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Tips When Planning a Trip to Sonoma County!

Posted by on October 20, 2014

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile, but every time I started to, I’d stop again.  Something about residing in such a beautiful area that has so much to offer how can one write just one post about it for potential travelers to the area?

But, here I am, giving it a go.  Whether you’ll be visiting the area for a Conference, a trip to the Wineries, a visit to family, or perhaps even a work trip, here are some tips to get you through your time here.


1) Talk to the Locals

First piece of advice when you visit here, or really, any other place, is to spend some time talking to some of the locals.  Seriously, Sonoma County has some pretty awesome people out there, but not only that, you will always find a fun local spot to frequent that they can tell you about.

Some of my favorite local spots?

The Barlow

Paradise Ridge Winery

Chateau St. Jean Winery

VJB Cellars


Sonoma Mountain Marketplace

Downtown Petaluma

and many others that I’m not quite ready to disclose…


2) Get out of the Touristy Areas

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some great spots including The Sonoma Plaza and Healdsburg Square, but a huge part of the charm of Sonoma County are driving through the roadways.  Take yourself to Sebastopol, and see some of the arts scattered around the area, enjoy some of the scenic views on roads throughout the county, and be sure to stop and just take a picture with whatever happens to catch your eye, yes, even if it is a cow.  And take a trek out to the Sonoma Coast to see the Northern California coastline, trust me, it will make you want to come back for more.

3) It’s Not Just About the Wine: Have you Tried the Cheese?

I’m from the Midwest, I grew up knowing some pretty good cheese.  Cheese curds, anyone?  However, being out in Sonoma County definitely has its perks, and YOU must find some local cheese shops while you’re in town, and yes, you may have to drive a little (Marin County has some great creameries too!)

A few favorites include:

Cowgirl Creamery

Marin French Cheese Company

Valley Ford Cheese Company

Vella Cheese Company

But there are so many more local varietals.  Stop into a specialty cheese store such as the Sonoma Market or Glen Ellen Market or Olivers and just browse lovingly at all the varietals.

4) Do Something Out of the Ordinary!

You’re here.  Make it memorable.

A few ideas:

Zipline through the Redwoods with Sonoma Canopy Tours

Wine Taste on the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley

Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride over the Vineyards

Stay Overnight amongst Wild Animals at Safari West

Go Camping along the Sonoma Coast right in Bodega Bay

Go rafting down the Russian River

Stopped off along the Russian River today after exploring #mendocinocounty #russianriver

A photo posted by Jamie Gall (@jamiegall1930) on

 5) When it Comes to the Wine….

When you plan your trip to Sonoma County, whether it’s for a few days, or an entire week, or perhaps a whole month, realize that there are 16 Wine Appellations within the county.  That is a lot of acreage, and even more wineries.  You will get overwhelmed. So, with that being said, pick a few out of each appellation for each day you’re here.   Then rank them in order of importance of ones you truly want to visit to the lesser ones.  And the key? Always have a few backups on hand, just in case you get to a tasting room, and it just wasn’t everything YOU had hoped it to be.

Oh, and with that being said, work with a Tour Guide Company.  They know the area, and the wineries really well and can help guide you to exactly what you want to experience while you’re here. I can not recommend these two companies enough:

Terrific Tours

Sonoma Wine Guides

Of course, you could always talk to me too, I have a few favorites and/or suggestions.

6) Get LOCAL!  

Enjoyed exploring around the Sonoma Mountain marketpkace. Open every Saturday and Subsay

A photo posted by Jamie Gall (@jamiegall1930) on

There are so many amazing local companies in the area that are creating some pretty incredible things.  My new favorite place of late is the Sonoma Mountain Marketplace right in Rohnert Park.  Its open every weekend, Saturday and Sunday, and is a shopping mecca with incredible deals from local creatives.

Stop by a Farmer’s Market from the Saturday morning Santa Rosa one to the Tuesday evening (during the summer) one in the Sonoma Plaza.  They’re always a great place to shop local, support your local community while being entertained for the evening.

And seriously, you need to check out The Barlow in Sebastopol.  This place really touches on “Local” by bringing in only local made companies, with many, producing their products right on the property.  Another fun place to check out is Cornerstone Sonoma that also has some great local creatives coming together in one place.

There’s some GREAT local craft breweries in the area, along with some hard core cider makers.  Get to know them!

7) The FOOD!

Promise me something, please! That when you plan your trip to Sonoma County that you will NOT eat at any FAST FOOD Establishments while here.  PLEASE?

There are some pretty incredible chefs in the area doing some wonderful things.  Farm to Table?  Yes, Sonoma County is at the mecca of it with such fresh ingredients all around them.  Do your research, and indulge on some of the restaurants in the area.  YOU WILL BE BEGGING FOR MORE after.

Psst: Sonoma County Restaurant Week is a good way to do research fast.

But the key to your vacation? To just sit back, enjoy the scenery around you, and not to STRESS one bit.   That’s what a vacation is truly about anyhow.






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