Head to Sonoma Valley for Wine Country Family Fun
Living in Marin, we're lucky to have Sonoma Valley and its world-famous Wine Country as a next-door neighbor. While many think of Sonoma Valley as a destination for wine tasting, spas, and other grown-up activities, it's also one of our favorite local places to go for family fun. There's so much for families to do here, from visiting historic sites to riding trains at Sonoma TrainTown that a single day trip doesn't do it justice.
To get your Sonoma day trip planning off to a great start, here are 10 of our favorite things to do in the Wine Country.
The historic Plaza is the very heart of the town of Sonoma, and it's the perfect place to spend a relaxing day in the shade. Pack lunch and bottle of wine, snag a picnic table, and hang out all day while the kids feed the ducks and put the playground through its paces. Buy your picnic supplies at local institutions like the Sonoma Cheese Factory and Basque Boulangerie, both located right across from the Plaza. Read more about it here.
Sonoma is home to important sites from the history of California, including the Plaza (where the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt took place), Mission San Francisco Solano, the Mexican-era barracks, and the home of Governor General Mariano G. Vallejo. They're must-visit places if you have a fourth grader studying California history and really take you back to another era. Read more.
This fun and fantastic miniature railroad on the way into Sonoma takes you back to a simpler time and brings out the kid in everyone. In addition to train rides, there's a petting zoo and carnival rides like a carousel and kid-sized roller coaster. It's open for family fun on weekends year-round and daily during the summer. Find out more about TrainTown.
We love to visit Cornerstone Sonoma, a complex of shops and six acres of gardens with installations designed by world-renowned landscape architects. It's like going to an outdoor museum where you can run and touch the art! Plus, there are always plenty of cool events here, like Tomatomania in the late spring and the annual Lighting of the Snowmen during the holidays. And admission is free, too. Learn more about Cornerstone Sonoma.
Just because you're going to a winery doesn't mean you can't bring the kids along, too! Cline Cellars outside Sonoma offers plenty of lawns for playing, an aviary with exotic birds, a pond with fish to feed, and even a California Missions Museum (attention, fourth-grade families!). Nearby Larson Family Winery is also truly family-friendly, with big lawns, bocce courts, riding toys, games, and even friendly farm animals.
Famed writer Jack London (of The Call of the Wild and The Sea Wolf fame) recognized the Sonoma Valley as a special place, and built his sprawling Beauty Ranch near the town of Glen Ellen. Today it's Jack London State Historic Park, and it's one of our favorite places to visit in the Bay Area. Hike to the pond, explore the Pig Palace, visit the ruins of London's Wolf House, and explore the cottage where the writer worked and died exactly 100 years ago. Read more about Jack London State Historic Park.
Take a Ride Through Sonoma on the Bike Path
The Sonoma Bike Path winds through the town of Sonoma and alongside vineyards and parks, so pack up your bikes and take a family Wine Country ride! This popular path runs through the Depot Park, with its playgrounds, history museum, and pétanque courts, past General Vallejo's house, and all the way to Sebastiani Winery. Stop by the Patch for some fresh organic produce (pay for what you take on the honor system).
The Sonoma Overlook Trail offers an easy hike with amazing views of the Sonoma Valley. Make sure to pick up a brochure that highlights the different plants and animals that you might see on your hike. Learn more about the Sonoma Overlook Trail.
Morton's Warm Springs near Glen Ellen has been a family destination for 70 years. With two natural mineral pools, a creek, a baby pool, a spacious lawn, picnic sites, and sports areas, it's a perfect place to swim and spend a day in the sun. Read more.
One weekend a month the Sonoma Valley Airport becomes a free museum of aviation history! On display days, owners allow visitors to check out their vintage and veteran aircraft. You can see anything from famous World War II-era P-51 Mustang and P-40 Warhawk fighters to a variety of biplanes and civil aircraft from the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. Learn more about Sonoma Valley Airport Display Days.
Watching a vintage car race at Sonoma Raceway is always a thrilling experience for both kids and adults. Experience famous makes from the 1950s, '60s, and '70s like Ferrari, Porsche, MG, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, and Triumph. Many car owners will even let kids sit in their cars—perfect photo ops! Read more about it here.
Quarryhill Botanical Garden, an amazing showcase of Asian plants, is a delightful place to spend an afternoon. Explore the garden's 25 acres of pathways, ponds, waterfalls, and more. It's a wonderful place to visit at any time of year.