Sonoma Valley’s abundance of nature, parks, historical sites, and attractions makes it an ideal playground for families with kids. Whether you’re here for a quick weekend away or for a week or two during school break, there’s a host of fun to be had for everyone in the family. We’ve put together this list of engaging activities for you and the kids to enjoy on your next visit to the valley. Use it as a guideline to plan your next visit.
FUN FOR FAMILIES WHO LOVE HISTORY
If you want to make your kids seasoned travelers, bringing them to historical sites is the best way to connect them to a place. Not only does it stimulate their imagination and curiosity, but it sets a stimulating scene for your family adventure.
The Mission of San Francisco Solano and its adjacent Barracks are located at the historic Sonoma Plaza and are the backbone of the community. Built in the early 19th century as the last of California’s 21 missions, it’s the perfect place to learn California history, before and after the European and Mexican settlers. Don’t forget to round your tour with a trip to the Barracks Gift Shop for locally made Sonoma hats, t-shirts, stickers, books, and more.
Older kids will appreciate the homestead of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, just a few blocks west of the plaza on Spain Street—a lovely wander down the city’s bike path. “The General” is regarded as one of the city’s early founders, one of the centerpieces of the Bear Flag Revolt, and the first senator for California when it was annexed by the United States. There’s a great photo opp for the kids to pose next to his lifelike statue on a park bench on the plaza!
FUN FOR FAMILIES LOOKING FOR A WILD ADVENTURE
Some kids thrive with the wind in their hair and adrenaline pumping through their veins. For active families, check out Sonoma Zipline Adventures and Safari West.
For kids age 10 and up, Sonoma Zipline Adventures offers an incredible ride through the top of an isolated redwood forest. Seasoned guides will lead you through the treetops for about 90 minutes, providing an important team-building experience for your family, as well as creating a jaw-dropping experience that you’ll all remember for years to come. Consider booking one of their treehouses for a one-of-a-kind slumber party!
If your kids love the thrill of wild animals, Santa Rosa’s Safari West is a must-see family destination. This 400-acre wild preserve is nothing short of majestic with dozens and dozens of species from Africa’s famous Serengeti. Established to promote education and conservation, “The Sonoma Serengeti” is mission-based and thoughtful, while also offering the thrill of being close to wild animals like giraffes, lions, warthogs, wildebeest, zebras and so much more! Like Somona Zipline Adventures, Safari West also offers deluxe glamping experiences that are sure to transport you to a world apart. Reserve in advance to be sure to get a tent.
FUN FOR FAMILIES WHO LOVE NATURE
Getting out into nature is an easy way to connect your kids to Sonoma Valley, while allowing everyone in the family to get in some exercise. Take in a slow hike, cruise on the flats of the valley’s vineyard roads, or visit our local observatory to view the planets.
Hiking is a great way to stop and smell the (literal and proverbial) roses. With hundreds of miles of trails to enjoy, Sonoma Valley has trails for every age and ability. Try a simple but invigorating hike up Shocken Hill above the city of Sonoma on the Overlook Trail to take in a quick hike. Up the ante with steeper terrain at Bartholomew Park, then soak in the sun and snacks at one of their picnic tables.
Looking for something for all sorts of different abilities and interests? Consider a visit to Jack London State Historic Park, the famous author’s dream farm, where the able-bodied can hike to their hearts content, view the Grandmother Tree, and hike the summit of Sonoma Mountain. Those operating on a slower roll can explore his cottage and the nearby museum, showcasing his personal history, legacy, and literary experiences.
But for those looking to really get away, a visit up to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park offers all the bells and whistles! Book one of their campsites or a glamping tent, hike by day, and/or take a full-moon hike or listen to a park ranger explain the night sky at the observatory. With waterfalls to see in winter and spring, and breathtaking views of the valley below, you’ll burn off the stress faster than you can say, “getaway.”
If your kids love to bike, cruising along quiet vineyard roads of the valley is an easy way to include the whole family. Stop along the way at kid-friendly wineries or find a place to picnic. Wine Country Cyclery and Sonoma Adventures both offer bike rentals and helmets and have great ideas on the best routes to ride on.
CREATIVE FUN FOR FAMILIES WHO LOVE ART
Whether your family loves the arts or you need a rainy-day activity, there are lots of fun creative activities to enjoy! Making art with your kids stimulates creativity, imagination, and confidence…and there’s nothing more satisfying than framing that special piece made during one of your family vacations!
Art Escape offers a variety of classes for kids, teens and adults. Classes for kids include classics like sketching and watercolors to super unusual like glassblowing and encaustics. Adult workshops include needlework, glassblowing, printmaking and wool felting. Affordable yet high-quality, the school fosters a safe environment for all ages to play, learn, and keep their hands busy.
Little ones will delight in the offerings at the Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center. This well-conceived museum, built in honor of the late Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame (a Santa Rosa resident), not only highlights the incredible breadth of his work and career, but also is dedicated to the promotion of illustration as an art form. With standing and rotating exhibits, a theatre for cartoons, documentaries and more, and craft classes for small children, there’s enough to keep the whole family entertained for hours. It’s the perfect rainy-day destination!
FUN FOR FAMILIES WHO LOVE SIMPLE PLEASURES
Sometimes, vacation time is all about having fun without having to try too hard. And sometimes, parents need a go-to activity that’s sure to delight everyone, regardless of their skills and personal interests. That’s where a day of mini golf, arcades, and an animal sanctuary come in handy—perfect for hosting birthday parties or just helping the family reset together with simple pleasures.
The Sonoma Fun Center, located in Maxwell Village Shopping Center, is filled with possibilities at a great price. Play a round of mini golf for under $10, try your hand at air hockey or skittleball, or sip on a slushie or hot cocoa while taking a break between games—it’s a great place for adults to bathe in nostalgia while teaching their kids time-honored games and skills. If farm tours are more your thing, be sure to visit Charlie’s Acres, a farm animal sanctuary dedicated to educating kids about animals and vegan lifestyles. You’ll see retired pigs, goats, and donkeys, among other animals, while soaking in heartfelt education from the volunteers and staff. Check their website to book a tour in advance of your visit.
* * * * *
While Sonoma Valley may be best well known for wine and food, there are plenty of great activities within the valley or a short drive away to keep the whole family engaged and in their happy zone. Plan your visit by checking out the websites of these businesses and let us know how we can help. With stunning nature, great attractions, and sweet, mission-based organizations, Sonoma Valley is the place for your next family vacation.