10 Non-Wine Activities to Experience in Sonoma: Unveiling the Hidden Gems (updated 2023)
There are so many fun things to do Sonoma County in Northern California without visiting vineyards and tasting wines. Although Sonoma County is an attractive destination point for wine lovers, it is also an amazing place to visit even if you are not into visiting wineries or tasting many of the award-winning Sonoma wines.
Covering an area spanning gorgeous coastlines and the rugged coastal range protecting the various appellations and valleys in Sonoma’s wine country, it ends between the mountain range dividing Sonoma and Napa counties. There are plenty of adventures, activities and places to visit in Sonoma that will keep you engaged and active driving all over the valley.
Here are 10 things to do in Sonoma without tasting the wines, hope it inspires you to visit Sonoma County soon!
Why visit Sonoma County in Northern California if you don’t drink wine?
There’s plenty of cool and fun things to do and explore around this county outside of visiting wineries. Bordering Napa county and running all the way to the coastline, the landscape changes from rugged mountains and grassy canyons and meadows interspersed with vineyares. You have cool little towns to explore, the Russian River, fun country roads to explore and even a real Russian outpost fort that was a busy trading post in its heyday at Fort Ross.
From the mountains separating Marin and Sonoma, rolling hills with vineyards and the winding Russian River and then to hilly chaparral before hitting the dramatic cliffs and coastlines, there is a variety of gorgeous landscapes, towns and fantastic outdoor adventure and recreation that makes Sonoma more interesting than just the wine regions of the county.
You’ll love visiting these Sonoma attractions, exploratory road trips and visiting gorgeous parks and landscapes below
Weather and best time to visit Sonoma, California
Sonoma, California experiences a Mediterranean climate, offering pleasant weather throughout the year. The best time to visit Sonoma depends on your preferences and the activities you plan to engage in.
Summer (June to August) is the peak tourist season in Sonoma, with warm temperatures averaging around 80°F (27°C). This time is ideal for outdoor activities, wine tasting, and exploring the picturesque vineyards. However, it can get crowded, and advance reservations are recommended.
Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are considered shoulder seasons in Sonoma. During these months, the weather is mild, with temperatures ranging from the 60s°F to 70s°F (15°C to 25°C). Spring brings blooming wildflowers, while autumn showcases vibrant fall foliage. These seasons offer fewer crowds, making it easier to visit wineries, enjoy outdoor activities, and participate in local events.
Winter (December to February) in Sonoma is relatively mild, with temperatures averaging in the 50s°F (10°C). It’s a quieter time to visit, with lower accommodation rates and fewer tourists. While some wineries may have reduced hours or be closed, you can still experience the charm of the region, explore the downtown areas, and indulge in the local cuisine.
It’s important to note that Sonoma can experience occasional rainfall during the winter and early spring months, so be prepared for some wet weather if you visit during these seasons.
Overall, Sonoma’s pleasant climate makes it a year-round destination, and the best time to visit depends on your preferences, whether you prefer warmer weather and lively atmosphere or a quieter, more intimate experience.
Here’s the best 10 things to do around Sonoma Valley without wine tasting
1) Visit a State Park in Sonoma
One of the most unique historical places to visit in Sonoma Valley are the many state parks in the county including Fort Ross, which used to be an old Russian trading setting and fort. There is so much history tied to the California State parks in Sonoma County and many places to choose from including: the gorgeous bay and park at Salt Point, The Jack London State Historic Park, the Petaluma Adobe State Park, and historic Fort Ross.
Here’s a gorgeous video tour of Fort Ross along the gorgeous Sonoma Coastlines
Or check out this state park named in honor for Jack London and really a historic gem to visit for parks in Sonoma below
2) Russian River pursuits
One of the fun Sonoma things to do is to visit the Russian river in West Sonoma County. The Russian River is low key, outdoors oriented and hosts a variety of river fun activities including rafting, boating or just laying on a nice warm beach. You can visit the quaint river communities of Guerneville, Forestville and Rio-Nido for a relaxing river getaway. There are many Russian River wineries to visit if you are interested in trying some of the local wines in the area. For some sample itineraries and ideas about what to do along the Russian River visit this website here.
Visiting the Russian River area is one of the fun things to do with kids in Sonoma and exploring the river, beaches, hiking trails and all the sweet little towns all the way to the ocean at Jenner. Definitely the type of vacation adventure in Sonoma that just calls to being outdoors in the water, exploring the redwoods or hiking through some fantastic trails in the area.
** Enjoy this Russian River to ocean coastline tour here for a unique and fun experience in West Sonoma County.
Exploring the Russian River area in Sonoma below
3) Hike through a redwood forest at Armstrong Woods
A fun outdoor thing to do in Sonoma County is to visit the Giant Redwoods at Armstrong Woods State Park. Come and see some amazing mature redwood trees and hike in serene majesty and quiet at Armstrong Woods State Park just outside of Guerneville and the Russian river. The parks extensive trails are relatively quiet in many of the popular trails along the bottom and reaching all the way to the crest line with magnificent views of the Russian River valley from above.
To learn more about Armstrong Woods and the park, go visit their website here. Hiking through Armstrong Woods is a fun way to explore these ancient redwood trees that were saved from mining and extinction and definitely a cool Sonoma county experience to treasure.
Check out gorgeous Armstrong woods and the tall redwoods here
4) Historic and trendy Sonoma city
One of the best Sonoma attractions is to visit the main square area of Sonoma city and historic sites around the square. The historic city of Sonoma was formed around a plaza and the mission at San Francisco de Solano.
Begin your journey by strolling through the historic Sonoma Plaza, a central hub lined with charming shops, art galleries, and inviting restaurants. Take in the Spanish colonial architecture and visit the Sonoma Mission, known as Mission San Francisco Solano, which holds significant historical importance as the last mission built in California.
You will find many wonderful dining venues, art, antique and great shopping, along with the historic buildings and architecture of Victorian Sonoma. To learn more about attractions around the city, take a look my recent post on Sonoma city here.
No visit to Sonoma would be complete without savoring its renowned culinary scene. Indulge in farm-to-table dining experiences, visit local farmers’ markets, and sample artisanal cheeses and olive oils produced in the region.
Here’s a quick look at the downtown square area and surrounding parts of Sonoma town
5) Along the Sonoma Coast
Exploring the Sonoma coastline is a captivating adventure that unveils the beauty of California’s rugged shores. Stretching for miles along the Pacific Ocean, this scenic region offers a wealth of natural wonders and outdoor activities.
Begin your exploration by visiting Bodega Bay, a picturesque fishing village renowned for its stunning coastal scenery. Take a leisurely stroll along the sandy beaches, breathe in the fresh ocean air, and watch the waves crashing against the rocks. Bodega Head, a prominent headland, offers breathtaking panoramic views and is an ideal spot for whale watching during the migration season.
Continue your journey southward to Sonoma Coast State Park, where you’ll discover pristine beaches, secluded coves, and towering cliffs. Spend a day exploring the sandy shores of Salmon Creek Beach, or hike along the bluffs of Goat Rock Beach, marveling at the iconic rock formations and the opportunity to spot harbor seals and seabirds.
Further south, you’ll encounter the rugged beauty of Jenner, where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean. Take a kayak or canoe excursion along the river, immersing yourself in the tranquility of the surrounding nature and observing the diverse bird species that inhabit the area.
For some trip ideas and itineraries of the coastal area, check out the Sonoma website here.
Here’s quick road trip drive around Bodega Bay and highlight tour
You can also visit the gorgeous coastline and trails around scenic Bodega Head area below
6) Art galleries and hip boutiques in Healdsburg
A visit to Healdsburg promises a cool and trendy experience in the heart of Sonoma County, California. This vibrant town, nestled amidst picturesque vineyards and rolling hills, offers a delightful blend of small-town charm, upscale amenities, and a vibrant culinary and wine scene.
Start your exploration in Healdsburg Plaza, the town’s centerpiece, adorned with a beautiful park and surrounded by boutique shops, art galleries, and tasting rooms. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the plaza, indulging in local gourmet treats, browsing unique boutiques, and immersing yourself in the welcoming atmosphere.
Culinary enthusiasts will delight in Healdsburg’s flourishing food scene. The town is home to several acclaimed restaurants, farm-to-table eateries, and artisanal food shops. Indulge in delectable farm-fresh cuisine, taste locally produced olive oils, or treat yourself to gourmet chocolates.
Beyond wine and food, Healdsburg offers a range of outdoor activities. Take a bike ride through the rolling vineyards, explore nearby hiking trails, or kayak along the Russian River, immersing yourself in the region’s natural beauty.
For art and culture lovers, Healdsburg showcases a vibrant arts community. Visit art galleries featuring local talent, catch a performance at the Raven Performing Arts Theater, or explore the Healdsburg Museum to delve into the town’s rich history.
Healdsburg is definitely on the map as the hip and trendy tourist attractions in Sonoma Valley to explore, shop, dine and stay around town.
Check out our post on visiting Healdsburg town here for more information and images.
** You’ll enjoy this walking food and wine tasting experience in Healdsburg here for more inspiration and touring the area.
Or check out this biking and touring experience around Sonoma here for more inspiration and booking details.
Check out the fun around Healdsburg and some favorite places below
7) Antique shopping in Petaluma
If you are wondering what to do in Sonoma County if you love shopping for antiques then go visit the city of Petaluma. Petaluma has successfully preserved its unique and historic downtown area into a very charming city located along the Petaluma River. The city has an old downtown center which showcases many antique shops, art galleries and boutiques. The Victorian district is well-preserved along with intact older neighborhoods, reflecting a quaint old city that preserves its heritage.
Begin your exploration in the historic Petaluma downtown district, where you’ll find beautifully preserved buildings dating back to the 19th century. Take a leisurely stroll along Petaluma Boulevard, lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and antique stores. Discover unique treasures, locally crafted goods, and one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
Food lovers will be delighted by the diverse culinary offerings in downtown Petaluma. The city is known for its farm-to-table dining experiences, with restaurants showcasing fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Indulge in gourmet cuisine, cozy cafés, or vibrant eateries, all offering a range of culinary delights to satisfy every palate.
Petaluma is also home to a thriving arts and cultural scene. Visit art galleries featuring local artists, catch a live performance at the historic Mystic Theatre, or explore the Petaluma Historical Museum to learn about the city’s rich history and heritage.
Wander along the Petaluma Riverfront, where you can enjoy picturesque views, waterfront dining, and scenic walks. Take a riverboat cruise or rent a kayak to explore the waterways and experience the serene beauty of the area.
The downtown area also hosts various events and festivals throughout the year, showcasing the community’s vibrant spirit. From the Butter & Egg Days Parade celebrating Petaluma’s agricultural heritage to the Rivertown Revival, a whimsical celebration of art, music, and creativity, there’s always something happening in downtown Petaluma.
To learn more about Petaluma and current happenings visit their website here.
Explore the downtown area of Petaluma and antique spots to discover below
8) Cornerstone gardens and design
Located in the heart of Sonoma Valley, this unique destination showcases an exquisite blend of gardens, art installations, and stunning landscapes. As you step into Cornerstone Gardens, you’ll be greeted by a meticulously designed landscape featuring a collection of themed gardens created by renowned landscape architects. Explore the serene pathways lined with vibrant flowers, fragrant herbs, and carefully curated plantings that harmoniously blend with the surrounding vineyards and rolling hills.
One of the highlights of Cornerstone Gardens is the remarkable display of contemporary art installations scattered throughout the grounds. These thought-provoking and visually captivating sculptures and artworks add an extra layer of intrigue and creativity to the garden experience.
Take your time to wander through the various garden areas, each offering its own unique theme and design. From the modern and minimalist gardens to the whimsical and playful spaces, there is a diverse range of styles to admire and appreciate.
Cornerstone Gardens also hosts events, workshops, and exhibitions throughout the year, providing opportunities to deepen your knowledge of horticulture, design, and art. From garden tours to art installations, there’s always something new to discover and inspire your senses.
After exploring the gardens, take a moment to relax and savor the tranquil ambiance. Find a cozy spot to enjoy a picnic amidst the natural beauty or grab a cup of coffee at the on-site café, allowing yourself to fully immerse in the peaceful surroundings.
Here’s a fun look exploring Cornerstone galleries
9) Unwind at top spas and resorts in style
Sonoma County offers a wide range of spa experiences amidst the beauty of California wine country. From luxurious resort spas to intimate boutique spas and rustic wellness retreats, there is something for everyone. Indulge in locally inspired treatments using natural ingredients, participate in wellness activities like yoga and meditation, and enjoy pampering services such as massages and facials. Whether you seek relaxation, rejuvenation, or holistic wellness, Sonoma County’s spas provide the perfect escape for a blissful experience.
For those interested in some pampering and spa lifestyle, there are over 40 spas and wellness centers to help you to unwind your body and spirit. You will find unique and local treatments like a cedar enzyme bath at Osmosis to a wine bath in an oversized tub at the Kenwood Inn and spa. There are many choices and unique offerings available through these centers all around Sonoma. For an overview of these treatments and spas, visit the Sonoma website here
.A visit to Osmosis in West Sonoma County
10) Enjoy a variety of recreation
One of the best ways to enjoy Sonoma County with kids is to be outdoors and doing some fun adventure experiences. Whether you want to try ballooning over wine country, a challenging 18 hole golf course, or a lazy canoe paddle down the Russian River, there’s no shortage of recreational activities to pursue in Sonoma. Popular activities in the area include visiting a wild safari preserve, Sonoma canopy zip line through the coastal forest, visiting a wine cave, mountain biking or horseback riding, the list is endless. Here are some more suggestions for Sonoma recreation and activities.
Check out this horseback riding experience in Sonoma here for enjoying a fun country outdoor adventure experience and booking this experience.
How about doing a horseback riding experience in Lake Sonoma below?
Where to stay in Sonoma
There are so many unique inns and hotels that make a perfect stay when you are visiting Sonoma county. Here are some of my favorite places that really will make your visit fantastic from the get go.
Healdsburg Inn – located right on the main square in downtown Healdsburg, this elegant inn is the perfect spot to explore Healdsburg and the beautiful areas in North Sonoma with comfortable and nicely designed rooms in this quant inn.
Ledson Hotel – Located on the square of Sonoma city, this gorgeous and luxury hotel has the perfect location, beautiful rooms with luxury appointments and an indulgent stay right in the heart of Sonoma with lots of attractions to see in the city and surrounding areas.
Vintners Inn – a beautiful property located in Santa Rosa with easy access to many wineries, Sonoma venues and attractions. This attractive and comfortable inn has all the bells and whistles are very affordable prices for Sonoma with fantastic service.
Fairmont Mission and Spa – a classic hotel located on the outskirts of Sonoma city with fantastic spa and pool, friendly service and all the comforts and luxury appointments expected for a Fairmont property.
Check out these other top reviewed hotels and inns from TripAdvisor here for more details and current prices.
Where to eat in Sonoma County
Sonoma County is definitely a foodie region with so many amazing outdoor markets, cities and towns that boast amazing local food and farm to table concepts and also fine dining venues worth driving to. Check out all these fantastic foodie spots around the county to enjoy a fabulous meal now.
Popular restaurants to explore around Sonoma County, here’s some of our favorites below
Take a look at this fantastic farmers market at the Valley of the Moon farmers market
More inside tips to visiting Sonoma without wine tasting
Sonoma County, located in California’s Wine Country, offers much more than wine tasting. Here are some inside tips for experiencing Sonoma without focusing on wine:
Hiking and Nature: Explore the stunning natural beauty of Sonoma County by hiking its many trails. Head to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve to walk among towering redwoods or visit Annadel State Park for scenic hiking and birdwatching.
Sonoma Coast State Park: Discover the rugged beauty of the Sonoma Coast. Hike along the bluffs, search for tide pools, and enjoy breathtaking ocean views. Visit Goat Rock Beach for a picturesque spot with accessible viewpoints.
Biking: Rent a bike and explore Sonoma’s scenic cycling routes. The West County Regional Trail offers a leisurely ride through the Russian River Valley, passing vineyards and redwood groves.
Sonoma County Regional Parks: The county boasts a variety of regional parks with diverse landscapes. Visit Spring Lake Regional Park for hiking, picnicking, and swimming in the lake.
Sonoma Coast Villa & Spa: Treat yourself to a spa day at the Sonoma Coast Villa & Spa. Enjoy massages, facials, and other rejuvenating treatments amid serene surroundings.
Farmers’ Markets: Explore local farmers’ markets like the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market. Taste fresh, seasonal produce, artisanal cheeses, and baked goods.
Art Galleries: Sonoma County has a thriving arts scene. Visit art galleries like the Healdsburg Center for the Arts or the Sebastopol Center for the Arts to appreciate local creativity.
Historic Sites: Discover Sonoma’s history at sites like Sonoma State Historic Park, which includes buildings dating back to California’s Mexican era. The park offers insights into the state’s early history.
Culinary Experiences: Savor farm-to-table cuisine at Sonoma County’s restaurants. Explore culinary tours, cooking classes, or food festivals, such as the annual Taste of Sonoma.
Sonoma Coast Trail Rides: Experience the region on horseback with guided trail rides along the coast and through redwood forests. It’s a unique way to appreciate the landscape.
Artisanal Cheese Tasting: If you’re not into wine, try a cheese tasting experience. Many creameries in Sonoma County produce artisanal cheeses. Visit places like Cowgirl Creamery to sample their creations.
If you enjoyed this post check out these other Sonoma places to visit
If you do enjoy wine tasting, check out these Only in Sonoma wineries
So, if you are also visiting Sonoma county for wine tasting would like to visit some of it’s over 370 award-winning wineries, here’s the Sonoma wineries website for you to preview some of your favorites or maybe new discoveries in the country. There is so much to enjoy in Sonoma county outside of visiting the wonderful wineries here.
There’s so much to do in Sonoma County outside of just visiting the fabulous wineries in the region. Hope this inspires to you visit some of these fantastic attractions and places to explore around the county now.
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Conclusion to 10 things to do in Sonoma without tasting the wines
Visiting Sonoma County without wine tasting still offers a myriad of unforgettable experiences. From exploring the region’s breathtaking landscapes and charming towns to indulging in its vibrant culinary scene and immersing yourself in its art and culture, there is no shortage of activities to enjoy. Whether you choose to hike through majestic redwood forests, savor local cuisine, discover artisanal producers, or relax at spas and wellness retreats, Sonoma County promises a memorable and diverse journey. So, embark on a non-wine-focused adventure and let Sonoma County’s natural beauty, rich heritage, and warm hospitality captivate you.
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