Kid-friendly attractions in Santa Rosa
By Mimi Slawoff
Santa Rosa, California (Courtes Visit Santa Rosa`)
The largest city in Sonoma, Santa Rosa is the gateway to wine country, farm-to-table cuisine, and unique family-friendly attractions (think African wildlife safari!). Santa Rosa’s location in the wine country and redwoods also makes it a natural playground for hiking, biking and other outdoor fun (plus family-friendly wineries).
Despite being a large city, Santa Rosa has a welcoming, small town feel. Locals are kind and friendly, and it’s not uncommon for your chef to stop by your table to chat about your dish or his farmer friends who provide the restaurant’s poultry.
Bring the kids and see why Santa Rosa is an ideal destination for a family vacation.
Bonus: if you fly Alaska Air, “Wine Flies Free,” and you can carry a case of wine at no extra charge.
Where to Sleep
Hyatt Vineyard Creek (Courtesy Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa)
In addition to several tent and RV campgrounds by the Russian River, several pet-friendly hotels make staying in Santa Rosa a dream.
The historic Flamingo Resort and Spa has two Olympic-size swimming pools, tennis courts and is near shops and restaurants. Set on 13 acres, the Hilton Sonoma is a traditional hotel with panoramic views of the Santa Rosa Valley. And the Hyatt Vineyard Creek is an upscale, Tuscan-inspired hotel near major attractions.
Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center
This kid-friendly museum – of special interest to Peanuts fans – contains the world’s largest collection of original Peanuts artwork. See exhibits including a recreation of Schulz’s studio on One Place Snoopy and get a behind-the-scenes look at The Peanuts Movie (first ever Peanuts feature film debuting in November). Family-friendly events and hands-on classes take place throughout the year.
Safari West Animal Sanctuary
Safari West Animal Sanctuary (Photo: Cheryl Crowley)
Home to more than 900 birds and mammals, the sanctuary offers families a safari experience, complete with an overnight stay in tents imported from Africa. On a three-hour guided tour, you’ll have an opportunity to see giraffes, cheetahs, gazelles and many other animals roaming on a 400-acre reserve. Come night, bunk down in luxurious tents (with plush beds and private bathrooms) built on high wooden platforms with spacious decks. Don’t be surprised to hear animals during the night as they eat, socialize and go about their routines.
Ziplining in the Redwood Forest
Situated about 30 minutes outside of town, Sonoma Canopy Tours offers a two-and-a-half hour guided eco tour that includes seven ziplines, two sky bridges, a majestic spiral staircase and a rappel to the forest floor. Soar up to 25 mph over deep ravines in the majestic coastal redwoods. Minimum age: 10; minimum weight: 70 pounds.
Cycling Scenic Trails
A network of bike trails meander along waterways and vineyards. For trail maps and guides of Santa Rosa and Sonoma, visit the California Welcome Center in the heart of Santa Rosa’s historic railroad district. Bring your own or rent bikes from local vendors.
Rafting on the Russian River
Russian River (Flickr: Jinx McCombs)
Kayak, fish and pitch a tent along the popular Russian River, which runs through surrounding cities. Pet-friendly campgrounds are set among the redwoods and include picnic tables and fire rings.
Wine Tasting Family Style
Benziger Family Winery (Courtesy Benziger)
While you need to be at least 21 for tastings, a handful of wineries have family-friendly amenities. For example, at the Benziger Family Winery, you’ll find a children’s playground, picnic grounds and tractor train rides, while the Francis Ford Coppola Winery houses much of his popular movie paraphernalia and a swimming pool.
Mimi Slawoff of Planetfamilytravel contributed this to MiniTime. She is a Los Angeles-based journalist and a seasoned family travel expert who explores the world with her three children and writes about their journeys.