Although Sonoma, California, may be synonymous with incredible wine, there’s so much more to see and do when you visit this gorgeous area. Going wine tasting is just one of the unique experiences you can have on your Sonoma trip.
Visiting Sonoma means eating fresh local foods, marveling at towering redwoods, spending your days in cool waters, and so much more. Whether you’re a history buff, a country music fan, or an animal lover, there’s always something fun for you to do in this unique part of California.
With so many different things to see and do, knowing just where to start is the hardest part. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Sonoma for you. From hopping aboard a one-of-a-kind trolley ride to glamping in the Sonoma Serengeti, you’re bound to have an amazing time if you follow these Sonoma bucket list recommendations!
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15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Sonoma
1. Shop, Wine, and Dine at Sonoma Plaza
It’s easy to spend a day exploring Sonoma Plaza. From fine dining to high-end shopping to historic sites, heading to Sonoma Plaza is a perfect way to start your trip and a must on your Sonoma bucket list.
Sonoma County is famous for its wine, so you’ll love spending an afternoon hopping from one winery to the next in Sonoma Plaza, from the world-renowned pinot noirs of Fulcrum Wines to the refreshing chardonnays at Darling Wines. Sonoma Plaza is also home to several art galleries, giving you a look at stunning works of art created by local artists and inspired by locations all around the world.
Catch a show at the historic Sebastiani Theatre. Or tour the last California mission, San Francisco Solano Mission. For even more history, travel back to the 1800s in the Depot Park Museum to learn about how the railroad shaped our lives. These historic spots are all located in and around Sonoma Plaza, giving you plenty of options for how you want to spend your day.
2. Go Wine Tasting with the Sonoma County Tasting Pass
With more than 425 wineries in Sonoma County, you could spend months just working your way around the internationally acclaimed wine houses. But if you only have a short amount of time, snagging a Sonoma County Tasting Pass is one of the most fun things to do in Sonoma.
With the Sonoma County Tasting Pass, you can choose to tour around Sonoma’s award-winning wineries and craft breweries alike for either one or two days. Choose tasting flights from 11 different locations and even get discounts on the bottles you buy to bring home.
You may be visiting one of the wine capitals of the world, but if wine just isn’t your thing, the tasting pass gives you another option. You can also choose to buy a one- or two-day distillery pass, allowing you to tour the region’s specialty micro-distilleries, which feature their own spins on everything from vodka to whiskey and beyond. Choose tasting flights from nine different distilleries, with some distilleries also offering discounts on what you choose to buy.
3. Ride Your Way Through the Sonoma TrainTown Railroad
Open daily in the summer and on the weekends through the fall, winter, and spring, the Sonoma TrainTown Railroad is one of the most unique things to do in Sonoma. Entertaining Sonoma visitors and locals alike since 1958, TrainTown’s founder, Stanley L. Frank, considered his park to be a 10-acre tabletop railroad brought to life.
TrainTown is an amusement park like no other, themed entirely around railroads. The heart of the park is the Train Ride, a quarter-scale railroad with four miles of track that wraps around the park. The trip lasts 20 minutes and features a stop at Lakeview station, where kids can enjoy the miniature town of Lakeview and its petting zoo.
TrainTown also has several other rides, all railroad-themed, like the Mine Train Coaster and High Iron Ferris Wheel. Especially true if you’re traveling with kids, TrainTown is one of the must-do things to do in Sonoma.
4. Learn about California’s History at the California Missions Museum
Cline Family Cellars is a family-owned winery located on a gorgeous ranch. Take a seat on the Garden Patio and sip your way through a curated flight of their wines, or sit by one of their ponds to enjoy a bottle of your choosing along with a seasonal cheese and charcuterie board or picnic basket.
Once you’re done with your flight or bites, head to Cline Cellars’ California Missions Museum to learn about the history of California’s 21 missions and get an up-close look at scale models of all of the missions. The models have some history themselves, having been crafted in the 1930s for the San Francisco World’s Fair. The Cline family saved the models from being auctioned off individually in 1998 and set up this museum in 2005 to showcase these historic treasures.
The museum also features two stained-glass windows that were taken from one of the missions that was damaged in an earthquake, as well as a life-sized replica of Saint Junipero Serra, who was responsible for the creation of the missions.
5. Sip, Swirl, and Eat at Taste of Sonoma
Occurring every summer, Taste of Sonoma is an annual celebration of all things food and wine and one of the must-do things in Sonoma County if you’re visiting in June. Sample vintages of pinot noir, chardonnay, and so much more from 19 different wine regions.
Observe panel discussions from renowned local winemakers and winegrowers or book a Wine Talk or Garden Tour to get more hands-on learning opportunities from the people who make some of the greatest wines in the world.
Not a wine person? There’s still plenty to do at Taste of Sonoma. Dine your way around food trucks, sampling local cuisine from the best chefs around. Or take a seat with a brew over in the beer garden, where you can drink beers from local breweries.
For those who want an even more upscale experience, you can also become a VIP Club Reserve ticket holder. With this ticket, you’ll be able to enter the festival early and have exclusive access to limited production, reserve, and award-winning wines from Sonoma County’s world-class wineries.
Kids and pets are not allowed at Taste of Sonoma, but if you’re traveling with an adults-only crew, this festival should definitely be on your Sonoma bucket list!
6. Admire the Works of Art at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art
Located in Downtown Sonoma, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art has been delighting visitors and locals since 1998. Featuring unique artwork from around the world and Sonoma locals alike, you never know what incredible works of art are waiting for you, making it one of the top things to do in Sonoma for any visitor.
Exhibitions are always changing, ensuring that you’ll see something new with every visit. The museum is dedicated to uplifting voices that are too often left unheard. From highlighting the contemporary art from the native Pomo Tribe to portraits of California immigrants throughout generations, you’ll learn from diverse cultures and gain a new perspective when you visit the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.
The art museum may house some uniquely beautiful works of art, but it’s also dedicated to fostering arts education. Summer Studios Art Camp helps kids continue to hone their art skills when school comes to an end. The museum even offers art education classes for fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms, which include visits to the museum for these students to further their lessons.
7. Party at the Country Summer Music Festival
Happening every summer, the Country Summer Music Festival at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds is the biggest country music festival in Northern California and one of the best country music festivals in the nation. Beginning in 2014, this festival continues to get bigger every year!
Featuring top names in country music, like Kelsea Ballerini and Blake Shelton, this festival is easily one of the coolest things to do in Sonoma. While the main stage brings out the biggest names in the business, the secondary stage also highlights up-and-coming acts. The festival also allows you to meet some of your favorite stars.
Around the festival, you’ll also find interactive activities, plenty of food, and a variety of drinks, from Bud Light products to local wines. For a truly VIP experience, you can also buy tickets to enter the Country Club.
This indoor location will give you a break from the sun while also providing you with complimentary buffet-style meals and snacks throughout the day, a honky-tonk cash bar, exclusive games and activities, and private restrooms.
8. Learn about the History of ‘Peanuts’ at the Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center
Located in nearby Santa Rosa, the Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center is dedicated to the life of the cartoonist who brought the Peanuts characters to life. Schulz’s creations have been entertaining and inspiring audiences for over 70 years, and the best place to learn about them is the Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center.
Although the museum features rotating exhibits, it also has several permanent installations. You can check out a re-creation of Schulz’s studios, which includes the drawing board he used for decades. Also on display is a life-sized replica of Snoopy’s doghouse from a 1978 Peanuts comic strip.
Over by the museum’s entrance, you can take a tranquil walk around the Snoopy Labyrinth, a winding path designed in the shape of Snoopy’s head. Inside the museum, you’ll also find a larger-than-life mural of Lucy holding a football for Charlie Brown and the wall that Schulz once painted for his daughter’s nursery.
The museum also holds unique camps and classes both online and in person for kids, adults, and the whole family. If you’re traveling with just adults, you can also take one of several different types of docent-led tours to help you get the complete museum experience.
9. Spend a Day at the Cornerstone Sonoma Marketplace
Cornerstone Sonoma is truly the best of both worlds. While it’s home to some of the best shopping, dining, and wine tasting in Sonoma, it’s also a place to connect with nature, thanks to the beautiful Cornerstone Gardens.
This constantly-changing series of gardens are designed by international and local landscape artists. Inspired by the International Garden Festival at Chaumont-Sur-Loire, the 10 Cornerstone Gardens are meant to celebrate the connection between architecture and nature.
Five of the gardens highlight food production, bee habitat, cut flowers, and composting. While admission to the gardens is free, you can also book a private tour or add a picnic lunch to your journey by ordering from Folktable Restaurant.
Cornerstone is also home to two wine-tasting rooms in addition to Folktable, which is known for its local and seasonal ingredients. Once you’re done with your meal or flight, shop around at the boutiques, like Potter Green & Co., which features beautiful decor for your garden ranging from fire pits to bird baths and beyond.
10. Take a Wine Trolley Tour
The Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley was inspired by San Francisco’s cable cars and takes you on an adventure unlike any other, making it one of the coolest things to do in Sonoma. This six-hour tour will provide you with a full day of scenic views, local history, a catered lunch, and, of course, some of the best wines in Sonoma Valley.
Departing from Sonoma Plaza every day, the trolley will take you to three distinct Sonoma Valley wineries. The tour works with several different wineries, so you may get an entirely unique set of wineries every time you hop aboard the trolley. Though Sonoma is known for its pinot noirs and zinfandels, you’ll try many exceptional wines on your tour, including red Meritage and Gewurztraminer.
Driving from winery to winery isn’t the safest option since you’ll be spending the day drinking, so the wine trolley tour makes for a delightful, safer alternative. The tour is only for those over the age of 21, making the trolley tour one of the most fun Sonoma activities if your group is adults-only.
11. Sample Beers at the Battle of the Brews
Sonoma may be known for its wines, but there are many local breweries to enjoy in the area. Held in the spring at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, the Battle of the Brews allows you to give them a try. This event, which is the biggest beer festival in Sonoma County, features over 50 breweries specializing in everything from IPAs to ciders to kombuchas.
The Battle of the Brews’ Craft Cup Competition sees breweries battle for the Craft Cup Best in Show, along with awards for different categories. When you buy tickets to the Craft Cup, you’ll get exclusive access to special edition craft brews, free food tastings at the Craft Cup Best Club Bites gourmet food competition, opportunities to chat with renowned brewmasters, early access to Battle of the Brews, and live musical performances.
To go along with your brews, the Battle of the Brews also has food options that pair perfectly with your drinks. Featuring food from over 20 vendors, you can dine on BBQ, baked goods, pizza, and more.
12. Attend the Sonoma International Film Festival
If you’re a film lover, the Sonoma International Film Festival belongs on your Sonoma bucket list. What truly stands out about this festival is its dedication to promoting undiscovered talent in the independent film industry. Whether you’re interested in documentaries, dramas, or even animated short films, you’ll likely discover your new favorite director here.
While the annual film festival arrives every March, the Sonoma International Film Festival offers year-round screenings and special events. But movies are just the start of what you’ll find here. The annual festival also boasts multiple culinary and wine events, as well as the Backlot Tent Experience, where you’ll access industry panels, parties, food and wine pairings, and other live entertainment.
Rub elbows with your favorite and up-and-coming actors, dine on cuisine created by celebrity chefs, and see films you can’t see anywhere else. And if you’re a director yourself, you’re able to submit your project for consideration.
13. Camp Out at Safari West
Over in nearby Santa Rosa, you’ll feel like you’ve truly stepped into the wild at Safari West. Upon 400 acres in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains, you’ll find a one-of-a-kind collection of wildlife in this world-class conservation breeding facility.
Head out on a three-hour safari to get up close to nearly a thousand animals. With over 90 species, you never know what you’ll see. A highly-trained safari guide will take you aboard a custom safari vehicle that gives you canvas-covered shade from the sun as you explore the Sonoma Serengeti. To get even closer to some of the animals, you can take a safari stroll through the Amani Oasis Aviary.
For your own personal safari experience, you can also book an Ultimate Private Safari. Reserve your private vehicle and guide who can take you off the beaten path.
If you want an even more customized excursion, you can book from one of several experiences. Winos & Rhinos will have you sampling reds and whites while you look for animals, while Brews & Buffalos will have you sipping craft brews on your private safari.
The Royal Winos & Rhinos is an upgraded version of the original, where you’ll be tasting some of the finest vintages available. You also have the option to go on a Twilight Safari Dining Adventure with a private dining experience tailored to you.
With so many animals, this unique Sonoma attraction is hard to do in just one day, but luckily, you don’t have to see it all in an afternoon. Safari West is home to an incredible and luxurious glamping opportunity. Spend the night in one of 30 upscale tents with all the amenities of home and more, including a private viewing deck, an ensuite bathroom, and polished hardwood floors. Fall asleep to the sounds of the wild animals just outside your door!
14. Float Down the Russian River
The Russian River offers some of the best Sonoma sightseeing. This lazy river, which is surrounded by ancient redwoods, is perfect for a day of peace and quiet. All you need is an inner tube, and you can lay back and relax on the tranquil waters for an afternoon.
There are also plenty of family-friendly beaches along the Russian River, with one of the most popular being Johnson’s Beach. Rent inner tubes, kayaks, and canoes here to get out on the water and explore, or just go for a swim in the roped-off area. If you have a dog with you, you’ll want to head to Mom’s Beach, which is known for being as dog-friendly as it is kid-friendly.
When you’re done with the water, stop into one of the eclectic small towns that dot its shores. Guerneville is known for its quaint storefronts along its main street, making it look lost in time, while Healdsburg is a haven for small-town charm and award-winning vintages.
15. See the Waterfall at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
With 25 miles of hiking trails, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is one of the coolest things to do in Sonoma for anyone hoping to spend their trip wandering through redwoods. But one of the biggest draws to this park is its 25-foot waterfall, which you can access by taking the Canyon-Pony Gate Loop Trail. The waterfall is best seen after the winter rains, making late winter and spring the best time to visit, as it often slows to a trickle in summer.
In addition to hiking, you can also camp under the stars at over 40 family camping spaces. This scenic camping spot is bordered by a year-round stream and a hillside forest. For those who aren’t interested in getting down and dirty, there are also two luxury glamping sites available.
Sugarloaf is also home to the Robert Ferguson Observatory. This observatory is the largest in the western US and is open for public stargazing.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Sonoma. What’s your favorite thing to do in Sonoma?
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