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The 20 Best things to Do in Santa Rosa, CA, for First Timers

Museums of Sonoma County

Santa Rosa is an amazing city to visit as there are so many things to see and do for people of all enjoy. Whether you enjoy visiting historical attractions, having some family fun, exploring the outdoors, or watching a performance, you will find many activities to keep you entertained throughout your vacation. It can help to plan your itinerary in advance so that you do not miss out on the area’s best attractions during your stay. To help you do so, here are the 20 best things to do in Santa Rosa for first-timers.

Enjoy a Meal at John Ash & Co.

20. Enjoy a Meal at John Ash & Co.

You will no doubt want to enjoy some meals out during your visit to Santa Rosa, and there are some amazing restaurants to try. Each of these offers something different in terms of both the menu and the overall dining experience. According to, one of the best restaurants in Santa Rosa is John Ash & Co. The main dining room offers a fine dining experience that is perfect for a celebration or a romantic meal. However, if you prefer a less formal environment, then sit in the Front Room Bar and Lounge, as this has an informal atmosphere.

Bodega Bay

19. Take a Trip to Bodega Bay

No visit to California is complete without experiencing the beauty of the Californian coast. The closest section of the coastline to Santa Rosa is Bodega Bay, which runs along the coastal edge of Sonoma County. It is a beautiful place to take a walk or to spend time on the beach with the kids.


18. Have Fun at a Casino

Santa Rosa is known for its beautiful outdoor spaces and its history. However, that does not mean that there are not fun indoor activities to enjoy or that the area is lacking in nightlife. A fun indoor activity that you can enjoy during the day or at night is the local casinos. Two of the best casinos in the area are River Rock Casino and Twin Pine Casino & Hotel says Visit Santa Rosa. Both casinos also have eateries and entertainment, so each venue has plenty to keep you entertained.

Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve

17. Walk Amongst the Trees at the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve

California is famous for its giant redwood trees, and they are a magnificent sight. At Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, you can walk among these giant trees, many of which are at least 1,400 years old and some tower as high as 310 feet. Visitors to the state park can walk along the hiking trails, try horseback riding, or enjoy a picnic.

Animals at Safari West

16. Visit the Animals at Safari West

A trip to Safari West is an activity that people of all ages can enjoy, and the park is set in a 400-acre preserve. Africa is the natural habitat for most of the animals at this safari, and these include zebra, giraffes, rhinos, and wildebeest. In total, there are more than 900 animals living at the park, and these represent more than 90 species. A visit to Safari West is an amazing opportunity to get up close and personal with these beautiful animals.

Pacific Coast Air Museum

15. See the Exhibits at the Pacific Coast Air Museum

Even if you are not particularly interested in planes or aviation, there are plenty of interesting exhibits to enjoy at the Pacific Coast Air Museum, so it is a great activity to include in your Santa Rosa vacation itinerary. Visitors are taken on a tour of American aviation history as they walk through the large collection of historical planes. There are also displays of artifacts and memorabilia relating to the aviation industry, along with memorials to veterans.

California Cheese Trail

14. Eat and Drink Your Way Along the California Cheese Trail

Although California is famous for its wine, there are also many amazing cheese products produced in the region. If you are a cheese and wine fan, you can sample some of the best produce in the area by eating and drinking your way along the California Cheese Trail, says The Crazy Tourist. When you embark on the trail, you have the chance to meet some local cheese producers and learn about cheese production in the area while also having the chance to sample the cheese with a glass of Californian wine to wash it down.

Spring Lake Regional Park

13. Enjoy the Outdoors at Spring Lake Regional Park

If you want to make the most of the wonderful climate in California, then you will probably want to spend as much time outdoors as possible. A great place to spend time outdoors is at Spring Lake Regional Park. The park spans 320-acres and includes a three-acre lagoon for swimming and a 72-acre lake that is perfect for activities such as boating, fishing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and windsurfing. Around the lake, there are sandy beaches and picnic sites. Hiking and biking trails criss-cross throughout the park, so hiking and biking are popular activities. People also use the park for horseback riding.

Annadel State Park

12. Explore Annadel State Park

Many people visit California to spend time outdoors enjoying activities such as hiking and biking. One of the best places to enjoy such activities is at Annadel State Park. It has a network of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The park sits alongside Lake Ilsanjo, which is a popular spot for black bass and bluegill fishing. There is also a visitor’s center where visitors can learn about the park and the surrounding environment.

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts

11. Go to the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts

If you want to watch a performance during your visit to Santa Rosa, the best place to do so is at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, which was formerly known as the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. The center was founded in 1981 by the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation. It is now one of the world’s top performing arts centers. Throughout the year, there is a jam-packed schedule of events and performances. It is advisable to book tickets in advance if there is a performance you want to watch or an event you wish to attend. The venue also hosts art exhibitions that showcase the work of local artists.

Redwood Empire Ice Arena

10. Try Ice Skating at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena

Charles M. Schulz opened the Redwood Empire Ice Arena in 1969. Although the ice arena offers private ice hockey and figure skating lessons, most people visit this popular attraction during the public skating sessions to have some fun on the ice. The venue also hosts various ice hockey tournaments, figure skating competitions, and ice shows throughout the year, so check if there is anything that interests you before visiting Santa Rosa.

Sonoma Canopy Tour

9. Have Fun on a Sonoma Canopy Tour

If you prefer physical activities rather than visiting local historic landmarks, then you might have some fun if you book yourself onto a Sonoma Canopy Tour. It is one of the area’s top activities for people who enjoy the thrill of heights and thrive off an adrenaline rush. The tour will take you to one of the Northern California Redwood forests, where you will see some of the tallest and oldest living trees in the world. You will explore the forests by ziplining, skywalking, climbing, and rappelling. The tour takes almost three hours and includes seven zip lines, two sky bridges, and a spiral staircase through the trees.

Local Wineries

8. Visit the Local Wineries

California is famous for its wine production, and there are plenty of wineries and vineyards to visit in Sonoma County. One winery that is open to visitors is St. Francis Winery and Vineyards, which is a family-owned wine estate. It is famous for sustainable and eco-friendly wine production. The winery has a visitors center where visitors can learn about wine production before visiting the tasting room to sample the wine. There are many more wineries to visit in this region, and many of these have a restaurant on-site. Try to include several in your itinerary if you are interested in food and wine.


7. Stroll Around the Markets

The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market is open every Wednesday and Saturday. It is where the local farmers, artisan food producers, and ranchers sell their produce, and there are stalls selling various goods, including meat, fruit, vegetables, cheese, chutneys, and flowers. A stroll around the market is the ideal opportunity to sample some of the best food the area has to offer. There is also the Wednesday Night Market, and the highlight of this is the food stalls.

Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary

6. Relax at the Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary

For some people, a vacation is all about taking a break from the stresses and strains of daily life. If this applies to you, then one of the best places to enjoy some rest and relaxation is at the Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary. The retreat has beautiful bamboo and bonsai gardens, and guests can relax while they receive wellness treatments, facials, and massages. A unique feature of this spa is the cedar enzyme bath, which is the only bath of its kind in the United States. You will find the Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary just outside Santa Rosa in Freestone.

Children’s Museum of Sonoma

5. Take the Kids to the Children’s Museum of Sonoma

If you are visiting Santa Rosa with children, then one of the top attractions in the city is the Children’s Museum of Sonoma. The museum explores various aspects of science and nature, and children are encouraged to explore the themes through play. There are multiple interactive and educational exhibits at the museum. The museum also hosts various events and educational programs throughout the year.

Luther Burbank Home & Gardens

4. Go to the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens

Luther Burbank was a renowned horticulturist who introduced more than 800 new varieties of plants, vegetables, grains, and nuts through his experimentation. The Luther Burbank Home & Gardens is his former home, and it is a Registered National, State, and City Historic Landmark. The house and gardens are open to the public, and there are informative guided tours that tell you more about the property and its famous former owner.

Railroad Square Historic District

3. Explore the Railroad Square Historic District

Formerly Santa Rosa’s Old Town, Railroad Square is the city’s historic district. It is a center of preservation that is full of examples of various architectural styles from different periods. The district has many interesting stores and antique shops. It is also where you will find some of the best places to eat, ranging from fine dining restaurants to street-side cafes that serve delicious lunches.

Museums of Sonoma County

2. Visit the Museums of Sonoma County

The Art Museum of Sonoma County and the History Museum of Sonoma County are known together as the Museums of Sonoma County, and most people visit the two museums on the same day. They are housed in the same building, which is the historic Post Office that was built in the Renaissance Revival style in the early 1900s. The aim of the museums is to preserve the area’s history and to showcase the culture and art of the region. You should spend a couple of hours in each of the museums to make sure you do not miss anything.

Charles M. Schulz Museum

1. Go to the Charles M. Schulz Museum

According to Vacation Idea, the best thing to do in Santa Rosa, CA, for first-timers is to go to the Charles M. Schulz Museum. Charles M. Schulz was one of the most famous cartoonists in the world, and he was the creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip. This museum is devoted to Schulz and the role he played in the development of the cartoon genre. At the museum, you will see the largest collection of Schulz’s work in the world. You will also see various other exhibitions relating to comic strips. Visitors can also go into Schulz’s studio and have a go at creating their own comic strip.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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