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Experience Santa Rosa, California: A Guide to the Best Local Attractions

Experience Santa Rosa, California: A Guide to the Best Local Attractions

There are so many fun things to do in Santa Rosa, California, that we made a trusty guide to help you sort through it all.

Heather Thurber


6 min read

May 10, 2023

While it may not be the biggest city in California, Santa Rosa is one of the most dynamic and unique places in the Golden State. One of the qualities that make Santa Rosa, California stand out is its compelling set of recreational offerings. There are so many things to do in Santa Rosa, CA, from nearby natural parks to a characterful historic downtown filled with great dining spots. There are also a set of must-see Santa Rosa attractions that are essential for anyone who wants to experience the fun and interest that makes this city so special. Let’s take a look at some of these essential Santa Rosa activities. 

Enjoy laser tag and a myriad of other fast-paced activities at this one-stop-shop entertainment venue.

Poppy Bank Epicenter 

For non-stop recreation, look no further than Poppy Bank Epicenter, an incredible entertainment venue that offers a variety of fun for everyone. This premier attraction in Santa Rosa, California, caters to the whole family with its extensive selection of sports, fitness, and entertainment options. Children will be delighted by the video game arcades, while everyone can enjoy a relaxing evening at Epicenter's top-notch bowling alley. Epicenter provides fast-paced laser tag battles, high-speed street racing simulators, and virtual target practice ranges for those seeking more adrenaline-fueled excitement.

As a sports facility, Epicenter also presents a wide array of engaging athletic opportunities for children aged 18 months and older. Enroll your kids in soccer, basketball, or baseball programs, giving them a fantastic chance to develop essential skills like perseverance and teamwork, all while staying active. As a local business, Poppy Bank also serves as a cultural hub for Santa Rosa, California, hosting an assortment of concerts and shows that bring people together for enjoyable experiences.

Snoopy’s Home Ice & Museum

No matter which time of year you visit, you should go to Redwood Empire Ice Arena in downtown Santa Rosa, California. More commonly known as Snoopy’s Home Ice, this distinct ice rink opened in 1969 and has proudly hosted local hockey and figure skating tournaments ever since. The enclosed ice rink was constructed by Charles M. Schulz, the cartoonist who created the Peanuts kids show, hence the name.

You can either go ice skating here or catch a local hockey game if you come during the Mountain West Hockey League Season, which is typically in March or April. Newly renovated in 2019, the ice rink is a clean and modern facility and quite a cool place for ice skating. After all, what other ice rink is covered in colorful Snoopy memorabilia? After a day of ice skating fun, stop by the rink’s Warm Puppy Cafe for a hot cocoa and maybe a delectable snack.   

Also, make sure to visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum. The museum showcases the life and work of Schulz. Visitors can explore exhibits that showcase Schulz's personal collection of comic strips, as well as original artwork, memorabilia, and artifacts from his life and career.

One of the most popular exhibits is the recreation of Schulz's studio, complete with his drawing board, reference books, and personal items. You can get an intimate glimpse into the creative process of one of the greatest cartoonists of all time. The museum is open every day except Tuesdays, and admission is reasonably priced at $12 for adults, with students, youth, and other rates being significantly lower.

Take a delightful stroll through a serene sculpture garden in one of the most fertile parts of the Sonoma Valley.

Paradise Ridge Sculpture Garden 

Santa Rosa is also famous for its fertile wine country, and several wineries call the verdant valleys of Sonoma County home. One of these is Paradise Ridge Winery, and they’ve decided to shake things up by adding a sculpture garden to their vineyards. Also known as Marijke’s Grove, the Paradise Ridge Sculpture Garden is a four-acre park free to the public and open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and filled with eclectic sculptures. Dirt paths snake throughout the gardens, allowing visitors to explore this beautiful environment and admire all the cool objets d’art. 

This is one of the most serene things to do in Santa Rosa, CA. Hanging out in the gardens makes you truly appreciate the majestic natural beauty of this region, all while enjoying some amazing monuments to human creativity. Highlights a large metal sculpture that spells the word “LOVE,” a giant human sculpture, and an eye-catching structure called the Empyrean Temple. Completed in 2021, the temple was intended as a “beacon of inspiration and hope for a changing world.”   

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Pepperwood Preserve

Located in the arid Mayacamas Mountains, just a twenty-minute drive from Santa Rosa, California is Pepperwood Preserve, a three-thousand-acre nature preserve famous for its Mediterranean climate and being home to over nine-hundred species of plantlife and animals. This is the ultimate Santa Rosa attraction if you want to see authentic California redwoods, Douglas-fir forests, and the characteristic grasslands of the SoCal landscape. 

Pepperwood Preserve is also full of geological curiosities, including volcanic remains and serpentine soils, meaning areas of low fertility where only the hardiest plants survive. In addition, the preserve is located at the confluence of many creeks that feed into the Russian River, and all this makes for a very picturesque location with a diversity of color, flora, and fauna.  

Immerse yourself into an amazing natural world filled with majestic wildlife from the African savannah.

Safari West 

Founded in the late 1980s, Safari West is a one-of-a-kind safari experience located in the heart of the Mayacama Mountains just outside Santa Rosa, California. What better sightseeing activity than one where you get to see life in a preserve full of majestic wildlife from Africa, including galloping gazelles and graceful giraffes? This Safari might be thousands of miles away from the nearest African nature reserve, but once you enter, you’ll hardly be able to tell once you enter. The Safari West Tent Camp offers luxury stays in beautiful custom-made canvas tents imported from Botswana. Safari West only gets better year after year, and it is currently home to over 1,000 animals, making it one of the best parks in Santa Rosa, California for animal lovers.     

Experience the striking natural beauty of Sonoma County from the saddle of a bicycle with a ride through wild Annadel State Park.

Annadel State Park 

The Trione-Annadel State Park is popular with mountain bike enthusiasts thanks to its extensive trail network and stunning scenes of natural beauty. It is one of the top state parks in the area and is a beautifully developed green space with plenty of paths for cyclists and joggers. Because Annadel State Park is a nature reserve, you cannot bring your dog to this park, nor can you camp or barbecue. Motorized cycles (including e-bikes) are likewise prohibited. 

However, this is still a great place to go riding or walking on amazing nature trails, particularly in early May when the wildflowers are in full bloom, coating the park in a beautiful display of vibrant colors. You can also fish at Lake Ilsanjo, which is full of hardy black bass and blue gill. If you’re 16 or older, you will need a fishing license, but it’s well worth it as the catch in this lake can be as big as nine pounds. 

Children's Museum of Sonoma County

Education for kids should be both fun and enriching, and the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County knocks it out of the park with edutainment. Located mere minutes from downtown Santa Rosa, California, the Children’s Museum is a fun colorful place with plenty of novel exhibits designed to educate kids in fun and original ways. Current exhibits include Flavortown, where kids can get to play the chef in a cooking show kitchen complete with a “real” cafe, hot line, and prep table. Instead of serving their food to judges, the kids get to serve their creations to their parents. 

Santa Rosa is a place in the North Bay that offers a lot to both visitors and residents.

Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery Ghost Tours 

Learn about the spookier parts of Santa Rosa and support an important historical landmark simultaneously with a rural cemetery ghost tour. The Santa Rosa cemetery is one of the oldest and spookiest places in Sonoma County. Established in 1854, the cemetery was once the main burial ground for the settlers of Santa Rosa, CA, but it eventually fell into disrepair as time forgot it. Fortunately, the cemetery has since been restored by a group of dedicated volunteers who now work to protect and maintain the site. 

They also provide guided ghost tours of the cemetery to raise funds and awareness. As you might expect, this old cemetery has many spooky tales to tell as it contains the victims of deadly earthquakes, drownings, mysterious deaths, and wars. Some people say the site is haunted, but there’s only one way to know for sure. Seeing is believing, as they say, but you might not believe what your eyes behold on this Santa Rosa ghost tour.

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