Located near Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma State Park, Sonoma Plaza is a place to shop, dine and relax in a historic landmark with a slow culture feel. It is known as a pedestrian paradise and makes a great place to stroll through on foot or bicycle.
The area is rich in history. Tour Mission San Francisco de Solano right off the plaza on Spain Street, or the barracks that were the birthplace of the short-lived California Republic still remembered on the state’s flag. Lachryma Montis, the large adobe home of Gen. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who was a key figure in California’s transition from Mexican territory to a U.S. state, is about a mile from the plaza.
For a slightly wilder side of history, take a drive to Jack London State Historical Park in nearby Glen Ellen. Wander around the ruins of London’s never completed Wolf House, or head into the cottage or the House of Happy Walls to see artifacts owned by the legendary California author of “Call of the Wild” and the souvenirs he collected on his adventures around the world.
But Sonoma Plaza isn’t the only part of the quintessential California town worth seeing. Here are a few other ideas:
What Sonoma is famous for
Wineries. The drive to Sonoma is filled with rolling vineyards. It’s impossible to drive more than a mile or so in any direction without finding yet another winery. It can be a bit of a drive to get to new places, but roll down the windows, turn up your music and enjoy it.
The great outdoors
Known as the Valley of the Moon, Sonoma Valley in the county’s southeast corner is home to a number of parks that lovers of the great outdoors will love to explore. Hood Mountain Regional Park offers hiking up to the top of Hood Mountain and stunning views of the valley below. On clear days, hikers can often see Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline.
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park has camping and picnic sites, along with 25 miles of hiking and riding trails. The Robert Ferguson Observatory, located within the park, hosts star parties and night sky classes on various dates year-round.
Jack London State Historic Park isn’t just a museum. It also has exhibits about farming and ranching during Jack London’s lifetime, from 1876 to 1916, and several miles of hiking trails.
Trione-Annadel State Park in nearby Santa Rosa is home to spectacular wildflower shows through the late spring and early summer. Miles of trails accommodate hikers, mountain bike enthusiasts and horseback riders.
Where to grub
Make it a picnic. Pick up bread at Basque Boulangerie and buy cheese and salami at the Sonoma Cheese Factory — both at Sonoma Plaza — then head to a winery. Purchase a bottle of wine, find a grassy spot under a tree and nosh.
Want to stay in town? Choose from a number of eateries from pizza at the Red Grape or Mary’s Pizza Shack to a more sophisticated spread at the girl & the fig, where you can find dishes such as wild flounder, pan-seared scallops and wild mushroom ravioli.
Anyone who would prefer lingering over a pick-me-up over a full meal should head to Barking Dog Coffee Roasters. Located on the Sonoma Highway, it has the freshest coffee in town, because it roasts its beans on site. The cafe plays host to live music, open mic sessions and other special events, and offers free WiFi to visitors.
Don’t leave without seeing
Cornerstone Sonoma on Arnold Drive. It’s a series of walk through gardens showcasing new designs from the world’s best landscape architects. It’s a treat for the senses.