Santa Rosa: Easy access to the wine country and its history

Pool at Sunset
Flamingo Resort

With a new nonstop flight from John Wayne Airport to Santa Rosa, it’s easier to get to Northern California’s wine country. Visitors land in this city of 172,000, which is an affordable, unpretentious base to explore wineries or partake of outdoor adventures in Sonoma County. Or stroll the quirky and historic city itself, including the Railroad Square district and the burgeoning arts district around South A Street. On April 23, Santa Rosa celebrates its seventh annual Earth Day Festival, spotlighting the region’s ecotourism and agricultural roots.

GETTING THERE Alaska Airlines flies nonstop daily from John Wayne Airport to the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport.

SEE The Charles M. Schulz Museum is devoted to his Peanuts comic strip and the art of cartooning (free to $10). Downtown’s  Made Local Marketplace sells fine art, crafts, and food products from more than 400 area artisans. Try a spring wildflower walk along the eight miles of trails in Shiloh Ranch Regional Park ($7 per vehicle) or head to nearby Glen Ellen’s Quarryhill Botanical Garden. For the 100th anniversary of Jack London’s death, the Jack London State Historic Park celebrates the author’s adventurous life. Download a free app for a self-guided tour of the park, his former property.

The Spinster Sisters clams.
Clams from The Spinster Sisters restaurant.

TASTE A drive north of Santa Rosa through the west Russian River Valley takes you to wineries such as the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens, Sonoma-Cutrer, DeLoach, and Russian Hill.  The Spinster Sisters is a combo art gallery, restaurant, and international wine bar focused on local ingredients and wine-friendly plates such as a breadcrumb fried duck egg ($14) and roasted garbanzo beans with lime and chile ($7). Willi’s Wine Bar
is a longtime local favorite that offers intriguing small plates such as pork belly pot stickers ($11) and foie gras poppers ($15).

RELAX Surrounded by 92 acres of vineyards and arranged like a country village, the 44-room Vintners Inn puts guests deep in the heart of wine country ($265 and up). An on-site garden supplies John Ash & Co., the well-respected in-house restaurant. A local landmark, the Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa opened in 1957 to echo the design features of its Las Vegas namesake. Outside, there’s a retro hot-pink neon flamingo. Inside there’s a cycle center, spa, lap pool, new furnishings, and a cool midcentury modern vibe ($134 and up).

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