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Sonoma and Napa are top wine destinations in California, but there is a lot more to do in these Northern California towns than just go to vineyards. Sonoma, for example, has lots to do to help you test your limits of adventure, get your adrenaline pumping, and learn about the region. Here are our favorite things to do in Sonoma for your next wine country vacation.
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If you’re visiting Sonoma, chances are that you are looking to visit at least a few local vineyards and wineries. Fortunately, you’re in no short supply of options when you plan to stay in Sonoma at one of the nearby hotels. Jacuzzi Family Vineyards is a popular option for visitors staying in Sonoma, and Buena Vista Winery is just a few miles from the plaza in town. Other great places to visit here for wine lovers include Benziger Family Winery, Nicholson Ranch, and Cline Cellars. Many wineries in the area offer tours, tastings, peaceful outdoor seating areas, and some are even dog-friendly.
The Sonoma Plaza is located in the middle of town and definitely worth taking a walk through. Here you’ll find over 100 shops and restaurants, as well as lots of wine tasting rooms if you are looking for a central wine tasting location that you can walk from your hotel. The plaza here is actually a National Historic Monument because it used to be a Spanish mission village and a Mexican military station. This is a nice place to spend some time outdoors, relax at a picnic bench, and enjoy a family-friendly vibe with occasional festivals and farmers’ markets. If you bought a bottle of wine at your new favorite vineyard, you should know that consumption of alcoholic beverages is allowed in the park from 11:30am to sunset. So, pack a picnic lunch!
If you head about 20 minutes northwest of Sonoma, you’ll reach Jack London State Historic Park. This park is named after the author of the famous books, Call of the Wild and White Fang. At the park, you’ll find a museum about London, his grave site, and about 1,400 acres of beautiful land. This is a fun and easy day trip from downtown Sonoma that will let you learn about London’s fascinating life. The park also has 29 miles of trails, the ruins of a 19th century winery, and a redwood tree that is 2,000 years old. It’s open daily from 9am to 5pm, and the vehicle entry fee is $10.
This is a year-round motorsports complex that has offers some of the best racing experiences in the country. Come here to watch NASCAR races, drag races, historic car races, and cycle gear championships. Many racing legends, including Mario Andretti and Dale Earnhardt, have participated in races here, and there are activities scheduled on the race track approximately 340 days per year. Tailgating is encouraged here before and after the races, pets are allowed in the camping areas, and food and beverages are available for purchase. For major events, plan to spend arrive two hours or more before the race, and plan ahead for heavy traffic if you’re coming from Sacramento or the Bay Area.
If you’re inspired by a race you watch at the raceway and want to get behind the wheel yourself, head to the Simraceway Performance Driving School. At this exciting local attraction, you can drive a Formula 3 car, cutting-edge race car, or another impressive set of wheels of your choice. You’ll reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour on the longest track in California. Half day and full day experiences are available and can reach prices into the thousands of dollars.
One great way to see the vineyard-filled countryside, get some exercise, and meet new friends is to take a bike tour through Sonoma and the surrounding region. For example, Sonoma Valley Bike Tours offers tours that run from 9:30am to 2pm, travel a total of eight to 10 miles, and include two winery visits. Tours like this tend to be approximately $124 per person.
Chocolate lovers should definitely make a point to visit CocoaPlanet in Sonoma for a chocolate tasting. This fun spot is near the Sonoma Plaza and has an incredible selection of wine and chocolate pairings. You can also get some incredible hot chocolate here on a chilly day. Reservations can be made online on the shop’s website.
Sonoma is an ideal place for lovers of art as well as visitors who enjoy good wine and food. The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art is near the Sonoma Town Plaza and has many pieces of contemporary artwork created by local, national, and global artists. Stop by to check it out from 11am to 5pm on Wednesdays through Sundays. Admission is $10 for adults, and free street parking is available nearby.
If you’ve been to Sonoma before or just want to experience the region from a different perspective, consider taking a zip line tour through the coastal redwoods. Sonoma Canopy Tours is a local guide company that offers tours with approximately seven zip lines and opportunities to fly a couple hundred feet off the ground. You can even do a flight course at sunset or at night to sip through the landscape. This experience costs approximately $120 per person.
If you’re interested in local history or just enjoy learning a bit about new places you visit, then stop by the Depot Park Museum. Here you’ll find permanent and temporary exhibits, historic train cars, information about the Chinese who moved here to work on the railroad, and other interesting tidbits about local happenings. The museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4pm and is free to visit.