You may have the hotel booked, but have you mapped out your itinerary for your visit to Petaluma yet? Petaluma is one of the largest cities in Sonoma County, offering a wide range of fun things to do, see, and drink. While wine tasting is a given, Petaluma has a burgeoning craft beer scene worth checking out, plus interesting museums, farms, and plenty of outdoor spaces to explore. Needless to say, this Wine Country destination makes for a fun weekend getaway less than an hour from San Francisco.
Though COVID-19 has changed how you get to enjoy some of these activities (ex: outdoor seating only, limited hours), you’ll still be able to make the most of your visit. Just be sure to check with each business in advance to confirm hours and safety procedures, as things may have changed since being posted.
Did you know Petaluma is one of the beer capitals of the United States? Stop by Lagunitas Brewing Company‘s buzzing Petaluma taproom for live music and a huge selection of craft beers, available to enjoy on the large outdoor patio. Four-legged friends are welcome to join, too, as Lagunitas is a dog-friendly brewery (not surprising, since their logo is a dog’s face). Nearby, HenHouse Brewing Co. typically welcomes kids and families to its “Palace of Barrels,” along with a rotating selection of food trucks, but right now you can enjoy their brews to-go. In the heart of downtown, Brewsters Beer Garden is another great place for beer lovers, serving up local and regional brews from throughout Northern California from its dog- and family-friendly location. Add in a rotating schedule of live music, a selection of cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks, and a menu of barbecued meats and hearty salads and it’s no wonder Brewsters is a local favorite.
Head to Helen Putnam Regional Park for some quality bird watching, but if birding isn’t your preferred way of spending time outdoors, the park offers six miles of equestrian, biking, and hiking trails showcasing panoramic views of Petaluma and the surrounding area. If looking to do a little fishing, the on-site pond is fully stocked with bluegill and other fish, so pack a picnic and make a day of it. At Shollenberger Park, many birds and other wildlife can be spotted throughout its 165 acres of wetlands, making it a go-to spot for photographers and bird watchers. The park features a scenic, two-mile circular trail and a one-mile cutoff trail, so it’s doable for all levels of walkers.
Though currently closed, the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum, housed in a historic Carnegie Library built in 1904, is a treasure trove of interesting facts about Petaluma and beyond. It’s definitely worth visiting once museums are allowed to reopen, as exhibitions here range from past to current events, with photos and stories about the city’s founders, early settlers, and history — including fascinating tidbits about how Petaluma became the chicken capital of the country. Also noteworthy for future planning is the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, where the main attraction is the historic adobe building, constructed in the early 19th century. One of the most prosperous private estates established during the Mexican Period, today the adobe offers visitors a glimpse into the early settlement days of Petaluma and Sonoma County during the 1800s.
Fancy yourself a cheese aficionado? Then you’ll love exploring the many creameries in and around Petaluma. The oldest continually operating cheese manufacturer in the U.S., Marin French Cheese Company has been making cheese for over 150 years and welcomes visitors to its scenic cheese factory to purchase artisan cheeses. Eventually, they’ll be able to reopen the picnic grounds and resume offering their popular picnic provisions, including breads, meats, and sandwiches. Another worthwhile spot is Achadinha Cheese Company, a family-owned ranch near Petaluma, where farmstead cheeses are produced from their 50 goats and 100 cows. Be sure to book a farm tour to get a closer look at the production process. Want to nibble artisan cheese without visiting a farm? Petaluma Creamery, located in downtown Petaluma, not only carries a wide variety of artisan cheeses and butter, but also coffee, tea, sandwiches, and ice cream to fulfill all your dairy desires.
Green String Farm is a sustainable farm in Petaluma offering fresh, organic produce, eggs, cheese, honey, and more. Take the kids along to see how a farm is run, stock up on sustainably-grown goods, then take a moment to admire the farm animals. Petaluma is also home to three farmers’ markets. While two are seasonal, the Petaluma East-Side Farmers’ Market runs year-round on Tuesdays and features a large number of vendors selling local produce, handcrafted goods, artisan foods, flowers, and more.
When you need a break from wine and craft beer, check out some of Sonoma County’s distilleries located right in Petaluma. The husband-and-wife owned Griffo Distillery specializes in small-batch spirits, including gin, whiskey, and coffee liqueur, made using California-grown ingredients. When the opportunity arises, book a tour and tasting to see the distillery up close and personal, before sampling various cocktails within the industrial setting. In the meantime, you can order spirits (and hand sanitizer!) to-go. At Barber Lee Spirits, bourbon and moonshine are the name of the game, available to sample straight up or within a cocktail. And while the woman-owned Sonoma Coast Spirits may not offer in-person tastings, you can find some of their handcrafted artisan spirits at several shops around town (they also offer free local delivery). In addition to their signature Grappa, Sonoma Coast Spirits produces flavored vodka, including citrus basil, jalapeño lime, and sweet ginger.
The Block Petaluma is a food truck market located in downtown Petaluma, where a rotating selection of regional food trucks offer diners a variety of tasty cuisines to nosh on year-round. Always on-hand is wood-fired pizza from Firetail Pizza, but you can also find everything from sushi to Greek food, depending on the day. Wash it down with a craft beer, cider, wine, or non-alcoholic beverage, best enjoyed on the large outdoor patio.
Situated just 15 minutes from downtown Petaluma, McEvoy Ranch is an idyllic spot to visit. The largest organic olive oil producer in the U.S., McEvoy Ranch offers sit-down tastings of olive oil (all of which are made on-site), as well as walking tours of the ranch and mill, workshops, and special events throughout the year. Even if EVOO isn’t your thing, McEvoy Ranch produces wine, skincare products, and pantry staples like jams and flavored vinegars — not to mention it’s an all around picturesque place to visit.
Located in a 4,500-square-foot facility inside the historic Railroad Depot Freight Building, the Petaluma Arts Center makes art accessible to the public through sophisticated and inspiring art exhibitions displayed in an approachable environment. In addition, the Petaluma Arts Center offers various workshops and educational opportunities to promote learning for all ages.
Of course, no visit to Sonoma County would be complete without doing some wine tasting, and the city of Petaluma — located in the Petaluma Gap AVA — makes for a great place to call home base during a day of tasting. Sample pinot noir, chardonnay, and syrah at some of Petaluma’s numerous wineries, including Keller Estate, Adobe Road Winery, and Lombardi Wines, or drive a short distance to visit a few of Sonoma’s most popular tasting rooms, such as Gloria Ferrer for sparkling wine and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards for Italian-style varietals.