Things to see in Sonoma: Exploring Must-See Sights and Activities
While visiting wine country in Sonoma, it’s also worth a visit to the city of Sonoma to enjoy the many attractions around the old part of town and other places just outside of the city. The town centers around the main square plaza where the majestic City Hall resides, a stately stone manor currently used as city hall and visitors bureau. Around the park is a children’s park, a rose garden, fishponds and public restrooms. The town’s beginning and entry to California history starts with the presence of the northern-most mission built in Alta California. The mission at San Francisco de Solano is along the main square and worth price of admission which covers entry to the mission, barracks, hotel, museum and the estate and home of General Vallejo, the earliest commander of Alta California.
Surrounding the main square are some of the stately buildings that have been refurbished and converted into hotels, restaurants, boutiques and galleries. Some of these buildings like the Sebastiani theater have also been remodeled and preserved as a theater showing first run independent art oriented films. A mannequin sits in the front cashiers box in period clothes as if frozen in time. It’s a very popular spot to take pictures of the theater and make-believe cashier.
How to get to Sonoma City
Directions to Reach Sonoma City:
- By Air: The closest major airport to Sonoma is the San Francisco International Airport (SFO), located approximately 50 miles south of the city. From the airport, you can rent a car or take a shuttle service to reach Sonoma.
- By Car: If you are driving from San Francisco, take US-101 North across the Golden Gate Bridge. Then, take the exit for CA-37 East towards Napa/Vallejo. Continue on CA-121 and CA-12 until you reach Sonoma. The drive takes approximately 1 hour, depending on traffic.
- By Shuttle: Several shuttle companies provide transportation services from San Francisco or Oakland airports to Sonoma. These shuttles offer convenient and comfortable rides, and some even provide wine tours along the way.
- By Public Transportation: Sonoma County Transit operates bus services that connect various locations in Sonoma County, including Sonoma City. You can check their schedules and routes to plan your trip accordingly.
- By Train: The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) system provides train services within Sonoma County. The SMART train connects with the Golden Gate Ferry in Larkspur, which offers transportation from San Francisco. From the nearest SMART station, you can take a taxi or use other transportation options to reach Sonoma City.
Weather and best time to visit Sonoma
Sonoma experiences a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. The optimal times to visit Sonoma are spring (March to May) and fall (September to November). These seasons offer pleasant weather, fewer crowds, and beautiful natural scenery. Spring showcases vibrant blooms and lush vineyards, while fall features stunning autumn foliage in the vineyards and surrounding landscapes.
Summer (June to August) is the peak tourist season in Sonoma, characterized by warm temperatures and a bustling atmosphere. It is ideal for outdoor activities and enjoying festivals, but be prepared for larger crowds and higher prices.
Winter (December to February) in Sonoma is mild with occasional showers. While not the best for outdoor activities, it is a quieter season, and you may find better deals on accommodations. Winter is a great time for wine enthusiasts to enjoy tastings and explore cozy indoor winery spaces.
The restored Sebastiani Theater, Sonoma square, features current art and independent films.
Highlights around Sonoma
There are many things worth seeing around Sonoma and just on the outskirts town. These include to following attractions:
2) Cornerstone Gardens is just outside the city and worth a visit for those interested in art, design, gardens and cool galleries all in one space. Here is a recent post on Cornerstone that I just completed.
3) Mission San Francisco Solano is located on the main square. The entry ticket includes admission to the barracks, hotel, museum and the home of general Vallejo’s summer home. For more information about the mission visit their website here.
4) The headquarters and tasting room for Sonoma cheese factory is also on the main square and you can taste all the amazing Sonoma cheeses that they produce for sale on the premises.
5) Anyone interested in visiting a unique diner in the valley should head just outside the city to Fremont Diner – a very cool spot to try some local favorites with hearty wine country flair
6) Visitors interested in trains should stop by Sonoma Train Town, a fun park for children with a petting zoo, miniature train ride and amusement park. To see some highlights and activities visit Train Town’s website here.
7) General Vallejo home – a preserved Victorian historical home of the home of General Vallejo, the highest commander of Alta California at Sonoma. The home depicts early lifestyle and living conditions in the early Sonoma days of the generals family. To visit the site and schedule a tour, go to their website here.
8) Infineon Raceway – A variety of Nascar and other competitive racing including sports car lessons you can also take on the racing lessons through the Audi sports car experience at the Sonoma raceway.
9) A wine country drive through Sonoma Valley along Highway 12 and Highway 121 will give you the best wine country experience to the magnificent valley. Along these scenic drives are many wineries with excellent tours and gardens, along with tasting centers to try any of each wineries daily offerings.
10) Sonoma Valley Museum – This local museum presents a rotating schedule of local and contemporary art and hosting impressive shows featuring artists from Goya, Picasso to David Hockney. The museum also hosts lectures, classes and various community events. To learn more about the museum and events, visit their website here.
A beautiful drive along wine country roads in Sonoma
Where to stay around Sonoma City
There are so many fabulous places to stay in Sonoma city and base yourself while exploring the area. Check out all these top review accommodations here for current availability and prices.
Mac Arthur Place – a classic Sonoma hotel with a California vibe and relaxed luxury comfort, six acre estate with beautiful gardens, pool area, gorgeous rooms and amenities for this luxury stay and experience in Sonoma
Inn at Sonoma – central location from the main plaza with fun perks like wine hour, generous breakfast and comfortable rooms with fireplaces
The Lodge at Sonoma – a beautiful resort, modern and artfully presented, well appointed rooms and nice amenities.
Where to eat around Sonoma City
This city is packed with amazing foodie venues that will satisfy any foodie fetish and picky eater. Check out this fabulous video on the best places to eat around Sonoma city below.
Delicious Culinary Experiences: Unforgettable Places to Eat in Sonoma City
The Girl & the Fig: Known for its farm-to-table philosophy, this beloved restaurant offers French-inspired cuisine with a Californian twist. Enjoy a delightful meal in a cozy and inviting atmosphere, paired with a selection of Sonoma County wines.
El Dorado Kitchen: Located in the historic El Dorado Hotel, this restaurant combines contemporary American cuisine with seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. Indulge in their flavorful dishes and savor the vibrant culinary creations.
The Fig café & winebar: A quaint and charming eatery, the fig café & winebar offers a relaxed ambiance and a diverse menu featuring fresh and flavorful dishes. Enjoy their delectable breakfast options, signature sandwiches, and a wide selection of wines.
LaSalette Restaurant: Experience the vibrant flavors of Portuguese cuisine at LaSalette Restaurant. Their menu showcases a fusion of traditional Portuguese dishes with local Sonoma ingredients, creating a unique and memorable dining experience.
Glen Ellen Star: Located in the nearby town of Glen Ellen, this restaurant offers wood-fired dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Their menu highlights the freshest flavors, and the rustic-chic ambiance adds to the overall dining experience.
Sonoma Cheese Factory: For cheese lovers, a visit to the Sonoma Cheese Factory is a must. This charming shop offers a wide selection of artisanal cheeses, gourmet treats, and picnic supplies. Grab some cheese, crackers, and wine for a delightful picnic in the Sonoma countryside.
Check out more on these food venues below.
Farm to table and local eats in Sonoma City
Places to visit nearby Sonoma City
There are several fantastic places to visit near Sonoma City. Here are a few options:
- Sonoma Valley: Explore the beautiful Sonoma Valley, known for its picturesque vineyards and wineries. You can take a wine tasting tour, enjoy scenic drives, and visit charming towns like Glen Ellen and Kenwood.
- Napa Valley: Just east of Sonoma, you’ll find the renowned Napa Valley. This region is famous for its world-class wineries, Michelin-starred restaurants, and stunning landscapes. Take a leisurely drive along the Silverado Trail or visit the charming towns of Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga.
- Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve: Head north of Sonoma to Guerneville and visit the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. Here, you can stroll through towering redwood trees, hike scenic trails, and enjoy a peaceful picnic surrounded by nature.
- Jack London State Historic Park: Located in Glen Ellen, this park commemorates the life and work of the famous American author, Jack London. Explore his former home, hike the trails, and learn about his literary legacy.
- Bodega Bay: Drive west from Sonoma to Bodega Bay, a charming coastal town known for its beautiful beaches and fresh seafood. You can enjoy water activities like kayaking and fishing, go birdwatching, or simply relax and take in the coastal scenery.
- Petaluma: Visit the historic city of Petaluma, known for its Victorian architecture and charming downtown area. Explore antique shops, dine at farm-to-table restaurants, and take a riverboat tour along the Petaluma River.
Check out these other posts to visiting Sonoma County
Have you been to Sonoma City?
Sonoma City is a wonderful place to visit and enjoy a morning or a few days discovering the various attractions and lifestyle in the valley.
Conclusion to visiting Sonoma City
Sonoma City offers a wonderful experience with its charming downtown, beautiful vineyards, and proximity to other attractions. It is an ideal destination for wine lovers, history enthusiasts, and nature seekers alike. From wine tasting and cultural exploration to outdoor adventures, Sonoma City has something for everyone. Discover the flavors of the region, immerse yourself in its rich history, and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds this captivating city.
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