The LGBT Friendly Travel Guide to Sonoma County

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  • by WC STAFF
  • on FEBRUARY 12, 2016
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The northern California ethos of peace and love is perhaps best expressed in Sonoma County’s reputation of welcoming diversity with open arms. The entire county has long been gay-friendly and was recently named one of the country’s top 20 tourist destinations for the LGBT community, and as such, the colorful and quirky town of Guerneville, along with the surrounding Russian River area, is ground zero for LGBT events and gathering spots.

Party Central

r3-hotel-680
Image Source: Yelp

R3 Hotel
16390 4th St
Guerneville, CA 95446
(707) 869-8399
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 16 reviews
Check Availability

This is the adults-only “Party Palace.” The clothing-optional pool and bar are open to all, not just hotel guests, so there is always a lively and festive social scene at this hotel. There are plenty of special events and entertainment, and the happy hour runs all day, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Food is available at the outdoor grill, and the indoor restaurant serves up tasty meals. The rooms are clean and nicely appointed, and some have wood-burning stoves, while the main suite has a wet bar and a spa tub with jets.

Insider tip: Sometimes R3 Hotel can feel like a grown-up version of Spring Break. So, if you want to get any sleep, ask for a room away from the pool, where things are quieter.

Rustic Resort

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Image Source: Highlands Resort, Yelp

Highlands Resort
14000 Woodland Dr
Guerneville, CA 95446
(707) 869-0333
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 70 reviews
Check Availability

The Highlands Resort, with a clientele that’s about 98 percent LGBT, is a lovely, peaceful place situated on three acres of trees and gardens in a redwood grove, up on a hill. Although it’s just a short walk to downtown Guerneville, it feels like a world away, where restored, rustic cabins, harken back to the mid-century when the Russian River was the favorite resort destination for San Francisco’s movers and shakers. Some of that old-time feel is still in the air as The Highlands encourages folks to interact with each other instead of with electronics: only two rooms have TVs, and guests are asked to use earbuds if they really must be on their mobile devices while relaxing at the clothing-optional pool area.

Insider tip: Although the resort features romantic cabins with gas fireplaces and two-person soaking tubs, budget travelers can also find rooms, and there’s even tent camping in the summer.

Upscale Hotel

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Image Source: Yelp

boon hotel + spa
14711 Armstrong Woods Rd
Guerneville, CA 95446
(707) 869-2721
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 119 reviews
Check Availability

Boon is the most upscale hotel in town, with a clean, contemporary look, pampering spa services, and a pool and hot tub that use saline water, so no harsh chemicals. It’s located down the street from the awe-inspiring Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, an 805-acre redwood grove. Do yourself a favor and borrow one of Boon Hotel’s bikes and ride over to the woods downtown Guerneville is also just a bike ride away. On Main Street, you can find Boon Eat + Drink, and Big Bottom Market. The lesbian business owner behind all three ventures named the hotel and restaurant after her dog, Boon.

Insider tip: Although it’s “just” a complimentary continental breakfast, the biscuits, jam, and coffee brought to your room each morning are delicious and satisfying, so there’s no need to go out for breakfast.

Classic Inn With Riverside Dining

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Image Source: Yelp

Village Inn and Restaurant
20822 River Blvd
Monte Rio, CA 95462
(707) 865-2304
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 47 reviews
Check Availability

Located along the banks of the Russian River, in the cute hamlet of Monte Rio, this delightful gay-owned inn was the site for several scenes in the 1942 classic Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. The inn retains its historic flavor, but with all the modern comforts: many of the rooms have balconies and panoramic views of the river, while others look out onto the garden. Enjoy Wine Country dining in the excellent restaurant overlooking the river and redwoods.

Insider tip: Studio G has a large deck and a particularly gorgeous view.

A Gay Bar on Main Street

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Image Source: Yelp

Rainbow Cattle Company
16220 Main St
Guerneville, CA 95446
(707) 869-0206
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 34 reviews

The legendary Rainbow Cattle Company, located right on Main Street in the heart of Guerneville, has been serving up strong drinks and good times since 1979. You can’t miss it—there’s a large, neon rainbow above the door. Inside, there’s a fun-loving, boisterous atmosphere with friendly bartenders, music, pool tables, and pinball machines, and smoking is allowed on the back deck. In addition to the all-out revelry, this is also a gathering spot for activism and fundraisers. (Every Tuesday, a percentage of profits go to charity.)

Insider tip: The Queer Steer is famous for its super-strong Long Island Iced Teas, served in mason jars.

Raise Your Glass

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Image Source: Yelp

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery
10701 Westside Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 473-2909
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 123 reviews
Reservations: Recommended

Winemaker Theresa Heredia has been receiving accolades throughout her career, including being named “Winemaker to Watch” by the San Francisco Chronicle. At her post at Gary Farrell, she is known for creating exceptional Pinot Noir and cool-climate Chardonnay. The wines are superb, the views are stunning, and this place gets busy. Reserve a tasting in advance so you can be assured a spot out on the patio and enjoy the views.

Insider tip: Try the two-hour long Sense of Place Terroir Tasting and Lunch, which features six highly allocated releases of single-vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, a personal wine educator at your table, and a locally-sourced lunch.

Gay-Friendly Winery With a History

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Image Source: Yelp

Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery
389 4th St E
Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 933-3230
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 133 reviews
Reservations: Recommended

Sebastiani Vineyards winemaker Mark Lyon has been with the winery since 1979. In 1985, he was instrumental in making the inaugural vintage of Sebastiani’s famous Cherryblock Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cherryblock cabs are among the most sought-after wines that Sebastiani produces, and the Tuscan-style architecture of the winery is impressive, yet the atmosphere is casual and friendly. The 80-foot long bar in the tasting rooms makes for a perfect gathering spot.

Insider tip: Make time to take their historical tour. Started in 1904, Sebastiani Vineyards plays a large and colorful role in the region’s wine history.

Quintessential Guerneville


Lazy Bear Weekend
Various Locations

Lazy Bear Weekend, Guerneville’s hallmark annual event, is billed as the “Biggest, Hairiest, Beefiest, Burliest, Craziest, Laziest FUNdraising event on the planet.” For the past 20 years, around 7,000 men from around the world gather in Guerneville for six days in August (not just a weekend anymore) for parties, relaxing, dancing, drinking beer, golfing, boating, and just being with each other. Proceeds benefit various nonprofits.

Insider tip: The easiest, most cost-effective way to enjoy the celebration is to purchase tags in advance. Similar to a wristband, they get you into all sorts of activities for free or with deep discounts.

Gay Wine Event


Gay Wine Weekend
Various locations
(707) 495-9732

The largest gay wine event in the world, Gay Wine Weekend features three days of special events for LGBT revelers. Celebrate with winemaker dinners, music, and dancing in a private estate vineyard, VIP receptions, wine tasting excursions, champagne brunch, wine auction and pool party. This is the signature event of Out in the Vineyard, a tour company owned and operated by local, gay community insiders. Their itineraries, which range from quick weekend excursions to week-long trips, provide exclusive Wine Country experiences catering to the LGBT lifestyle.

Insider tip: The Auction and Recovery Brunch is a highlight of the weekend.

Bingo Like You’ve Never Experienced Before


Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Bingo Night
At Guerneville Veterans Memorial Hall
First & Church Streets
Guerneville, CA 95446

If you’re going to be in the Guerneville area on the second Saturday of the month, don’t miss bingo night. The local chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence don their most theatrical drag, put on a high-camp performance, and raise money for a different charity each month, drawing a diverse and very spirited crowd. The bingo games are standard, but of course, this isn’t your typical bingo night ambiance. Make sure to follow the rules and put your cell phone away, or you might get spanked. (Really.)

Insider tip: Buy tickets well in advance through their website. This is a popular locals event and often sells out.

Sonoma County offers fun for everyone, but if you know where to look (you do, now), it’s also home to some of the most fun and diverse LGBT events to be found in northern California.