With its cultural heritage spotlighted by Peanuts and Charlie Brown, the famed author of the Call of the Wild novel, and the heartbeat of the iconic Sonoma Wine Country, Santa Rosa, California is a place at the crossroads of history and nature.
The lush rolling hills aren’t only filled with award-winning wineries, you’ll discover state parks and natural attractions with incredible views, outdoor recreation, and wildlife here too. And you’ll always have something new to discover when exploring the Railroad Square Historic District or the numerous museums in downtown Santa Rosa.
Get ready to fill up your travel itinerary with local excitement with these top things to do in Santa Rosa.
TRIONE-ANNADEL STATE PARK
The sound of the rugged terrain beneath your hiking boots or bicycle tires is the only thing you’ll hear while exploring the 40+ miles of trails inside Trione-Annadel State Park. Sitting at the edge of Sonoma Valley, it gives more than 5,000 acres of nature for visitors looking for recreation and beautiful scenery near Santa Rosa.
The best time to visit the state park is during the spring. The lush fields are filled with colorful wildflowers, and you’ll see the abundant wildlife active when spotted off the trails. Indigenous peoples once inhabited this resource-rich landscape.
Set off on the Ridge Trail for mountain biking to the summit of Bennett Mountain, or lace up your hiking boots to venture into the backcountry on the Lawndale Trail. Horseback riding is also allowed here.
Located in the heart of the Sonoma Wine Country, Santa Rosa is the largest city in the region. Visiting Santa Rosa puts you within driving distance of more than 250 wineries. The mineral-rich soil and climate regions create 18 distinct vinicultural areas, leading to the unique flavors developed at each winery. But with so many options, how do you decide which to visit?
Many Santa Rosa wineries offer tours and wine tasting experiences to visitors. Visit Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens to taste their savory super-premium wines of pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon.
You don’t have to be a wine club member to delight your taste buds with the full-bodied flavors produced at the St. Francis Winery & Vineyards. Grab a seat on the outdoor terrace of Rodney Strong Vineyards to try its award-winning wines produced with sustainable practices.
SPRING LAKE REGIONAL PARK
The beautiful scenery at Spring Lake Regional Park makes it a year-round destination and one of the most popular public parks in Santa Rosa. It’s hard to deny the picturesque nature of the 72-acre Santa Rosa Creek Reservoir, surrounded by the thick oak tree forests.
When the weather is warm, head over to the small lagoon for swimming or let the kids have some water fun on the large, inflatable playground set on the water. Rent boats and cruise around the reservoir to take in views of the trees reflected on the calm water surface.
More than 10 miles of trails make the park excellent for leisure walkers or runners getting in their exercise. Later, the grassy lawns set on the water banks are an amazing place to plan an afternoon picnic.
WELLS FARGO CENTER FOR THE ARTS
Be sure to snag up tickets for your show of choice as soon as they go public because the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, formerly known as the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, is one of the premier live performance venues in Santa Rosa.
Established in 1981, it has built a reputation for hosting world-class performance acts to make it a go-to venue for those looking for local events during their visit.
The Wells Fargo Center for the Arts releases its calendar schedule every year, filled from start to finish with over 800 events. You’ll find a range of touring music acts, ballet and other dance recitals, acrobatic showcases, and local community events. It has shows for all ages, and even hosts education programs for children to build a continued interest in the arts.
RAILROAD SQUARE HISTORIC DISTRICT
The Peanuts character statues dotting the Railroad Square Historic District are always ready for their photo op as you explore this unique part of town. Back in the late 1800s, this district became one of Santa Rosa’s hot spots with the introduction of the train depot. Now, it’s one of California’s favorite historic districts booming with shopping, dining, and accommodations.
Railroad Square Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These former warehouse and factory buildings have been well-preserved to house tons of shops. The building-top water tower greets you as you enter the small district as you start exploring it.
Browse antique stores filled with friendly shop owners full of stories about the objects, art gallery owners ready to share the inspiration behind their favorite pieces, and even a pinball arcade to keep the kids entertained.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT MARKET
Santa Rosa is popular for a weekend trip to check out the local wineries. However, mid-week can also be a special time to visit since it’s such an easy trip from San Francisco. Celebrate hump day every week during its scheduled programming from May to August with the Wednesday Night Market, held in the Old Courthouse Square.
The Wednesday Night Market comes just in time to showcase the spring and summer harvest. Fresh produce fills the stalls of the farmers market, but it’s only one of the many sections you’ll encounter at the city’s largest street fair.
In addition to produce, the Wednesday Night Market hosts artisans showing off their latest crafts and local food vendors selling tasty treats to enjoy now or later. There are stalls where kids can enjoy hands-on activities while the adults vibe to the live music paired with a cold brew.
Visiting the Wednesday Night Market is one of the best things to do in Santa Rosa.
CHARLES M SCHULZ MUSEUM
Ever wondered why there are Peanuts character statues around Santa Rosa and why you’ll see lots of souvenirs with Snoopy and Charlie Brown? That’s because Santa Rosa was the home to late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. The culmination of his works can be seen in the Charles M Schulz Museum, established shortly after he passed to preserve his life and work legacy.
Follow the museum’s timeline about ‘Sparky,’ as he created one of the most famous comic strips in the world. Flipping through the digital database of comic strips is sure to bring a smile to your face — and definitely a few chuckles!
In addition to the comics, the museum tells the story of Charles M Schulz throughout his career, including other comics developed during his lifetime.
JACK LONDON STATE HISTORIC PARK
Late American author Jack London gained worldwide fame thanks to works like The Call of the Wild and fathering the Science Fiction genre. However, when he wasn’t adventuring around the globe, he retreated to the Sonoma Mountains at his home in the now-Jack London State Historic Park. After his passing, his residential cottage and other properties were included as a National Historic Landmark to commemorate the author’s legacy.
Jack London State Historic Park has more than 20 miles of hiking trails winding through its 1400 acres. You’ll see the cottage that Jack London lived in with his family until his passing, which still holds remains of his work and legacy. You’ll also see the stone structure ruins of a home burned onsite, pre-dating London’s arrival, and see the Beauty Ranch.
PACIFIC COAST AIR MUSEUM
Modern airplanes soar overhead at the Pacific Coast Air Museum (PCAM) from the nearby airport, however, the aircraft on display at this airfield are a blast from the past! Since being established in 1989, PCAM has acquired an impressive collection of 30 aircraft, which you can find on display.
The indoor diorama of a historic airfield is only a taste of what’s to come when you step outside to the open-air exhibition. Historic aircraft like the Lockheed P-38 Lightnight, F-15 Eagle Interceptor, and other planes from the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Cold War are on display in preserved conditions.
Visit on the special Cockpit Days to climb into the pilot’s seat of the aircraft. If you’re active or retired military personnel, you’ll get free entry into the museum.
MUSEUM OF SONOMA COUNTY
Santa Rosa is an excellent destination for discovering the collections in the abundance of art and history museums. While sightseeing in Downtown Santa Rosa, don’t forget to stop by the Museum of Sonoma County to learn more about the county’s rich history.
Established in 1985, the Museum of Sonoma County has expanded into two buildings to house its collection of more than 18,000 objects. One of the most prominent buildings of the museum includes the Santa Rosa Post Office, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Inside, you’ll have the opportunity to see one of the dozen exhibitions curated in the museum every year. The art gallery showcases the works of local artists, and there’s also an outdoor sculpture garden to walk around.
THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF SONOMA COUNTY
The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County is full of exhibitions to let all kids play and enjoy a bit of fun learning.
The interactive exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County give kids hands-on experience to explore ideas of nature, science, and art. It’s a place where they’re encouraged to explore the ideas in their mind for problem-solving, experimenting, or simple fun with the other kids they’ll meet.
The museum includes areas like the Imagination Gallery, Mary’s Garden, and a Space Odyssey Exhibit to explore outer space without even leaving Earth.
LUTHER BURBANK HOME & GARDENS
What would you expect the home of a horticulturalist to look like? If you guessed a place bursting with floral beauty, fresh aromas, and decorative gardens, then you’re spot on!
The Luther Burbank Home & Gardens is the perfect example of what a horticulturalist does at their private residence, and shows why he was deserving of such widespread recognition in the field during his lifetime.
The Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is free and open to the public to explore, and you’ll see his former home, gardens, and greenhouse. The stunning Greek Revival architecture pairs perfectly with the more than 800 species of plants on the grounds, now recognized as a National Historic Landmark. You’ll even get to see his grave site.
For a more immersive experience at the attraction, take one of the guided tours.
Although Safari West is located right outside Santa Rosa, its 400 acres transport you continents away as you embark on an exciting wildlife safari experience. Nicknamed the ‘Sonoma Serengeti,’ this vast, privately-owned land contains 900+ animals from around the world.
Stay vigilant while riding through the grassy hillsides extending to the Mayacamas Mountains, because you never know when (or where) you’ll spot the next species. Exotic animals like zebras, giraffes, gazelles, buffalo, antelope, and lots of colorful birds are commonly seen in the park.
For the best view, grab one of the rooftop seats on the safari jeep as your expert driver takes you to the best spots to encounter animals you won’t see anywhere else in Sonoma County. Be sure to stick around for the animal feeding time when the animals are most active.
SUGARLOAF RIDGE STATE PARK
Whether standing on the summit of Bald Mountain or trekking through the mountainous gorges, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park has unmatched views for those visiting Sonoma or Napa Valley. Get ready for multi-day fun with camping at this family-friendly state park, where you’ll have picturesque nature waiting for you just steps from your tent.
Tucked in the Mayacamas Mountains, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is a popular place for outdoor recreation. Hike the Bald Mountain Trail to ascend over 2,700-feet to the peak for views looking as far as the San Francisco Bay. And if you prefer mountain biking, the Goodspeed Trail will surely give you the adrenaline rush you’re seeking.
After the wintertime rain showers, you’ll have the best views of the 25-foot waterfall stemming from Sonoma Creek. And when the night falls, stop by the Robert Ferguson Observatory to peer into the massive telescope for sky gazing.
SNOOPY’S HOME ICE
Snoopy’s Home Ice at Redwood Empire Ice Arena is an ice rink in Santa Rosa where you can find ice skating, ice hockey, figure skating lessons, youth and adult hockey leagues, community events, and more!
This ice rink is a community icon. It’s a great place to go with the family during their public skate, but there is also so much more to do here. Stay for a hockey game, sign up for lessons, and grab a snack at the Warm Puppy Cafe before you go. You’ll also find a gallery and gift shop here.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO CALIFORNIA
- SAN FRANCISCO: 47 Phenomenal Things To Do In San Francisco, CA
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- BEST OF CALIFORNIA: 52 Best Things To Do In California You Can’t Miss
- SAN JOSE: 37 Awesome Things To Do In San Jose, California
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