Santa Rosa, Calif., is a beautiful city of 175,000, just 55 miles north of San Francisco. It is a delightful urban enclave that serves as the gateway to the world-renowned Sonoma Valley wine country. The biggest city in Sonoma County, it is an ideal base and jumping-off point for a wine-country vacation.

Santa Rosa is close to everything that makes Sonoma what it is: wineries, urban tasting rooms, an incredible variety of restaurants, craft beer, California’s rugged coast and diverse outdoor adventure opportunities. No wonder it is becoming a desirable bedroom community for the Bay Area since the SMART train and other transportation improvements have arrived and living costs are a bit lower than in the big city.

Santa Rosa’s resilience is evident. Despite the wildfires that devastated parts of the town and surrounding areas in 2017, the urban area is both bustling and welcoming. The downtown was untouched by the fires and the neighborhoods that were burned are well along in the rebuilding process.

There is plenty to do to occupy you in Santa Rosa proper for a long weekend, and certainly more than you can accomplish in a day-trip from the Bay Area. Start with some great shopping and restaurants in Historic Railroad Square and nearby Courthouse Square. Check out the lush gardens surrounding Luther Burbank’s home and don’t forget the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, dedicated to the famed "Peanuts" cartoonist who made his home in Santa Rosa. There is also family fun at the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County and a bustling cultural scene.

If you get tired of wine, beer and great food in town, Santa Rosa boasts 66 parks and the surrounding mountains are a mecca for hikers and bikers.

Before you go

Getting there

Santa Rosa can be easily reached by highway, air or train.

• By air, the nearest airport is the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (STS), 8 miles away. San Francisco International (SFO) is 67 miles away and Oakland International (OAK) is 68 miles away.

• By train, the SMART regional train serves Santa Rosa. The nearest Amtrak station is Suisun-Fairfield at 55 miles. It is connected to Santa Rosa by coordinated bus service.

• By car, California highways 101 and 12 meet at Santa Rosa. 

For a few days

• Railroad Square and Courthouse Square restaurants and shops.

• The California Welcome Center in Railroad Square for maps, advice, discount coupons, etc.

• The Luther Burbank Home and Gardens.

For a longer visit

• The Charles M. Schulz Museum.

• A wine-tasting trip to nearby Sonoma County wineries and the Russian River valley.

• A scenic drive to the coast at Bodega Bay, where Alfred Hitchcock filmed "The Birds."

At a glance

• Mobility Level: Low.

• When to go: year-round. Winter can be rainy and summers are hot, but not humid. September and October are busy, but with near-ideal weather.

• Where to stay: the Hyatt Vineyard and Marriott Courtyard at Railroad Square are convenient and right downtown. Most of the national chains have properties in and around Santa Rosa. Prices are a little more affordable than many other Sonoma locations.

• Special interests: wine tourism, historic buildings, "Peanuts" cartoon memorabilia.

Jeffrey Orenstein and Virginia Orenstein are publishers of Living on the Suncoast Magazine. They can be reached at

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