The following content is created in partnership with Sonoma County Tourism. It does not reflect the work or opinions of the NBC Bay Area editorial staff. Click here to learn more about Sonoma County.
As legend has it, the name Sonoma comes from an indigenous word meaning many moons. When people hear Sonoma County now, though, they tend to think more of grapes than moons, given all the wineries there.
For visitors, though, the region can offer so much more, especially during these summer months. There’s a whole cornucopia of leisure activities to feed one’s soul—everything from outdoor art to glamping to farm-to-table cuisine to rugged and dramatic beaches. And for Bay Area travelers, a visit can mean a day trip (a drive from San Francisco to Petaluma clocks in at roughly 50 to 60 minutes) or a whole vacation.
Plus, the county is doing everything it can to keep visitors safe during these times, including requiring masks and social distancing where required. (In fact, Sonoma County Tourism has made a Safe Travels Promise.)
Here’s just a sampling of what summer in Sonoma County can mean.
Outdoor art trails: When a stroll through nature isn’t quite enough, there are scores of Sonoma County art walks, art trails and sculpture gardens. Sonoma County visitors, in fact, can take guided tours of more than 40 sculptures from renown artists. Up in the northern portion of the county, the Geyserville Sculpture Trail features 27 one-of-a-kind creations by local artists—exhibits refreshed constantly. Meanwhile, outside Sonoma town, the landscape at the Donum Estate winery showcases more than 40 sculptures from top artists—it’s considered one of the Bay Area’s finest open-air museums.
An animal safari: From giraffes to zebras to lemurs, the 400-acre Safari West offers visitors three-hour jeep tours to visit nearly 1,000 animals. Plus, Safari West visitors can indulge in outdoor dining and stay overnight in luxury, well-appointed tents (imported from Botswana), complete with en-suite bathrooms and polished hardwood floors (a lodging experience some may call glamping).
Redwood ziplining: Just north of Guerneville, the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve hosts some 805 acres of coast redwoods and includes picnic sites and self-guided nature trails. Most fun, though, would be zip-lining through the trees, an experience offered by Sonoma Canopy Tours. The adventure includes a two-and-a-half hour guided eco-tour that includes seven zip lines, two sky bridges, a spiral staircase, and an 80-foot rappel.
Beaches: The Pacific Ocean is very generous when it comes to molding stunning beaches. And the shores along Sonoma County are no different. Here, visitors will discover a rugged coastline dotted with cliffs, coves, rocky crags, and long, sandy beaches. There, visitors can (depending on the beach) swim, sunbathe, surf, fly kites, and even ride horses.
Farm-to-table dining: Sonoma County is ripe with family farms, artisanal growers, and even winery vegetable gardens. As such, there’s plenty of farm-fresh ingredients ready for area chefs—everything from duck eggs to mushrooms to olive oil—which, in turn, feeds the many farm-to-table restaurants in the county. And while dining at the moment may be an outdoors-only activity, take comfort in the fact that the area pretty much sees no rain in August (so booking a table is a safe bet).
And, yes, wineries: True, there’s much to do in Sonoma County that doesn’t involve vineyards. But that’s not to say visitors should ignore the roughly 425 wineries in the county—among the region’s finest. And, as luck would have it, we're coming up on harvest time.
Besides the traditional winery tour, visitors to the region can find facilities that boast museums, food markets, a swimming pool, walking tours, and even bocce ball and horseback riding.
And we didn’t even mention rafting down the Russian River or hot-air ballooning over the vineyards. Click here to see more adventures awaiting you in Sonoma County.