Though it is world famous as a wine tasting destination, California's spectacular Sonoma County has much more to offer than just vineyards and varietals. From the majestic redwood forests to the rugged Pacific coastline, Sonoma County is an ideal spot for anyone with a desire to experience the state's natural beauty and cultural history. Here are seven places and activities that non-wine lovers can enjoy while visiting.
Marin French Cheese Company
In Sonoma County, cheese is as important as the wine it's typically served with, so a trip to the Marin French Cheese Company deserves to be part of your travel plans. Located just outside Petaluma on a verdant 700-acre ranch, this artisanal cheese producer has been in business since 1865, making it the oldest continually operated cheese manufacturer in the United States. Weekly tasting events allow visitors to try a number of award-winning cheeses while learning about the process of cheese-making.
The Redwood Forest
No trip to Sonoma County is complete without experiencing the magnificent redwood giants found in the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. Located just north of the Russian River, this beautiful state park offers visitors the chance to walk among the oldest and tallest living things on the face of the Earth. An excellent place for picnics or afternoon hikes, the reserve also features a campground for overnight guests and a 1,200-seat outdoor amphitheater that's used throughout the year for public ceremonies and live events.
Jack London State Park
With 29 miles of rustic trails to explore, this gorgeous state park on the eastern slope of Sonoma Mountain is a perfect spot for horseback riding and nature walks. Visitors can take a guided tour of Jack London's historic home, wander through the ruins of a 19th century winery, or enjoy an outdoor concert — like the award-winning Broadway Under the Stars event held annually at the park in the summer.
Russian River Brewery
A must-visit attraction for serious beer lovers who want to sample a variety of brews straight from the source, the award-winning Russian River Brewery in downtown Santa Rosa has been serving thirsty customers for two decades. Known for their delicious sour beers and India pale ales, including their world famous Imperial IPA called Pliny the Elder, the brewery has grown over the years to include a popular restaurant that offers classic pub food in a relaxed and friendly setting.
Movie fans will definitely want to visit this quaint seaside location from Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 masterpiece The Birds. Several of the iconic buildings from the film are still standing today, including St. Teresa's Church and the atmospheric Potter School. For lunch, be sure to stop in at The Birds Cafe for oysters and fish tacos. A few miles away in the city of Santa Rosa, you'll also find many of the locations from Hitchcock's classic thriller Shadow of a Doubt.
Rick Samuels courtesy of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center
Charles M. Schulz Museum
The beloved creator of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Peppermint Patty spent almost 40 years of his life in Sonoma County, so it's only fitting that a museum bearing his name should be found here, too. Schulz supervised the design of this fascinating art and history museum, which includes many of his original comic strip drawings, along with a re-creation of his famous art studio. Visitors can explore the whimsical outdoor gardens, wander through a Snoopy-themed hedge maze, or spend some time in a 100-seat theater that runs vintage Peanuts cartoons.
Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
More than just a place to get a massage, this blissful refuge in Sonoma County is a Zen paradise that offers a wide array of amenities like cedar baths, organic facials and meditation gardens. Overnight packages are available for weekend guests looking for intensive therapy. The 5-acre property also includes an 18-mile stream dubbed Salmon Creek, which extends from the nearby town of Occidental to the Pacific Ocean. To help guests rejuvenate in peace, the spa's Field of Hammocks provides a calming atmosphere amid the natural splendor.