Santa Rosa CA Video
Santa Rosa CA
Santa Rosa CA, is the largest city in Wine Country, but most of the residents still think of it as a small town. So, you might get stuck in traffic, but at least the locals will wave you in, with a smile, to merge in front of them.
Santa Rosa CA offers a great central location from which to explore all the surrounding area, including Sonoma Valley, Healdsburg, Russian River and the redwoods, and the Sonoma Coast.
But, in addition to being a good place to leave so that you can go somewhere else, Santa Rosa also has a lot to offer in its own right. It has inexpensive lodging, it’s kid-friendly, and it’s a pleasant, interesting town with several tourist attractions.
Granted, if you only have a few days to spend in the area, I wouldn’t recommend staying long in Santa Rosa because it doesn’t really offer that charming “Wine Country Experience” you’re probably looking for. (For your best bets of where to enjoy the “Wine Country Experience,” as well as where to check out that infamous Northern Californian “alternative” lifestyle, or where to find the most amazing natural beauty, read the overview of Where to Go in Sonoma County.) But, if you want a pleasant, convenient town to hang out in, Santa Rosa California is great.
In general, Sonoma Wine Country is a luxury destination. You’re not going to find a lot of budget motels in the grape-growing regions. After all, the land here fetches top dollar, and building cheap lodging just don’t pay off. But, Santa Rosa is just a stone’s throw away from the county’s top wine regions, and the town offers up some nice, inexpensive accommodations.
If you’re traveling with kids, Santa Rosa CA is a wonderful choice. The town if very family oriented and you won’t get the evil eye if you show up at a restaurant or a shop with your little ones in tow. Plus, the Really Big Deal about coming with kids in Santa Rosa during the summer is that even tourists can take advantage of the city’s incredible kids’ recreation programs for just a small extra fee. Imagine your kids enjoying a great day camp Monday - Friday while you go out wine tasting, eating lunch, getting a massage. For example, Camp Wa Tam is the local favorite, and kids get to canoe, swim, do crafts, practice archery and much more. Plus there’s even a one night overnight stay if they want to participate. The other week-long camps include park activities as well as outings to local fun spots such as the movies, bowling, hiking, etc. Check out the Parks and Recs website to find more day camps and to register. And, if your stay isn’t that long, you can also check out the site for a class your child can attend for several hours while you go out and enjoy some quality grown-up time.
And, get this, there is even a FREE option And yes, it’s free for out-of-town folks as well. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays for a good part of the summer, the city of Santa Rosa offers free 3-hour day camps at a number of city parks. You just need to show up to fill up some paperwork the first day, and that’s it. The camp is a training program for the young men and women who will graduate to becoming camp counselors at the one-week day camps mentioned earlier. My son and his friends have attended these before, and I’m always impressed with how well-run this program is. Find more information here.
On top of all that, Santa Rosa, CA has a wonderful park system. Rincon Valley Park and Gavin Park are a couple of the local favorites. Both have playgrounds and restrooms. Rincon Valley also has a dog park, while Gavin has a nice 18-hole golf course, tennis courts and a restaurant. But, most popular is Howarth Park which has playgrounds, a train, petting zoo, pony rides, and a nice pond to walk around or fish in.
Adjacent to Howarth Park is Spring Lake Park which, along with a very nice lake, also has a large swimming lagoon surrounded by sand. There are also restrooms, a snack shop and lifeguards. It’s free to swim in the lagoon, but there is a fee for parking.
And, adjacent to Howarth Park is the 5,000 + acre Annadel Park. This is a beautiful nature park and is excellent for hiking and cycling / dirt-biking. There’s even a swimming hole up there, but it’s rather wild and so I assume it might be dangerous for the little ones. Keep in mind that there are no playgrounds and no real bathrooms, only port-a-potties.
Charles Schulz, creator of the beloved coming strip “Peanuts,” lived in Santa Rosa and is memorialized around town by the many statues of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Woodstock. The Charles M. Schulz museum is also located here and is a must see for any Peanuts fan or anyone interested in comics in general. And, if you just happen to be in town and want to check it out, you’ll find something of interest. There’s a huge mural made up of thousands of comic strips, which are arranged in such a way that they create a picture of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. I also happen to like the holograms that you kind find outside in the garden area. If you like to ice skate, make sure to try out Snoopy’s Home Ice next door to the museum.
Burbank Home and Gardens
Although you don’t hear much about horticulturist Luther Burbank outside of his hometown of Santa Rosa, back when he was alive he was wildly famous. He originated hundreds of new plant varieties including the common russet potato, which can be found in just about every American grocery store. Folks looked at Burbank as some kind of wizard, a creator of life, who could one day bring back the Garden of Eden to the world. He was dear friends with Paramahansa Yogananda who wrote about Burbank in Autobiography of a Yogi. And Frida Kahlo painted a picture of him and the theme continued to influence her future work. He held such an aura in the popular culture, that dignitaries, scientists and artists, including Thomas Edison and Mark Twain, traveled to Santa Rosa CA to visit him. At the Burbank House and Gardens, you can get a self-guided tour or a docent-led one. Or just sit back and enjoy the relaxing gardens.
Christo Display at Sonoma County Museum
The Sonoma County Museum is worth a special trip if you’re a fan of Christo’s. The famous environmental artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, were in Sonoma and Marin Counties putting up their Running Fence exhibit, when they met and became good friends with a local artist. Christo gifted many of his works to his friend who in turn donated them to the museum. The collection consists of about 125 original drawings, sculptures, collages and photographs.
The museum focuses on “Environmental Art” which asks the question, “How does the environment, including the landscape, influence art?” For example, one past exhibit explored how the land (terroir) influences wine. Another was about what role plants play in the creative process. And, of course, the Christo works also extend that theme.
(Speaking of Christo, you can also find another one of his original works, Snoopy’s wrapped doghouse, at the Schulz Museum.)
MacDonald Ave. and Ripley Grave
Hitchcock buffs will love exploring Santa Rosa California in which the director’s first movie filmed on location was made. Later, Hitchcock would often refer to this film, “Shadow of A Doubt,” as his personal favorite. You can still see the train station from the film at Railroad Square, and the house which was used as the Newton family residence still stands on MacDonald Ave. Also on MacDonald, you can see the homes used in Wes Craven’s “Scream” and in the Disney picture “Pollyanna.” If you continue down MacDonald Ave., you’ll reach the old cemetery which locals use as a park. It’s an interesting place, and lovely too (in a wildish, unmanicured way). If you look, you can find the grave of adventurer Robert Ripley, of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” fame, who was born, raised and then buried in his hometown of Santa Rosa. Interestingly, that other hometown hero Charles Schultz was published for the first time in Ripley’s magazine. A young Schultz sent in a picture he drew of his dog who would—believe it or not—eat nails without getting sick.
Historic Railroad Square
This is the historic section of Santa Rosa characterized by beautiful, old stone buildings and a funky, urban personality.The main section is located on 4th Street, west of Hwy. 101. (Right behind the Santa Rosa Plaza mall.)
Santa Rosa Downtown – Farmer’s Market
Santa Rosa CA has a cute, laid-back downtown. The main road is 4th Street which, heading west, is cut off at the Plaza mall. And then Railroad Square, the “other” downtown (see above), is located on the other side of the mall. You can find great dining, unique shops, bookstores, coffeehouses, and a pleasant town square at the southeast corner of 4th and Mendocino. For being as the biggest city in Wine Country, Santa Rosa’s downtown doesn’t have a particularly wild nightlife scene. In fact, it’s downright tame. But, there are plenty of restaurants with bars open late into the night. During the summer, check out the Downtown Farmers Market on Wednesday nights. Although there is plenty of produce, the market is more of a street festival with lots of people, live music, food vendors, craft booths, street performers, jumpy houses, pony rides etc. This is a community event where folks take their kids and where young people meet up and walk around together. It’s a locals thing, and not very touristy.
Santa Rosa CA Map
Santa Rosa CA Pictures
Santa Rosa California - Sonoma County Artist Ned Kahn's Digital Clouds installation graces the AT&T building in Downtown.