The dog days of summer are here in Sonoma Valley, and with them, a host of relaxing and enjoyable activities to kick back, unwind and cool off. The Sonoma sunshine in summer is dry and hot, often with afternoon coastal breezes to balance temps. However, when the dog days arrive, it’s a great idea to plan your outdoor activities for the morning, and then to head indoors come afternoon or evening. Here are a few ideas of fun things to do to escape the heat and keep you relaxed!

GET POOLSIDE

If you’re a sun-worshipper and can’t get enough, even in the heat, then book your trip at a hotel with a pool. Pool temperatures are often 15- to 25-degrees below air temperature, offering welcome refreshment on hot summer days. Some of our favorite pools can be found at The Lodge at Sonoma Resort & Spa, the Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn, El Pueblo Lodge, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, Kenwood Inn & Spa, Arches Vacation Rentals, and the Flamingo Resort. Check out your hotel’s amenities to book for maximum enjoyment. Always remember to wear a hat, apply sunscreen and avoid alcoholic beverages when in the direct sun.

If your hotel or inn doesn't have a pool, be sure to head over to Sonoma Splash, Sonoma's most well-appointed aquatic center. There's a kids' pool with a slide, a lap pool, and all the classes and activities you want to keep you busy. Day passes start at $10 per person.

GO FOREST BATHING

Forest bathing is one of the wellness world’s latest trends for a reason: getting out in nature, surrounded by plants and trees, is scientifically proven to reduce cortisol—the hormone that causes stress. When you combine that with hiking or walking in shaded areas or forests, you create the ideal combo of beating the heat while also erasing some of the stress of your regular daily grind. Hike beneath the redwoods at Jack London State Historic Park or wander under the oak groves at the Bouverie Preserve, and remember to bring a water bottle or two to stay hydrated. If you’re more of a night owl, consider a full moon hike or visit to the Robert Ferguson Observatory at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, where temperatures can be as low as in the 50s at night.

ESCAPE TO A WINERY, TASTING ROOM, OR WINE CAVE

Of all the places to go to escape the heat in Sonoma Valley, there’s no better place than at a winery. Most wineries and tasting rooms control their temperatures carefully to protect the wines and maturation process, often as low as 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Some are even lucky enough to have underground cellars—which are often naturally temperature controlled and are carved into the local bedrock. In addition to creating a comfortable and cool tasting experience in your wine travels, it’s also fascinating to see how wines are aged and the intricate layout of some of the cellars. Check out the caves at BenzigerBuena VistaDeerfield RanchGloria FerrerGundlach BundschuKunde and Schug for starters.

SOAK IN LOCAL ART

Art lovers can make a whole visit of art-based activities in the valley alone, saying nothing of Sonoma County at large! Art museums and galleries keep temperatures cool to protect the art, creating an ideal environment for slowing down and stopping to smell the proverbial roses. For art museums, be sure to include the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art , and the Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center on your itinerary--all have incredible collections and are worth the stop. For galleries, The Passdoor, the Arts Guild of Sonoma, and Musette Atelier offer you the chance to take some of our local art home with you. 

ENJOY A LITTLE RETAIL THERAPY

Nothing says renewal quite like shopping! Whether you’re refreshing your wardrobe, looking for gifts, or sampling some of Sonoma Valley’s local products, you can’t go wrong.

To find the latest summer fashions, browse the racks at Bossa Nova, Socks on the Square, Stella Gray or at Large Leather. For gifts, Tiddle E. Winks Vintage 5 & Dime, the Barracks Gift Store, WooF!, and Global Heart are all musts! For local specialty products you won’t want to miss, wander over to Community Supply and Fine Line Art & Frame. Home décor and design aficionados will swoon at Chateau Sonoma, JAK W, Harvest Home & Fat Pilgrim, and Artefact Design & Salvage, all quintessential examples of Wine Country design. Jewelry fans love Sonoma Silver and M. Lowe & Co. Foodies delight in visiting the Vella Cheese Company, The Olive Press, The Epicurean Connection, Sonoma Market, Glen Ellen Village Market, and Williams-Sonoma flagship store—all hotspots for sampling the best of the valley!

DINE INDOORS

While patio dining gets much of the press here in the valley, indoor dining is where it’s at when it comes to the dog days of summer. Indoor dining means cooler temperatures (and often air-conditioning), making it easy to relax and unwind over a meal without worry about who gets the sunny spot and who gets the shady spot. Restaurants like B&V Whiskey Bar & Grille, Layla, LaSalette, The Red Grape, Salt & Stone, Enoteca Della Santina, Santé, Sonoma Eats, Sonoma Grille, and Wit & Wisdom are all memorable indoor dining experiences and some of our favorite places to escape the heat.

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When the dog days of summer arrive, the most important things to remember are hydration, sun protection, and pace. Overexertion is a no-no when the temperature rises, and the slow-moving culture is what makes the valley beloved by visitors and locals alike. When you’re on Sonoma time, life unwinds at a sweeter stride.