Sonoma County is one of the most diverse areas in all of California, encompassing 1,576 square miles of rugged coastline, farmland, forests, and mountain ranges. While it’s only natural to want to plan a Sonoma County vacation entirely around wine tasting — after all, there are 18 distinct growing regions and over 400 wineries within its borders — we’d suggest branching out a little. From soaring above the vineyards in an air balloon to kayaking along the Russian River, here are eleven unique ways to experience all that Sonoma can offer.
Located 30 minutes west of Santa Rosa, Sonoma Canopy Tours is a guided eco-adventure that includes zip lines and sky bridges. Based on your level of confidence (there’s both a classic and a challenging course), the canopy tour is available rain or shine, offering the chance to fly through Redwood forests via numerous ziplines before rappelling back to the forest floor. Whether you’re looking for a dose of adrenaline or just a fun, lighthearted activity, Sonoma Canopy Tours is a great way to experience a different side of Wine Country.
6250 Bohemian Highway, Occidental, CA 95465, (888) 493-7868
Besides world-class wine, Sonoma is known for its long list of destination-worthy, farm-to-table restaurants. The Santa Rosa Certified Farmers Market, held every Wednesday and Saturday, is a fun way to meet the farmers behind Sonoma’s culinary scene. Here, you’ll find fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, honey, meat, bread, and flowers — almost all exclusively grown, harvested, or raised in the area — and sample local goods while talking with the people who produced them. Whether you pick up items to cook a feast at home or just peruse the vendors, the Santa Rosa Farmers Market helps put the term “farm-to-table” into perspective.
50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95403, (707) 522-8629
Founded in 1981, the community supported Luther Burbank Center for the Arts is the area’s premier arts and events center, offering a wide variety of world-class performances and community events meant to entertain and enrich both children and adults. From music, dance, and theater performances to comedy, speaker events, educational programs, and family shows, there’s truly something for everyone. For added convenience, onsite parking is included with your ticket.
50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95403, (707) 546-3600
Based in Healdsburg in a state-of-the-art cooking center, Relish Culinary Adventures presents food lovers with a unique way to experience the bounty of Sonoma County. From cooking classes and private cooking parties to cheesemaking workshops and foraging expeditions, Relish hosts a variety of activities that help bring people together in the kitchen. All their events also feature locally-sourced ingredients and artisan products from Sonoma, so you’ll leave feeling like you got a real taste of Sonoma County.
14 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 431-9999
When dreaming of Wine Country, if visions of romantic balloon rides above the vineyards at sunrise come to mind, then Up & Away Ballooning is for you. Offering unprecedented views of the Russian River, redwood forests, and some of California’s most picturesque vineyards, a hot air balloon ride with Up & Away is one incredible way to start your day. On a clear day, you can even see the skyline of San Francisco roughly 60 miles away. Afterwards, enjoy farm-to-table breakfast fare and a mimosa at The SHED in Healdsburg, toasting to what will surely be an experience of a lifetime.
2200 Airport Boulevard, Santa Rosa, CA 95403, (707) 836-0171
Ever had dreams of exploring wine country by bike? Sonoma Valley Bike Tours is your answer, providing a fun way to discover local wineries on two wheels. Led by a local tour guide, this casual bike tour will find you pedaling along scenic country roads at a leisurely pace, surrounded by the beauty of Sonoma Wine Country as you stop to taste wine. Both full and half-day tours are offered and, since no two routes and winery visits are the same, you’ll know you’re getting a one-of-a-kind experience.
1254 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476, (707) 996-2453
Enjoy a safari adventure in the heart of Wine Country at the 400-acre wildlife sanctuary, Safari West, where you can view giraffes, monkeys, rhinos, cheetahs, and more — all without a plane ride to Africa. Home to over 800 exotic animals of nearly 90 different species, Safari West offers a one-of-a-kind safari experience set against a backdrop of the Mayacamas Mountains.
3115 Porter Creek Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95404, (707) 579-2551
The family-owned and operated Gourmet Food and Wine Tours was started in 2014 by Bay Area native Renee ReBell, who developed the tour around her favorite things: food, wine, and Sonoma! Stroll around the historic Sonoma Plaza for this progressive restaurant experience that features four farm-to-table courses at top restaurants, paired with local wine and chocolate — all with a dash of history and entertaining stories peppered in. Find all the flavor with WineCountry Experiences.
Sonoma, CA, (415) 996-3663
What better way to explore the Russian River than by paddling, pedaling, and tasting your way around? Outdoor enthusiast Randy Johnson started Getaway Adventures in 1991, offering various cycling, kayaking, hiking, and van tours to wineries and breweries around the North Bay. With the “Taste, Paddle, and Pedal Sonoma Tour,” you’ll bike alongside lush forests as you stop to visit boutique wineries, indulge in a wine country picnic, then set out for a leisurely kayak tour of the Russian River. It all makes for both an active and relaxing afternoon tasting great wine and soaking in the beauty of the area. Book your river adventure with WineCountry Experiences.
2228 Northpoint Parkway, Santa Rosa, CA 95407, (800) 499-2453
Who needs a limo when you can go wine tasting by way of an open-air trolley reminiscent of San Francisco’s famed cable cars? Hop aboard the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley for a fun and casual six-hour tour that takes you through Sonoma with stops for tastings at four different wineries. Along the way, enjoy insights into the local history from the onboard tour guide, plenty of bottled water to hydrate between tastings, and a delicious catered lunch by Sonoma’s famed The Girl & The Fig restaurant.
20707 8th Street E, Suite B, Sonoma, CA 95476, (707) 938-2600
Just a short drive from the town of Guerneville is Armstrong Redwoods, a state reserve that offers hiking trails and camping sites amongst the majestic redwood trees. Most of the trees are over 500 years old, the largest and oldest of which is 1,400 years old and stands 310 feet tall. Needless to say, it’s a stunning sight that will leave you in awe of the grandeur of Mother Earth.
7000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville, CA 95446, (707) 869-2015
Cover image courtesy of Facebook: Up & Away Ballooning