Nestled in the Sonoma Mountains, Petaluma is about an hour from San Francisco. Like Napa, its neighbor to the east, Sonoma is synonymous with California wine. Petaluma is an easy day trip from the San Francisco Bay Area if you need an escape from the city. This little town also has plenty to offer if you need a break from winery hopping.
This picturesque town has mild temperatures year-round, seldom going above 90 degrees in the summer, but the winter months bring plenty of rain. Fall is particularly beautiful when the countryside fills with brilliant colors.
The downtown area is perfect for wandering. You can pick up self-guided tour itineraries and maps at the visitor’s center on the edge of downtown and head out!
Helen Putnam Regional Park has 6 miles of trails for walking, biking, and horseback riding. Trails vary in difficulty, so there is something for almost everyone. The one and a half mile Ridge Trail rewards you with spectacular views when you reach the end. Pack a lunch of local cheese, fruit, and wine to enjoy at one of the picnic sites.
If you’re looking to spend some time on the water, rent a kayak or stand up paddle board for a trip down the Petaluma River. The calm waters will lead you to downtown Petaluma, where you can stop for lunch before you head and check out the antique shops before you back up the river.
Get a History Fix
Presently known as Adobe State Historic Park, Rancho Petaluma was built over 20 years starting in 1834 and was a center of industry in the Northern San Francisco Bay area. In addition to cattle and sheep ranching, Rancho Petaluma also raised crops and produced goods for the army. Take a tour of this historic adobe home and the outbuildings to see some early California history. Take a stroll through the wooded areas of the park and try to spot deer, barn owls, and red-tailed hawks.
Catch a Little Glimpse of Hollywood
Did you know that many Hollywood blockbusters and television shows filmed in Petaluma? Hits like American Graffiti, Peggy Sue Got Married, Howard the Duck and Basic Instinct were all shot in Petaluma. You can find a list of locations here if you want to take a tour of locations.
Grab a Cold One
Although Sonoma County is known for producing some of the best wine in California, you can change things up with a cold brew at the Lagunitas tap room. They offer several free tasting tours daily. After your tour, you can head over to the tap room for another beer, some munchies, and even live music! Be sure to check out some of their limited edition seasonal releases.
Get a Taste of Petaluma
It’s all about organic, local, and sustainable in Petaluma. You’ll find some of the finest cheese, olive oil, and produce California has to offer. Many of the farms and dairies have shops and markets where you can sample products. Build yourself a picnic as you explore, grab a bottle of local wine, then head out for a picnic by the Petaluma River to soak up the views.
Whether you’re passing through or have a few days to stay, be sure to see and taste some of what Petaluma has to offer.
Have you visited Petaluma? Tell us about your favorite experience in the comments below!