Scenic view of the calm water and fall foliage around the Sonoma landscape, best things to do in Sonoma

20 Best Things to Do in Sonoma County (in 2023)

You’ve heard of the wine, but the best things to do in Sonoma County include so much more. Of course, yes, the wine is delightful, we’ll cover some of the best wineries for sure.

As a California local, I’ve gotten to explore Sonoma County from Geyserville to Petaluma. I’m excited to share my favorite spots in this article, including a few undiscovered gems. And while you’re in the Bay Area, make sure you check out some of the best San Francisco activities.

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20 Best Things to Do in Sonoma

Jack London State Historic Park

Adventure into the world of an American literary icon when touring the Sonoma County ranch built by the author of The Call of the Wild.

View of the tall trees behind the fence in Jack London State Historic Park
This fence has been reclaimed by the forest, but most structures on the property are well maintained
Closeup view of the plant and the sunlight in the background in Jack London State Historic Park
Wooded areas surround each of the park’s buildings

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 938-5216 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: $10 vehicle entry fee (up to 10 passengers) 

While it’s no wonder that a man who penned epic tales of adventure would choose the rolling hills and forested valleys of Sonoma County as his home, it is still a pretty solid flex.   

Literary buffs and lovers of the great outdoors who are familiar with London’s work will find this place an intriguing window into the daily life of a legend. There is an inherent heartbreak in the ruins of the Wolf House, a pervasive joy in the legacy shared within the House of Happy Walls. 

It’s almost as if here in Glen Ellen the world of the author’s stories lives on, immortalized by the very place he is laid to rest.

👉 Need a Hotel? Check out my guide to where to stay in Sonoma.

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Indulge in old-world opulence at a winery where great grapes are born and great wines are made.

Closeup view of the Francis Coppola Reserve Petit Sirah on a wine glass
Francis Coppola Reserve Petit Sirah
View of the grand staircase to the lush courtyard in Francis Ford Coppola Winery
The grand entrance, as seen from the courtyard

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 857-1471 | Website | Hours: 11:30 am – 7 pm Wednesday/Thursday/Sunday/Monday, 11:30 am – 8 pm Friday & Saturday, Closed Tuesday 

Grand staircases, stellar views, delicious red wine. The Coppola operation in Geyserville is everything you’d expect from the godfather of The Godfather – and a whole lot more.

As a rule, Sonoma wineries, like nearby Napa Valley wineries, are going to treat you well. This one treats you like family. They invite you to tour the legendary director’s personal collection of film memorabilia, to try his favorite dishes from a lifetime of traveling the world, almost as if you were a guest in their home.

Whether you come for wine tasting and movie memorabilia or spend a whole day luxuriating by the pool, the exceptional staff will treat you like a don. Hands down one of the best wineries I’ve ever visited.  

Empyrean Temple & Marijke’s Grove Sculpture Garden

Pause for reflection among astonishing works of art backdropped by breathtaking views. 

View of the dried flower with a scenic view in the background
Art with a view
View of the art pieces in Empyrean Temple
…and the view from within the art

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 10 am – 4 pm daily | Entrance: Free

If you’re looking for Burning Man-esque things to do in Sonoma, well… ok there are quite a few. But this installation on the outskirts of Santa Rosa is the most obvious, and a great one to share with the non-burners in your life. 

If none of that makes any sense, this is a place to come see incredible, enormous works of art made by a dedicated community that puts their whole heart and soul into each piece. And I’d be hard-pressed to say which is more magnificent – the art or the view.  

🚗 How to Get There: Empyrean is easy to spot from Marijke’s Grove but unmarked from the road. Turn left out of the grove’s parking area and make another left on the next gravel road, the parking area is straight ahead. 

Sonoma Coast State Park

Hike across bluffs and headlands to secluded beaches.

Closeup view of the cliffside flower in Sonoma Coast State Park at sunset
A cliffside flower growing on a cliff in Sonoma Coast State Park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 875-3483 | Website | Parking: $8

Stretching from Bodega Head to the Vista Trail up north of Jenner, Sonoma Coast State Park is one of the best things to do in Sonoma for nature lovers. 

You’ll get 4.7 miles of ocean views hiking the Kortum Trail between Goat Rock Beach and Wright’s Beach. It’s a wonderful opportunity to spot whales and other wildlife, especially in spring and summer when whales harbor seals are rearing their pups in a rookery near Goat Rock.

🥵 Pro Tip: There are great campgrounds throughout the county, but in summertime you’re best off sticking to those near the coast. In the hottest months (July-October) Sonoma Valley temperatures can climb well over 90°F (32°C.) 

Goat Rock

Enjoy majestic views over the estuary where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean.   

View of the calm eater and rock formations in Goat Rock at sunset
Sunset near Goat Rock

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 875-3483 | Website 

When you’re motoring down the Coast Highway staking out the perfect spot for sunset it’s pretty easy to skip over Goat Rock Beach in favor of the headlands. Rookie mistake. One I made, as a rookie, and am now here to save you from. Because in terms of Sonoma County coastal sunsets, this quiet strip of sand is the G.O.A.T. 

In terms of swimming, not so much. For one, it’s cold. More importantly, it’s dangerous. Waters along Sonoma’s coast are prone to rip tides, rough surf, and sudden ground swells. Always keep children back from the highest water line mark and never turn your back to the ocean.

📷 Bonus Rock: Blind Beach, just south of Goat Rock, has a great view of another area icon, Arch Rock. 

Starling Bar

Sip superb cocktails at a low-key local watering hole.

A glass of Hibiscus Paloma drink at Starling
Hibiscus Paloma at Starling (but don’t tell them I snapped a pic of the secret menu 😉)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 938-7442 | Website | Hours: 5 – 10 pm Monday – Wednesday, 5 – 11 pm Thursday, 5 pm – 12 am Friday & Saturday, 1:30 – 10 pm Sunday

Rarely if ever have I encountered more talented, dedicated mixologists than those at Starling. These folks craft exquisite cocktails quite literally from the ground up, starting with ingredients grown in a garden right outside the bar. 

There’s no better place to get in amongst the locals. Much of what Starling doesn’t grow is gifted by patrons and producers in the surrounding community. From drinks to bar bites to wood-fired pizzas made by the ever-popular Girl + Fig, the menu here is Sonoma, CA through and through.

Located in a blue building on the NE corner of Spain Street and Highway 12, Starling Bar is conveniently close to downtown and within walking distance for those staying in hotels on Sonoma Plaza.  

🍹 Pro Tip: If you’re looking seeking a second wind, Bark Up the Strong Tree. Made with home-brewed Thai tea and coconut, this pisco cocktail gives you a boost and a buzz.  

Farm to Pantry

Glean fresh produce in local orchards and gardens with a non-profit that tackles the issues of food waste and food insecurity in one fell swoop. 

View of the red barns in a farm in Sonoma
Farms throughout Sonoma donate surplus crops

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 955-9898 | Website 

Come late summer/early fall, you start to see all these posts of people out apple picking, doing pumpkin hauls, and whatnot. And maybe you think ‘Sure, looks fun, but what the heck am I gonna do with a bunch of apples?’ 

Farm to Pantry has the perfect answer: Give them away to those in need. You can sign up to glean here, and there’s no need to wait until fall! Thanks to Sonoma County’s mild climate, this fun form of voluntourism is an option year-round.   


Wander on foot between wine tastings, boutiques, and Michelin-starred dining on the tree-lined lanes of this charming wine-country gem.   

View of the beautiful sunset through the grapevines at Healdsburg vineyard
Sunset through the grapevines at a Healdsburg vineyard

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 431-3317 | Website | 👉 Browse Healdsburg Tours on Viator

Among locals who prefer to set trends rather than follow them, Healdsburg is a hot ticket for San Francisco day trips and weekend getaways. And friends, they’re on to something. Healdsburg is home to gorgeous vistas, farmland, plentiful wineries, and some of the best restaurants in Sonoma County, just for starters.

Located along the Russian River, Healdsburg even has a beach and is a launch point for canoe and kayak adventures. Plus, Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach features a par course and a lovely family-friendly swimming area (in summer.) 

🛎️ Need a Hotel? Located near the center of town, Harmon Guest House provides guests with free bikes and a scrumptious continental breakfast. 

Bodega Bay

Escape to the tranquility of a tiny coastal town surrounded by natural wonder.

View of the sunset over a dock in Bodega Bay
Sunset over a dock in Bodega Bay

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 377-4459 | Website | Private Sailing Tour of Bodega Bay

Whether your pleasure is the great outdoors or a great massage, Bodega Bay is a first-rate destination to get away from it all. Hiking Bodega Head Trail, an easy loop around the peninsula, is a great way to get a feel for the area. Between the soaring sea views and abundant wildlife, you can pretty much guarantee that feeling will be a good one. 

At the south end of the bay, Doran Regional Park features one of the only beaches in Sonoma County where the water near shore is suitable for wading and swimming. Another good place for splashing around with your kiddos is the creek part of Salmon Creek, to the north. 

Those traveling with their board (and a wetsuit) can scope out a couple of decent surf spots near Bodega Dunes beach. For warmer water and bigger waves, check out our guide on things to do in Huntington Beach.   

🐦 For The Birds: Birds are so prolific in Bodega Bay that it was chosen as the filming location for Hitchcock’s The Birds. One of the most popular spots is a deep pond at the end of Bodega Head, known locally as “The Hole in the Head.”

West Dry Creek Road

Cruise a quiet country road that showcases Sonoma County at its peak idyllic.  

View of the cow behind the fence near the West Dry Creek Road
I reckon this is one of those happy California cows you hear so much about

📍 Google Maps 

I’m a big fan of the road less traveled, and Sonoma County is a backroads treasure trove. Rolling through farmland and vineyards backdropped by golden hills dotted with green, this narrow, but not too windy, lane takes you to a world free of worry.

If you take a right on Yoakim Bridge Rd, then a left on Dry Creek Rd, that will take you to Lake Sonoma, one of California’s best lakes. Once you’re there, head over to The Ranch at Lake Sonoma and leave the roads behind on this horseback riding tour

🛣️ Pro Tip: You can get just about everywhere without having to take a freeway. Just make sure to plan your routes ahead of time, cell service can be spotty throughout Sonoma Valley. 

The Girl & the Fig

Dine on seasonal delicacies that unite fine French cuisine with country comfort food satisfaction.    

A man and a menu of The Girl & the Fig outside
The seasonally-driven menu changes weekly

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 938-3634 | Website | Hours: 11:30 am – 9 pm Monday – Friday, 10 am – 9 pm Saturday & Sunday 

Wine country is essentially a farm country with a bacchanalian twist, so it makes perfect sense that one of the best things to do in Sonoma is eat! The French-influenced cuisine at this Sonoma Plaza adjacent bistro would hold its own against some of the best restaurants in Los Angeles.  

You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate the exquisitely crafted dishes at the Girl & the Fig, but if you are one, you’ll be doubly impressed. Think duck confit with fried green tomato compote. 

This straight-up culinary wizardry will make you understand why Sonoma is one of California’s best towns.

💰 Pro Tip: The 3-course bistro menu with wine pairings is a fantastic bargain. It’s one of the best meals in Sonoma Valley, and only slightly more expensive than a single wine tasting. 


Explore a whimsically bohemian town with an award-winning art scene. 

Closeup view of the hop vine in Sebastopol
Nothing in Sebastopol is quite as you expect

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 996-1364 | Website 

From colorful junk art sculptures to galleries and quirky local shops like Psychic Pies, Sebastopol is a lively wonderland.  

Art galleries are all over town, exhibiting the work of international artists and locals alike. You’ll be able to find live music just about every night of the week in HopMonk Tavern or Sebastopol Community Cultural Center. 

Shoppers can peruse a bevy of local goods at The Barlow, a spacious marketplace devoted to all things made in Sonoma.

👉 Pro Tip: Although sculptures by Patriot Amiot and Brigitte Laurent pop up all over town, you won’t want to miss the collection of works on Florence Avenue, where almost every home sports one of these vibrant works. 

The Barlow

Find exactly the right piece of Sonoma County to take home with you in a 12-acre marketplace dedicated to local wares.

The author Jericha Griffin posing for a photo with The Barlow signage in the background
Me, too busy looking around to look at the camera

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 824-5600 | Website | Hours: 7 am – 9 pm Sunday – Wednesday, 7 am – 10 pm Thursday, 7 am – 11 pm Friday & Saturday

One of my favorite things about Sonoma County is that you might at any moment discover something new and wonderful. People grow things, they make things from scratch with their own bare hands, then they sell them to folks like you and me. 

The Barlow was created as a place for makers and craftspeople from Sonoma County to showcase the fruits of their labor, both literal and metaphorical. From fresh produce to home goods to artisan apparel, you’ll find it here. 

That said, your favorite find could just as easily come from a roadside stand as a hilltop winery, so I highly encourage leaving time in the schedule for stops along the way. 

🛎️ Need a Hotel? Fairfield Inn and Suites Sebastopol is less than 2 miles south of The Barlow. 

Sonoma State Historic Park

Trace a path through the Pueblo de Sonoma of the past on a walking tour of buildings that have stood since the city’s foundation.    

View of the bell outside the Mission San Francisco Solano
Mission San Francisco Solano
Exterior view of the Toscano Hotel
Toscano Hotel

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 938-9560 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: Free | 👉 Small-Group Wine-Tasting Tour through Sonoma Valley

My favorite thing about downtown Sonoma is that it retains the spirit of the old west outpost it once was. Spread throughout midtown, the six historical sites of Sonoma Historical Park contribute substantially to this quaint aesthetic.

From east to west, these sites are The Blue Wing Inn, Mission San Francisco Solano, Sonoma Barracks, Servants’ Quarters, the Toscano Hotel, and General Vallejo’s Home. You can see the lot in about an hour, moving at a leisurely pace, walking about a mile and a half roundtrip.  

The centerpiece of the area is the equally historic Sonoma Plaza, which is bordered by some of the area’s best restaurants and hotels. Those who fancy staying in a historic property can book a room at the El Dorado Hotel. Once the home of General Vallejo’s brother, the building has been overlooking Sonoma Plaza from the NW corner of 1st & Spain St since 1843.

🌳 Nearby Attraction: Sonoma City Hall sits at the center of Sonoma Plaza, surrounded by a lovely park with pretty gardens and a duck pond.

Gloria Ferrer Wines & Champagne Caves

Sip sparkling wines on a patio with sweeping views or in an oak grove where your wine and charcuterie are accompanied by a treat tasting for your canine companion.

The author Jericha Griffin holding a wine glass with a scenic view of the vineyard in the background
Yeah, this was awesome (me)
Closeup look of the dog licking the air in Gloria Ferrer Wines & Champagne Caves
Tasting the lavender-scented air

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 933-1986 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily, Closed Tuesdays | Tastings & Tours: $60 & up | 👉 Private Sonoma Wine Tour Including Custom Concierge

Gloria Ferrer begins to impress from the moment you enter the ornate iron gates. The long driveway is bordered by olive trees, rows of grape vines glimpsed between, stretching out so far the lines disappear into a serene swath of green. 

You arrive at a gorgeous hilltop estate. Within minutes you’re sipping cold, crisp, sparkling wine on the patio, gazing out over the vineyards to the mountains beyond.    

Reservations are strongly suggested for this one. You may be able to nab a last-minute opening for tastings or brunch, but make sure to book Pup the Cork and Vineyard Excursion packages at least 24 hours in advance.

🫒 Pro Tip: Get the olives. They’re grown on the vineyard grounds, pair perfectly with the wine, and are unquestionably the best olives I’ve ever tasted.

Sonoma TrainTown Railroad

Ride a giant model train to a miniature town on one of the world’s finest garden-estate railroads.

Exterior view of the vibrant yellow Sonoma TrainTown Railroad from a distance
TrainTown is imbued with a lovely sense of nostalgia
View of the ticket booth at the entrance of Sonoma TrainTown Railroad
Entrance is free, just buy tickets for as many of the rides as you like

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 938-3912 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 4 pm daily | Entrance: Free 

Whether you’re a kid or not, TrainTown is playtime. There’s a wildness to the scale of things that makes you feel like a giant and a child all at once as if the tiny trains have transported you to a world of imagination. 

One way to get little ones interested in some of the more “boring” historical sites nearby is to include TrainTown as part of an old-timey-themed day of fun. A few hours of fun on vintage-style amusement rides is a nice lead-in to the old-west feel of Sonoma Historic Park, for example. 

Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve

Trek through a majestic forest of towering giants including Colonel Armstrong, a 1,400-year-old tree that soars upward of 310 feet overhead. 

View of the tall redwood trees in Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve
Redwoods are the main attraction on every trail
View of the sunlight through the trees at Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve
Light through the trees at Armstrong Redwoods

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (707) 869-2015 | Website | Hours: 8 am – one hour past sunset, daily | Entrance: Free | 👉 Giant Redwoods and Russian River Wine Country Trip

Few sights on Earth are so awe-inspiring as a redwood forest. To stand among these noble ancients is to be in the presence of greatness, and is an exemplar of why Sonoma is one of the best places to live in California.

This spot is a must-do for families vacationing in the Russian River Valley. The easiest hike goes to two of the park’s main attractions, Armstrong Tree and Forest Theater, roundtrip in under a mile. Other hikes range from 2 – 10 mi, with varying levels of difficulty.

🐕 Traveling with Doggos? Like most of the state parks in this area, dogs are only allowed in certain areas. This map will tell you which treks to tackle with your fur family. 

Buena Vista Winery

Luxuriate over a bottle of rich cabernet sauvignon, a varietal this vineyard has been perfecting for over 150 years.

Closeup view of the grape shaped art piece at the entrance of Buena Vista Winery
The entry to Buena Vista
Closeup view of a wine glass with Cabernet Sauvignon from the bottom
Cabernet Sauvignon, the winery’s specialty

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (800) 926-1266 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm daily | 👉 Small-Group Wine-Tasting Tour through Sonoma Valley

Buena Vista is often billed as the “oldest commercial winery” but I think that’s a rather drastic oversimplification. We’re talking about a place established by a Hungarian nobleman who became the first sheriff of San Diego during the Gold Rush. These walls have seen things.

Nowadays the original building is a California Historic Landmark and remains home to the winery, wine-tasting rooms, and visitor’s center. Most importantly, then and now, they make some delicious wines. Standing tastings in the Press Room are a bargain at just $25.

For an experience in keeping with Buena Vista’s storied past go for the Barrel Tasting tour. That one winds up with you in a cave, thieving wine from a barrel. Maybe just keep an eye out for the sheriff’s ghost.  

🥂 Pro Tip: If you’re feeling fancy, book a tasting in the Bubble Lounge. It’s like having a mini white party in wine country.  


Free your mind and soar to undiscovered heights in an enchanting haven of art and creativity tucked away in a forest.

Exterior view of the Union Hotel in Occidental with a lush tree in the front
Union Hotel in Occidental (not a hotel, btw. It’s a restaurant.)

📍 Google Maps 

As sparkly a hidden gem as ever there was, Occidental offers a timeless escape. While the tiny hamlet appears nearly unchanged since its time as a vacation hotspot in days gone by, a passionate, artistic community continues to flourish here. 

Just 5 minutes outside Occidental, Sonoma Zipline Adventures lifts your journey to thrilling heights as you glide through a forest of giant redwoods. For the ultimate tree-top getaway you can stay overnight in your own private treehouse, which comes complete with gourmet meals delivered straight to your tree.  

For more rural gems, check out our guide to California mountain towns.

🚗 How to Get There: From San Francisco, take the 101 N across the Golden Gate Bridge, then exit on Occidental Rd (about an hour from the bridge.) About 10 miles from the freeway you’ll come to a junction. Both paths lead to Occidental. Make a left to stay on Occidental Rd if you’d like to stop in at some of the local farm stands, or take a right on Green Hill Rd and a left on Graton Rd to drive through the forest. 


Eat, drink, and dance at a rustic tavern with an outdoor beer garden and two stages for live music.

View of the signage of HopMonk BEERGARDEN at the outdoor space
HopMonk’s outdoor spaces are equipped for warm days and chilly evenings

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (7070 829-7300 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 9 pm Monday – Thursday, 11 am – 10 pm Friday & Saturday

Social butterflies will want to flutter right on over to HopMonk. The food is good, the cocktails are great, and the wine list is stocked with local wines. Add in a live band and what you end up with is a good time had by all. 

👉 Love the vibe, but you’re not in Sebastopol? No worries! You’ll find another HopMonk location in downtown Sonoma. 

FAQs About What to Do in Sonoma Valley

How do I spend a day in Sonoma?

The best way to spend a day in Sonoma is to visit one of the state parks to see some nature, head to a winery for a tasting and midday snack or meal, then check out this historic downtown area where you’ll find some great restaurants for dinner. 

What is there to do in Sonoma?

There are tons of awesome things to do in Sonoma, from luxurious wine tastings and vineyard tours to incredible hikes, off-beat towns, and soul-stirring public art. 

Is Napa Valley or Sonoma better?

Generally speaking, Sonoma is a bit more lively and welcoming, whereas Napa has more of an old-world luxury vibe. 

What is there to do in Sonoma without drinking?

Visiting tiny bohemian towns, seeking out public art, cruising scenic backroads, hiking, and canoeing on the Russian River are just a few of the great things to do in Sonoma without drinking.  


That wraps it up on the best things to do in Sonoma!

Happy adventuring!

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