Sonoma County is so much more than fabulous wine and food – although we’re so rich with those wonders that sometimes we’re jealous of ourselves. Here are more adventures that are “musts” to explore year-round. And yes, some include food and wine.
1. Start your tour by discovering Sonoma County’s roots at Bartholomew Memorial Park, home also to Bartholomew Park Winery. The on-site museum is fascinating, detailing the long history of Sonoma winemaking since the park’s original villa was built in 1861, complete with a display of primitive agricultural tools. The 400-acre estate is a glorious hike, too, on well-groomed trails lined with oaks, Manzanita, madrone and redwood groves amid meadows of seasonal wildflowers.
1695 Castle Rd., Sonoma, 707-935-9511, bartholomewpark.org.
2. Did you know that California was founded partly by missionaries? The Mission San Francisco Solano is the twenty-first and northernmost mission on California's mission trail, and offers a remarkable look at the authentic lifestyle of pioneers nearly 200 years ago. Docent guided tours are available of this graceful white stucco and red tile structure that was originally founded on July 4, 1823. The parish and church was part of the 27-room living quarters used by the mission padre and young Indian converts. Now, it operates as a museum and art gallery, displaying Jorgensen watercolors of Missions of California, and cutouts of the building’s unique construction of adobe bricks, adobe mortar, and mud plaster coated with lime plaster. Items of interest include an antique wafer iron for making Communion wafers, an 1840 weekly Devotional prayer booklet, and an anvil dating back to1766, used for pounding out metal trim.
114 East Spain Street, Sonoma, 707-938-9560, parks.ca.gov.
3. Take the kids – and you – to the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. By the time Charles Schulz retired in December, 1999, the Peanuts comic strip was syndicated in over 2,600 newspapers worldwide, with book collections translated in over 25 languages. The cartoonist and story teller is loved the world over, but fewer people know that he lived in Sebastopol in 1968, and moved to Santa Rosa in 1969, where he lived and worked until passing away in 2000. The museum is dedicated to his works, hosting changing gallery collections, a timeline of his accomplishments, and numerous tributes to him including a great hall display including a 3.5 ton wood sculpture depicting the evolution of Snoopy and a 22 foot high ceramic mural made of 3,588 Peanuts strips which combine to form the image of Lucy van Pelt holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick it. Other attractions include Snoopy’s Home Ice skating rink, the Warm Puppy Café, and Snoopy’s Gallery & Gift Shop.
2301 Hardies Ln., Santa Rosa, 707-579-4452, schulzmuseum.org.
4. Celebrate the sound of music at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, plus dance, theater, comedy, family activities, and arts education programs. The non-profit center was completely renovated in 2013 in a world-class update, and hosts performances of everything from demonstrations by Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, to the rowdy humor of Dave Chappelle, to the spectacular theatrics of the Golden Dragon Acrobats touring from China.
50 Mark West Springs Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-546-3600, wellsfargocenterarts.org.
5. Try your luck at the flashy, $825 million, 340,000 square foot Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park. It’s heaven for fashionable gamblers, thanks to a dizzying array of games played in luxurious surroundings. Here are the stats: 3,000 slot and video poker games. 144 table games, like blackjack, baccarat and Pai Gow poker. An 18-table porker room. A high limit table game room with private salons. A high limit slots room, with $300 pulls. And there’s more. The Casino restaurant collection and Marketplace is a jackpot for diners as much as for poker players. Full restaurants include M.Y. China, an offshoot of chef Martin Yan’s San Francisco destination, featuring an exhibition kitchen with wok dishes, hand-pulled noodles and dim sum; Tony’s of North Beach, from Tony Gemignani of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana and Tony’s Coal Fired Pizza; The Daily Grill classic American and Mediterranean cuisine; and the upscale 630 Park Steakhouse specializing in dry-aged beef and seafood. For the Marketplace, top picks include Scoops/Three Twins Ice Cream of San Rafael, Slice House by Tony Gemignani, La Fondita of Santa Rosa, and Boathouse Sushi of Rohnert Park.
630 Park Court (at Hwy. 101 and Wilfred Ave.), Rohnert Park, gratonresortcasino.com.
Tip: Your adventure is home-grown, and so is Sonoma County-based Pure Luxury Transportation. Make a day of sightseeing, and make it easy, with your private chauffeured limo or Town Car driving you everywhere.