Looking for the best things to do in Santa Rosa California? Or maybe you’re on the fence and what to know why you should visit Santa Rosa.
By the time you reach the bottom of this page, both of those questions will be answered.
Santa Rosa – not to be confused with Santa Rosa Island in Southern California – is a small haven in Sonoma County, encapsulates some of the best landscape, food, wine, and markets in northern California.
Some call Sonoma County the “little sister” to Napa Valley. And the wine found in Santa Rosa serves up equals that of Napa Valley, but with fewer tourists.
There are also some quirky, fun, and unusual spots to discover in Santa Rosa. Like the museum dedicated to the Peanuts cartoon; The city is the birthplace of this legendary comic strip.
I’ve traveled to Santa Rosa a few times. At the end of each visit, I always think, “I wish I had more time”.
So let’s not waste any more time! Here’s everything Santa Rosa has to offer to travelers.
Table of Contents
Next on our list of fun things to do in Santa Rosa, we have something that both adults and kids will love.
Located in a wildlife preserve, in napa valley’s wine country, exists this unique experience.
Safari West brings the thrill of a classic African Safari to Northern California.
There’s a vast array of animals to see like antelopes, buffalo, giraffes, caracals, cheetahs; hyenas, impalas, zebras, and lemurs; just to name a few.
In total, there have over 900 animals from 90 different species. The park offers around-the-clock adventures.
This isn’t a zoo. The animals aren’t trapped in cages. Instead, they live free, enjoying the freedom of the 400-acre preserve.
The team behind Safari West is committed to the conservation of these animals and educating the public about them.
The park has Safari-Esque tents, imported from Botswana, where guests can extend their visit and stay the night in the wild with the animals.
These are luxury Tents, lavishly decorated, like the best glamping in Colorado, with hardwood floors, en-suite bathrooms, and a private viewing deck. Just like on Safari!
An overnight stay at Safari West makes for a great romantic getaway.
Top Things to do at Safari West
- Go on a Safari
- Get Up Close with a Rhino
- Become a Keeper for a Day
- Treat Yourself to a Lavish Overnight stay in a Safari Tent.
Historic Railroad Square
Those seeking local atmosphere, restaurants, and small-town shopping need to plan a visit to the Historic Railroad Square. This square puts you in the middle of the action, and within walking distance to cover all of downtown Santa Rosa.
The area’s known for its antique row, food and drink, entertainment, and beautiful turn-of-the-century buildings.
This square in Santa Rosa’s “Old Town” takes you through the city’s past and historic buildings.
Much of the history revolves around the railroad; which played an important part in the city’s history during the 1870s.
Santa Rosa was a major stop along the California railway.
Today they honor the history with train rides from Santa Rosa-San Rafael. Even Santa’s Rosa Welcome Centre’s in the old train station in Historic Railroad Square.
This square remains the heart of the city and in the historic district of Santa Rosa.
And if you are looking for things to do in Santa Rosa at night, then this is the place
Charles M. Schulz Museum
The Charles M. Schulz Museum takes you on a wonderful journey through the history of one of the most beloved cartoonists and comics ever created.
Though he wasn’t born in Santa Rosa, Schulz considered the city his home. The museum features Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the gang.
As you explore, you’ll learn the history, see art and sketches you can’t look at anywhere else, and learn the story of the man behind the most famous newspaper cartoon.
The Charles M. Schulz Museum has the largest collection of Peanut cartoons in the world. It also features his art and the tools Schulz used to hone his craft.
This just isn’t a children’s museum, it is perfect for any comic fan.
During the summer, the museum hosts a Friday Night series that features local foods and drinks.
The event hosts fun events like cartooning lessons, trivia nights, and after-hours fun.
The Friday Night Series is the last Friday of every month from June through September.
When planning things to do in Santa Rosa the museum shouldn’t be missed.
- Charles M. Schulz Art.
- Personal Artifacts.
- The largest collection of peanuts comics in the world.
- Peanuts Memorabilia
- Multimedia Collection
Ziplining Through the Redwoods
Looking for the ultimate outdoor adventure. Well, the Redwoods never fail to impress. These ancient trees are the tallest on the planet (they can grow up to 250 feet).
By far, one of the coolest things to do in Santa Rosa is spending a morning ziplining through these natural giants.
That’s where Sonoma Canopy Tours comes to the rescue. This company takes you over a hundred feet high off the forest floor, as you zip from tree to tree across the forest.
I’ll never forget standing in the branches of redwood staring out at the forest as the first rays of light burned off the morning fog settled among the trees.
Besides the awesome views, you have the thrill of zip-lining through the forest at speeds upwards of 25 miles an hour.
Another perk of the trip of this guided tour was the education. Our guides taught us a lot about the forest and the area surrounding Sonoma County. It was one of those experiences you wish never ended
Luther Burbank Home & Gardens
Visit the one-acre park of Luther Burbank Home & Gardens and see a variety of lush plants, flora, and fauna.
Once the home of renowned horticulturist Luther Burbank. Here he worked and experimented with plants for almost 5 decades.
Burbank’s contribution to the world of horticulture is unprecedented.
He established over 800 new varieties of plants. 100 of them being ornamental flowers. And over 200 of which were grains, fruits, and nuts.
His home in life has become his final resting place.
His grave is surrounded by the plants and gardens that he loved and dedicated his life to.
The Luther Burbank Home & Gardens are open year-round and free. They host many public events in the park year-round.
This is a great free thing to do in Santa Rosa CA.
It has a quiet beauty, peaceful serenity, and is excellent for people traveling with kids. These gardens are one of the top sites in the historic district.
Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market
If you happen to be in the area on a Wednesday or Saturday then you have to visit the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market.
At the market, you’ll find fresh herbs, cheeses, veggies, farm-raised meat and produce; flowers, and honey. All grown, produced, and harvested in California.
The word certified in the title guarantees that everything in the market was provided by a Californian farmer.
The farmer’s market has become a Santa Rosa tradition. It was founded more than 20 years ago. The market lets you taste the best that California has to offer. But it’s also a good place to shop for unique souvenirs. You can find small handmade crafts and local art.
The Farmers Market takes place in Luther Burbank Center for the Arts (a different location as the garden).
The market host special events throughout the year. Such as the Tomato Tasting in September. There is also April’s Earth Day Celebration and August’s Apple Celebration.
On the second Saturday of each month, they host an outreach event. With cooking classes, and kid’s events. (This only takes place during the high tourist season.)
Make sure to bring cash as not a lot of the vendors take credit or debit cards. Also, dogs are not allowed in the market.
Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market
We associate the word trail with a couple of things in California. There are epic hiking trails and the famous wine trail.
But did you know that California has a cheese trail?
If you’re like me, then the words’ cheese and trail send a shiver of delight down your spine.
And in case you are unfamiliar with terms like cheese or wine trail. Let me enlighten you and change the way you travel. These are routes through the country that takes you past the best areas that host some of the best wine and cheese in the state, if not the entire West Coast.
Santa Rosa is part of North CA. And has some of the best glamping in Northern California’s most notable, and cheesiest, trail. The city hosts a lot of the best cheese in the state, all made by locals. And other cheese-related products.
Here are a few spots that cheese lovers will want to add to their “things to do in Santa Rosa” checklist.
First, Bohemian Creamery; a small shop just 10 minutes from downtown Santa Rosa which has a plethora of affordable treats, cheese, and excellent views. Not to mention taste testers.
Right outside Santa Rosa lies Matos Cheese Factory. Which offers free samples and welcomes the public to visit. It has a farm atmosphere.
There’s also the Marline French Cheese outside of Santa Rosa. And the Vella Cheese Co, in downtown Sonoma.
Santa Rosa (all of Sonoma County) is a cheese lovers paradise.
Day Trip to San Francisco
Does downtown Santa Rosa is feeling too small? Well, Sonoma valley is sitting in the perfect area, and at a moment’s notice, you can easily hop to some of the best spots in Northern California.
And while there are still many things to do in Santa Rosa, let’s take a little break from the city and focus on our first-day trip.
San Francisco’s the obvious choice because it’s only an hour and a half drive from Santa Rosa.
This lets you escape small-town life and venture into the urban jungle. San Francisco has a cool vibe, iconic sites, and diverse culture.
The Golden Gate City has an artistic streak that runs deep. And it’s known for its museums, architecture, food, and cuisine.
You can easily spend the day wandering the Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) or see explore European art at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor.
San Fran’s walkable (if you don’t mind hills) so you spend your day wandering around the coffee shops, cafes, and farmers markets and still have a great day.
Of course, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must. There’s also Alcatraz Island, the Fisherman’s Wharf, PEIR 39, and Union Square.
How to Get From Santa Rosa to San Francisco
Getting from Santa Rosa to San Fransico takes a little over an hour by car. Making it the easiest and quickest way to get travel to the city.
Hop on US-101 S, and within 55 miles you’ll be in San Fransico.
Bus from San Francisco to Santa Rosa
If you don’t have a rental car, then buses are another option. Multiple Greyhound Buses travel between the cities daily. It takes around 2 hours to travel from Santa Rosa to San Fran via bus. And tickets range from $10 – $20.
Visit the Wineries
Sonoma County’s known as the little sister of Napa Valley. Napa gets all the attention, but let me tell you why Santa Rosa, and the surrounding area, are California’s best-kept secret for wino’s (like myself).
There’s nothing like seeing a grape vineyard to the backdrop of the mountains of California.
Many of the wineries have a family-run air about them, that makes it easy to relax, enjoy a glass of sauvignon blanc, and feel right at home.
They’re also less busy and touristy than Napa. So when doing tastings you get more personal attention and make for a great setting which helps you learn more about the wine and ask questions.
And Sonoma has no shortage of wineries – There are over 400 wineries!! And many of them are surrounded by beautiful views. Isn’t wine country awesome
Making it an ideal place to sit at an outdoor terrace, sip wine, and take in the beautiful views of the vineyards and woods. Landmark Vineyards I’m looking at you!
Or if you prefer to stay downtown, there are some great “hidden wineries” right in Santa Rosa.
A few wineries in Santa Rosa are the Trecini Winery, D’Argenzio Winery, and Sheldon Wines. Some fun adventures that will take you to these wineries. (But more on that later)
My wine tastings in the Santa Rosa area are some of the best I’ve ever experienced. (And I’ve had a fair few.)
Hands down, wine is one of the top things you have to do in Santa Rosa. After all the Russian River Valley is famous for its wine.
Trione Annadel State Park
Alright, let’s get out of the city, venture away from the markets, and put down our glass of wine. (Only for a second, I promise.)
And instead, take a minute to explore the most valuable asset in Santa Rosa – the nature.
The area is home to some fantastic protected areas like Trione Annadel State Park
When looking for what to do in Santa Rosa, it’s important to plan some time to visit Annadel State Park.
The park showcases the natural beauty of the landscape, forest, and stunning scenery that Northern California offers.
Annadel has all the amenities you expect from a state park, there are hiking trails, a picnic area, panoramic views, and fishing lakes.
Trione Annadel State Park also has a nearby campground at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.
The park’s known for its variety of wildflowers that bloom and spring and early summer. (April and May are the best months to visit for flowers. )
Annadel State Park has a few extra adventures like horseback riding, guided tours, interpretive exhibits, and a cutting-edge visitors center.
Annadel State Park Travel Info
- Bike Trails
- Horseback Riding
- Picnic Areas
- Env. Learning
- Visitor Center
- Exhibits and Programs
- Nature & Wildlife Viewings
- Guided Tours
- Interpretive Exhibit
Wednesday Night Market
If you didn’t find the farmers’ market appealing, then maybe I can sell you on the Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market.
The market runs during the summer (from mid-May to late August). It’s part festival, and part party, part farmers’ market. It’s a beacon for locals and travelers that host fun events, shopping, and nightlife.
There’s a craft beer garden to try local brews or places to uncork a bottle and try some of the region’s famous wine.
Every week, there is a different band providing live music. As you walk through the market, you can taste a variety of local food and drinks from the vendors.
Although the Wednesday Night Market isn’t all beer, wine, music. The market has some great shopping. You can find everything from handmade shirts to fresh produce.
The Wednesday Night Market remains a celebration of local life and culture. For over twenty years it’s been bringing the community together and charming people passing through.
Add this to your things to do in Santa Rosa list, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. And if you like this market you should check out the things to do in Ruidoso New Mexico. They have some great markets.
Wednesday Night Market Fun FAQs
Are dogs allowed?
Is the market opening when it’s raining?
They cancel the market during storms.
Bike to Different Wineries
You can’t visit Northern California without at least one wine tasting tour, am I right!? I spent my second day in Santa Rosa biking to a few different wine tastings with Getaway Adventures.
The bike path follows the old railway track of Santa Rosa and showcases some of the beautiful landscape and vineyards in the area. They have a variety of different wine tasting tours!
Plus, you’re burning off all those wine calories as you consume them.
My favorite wineries on the tour are.
Hook and Ladder – They use cool climate grapes, which I learned are some of the best in the world for wine. They had lovely red wines (My favorite was the Tillerman)
Dutton Goldfield. – Excellent and well-balanced wines and the heritage of the people who own the winery and vineyard dates back to the beginning of wine in Sonoma County.
Day Trip to Bodega Bay
For those who want to take in some of the actual coastlines of the West “coast,” you should plan a day trip to Bodega Bay.
This tiny town features the stunning landscape of Sonoma County’s Pacific coastline and acts as a haven for those who love outdoor adventures.
There’s plenty of hiking and biking trails to choose from. However, the real star of Bodega Bay is the ocean. Head out on the sea and look for whales, go kayaking around the bay, or on a fishing cruise.
Maybe you’d rather spend your holiday laying on one of the best beaches in California, picnicking, and enjoy the view of the ocean? Bodega Bay’s good for that too.
Things to do at Bodega Bay
- Bodega Head
- Pinnacle Gulch Coastal Access Trail
- Doran Beach
- Fishetarian Fish Market
- Westside Regional Park
- Mammoth Rocks
- Doran Beach Road
- Pinnacle Gulch Trail
- Whale Watching on Bodega Head
Spring Lake Regional Park
Another great place for those seeking the outdoors is Spring Lake Regional Park. The park, arguably the most popular one in the area, has hiking, biking, camping, and walking trails.
For campers, there are 31 campsites set in a beautiful oak forest above the lake. This gives it a slight edge over Annadel state park.
As you can tell from the name, the park has a lake. And there are boats, paddleboards, pedal boats, kayaks, and canoes for rent. But for those looking to save money on rentals, don’t worry, there are swimming spots along the shore.
Spring Lake has wheelchair-friendly trails, campsites, and picnic spots. Which is really cool.
A highlight of the park is the Environmental Discovery Center.
This center focuses on teaching the history of the region’s ecosystem.
The Discovery Center has fun exhibits for kids that lets them learn while exploring. They can conduct science experiments, see a pool full of sea creatures, and climb around some exhibits.
Things to do at Spring Lake
Pacific Coast Air Museum
Santa Rosa has a few notable museums that we will talk about. The Pacific Coast Air Museum makes it on the list first.
As you probably guessed from the title, this museum focuses on aircraft. Spread across 5 acres are 30 aircraft in different shapes, sizes, and eras in history.
What’s great about the museum is that you can explore these aircraft hands-on.
You can duck under them to look in the bomb bays, and climb up the ladder to check out the gizmos and gadgets in the cockpit.
And during certain “Open Cockpit Weekends”, you can even sit in them, and grab that much-desired selfie of you being a pilot.
The museum has interactive displays that let you learn the history of these aircraft and aviation in the United States.
They have a VR flight simulator, fun events like the Wings over Wine Air Show, and more.
This is a museum that lets you touch history; a place everyone from solo travelers to families will love.
Top Planes to See
- A-26 Invader
- A-4 Skyhawk
- BD-5J Bede
- F-15A Eagle #102
- Pitts Special S1
- UH-1H Huey
Santa Rosa has some mouth-watering food. Every night I found myself overindulging on the delicious cuisine.
One restaurant, in particular, was Belly: Left Coast Kitchen and Taproom. The chef/owner, Gray Rollins is also the touring chef of the rock band Linking Park.
He has also toured and been the chef for Kiss and Prince.
After eating his food, it is easy to see why! I could eat the sweet bread, with cinnamon butter every day for the rest of my life and be happy. Everything in the restaurant was delicious, and I highly recommend checking it out.
Best Restaurants in Santa Rosa
- Belly: Left Coast
- Stark’s Steak & Seafood
- Ca’ Bianca
- Spinster Sisters
- Hopmonk Tavern
- Jack’s and Tony’s: Restaurant and Whisky Bar
- Hopmonk Tavern
- Jack and Tony’s Restaurant and Whiskey Bar
Jack London State Park
Jack London State Park. has incredible landscape. There are a lush green forest and tall mountains all throughout the park.
The park’s named after the famous literary icon. He lived and is buried in the park. You can see his grave marked with a tiny tree and stone. And the ruins of his old house.
London’s books like White Fang and Call of the Wild were childhood favorites of mine. They nurtured my desire for adventure and kindled my imagination.
It was a humbling moment when I visited the grave and paid tribute to the author that has had a profound impact on my life.
Santa Rosa was a need break from my backpacking life. I enjoyed every moment of my week in Santa Rosa. From good wine to epic vista’s Santa Rosa is a place to check out.
The park’s a prime choice for an outdoor adventure. There are mountain biking trails, rolling hills, a picnic area, and fun hiking trails.
Other Things to do in Santa Rosa California
If you’re visiting in the summer, then the swimming lagoon is a hidden gem, and a way to escape the heat. This swimming hole is located near Howarth park
Russian River Brewery
Yes, northern Cali is more than just wine country! The Russian River is a great place to try some good beers.
Santa Rosa hot air balloon rides!
You’d think that this would make the main list of things to do in Santa Rosa. But I only want to include things that I have done, and I haven’t done a balloon ride in Santa Rosa. But there are a lot of hot air balloon rides to choose from.
YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT THINGS TO DO IN SANTA ROSA ANSWERED
WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR THINGS TO DO IN SANTA ROSA WITH KIDS?
The Peanuts Museum (again not just a children’s museum), State Parks, markets, and the historic district are the best things to do with kids.
WHAT SHOULD I NOT MISS IN SANTA ROSA?
Well, it’s wine country…so don’t miss that. The historic district, a day trip check out the famous San Francisco Landmarks, or the smaller town of Healdsburg ca.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IN SANTA ROSA FOR FREE?
Well, the State Parks, Walking Around the Historic District, the Markets, and Luther Burbank Home & Gardens