Sonoma, California, once claimed the spotlight as capital in the short-lived “Bear Flag Republic” before the United States annexed California in the 19th century. Today the city is at the heart of one of the world’s most prolific wine producing geographies. A staggering 300 award-winning wineries operate in Sonoma County!
One of the best ways for tourists to experience the region’s sweeping vistas and tree-lined vineyards is from the comfort of the Napa Valley Wine Train. The train departs from nearby Napa and offers an easy day trip from Sonoma, whisking visitors on a rustic three-hour tour of five towns scattered across one of the world’s most famous wine valleys. Guests dine on a gourmet lunch or dinner inside a 1952 Vista Dome Car or a Pullman Dining Car from 1915-1917. The tour covers 36 miles roundtrip and the scenery is stunning.
Wine country tourists get a closer look at working wineries with the only evening wine tour in Napa Valley at Grgich Hills Estates. This unique Sonoma tourism experience occurs after hours and limits even the number of participants to make the excursion more exclusive.
Visitors can maximize their wine country experience at MacArthur Place, a 64-room inn that offers the best of the Sonoma Valley. This intimate hotel, which began as a 300-acre vineyard, is just 15 minutes from Sonoma Plaza. The spa at MacArthur Place offers more than 40 herbal facial and body treatments, and many of the rooms come with fireplaces and rain showers or hydrotherapy tubs.
Sonoma bears no shortage of fine cuisine to pair with its incomparable wines. The locals say Della Santina’s Tuscan restaurant is ultra-authentic, from the fare to the handmade linen doilies that dress the tables. Patrons with a sweet tooth should save room for the Creamy Panna Cotta. For a delicious trip south of the border, hungry travelers rely on Juanita Juanita for second-to-none Mexican cuisine. Weekend diners should get there early to avoid the lines, which go right out the door.
A great family day trip from Sonoma is the Petrified Forest, where the rock-hard trunks of massive ancient redwood trees mark an era long since vanished. Visitors embark on a journey through the Meadow Walk to catch a glimpse of a 100-foot ash fall that contains a mixture of volcanic materials, such as obsidian, rhyolite and iron.
Families get back to nature at the Skyline Wilderness Park, just outside Napa 16 miles away. Winding through this 850-acre park are more than 20 miles of trails for hikers and bikers, as well as equestrians. An archery range and disc golf course round out the activities available at the park.
Visitors interested in the two-wheeled approach to Sonoma tourism discover that cycling is an exhilarating way to explore wine country. In fact, Bicycle Magazine dubbed Sonoma County one of the “Seven Greatest Rides on Earth.” Wine Country Bikes rents not only bicycles, but also helmets, maps and even hard-cased saddlebags perfect for collecting wine bottles along the way.