Ultimate Guide to Santa Rosa

 
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Centrally located in Sonoma Valley just 1.5 hours north of San Francisco, Santa Rosa is an ideal place to stay in the heart of Wine Country, offering easy access to surrounding areas like Sonoma, Healdsburg, and the Russian River. Location aside, Sonoma County’s largest city is a worthy destination in its own right, with a vibrant downtown, unique cultural attractions, world-class wine, and a growing craft beer scene worth noting. Whether you plan to visit for a day or a week, our insider’s guide to Santa Rosa will help you make the most of your time in this burgeoning city.

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Lodging / Santa Rosa

Vintners Inn

The 44-room Vintners Inn is a luxurious oasis in Santa Rosa, surrounded by 92-acres of vineyards and serene gardens. While all of the deluxe accommodations are inviting, many feature fireplaces, private balconies, and Jacuzzi tubs, adding to the hotel’s romantic and indulgent ambiance.

Insider Tip

The on-site fine dining restaurant, John Ash & Co., has one of the most extensive wine lists in Sonoma County. Offering more than 275 selections from local Sonoma wineries, including many options by the glass and half bottle, it’s easy to experience interesting wines from the area without actually stepping outside of the hotel.

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Lodging / Santa Rosa

The Sandman Hotel

This modern throwback motor lodge has a relaxed ambiance that’s a bit offbeat and colorful yet authentic. Their 135 bright and airy rooms charm with simplistic decor, while flat-screen HDTVs, kitchenettes, and free Wi-Fi add a welcoming touch. Outside, you’ll find a heated pool, hot tub, and a pool house serving up refreshing cocktails from an indoor/outdoor bar.

Insider Tip

The Sandman may be a no-frills, affordable place to stay in Sonoma Valley, but don’t expect to scrimp on amenities. Not only does the hotel offer free parking, daily complimentary continental breakfast, and onsite laundry services, but it has pet-friendly rooms and a designated onsite pet area when you don’t want to leave Fido behind.

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Lodging / Santa Rosa

Hotel La Rose

This landmark hotel, which has been a part of Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square since 1907, is a unique, historical place to stay downtown. With 48 guest rooms and suites, complimentary parking, and free Wi-Fi, Hotel La Rose is a charming hotel conveniently located within steps of all that Santa Rosa has to offer.

Insider Tip

The guest rooms are spread out between two buildings — the historic Main Building and the Carriage House across the street. While both offer many of the same amenities, the Main Building’s rooms are modeled after a European Bed & Breakfast (and may even be haunted), while the 19 rooms of the airy Carriage House have a much more contemporary feel.

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Restaurants / Santa Rosa

Ca'Bianca Restaurant

Located in a restored Victorian home, Ca’Bianca is an intimate restaurant serving up Italian cuisine inspired by the different regions of Italy. From creative antipasti to house-made pasta, Ca’Bianca offers authentic food in a charming, romantic setting.

Insider Tip

Ca’Bianca may be quaint, but don’t let its size fool you — the restaurant can accommodate parties and special events up to 100 people.

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Restaurants / Santa Rosa

Perch + Plow

Overlooking the historic Courthouse Square, Perch + Plow serves a rotating menu of locally-sourced food and craft cocktails. With prime people-watching and delicious California fare, like Beef Carpaccio and Asparagus Salad with crispy seaweed, it’s no wonder why this new establishment is becoming a popular destination.

Insider Tip

Perch + Plow offers plenty of mouthwatering small plates to nibble on, but don’t miss the inventive cocktails. With fresh, local ingredients, artisan spirits, and unexpected blends (think bacon fat-washed bourbon with dill foam), these cocktails are pretty to look at and taste even better.

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Restaurants /

Flying Goat Coffee

Located in the historic Railroad Square district, the longstanding Flying Goat Coffee now has a new look and modern vibe. You’ll find Mexican tile floors, crisp white walls, and plenty of espresso drinks to fuel you for the day. There’s also outdoor seating for when you want to start your morning sipping tea under the California sunshine.

Insider Tip

The house made vanilla syrup is a scene stealer, so a vanilla latte from Flying Goat is always a good idea. For something a little different, try The Bangkok. Lightly sweetened with condensed milk, this latte melds cinnamon, nutmeg, and espresso together for an unexpected delight.

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Wineries / Santa Rosa

DeLoach Vineyards

Since 1975, DeLoach Vineyards has been a pioneering producer of pinot noir, chardonnay, and zinfandel from the Russian River. Focused on organic and biodynamic estate and limited production wines, DeLoach offers several tasting options, whether you’re looking for an educational tasting or a casual picnic with wine.

Insider Tip

DeLoach has a line-up of fun events throughout the year, such as the popular Harvest Lunch in September and Bubbles & Oysters Event in October. While exclusive to wine club members, the winery also has the occasional happening open to the public, so be sure to check the calendar before visiting.

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Wineries / Santa Rosa

Donelan Family Wines

The boutique Donelan Family Vineyards specializes in cool-climate syrah, pinot noir, chardonnay, and Rhône wines — many from their estate vineyard. This small, family owned and operated winery offers two tasting experiences by appointment, each including a tour of the facility followed by an intimate seated tasting.

Insider Tip

While many of Donelan’s wines will leave a lasting impression, don’t miss sampling the Obsidian Vineyard Syrah, a 100% Syrah wine grown on the volcanic soil of their 6-acre estate vineyard, which receives critical acclaim year after year.

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Wineries / Santa Rosa

Matanzas Creek Winery

Located in the Bennett Valley area of Santa Rosa, Matanzas Creek Winery has a variety of wine tasting experiences with the added bonus of bocce, picnic areas, and beautiful scenery. Specializing in sauvignon blanc, merlot, and chardonnay, Matanzas Creek also offers several red blends that highlight different clones of the region.

Insider Tip

This dog-friendly winery is known for its lavender field as much as for its wine, best enjoyed every June and July when the lavender is in full bloom. If visiting this time of year, check out the lavender-driven wine experiences that honor the season.

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Things To Do / Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts

Held every Wednesday and Saturday, the Santa Rosa Certified Farmers’ Market is a fun way to meet some of the folks behind Sonoma’s famed farm-to-table scene. Here, you’ll find fresh fruits, vegetables, honey, bread, flowers, and more, almost all exclusively grown, harvested, or raised in the area.

Insider Tip

One would expect to find produce at a farmers’ market, but there are also vendors offering vinegar and olive oils, spices, skin care products, and handcrafted wood benches and cutting boards. Smoothies, tacos, and baked goods are available as well, so don’t expect to leave hungry.

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Weddings / Santa Rosa

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts

The community supported Luther Burbank Center for the Arts was founded in 1981 and has remained a premier arts and events center ever since. From music, dance, theater, and comedy, to educational programs and speakers, the world-class performances and community events entertain and enrich people of all ages.

Insider Tip

In addition to stage shows, be on the lookout for indoor and outdoor art exhibits that highlight artwork from local artists. And don’t miss the student gallery showcasing art from schools and classrooms around the county.

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Things To Do / Santa Rosa

Russian River Brewing Company

While most people come to Sonoma for the wine, Santa Rosa is home to an exciting craft beer scene that’s garnering attention. The popular Russian River Brewing has great happy hour deals, pub food, and live music every weekend. Be sure to try their Pliny the Elder beer, a relative of their Pliny the Younger which was once named the world’s best beer. Moonlight Brewing Co. is another micro brewery putting Santa Rosa on the map, where brews with cheeky names can be enjoyed from the quaint, industrial-park taproom — open only on weekends. Or, head to Cooperage Brewing Company, a dog-friendly brewery that offers tasty brews, weekday happy hours, and rotating food trucks.

Insider Tip

Unlike many neighboring taprooms, Cooperage Brewing Company is open until midnight every day, perfect for when a late night beer craving hits.

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Hana-Lee Sedgwick

Hana-Lee Sedgwick, based in her hometown of Santa Barbara, California, specializes in West Coast wine, food and travel. Her work has appeared in publications including Santa Barbara Magazine, The Tasting Panel, and 7×7. She loves to travel, stay active, and share food and wine with friends. Follow her on Instagram at @wanderandwine or visit her blog, wanderandwine.com.