rodneystrong.com.
Broadway Under the Stars at Jack London State Park, June 28 through August 31.
Now under private management, the non-profit Jack London State Park is breathtakingly beautiful at dusk, and turns even more mystical in the summer, with the sounds of Broadway musical theater acts serenading under the stars. Each of the concerts begins before sundown at the spectacular Kohler & Frohling winery ruins in the park. This is the highest caliber musical theatre, too, showcasing ballads from Fly Me to the Moon, Fantastical Family Night, Dancing through Life and popular songs from the Great American Songbook in a season-closing gala. Festive pre-show picnicking at the Beauty Ranch begins at 5 p.m., so bring your own feast or purchase food and beverages including signature wines from local wineries at the park. Then, prepare to dance and sing, when the show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Details: Jack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Rd., Glen Ellen, transcendencetheatre.org. $42 general admission, proceeds benefit the park preservation.
The Sonoma County Fair Concert Series, July 25-August 11
One of the biggest parties of the year, the Fair attracts top-notch performers amid the carnival rides, games, great food and wine. This year, big names include Hunter Hayes, Florida Georgia Line, Bridgit Mendler, and Intocable (“Untouchable,” a Tejano/Norteño musical group from Zapata, Texas).
Details: 1350 Bennett Valley Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-545-4200, sonomacountyfair.com.
Sixth Annual Petaluma Music Festival, August 3
Plan for a whole day of entertainment, with gates opening at noon and live music continuing until 8:45 p.m. Spread out on the expansive lawn areas in front of the main stage and garden stage, or grab a VIP Premium ticket for shaded reserved seats under a canopied area complete with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, wine and beer. Wherever you sit, food is a highlight, offered for sale by gourmet food trucks and washed down with Lagunitas Brewing Company beers and Sonoma wines. Or check out the food pavilion, featuring locally grown and produced cheese, bread, chocolate, organic farm produce and more. And then, there’s the music! From Xavier Rudd, to Sean Hayes, The Pimps of Joytime, The Brothers Comatose and many more groups. As a bonus, proceeds will be distributed among Petaluma’s public elementary and secondary schools to support their music programs. Tip: Buy tickets in advance, and save $5 on at-the-door prices.
Details: Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, 175 Fairgrounds Dr., Petaluma, petalumamusicfestival.org.
Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival, Sept. 21 and 22
One of the biggest draws of the year, part of the appeal of this annual gathering is the magical setting, at Johnson's Beach & Resort on the Russian River. It’s just one block from Guerneville’s Main Street, and towering redwoods keep the crowds cool against the banks of the water. Even cooler is the line-up of top performers, including Boz Scaggs, blues guitarist and singer Robert Cray and his band, East Los Angeles rockers Los Lobos, the rhythm and blues ensemble California Honeydrops, funk and soul singer Jeffrey Osborne and jazz singer Gregory Porter. The fun plays over two stages, and guests are invited to bring a blanket and low-back chairs. Doors open at 10 a.m. daily and the music rocks until 6 p.m., rounded out with food vendors, wine tastings, dancing in the grass, and even canoes, kayaks and paddle boats for rent on the river. Though tickets can be purchased at the door, it’s a good idea to buy ahead of time and save $10 per person. Get your tix at the Russian River Chamber of Commerce & Visitor's Center in Guerneville, by calling (707) 869-1595, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Details: Johnson's Beach, 16241 First St., Guerneville, omegaevents.com.
Tip: Roll down the windows or open the sun roof with your Pure Luxury limo or Town Car, and leave the summer driving to us!