There’s something for everyone in Santa Rosa. The gateway to Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, is equal parts reserved and weird. You’ll love the vibe here while checking out the best things to do in Santa Rosa. Excellent food, stellar hiking, biking, and incredible wines await in this northern California gem.
Santa Rosa is a quick 55 miles north of San Francisco. It makes the perfect hub to explore the gorgeous redwood forests, rugged coastlines, and award-winning wineries throughout Sonoma County.
Bring the kids because Snoopy is a local, and the city boasts more than 70 Peanuts statues along with the fantastic Charles Schultz Museum dedicated to the great comic strip artist. Then head to the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County.
Afterward, make your way to the magnificent redwood forest for a heart-pounding zipline through the trees or an exquisite meal at St. Francis Winery.
As I said, there’s something for everyone in Santa Rosa. It should be on your list of must-travel cities because amazing adventures await.
Table of Contents
- Best things to do in Santa Rosa, California
- 1. Luther Burbank Home and Gardens
- 2. Luther Burbank Center
- 3. Railroad Square Historic District
- 4. Pacific Coast Air Museum
- Best winery tours in Santa Rosa, California
- 5. Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens
- 6. Castello di Amorosa
- Best activities for adults in Santa Rosa, California
- 7. Sonoma wine country tour with a private driver
- 8. Countryside Bike Tour with Lunch and Wine Tasting
- Best adventures in Santa Rosa, California
- 9. Hot Air Balloon Rides over Sonoma County
- 10. Kayak tour on the Russian River
- Best free things to do in Santa Rosa, California
- 11. Trione Annadel State Park
- 12. Spring Lake Regional Park
- Best things to do in Santa Rosa, California, with kids
- 13. Snoopy’s Home Ice
- 14. The Charles M. Schulz Museum
- 15. The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County
- 16. Safari West
- Best places to eat at Santa Rosa, California tourist attractions
- 17. St. Francis Winery and Vineyards
- BONUS! The BEST place to stay in Santa Rosa, California
- Flamingo Resort
- Getting around Santa Rosa, California
- What is Santa Rosa, California, known for?
- What are some fun things to do in Santa Rosa, California?
- What to do in Santa Rosa, California, when it’s raining?
- What places to visit in Santa Rosa, California
- Is Santa Rosa, California, worth visiting?
Take a quick look at the top Santa Rosa attractions, activities, food, and accommodations. The options are so vast that you’ll never want to leave.
- Most significant landmark – Luther Burbank Home and Gardens
- Must-see attractions – Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens and Castello di Amorosa
- Best free activities – Annadel State Park and Spring Lake Regional Park
- Best adventures – Hot Air Balloon Rides over Sonoma County and Russian River Kayak Tour
- Best activities for kids – Safari West and The Charles M Schultz Museum
- Best activities for adults – Sonoma County with Private Driver and Countryside Bike Tour with Lunch and Wine Tasting
- Best food – St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
- Best places to stay – Flamingo Resort
Best things to do in Santa Rosa, California
Let’s dig into what makes Santa Rosa, California, such a perfect getaway. Whether traveling with friends or your kids, there’s plenty here to keep all of you entertained.
1. Luther Burbank Home and Gardens
Address: 204 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
The Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is a must-see when visiting Santa Rosa, California. Just outside of downtown Santa Rosa, the national historic landmark gardens are absolutely stunning.
The history and significance of the property stem from Luther Burbank’s work as a horticulturist. California has even moved Arbor Day to the week of his birthday in March to honor his contributions.
The Luther Burbank Home and Gardens once belonged to the famous pioneering horticulturist. He was born in 1849 and, over his lifetime, created at least 800 new types of plants. He is celebrated as the Wizard of Horticulture.
The Luther Burbank Home and Gardens was occupied by his wife Elizabeth until her passing in 1977.
If you’re a lover of gardens, the Luther Burbank Home your happy place. There are many varieties that are created by Luther Burbank, some that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s worth the visit. Donations are suggested at the gate. The Luther Burbank Home is one of the top things to do in Santa Rosa.
Located close to Railroad Square, visitors typically spend one to two hours touring the site. After visiting, head over to the historic Railroad Square Historic District for some shopping and food.
See Related: Best Things to do in Calabasas, California
2. Luther Burbank Center
Address: 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, Ca 95403
The Luther Burbank Center is a performing arts center presenting live music, stage theater, and much more. The beautiful theater was named after Luther Burbank when it opened in 1981 and returned to the name in 2016.
Acts from around the globe perform a wide variety of entertainment at the Luther Burbank Center. Summer concert series and symphony performances are just a few of the events you can experience.
The theater offers 1681 seats that are often filled for performances. If you’re looking for an art museum, art installations surround the building, and permanent installations are found throughout the halls and grounds.
3. Railroad Square Historic District
Address: Located near downtown Santa Rosa
There are plenty of free things to do at the Railroad Square Historic District, with several antique shops and boutiques perfect for window shopping. Restaurants and spots for a quick bite are around as well.
A statue of Charlie Brown lives at Depot Park, which lies in the center of the Railroad Square Historic District. Bring the kids and watch them light up when they see all the Peanuts characters throughout the area. You don’t want to miss the Charles M Schulz Museum after your visit.
Stop by Bike Partners Bike Shop, which specializes in travel bikes that fold up to save space. There’s also a fun craft shop that specializes in natural fiber yarns. The Cast Away Yarn Shop offers visitors unique yarns and patterns along with a sit-and-stitch meeting every Sunday.
If you’re hoping for a unique lodging experience, the Hotel La Rose has been an anchor of historic Railroad Square since 1907. Book a suite and enjoy a whirlpool bath after a day of shopping and touring local wineries.
Highway 101 travels next to Railroad Square Historic District, so it’s easily accessed. The historic district is a Santa Rosa city historic landmark and is worth the trip.
See Related: Best Museums in San Diego, California
4. Pacific Coast Air Museum
Address: One Air Museum Way, Santa Rosa, CA, 95403
Established in 1989 the Pacific Coast Air Museum is one of the best open-air aviation museums on the West Coast.
With a collection of 35 historic airplanes, helicopters, and drones, among the most prized exhibits in the museum’s collection are parts of an SR-71 Blackbird stealth plane and a McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-15A Eagle, known as the “First Responder”.
This particular F15 Eagle was the first US military aircraft to respond to the 9/11 attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001.
The Pacific Coast Air Museum staff also works to restore many of their grounded exhibits and new acquisitions into airworthy order so that they can take to the skies once more!
This aviation history museum hosts a number of educational programs and events, including an aviation summer school that can teach young folk the basics of flight. Remember; lift is a gift, but the thrust is a must!
Best of all though, the Pacific Coast Air Museum Hot Dog Thursday is a cherished local gettogether that runs April through October.
See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in California to Visit
Best winery tours in Santa Rosa, California
Most wineries require reservations before you arrive. The Sonoma Valley boasts hundreds of wineries, so check out the specific location before heading out to save yourself the frustration.
5. Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens
Address: 5007 Fulton Road, Fulton, CA 95439
Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens is built on magnificent, sprawling grounds up the road in Fulton. With over four acres to explore, there are seven gardens throughout the grounds, each with its own unique style and purpose.
Clearly, the number one thing to experience here is wine. Wine tastings are offered in multiple styles. The Signature Tasting introduces the Grand Reserve collection of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir.
The Estate Tasting provides five Jackson Estates wines, from Rosé and Riesling to Pinot Noir and Merlot.
The Chardonnay Flight is offered on weekends. The Chardonnay is from their off-the-menu reserve and provides a glimpse of several growing regions and styles.
If wine and food pairings are on your mind, you’ve come to the right place. A four-course meal with a selection of small-batch wines and seasonal produce from the gardens on the estate will be sure to delight.
Reservations are required, so plan ahead.
See Related: 14 Fun & Best Things to Do in Truckee, California
6. Castello di Amorosa
Address: 4045 St Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515
Castello di Amorosa is a sight to see and is a fantastic idea for a day trip from Santa Rosa. Built as an authentic representation of a 13th Century Tuscan castle, this winery stands out.
Who doesn’t want to visit a castle in the heart of Napa Valley?
The owner spent over 15 years creating the majestic castle in the hills of surrounding Sonoma County. The castle consists of 107 rooms, each unique in design and decoration. Make an online reservation for a tour and tasting before you head there.
The tastings are available in different packages and include wines that are only available at the castle. Standing reserve tastings include a short self-guided tour of sections of the castle, while deluxe guided tours and tastings are available.
Curated private tours are available and provide an exclusive tour of the castle and tastings explicitly selected for your group. The hospitality staff customizes the entire event for you. Pricing for this is provided when you contact the winery.
See Related: Best Vacation for a Group of Friends
Best activities for adults in Santa Rosa, California
7. Sonoma wine country tour with a private driver
Address: Notified upon purchase of tickets
One setback to the wine tasting is that after a few stops, you might have issues behind the wheel. Sonoma County tour with a Private Driver is the perfect solution. They pick you up at a predetermined location and take you and your group on a tour of three or four wineries over a six-hour period.
The drivers are very experienced and friendly and will offer suggestions if you don’t have a specific itinerary. Be ready for a day of laid-back wine tasting without the worry of who’s going to be the designated driver.
The package includes bottled water and hotel pickup. Before heading out on the tour, you’ll definitely want to purchase the Sonoma County Wine Tasting Pass too.
See Related: 20 Fun & Best Things to Do in Healdsburg, California
8. Countryside Bike Tour with Lunch and Wine Tasting
Address: 61 Front St, Healdsburg, 95448
This Countryside Bike Tour in neighboring Healdsburg takes you on an adventure through the Dry Creek Valley as you make your way to three wineries for tastings and lunch.
The guide explains the vivid history of the wineries and the valley as you travel.
Haven’t been on a bike lately?
The tour is rideable for all levels of cyclists. When you’ve finished the tour, you will have discovered one of the best biking areas in Sonoma County.
See Related: Best Waterfalls in California: SoCal & NorCal Spots
Best adventures in Santa Rosa, California
The adventurous are in for a treat in Santa Rosa. Options range from ziplines through the redwoods to kayaking the Russian River. Oh, and did someone say hot air balloons?
9. Hot Air Balloon Rides over Sonoma County
Address: Meets at Charles M Schulz Sonoma County Airport
Hot Air Balloon Rides over Sonoma County are the perfect way to get a birds’ eye view of the beautiful countryside. Wineries, rivers, vineyards, and possibly the Pacific Ocean are all on display as you gently soar through the air.
Every trip in a hot air balloon is a unique flight. Head out knowing you’ll be enjoying a totally new experience. Watch the Russian River idly flow below you and bring along a camera for the memories.
10. Kayak tour on the Russian River
Address: Visitor Center, CA-1 10451, Jenner, 95450
Looking for awesome day trips from Santa Rosa? Less than an hour’s drive to the west will bring you to Jenner and the moth of the Russian River.
This Russian River Kayak Tour brings you three hours of peaceful kayaking along the Sonoma Coast, where the Russian River and the Pacific Ocean meet.
The tour provides kayaks, life jackets, and transportation back to the starting point.
The variety of wildlife in this area is incredible. Seals, river otters, sea lions, and more are playing in the waters as you pass by. The guides give information and history about the animals and area.
The river is primarily calm throughout this area, so there’s no need to worry about giant rapids.
See Related: Best Things to do in Guerneville, California
Best free things to do in Santa Rosa, California
Adventure without cost is the best kind of adventure. Spring Lake Regional Park and Annadel State Park offer all the adventure without the cost.
11. Trione Annadel State Park
Address: Trione-Annadel State Park, 6201 Channel Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95409
Annadel State Park has some of the best hiking, mountain biking, and fishing of any regional park near Santa Rosa, California. There are fun things to do at the park, like heading out for some epic mountain bike trail riding.
The state parks in the area all provide perfect escapes into the natural world, though Annadel State Park is the favorite among locals and vacationers alike. The hiking trails range from leisurely strolls to exciting technical hikes.
Anglers will enjoy the lake with its plentiful bluegill and bass fishing. There’s plenty to do at Annadel State Park, and it’s easy to find yourself filling an entire day while exploring this Sonoma County park.
Horseback riding is exceptionally popular at Annadel State Park. Check out the park’s website before heading out to be up to date on any regulations.
12. Spring Lake Regional Park
Address: 393 Violetti Road, Santa Rosa, CA
Spring Lake Regional Park is just what you need on a hot day. Swimming, camping, and boating on a beautiful lake will surely cool you down. The park, located in Santa Rosa, California, brings people together from throughout the area.
Spring Lake Regional Park has over 10 miles of paved trails and several miles of unimproved hiking. There’s a waterpark with inflatable features on the lake. Reservations are recommended, and there’s a small cost involved.
Free things at Spring Lake Regional Park include the public swimming area. Life jackets are also available free of charge.
See Related: Best Things to do in California
Best things to do in Santa Rosa, California, with kids
Take a look at the best things to do with kids in Santa Rosa, California. Museums, parks, and Safari West will be sure to please the kids.
13. Snoopy’s Home Ice
Address: 1667 W Steele Ln, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Snoopy’s Home Ice is the home to the Redwood Empire Ice Arena and Warm Puppy Café. Ice skating is open year-round, and the local hockey team holds practice here.
The Redwood Empire Ice Arena is located next to the Charles M Schulz Museum and Research Center. Make a day of the Peanuts and start with a stroll through the museum before grabbing a bite at the café and finally strapping on the ice skates for an exciting afternoon.
Ice skating lessons and free skating are offered at Redwood Empire Ice Arena throughout the week. Check out the site for times and rates.
Make a stop at the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, which is next to the Charles M Schulz Museum.
14. The Charles M. Schulz Museum
Address: 301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Snoopy is ready and waiting, along with Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang. The Charles M Schulz Museum takes you through the life of the cartoon artist and shows the widespread cultural effect he had (and still has).
No Schulz fan should miss this destination. There’s even a Snoopy labyrinth to get lost in. Spend some time here and discover the incredible history of the Peanuts and their creator. Charlie Brown might even show up while you’re there. Don’t skip the gift shop!
Snoopy’s home ice and Redwood Empire Ice Arena are right across the street, along with Warm Puppy’s Café. You’ll want to stop at the cafe for some delicious food and a show. The crew at the café goes out of their way to ensure you’re having a great time.
Santa Rosa, California, has even named the airport after the late cartoonist. Charles M Schulz Sonoma County Airport could be where you begin and end your Santa Rosa vacation.
See Related: Best California Road Trips | Your Ultimate Guide
15. The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County
Address: 1835 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County is the place to take your little ones to tire them out.
Want some “you” time?
Bring them in, wear them out, then head back to the hotel for some quiet time while they sleep the night away.
The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County has all the play areas your little ones could hope for. There’s the “Flavor town” kids café, which features a toy kitchen large enough for a restaurant. The Crocodile Dental Clinic is also a big hit.
Light writing rooms, the Russian River Waterway playground, puppet theater, and so much more all come with the price of admission.
The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County is open Monday, and then Wednesday through Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm, and 11 am to 4 pm on Sundays. They are closed on Tuesdays.
16. Safari West
Address: 3115 Porter Creek Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Any animal lovers out there?
Safari West, “The Sonoma Serengeti,” is the perfect place to take the family to see wildlife in a natural setting. Masai giraffes, fennec foxes, striped hyenas, and so many more creatures are waiting patiently for your visit.
Safari West offers tent lodging in African safari-styled tents. There’s no AC, but there is also no TV or any other distractions to worry about. Staying in the tents allows you access to wander a portion of the park at night to see the animals, and several species are viewable right from the tent.
The jeep tour puts you right next to the animals in their habitat. The jeeps are fashioned after the same type used in Africa, so they’re authentic. Members of the tour take turns sitting on top to get even better views. The tour is highly recommended by previous visitors.
Dining on site is available at the Savannah Café, which needs to be purchased in advance with your admission.
The café offers lunch and dinner, which are cooked on the custom-built wood-fired grill. Beer, wine, and more are available. It’s a great experience, and you get to interact with other guests if you choose.
See Related: Best Things to do in Sacramento, California
Best places to eat at Santa Rosa, California tourist attractions
Food pairs perfectly with wine. The group at St. Francis Winery and Vineyards has turned it into a tourist attraction. Yes, it’s that good.
17. St. Francis Winery and Vineyards
Address: 100 Pythian Road at Hwy 12, Santa Rosa, CA 05409
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards is a stunning destination. The wine tasting and Nationally Acclaimed five-course fine dining wine pairing are simply sublime.
The tastings at St. Francis are above and beyond the typical options.
The Estate Pairing is presented outdoors on the Vineyard Portico. The Chef selects the lineup of wines and pairs them with exquisitely delectable small-bite portions. You’ll drink four wines with a view of the mountains and vineyard.
The Pedal Trolley Vineyard Tour and Tasting is a unique experience. The tasting takes place during the vineyard tour aboard an intimate trolley. The trolley is pedal-powered, so there’s no concern about exhaust fumes or environmental damage.
No doubt you’ll be looking for a place to stay after gorging yourself on the best Santa Rosa has to offer. I recommend this delightful country cottage, featuring an outdoor hot tub and pool, as well as views of the vineyard and valley.
BONUS! The BEST place to stay in Santa Rosa, California
There are hundreds of lodging options in Santa Rosa. The Flamingo Resort tops our list for its uniqueness and amenities.
Address: 2777 Fourth Street Santa Rosa, CA 95405
I’ve had the immense pleasure of spending a cheeky weekender at the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa. For many reasons, this place deserves its own section.
Firstly, the Flamingo Resort offers guests everything they need in a luxury resort. The full-service spa focuses on wellbeing and makes the stay peaceful and rejuvenating.
Plenty of amenities and perks are available including a bar, tennis courts, and a well-stocked gym. The resort features multiple superb restaurants and offers private dining as well as room service.
Perhaps best of all, over 80 wineries are within a 20-mile radius, making this hotel’s location ideal for anyone on a booze cruise.
Rooms range from $244 to $450, though two children under 12 stay free. Certain rooms have direct patios to the pool, while others have balconies overlooking the pool. There are also family rooms available and pets are allowed too!
The Flamingo Resort is the perfect balance of chic and modern. Make it your base of operations for your stay in the beautiful Santa Rosa area.
See Related: Best & Fun Things to do in San Diego, California
Getting around Santa Rosa, California
Santa Rosa, California, is best accessed by car. Whether you rent a car or bring your own vehicle, it’s definitely the most accessible and flexible option.
US Highway 101 runs through Santa Rosa and has plenty of exits to get you where you need to go. Major surface streets include Fulton Road, Santa Rosa Avenue, Stony Point Road, and Mendocino Avenue. They run parallel to 101, and each has several access points.
Independent tours are another option. There are several providers in the area that will handle all of your travel needs.
Ride-share services are popular in Santa Rosa, and there are options for hiring a private driver for your personal vehicle. No more worrying about designated drivers.
Car rentals are available from all of the major carriers, so getting a larger vehicle to accommodate a larger group or family is an option.
Solo travelers can also rent a car or tour, use a ride-share service, or book private groups for their travel needs.
Busses and trains are available as well. The Santa Rosa Public Transportation site has links to route maps and times for the bus and train schedules.
Biking is also a great way to experience the area. The countryside is very bike friendly.
What is Santa Rosa, California, known for?
Santa Rosa, California, is known for being the gateway to Sonoma County and the North California wine country.
What are some fun things to do in Santa Rosa, California?
Visit the many museums in Santa Rosa, California. The Charles M Schulz Museum and Research Center is worth the admission.
What to do in Santa Rosa, California, when it’s raining?
Wine tours throughout Sonoma County remain open during rainy weather. The tasting sessions are moved indoors.
What places to visit in Santa Rosa, California
If traveling with children, be sure to visit Safari West. It’s the closest you can get to the Serengeti without traveling there. Animals roam free in wide-open habitats.
The St. Francis Winery and Vineyards is a great place for adults. They provide exquisite food, wines, and experience.
Is Santa Rosa, California, worth visiting?
Santa Rosa is a wonderful city to visit. The variety of arts, music, museums, food and wines make this a must-visit destination.
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