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Sonoma's Secrets: Soil and Sun
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Sonoma's Secrets: Soil and Sun

Whether relaxing or hiking bring you to Sonoma County, the long sunny days, crisp coastlines, and bustling culinary scene will make you stay

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5 min read

March 23, 2022

Whether relaxing, wine-tasting, or hiking bring you to Sonoma County, the long sunny days, crisp coastlines, and bustling culinary scene will entice you to stay. With more than 50 grape varietals grown throughout the region, more than 40 spas for much-needed relaxation, and 140 miles of trails, there is something for everyone. Before you start planning the ins and outs of your adventure, we’re here to fuel your excitement by sharing fun Sonoma County history facts, awesome things to do, and incredible restaurants to try while you’re there. Ready for a trip of a lifetime? Here’s everything you need to know about Northern California’s own Sonoma County.

Sonoma County is famous for its sprawling vineyards, but it has a long and interesting history not many people know about.

Sonoma County History

Long before Sonoma County wineries stole the spotlight, the region was home to thousands of indigenous Native Americans, including the Pomo, Coast Miwok, and Wappo tribes. In fact, many places in Sonoma County still convey this 4,000-year-old Native American history. For example, Tolay Lake in Petaluma is widely considered a significant spiritual site and thought by many California tribes to have healing powers. The first-class California Indian Museum and Cultural Center is also found in Sonoma County—more specifically in Santa Rosa—and portrays California history and culture from a uniquely Native American perspective.

It actually wasn't until the 1800s that grapes found their way to Sonoma County. Russian colonists, who had primarily come to the area to hunt seals, started planting and cultivating grapevines at Fort Ross on the Pacific Coast. This process was greatly accelerated by the Gold Rush era, when a flood of settlers came to the Sonoma region.

Did you know Sonoma translates to “Valley of the Moon?" It's a name that comes from the early Native American inhabitants of the Valley.

Today, the county located 80 miles north of San Francisco utilizes its dry, warm days mixed with a cool breeze from the Pacific to cultivate the ideal conditions for growing grapes. The region as a whole is known for these temperatures, which help maintain the complexity of the grapes, but due to its unique terroirs, the county is divided into 18 separate American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), each with distinctive characteristics. These AVAs are spread across the coast and up into the Mayacamas Mountains, contributing to Sonoma County’s status as the largest wine producer in Northern California, beating out the more famous Napa County

Verdant valleys, oceanic outlooks, beautiful hiking trails, and more fun attractions await you in Sonoma County.

Things to Do in Sonoma County

While the 425-plus wineries and high wine production may make one believe differently, only 6 percent of the county is planted with vineyards, leaving the rest open to state parks, renowned restaurants, oceanic outlooks, high-class shopping, and entertainment. Filling up your Sonoma weekend itinerary? These are the activities you can’t miss.

Spend a weekend Camping at Spring Lake

Spring Lake is one of the best Sonoma County parks to head to for a weekend of fun outdoor recreation in Santa Rosa. Offering hiking trails, boating ramps, picnic areas, a natural history center, and a summer swimming lagoon, this awesome regional park is also ideal for a camping adventure.

This Sonoma County camping spot welcomes tent, trailer, and RV campers and features several sleeping cabins you can book in advance. If you’ve been looking for an idyllic destination for a lakeside camping retreat in California, you’ve come across just the right place.

The majestic trees at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve provide the perfect setting for a hiking adventure in Sonoma.

Hike in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

The towering redwoods in the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve provide the perfect setting for a hiking adventure in Sonoma County. These giant trees have been around for almost 240 million years—standing beside them feels like a surreal experience! Offering both easy and challenging routes, the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve allows for some of the most breathtaking glimpses of the Sonoma Valley.

Pamper yourself to a Night at one of Sonoma’s Best Hotels

As a prime tourist destination, Sonoma has a hotel for every kind of traveler. Craving a spring staycation? Book one of the best accommodations in the county and enjoy a weekend of exploration, making memories, and eating the most delicious food. The paradisal resorts in Sonoma County rival the top vacation destinations worldwide and will definitely have you feeling prim and pampered.

Kayak on the Russian River

If you’re the sort of person who likes to try new things on vacation, then you should definitely give river rafting a go. Plan a mini getaway to the Russian River and take your pedaling skills up a notch as you glide down Class II and III rapids. If whitewater rafting is too wild of an adventure for you, there are plenty of other activities you’ll be able to enjoy at the Russian River, such as swimming, fishing, canoeing, and tubing.

You'll be spoiled for choice with the variety and amount of world-class restaurants available in Sonoma County.

Where to Eat in Sonoma County

It is not difficult to find a place to eat in Sonoma County, though it may be hard to choose between the many amazing options. Rustic modernity adorns the plethora of restaurants that serve farm-to-table meals from brunch to dinner. The world is your oyster in this coastal county, which features restaurants offering everything from seafood to charcuterie and sunset views to Michelin stars. 

Barndiva

You know you’re in for a delicious meal at Barndiva when you see the lushly landscaped outdoor patio. Serving mouthwatering dishes like cauliflower soup with caramelized florets and sautéed Pacific swordfish, Barndiva ensures that you’ll have one of the most memorable dining experiences when in Sonoma. Don’t take our word for it, try this Sonoma County restaurant and see for yourself.

Gravenstein Grill

California cuisine comes alive with Sonoma County's seasonal bounty at Gravenstein Grill in Sebastopol. Chef Simontacchi's careful and innovative touch brings out the best in Wine Country’s organic ingredients and results in deliciously unique dishes you’ll love. This Sonoma County restaurant might be the perfect venue for sampling the authentic taste of Wine Country.

La Gare Restaurant

La Gare has been a local favorite for almost 40 years and two generations. Regarded by many as one of the most romantic Sonoma County restaurants, La Gare prides itself on old-world classic French cuisine crafted with fresh local ingredients. All their entrees are served with soup and salad on the side; how French is that?

Nimble and Finn’s

Don’t forget to save room for dessert! Nimble and Finn’s in Guerneville makes the most innovative homemade ice cream in Sonoma County. Using organic dairy, seasonal produce, and housemade jams and candy, this incredible creamery tops many people’s lists of the best ice cream spots in California.

 

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