We asked Sonoma local Amber Lucas to show us around, find out why she loves calling this community home:
Living in Sonoma County is unlike any other; dotted with towering redwoods and rolling hills lush with vineyards, and a vibrant outdoor lifestyle, it is a place that I am proud to call home. There is so much for one to do here: explore the sandy and pebbled shores of Bodega Bay, taste the famous microbrews of Santa Rosa, hike the mountains in Sonoma, bike the trails that stretch for as far as the eye can see, sip wine in the many, many regions that this place has to offer and then relax and unwind in a Calistoga hot spring. These aren’t just attractions for the visitors; this is what the locals do here.
Sonoma County residents are driven. Their entrepreneurial spirit is matched by those who pride themselves on shopping and supporting local businesses. We enjoy living life to the fullest here, and we do it all in our low key, high quality, signature style. From the respected farmers who have grown and tended to local crops for generations, to the vintners who cultivate our famous wines, to the tea that sits on your local grocery store shelf, we are proud of what we have to offer. Sustainability is a way of life here.
In October 2017, our community was startled awake at 2am to the terror of raging fires sweeping through Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Yolo Counties. More than 13 fires were whipped into a deadly inferno, with flames that traveled at speeds that at times exceeded 70mph. For nearly three weeks the fires raged on, destroying nearly 9,000 structures and homes. Our community’s resilience during this trying time is just one of the many things that makes me proud to call Sonoma County home. Now, more than ever, we welcome responsible tourism with open arms.
Often referred to as the “real” wine country, Sonoma County tasting rooms are warm and friendly. It’s not unusual to strike up a conversation with a family member of the winery, or to be invited home for dinner. Here, the culture of cycling is huge: every year the County hosts an average of 15 cycling events including the Amgen Tour, Tour de Fuzz and the Vine Man Triathlon. The winding Alexander Valley roads are dotted with cyclists from all over the world training for upcoming events. And why shouldn’t they be? Sonoma County is a wonderful place to be- no matter your interests!
Ready to visit yet?
They first opened their Petaluma shop six years ago, and now have five additional locations throughout the county. Come here for really, really good coffee. Stay for the friendly staff, local food fares and home baked goods. Each location has a personality all of its own. My favorite is at their Roastery.
Flying Goat Coffee
One can’t wax poetic about caffeination in Sonoma County without the honorable mention of Flying Goat Coffee. When visiting, you must try their Aztec Mocha! It’s rich, spicy, and will leave an impression. Recently renovated, the location in Old Railroad Square in Downtown Santa Rosa is my favorite. The large bay windows, black and white titled flooring and proximity to the new SMART Train (which is bike friendly) make this a great spot.
SOFA Art District
The SOFA Arts District in Santa Rosa, while small, packs a huge impact. The area is smaller than a standard city block, but it might as well be a world all unto its own. It boasts of not one, but five of my favorite food spots in town, a café (Atlas Coffee), a fantastic photography shop (Jeremiah’s Corner), a Community Garden, Juilliard Park, riverside biking and walking paths, a beautiful installation art project by Bud Snow and several art galleries. It is also home to the annual Winterblast!, which is home to the famous Couch Parade. In case you are wondering what a Couch Parade is, it is when community residents decorate couches in paint, lights and sound speakers place them on wheels and parade them up and down the street. It’s amazing.
Criminal Baking Co. & Noshery
Anthony will most likely take your order if you arrive on a weekend. Anthony is from New Jersey, and he will charm you with his summertime stories of when he worked along the Jersey Shore.
A tiny little brunch spot that is worth squeezing into. I once ordered eggs benedict and had to wait for the eggs to arrive from a local farm. When they arrived about 10 minutes later they were delivered in a hand basket filled with straw. At that moment I became a customer for life!
This place is full of outdoor musical events in the summer, and boasts of a car show as well. Feel free to have a picnic, throw a Frisbee and bring your dog for a great time.
The Astro Motel
Owners of the popular Spinster Sisters Restaurant purchased this motel property and gave it a fantastic, whimsical makeover. With a strong farm-to-room culture, there are fruit trees dotted all over the property which guests are free to pick and enjoy. The Motel is quirky and playful and gives a strong nod to local artists and its 1960’s heritage. Awesome bonus: fresh baked goods are delivered from the Spinster Sisters every morning for guests and the Motel provides bike rentals!
Located in the heart of the Russian River Valley, this winery will soothe your weary soul (or legs). With floor to ceiling windows, high vaulted ceilings and stunning valley views you will instantly relax. One of the many things I love about this winery is that it is third-party certified for its dedication to sustainable practices. Two must try wines: 2014 Oakville Cab and their 2015 Carneros Pinot.
Healdsburg feels a lot like St. Helena (Napa Valley), but still remains quite casual. Longboard Winery is as casual as it gets, having been founded by a world traveling surfer dude. They have a lounge set up in their barrel room and every surfboard that you see has a story and a history. And yes, the owner has ridden them all! I prefer a full bodied wine, and my personal favorite is their Malbec. Honorable mention goes to their Syrah.
It’s hard to describe SHED: part local gardening store, part coffee house, part grain mill, part grocery store and part restaurant- this place is guaranteed to demand a good chunk of your wallet. Come for the fantastic brunch offerings, and stay for the garden inspiration; leave with a bag of freshly milled millet flour.
Rumor has it that this is one of Martha Stewart’s favorite spots in the area. Right off the side of CA-128, visit this country store while riding through the stunning and often overlooked Alexander Valley. There’s outdoor seating in the back and a lovely shaded patio.
Indian Springs Resort
Calistoga is world famous for its natural hot springs. The Indian Springs Resort boasts of two large natural baths, which are available for complimentary use to those who have a Spa appointment, Monday - Friday. Spend a day here relaxing, get a hot stone massage and enjoy dinner at their on-property Sam’s Social Club restaurant.
Screamin’ Mimi’s Ice Cream
Sebastopol is a treasure trove of vintage shops, indie-theatre, apple orchards, and fantastic locally made ice cream. This town is a world all unto its own and I love it. Stop by Screamin’ Mimi’s for the best ice cream in town; with flavors like lavender, rose petal and Deep Dark Secret you can’t go wrong. While you’re there sign up for a cuddle club session, which is often posted on their community board. I know it sounds weird, but it’s all part of the Sebastopol Experience. Fun fact: the Mayor of Sebastopol used to own a medical marijuana dispensary in town!
Joe Rodota Trail
This paved bike trail runs between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. It is 8.47 miles long and is especially popular in the spring when the fields alongside of it burst into color and bloom from local wildflowers.
Ledson Winery & Historic Castle
The Ledson Castle originally started as a personal home to the Ledson Family, but due to overwhelming public interest, they decided to turn the property into a winery instead. This winery is perfect for both groups and traveling duos, as it offers plenty of little nooks to tuck in and settle into, multiple fireplaces and picnic tables. While in the visitor's parking lot, be sure to take a moment to glance across the field to the local correctional facility; during the Complex and Northern California fires, nearly 4,000 inmates volunteered and risked their lives to put out our fires.
Photos by Carlton Tally (1-3) Stephanie Malilong (3-5) and Sosatophotography (8)
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