Sonoma Essentials

Take advantage of Sonoma’s best dining, entertainment and more.

Entertainment Essentials: Best Places to ...

HAVE FUN FOR FREE

Life in Sonoma revolves around the 8-acre Plaza (Broadway at Napa Street), the largest town square in California and site for many of the town’s celebrations and parades. From spring through fall, there’s a farmers market with free music in the bandstand and picnicking anywhere you want to spread a blanket. Children’s playgrounds and a duck pond invite kids all day long while parents lounge on park benches drinking lattes or local wine.

MEET NEW PEOPLE

First try the Plaza. Then try Sonoma Village Market. The Tuesday night farmers market is also a good bet, and so is the bar at El Dorado Kitchen, also known as EDK (405 First St. West, 707-996-3030). Then try the girl & the fig (110 West Spain St., 707-938-3634) and Murphy’s Irish Pub (464 First St. East, 707-935-0660). If all else fails join the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art (551 Broadway, 707-939-7862), or become a member of the Sonoma Valley Film Society (707-933-2600). Film Society members get discounts for the annual film festival and meet other starstruck movie mavens.

GO WITH A SIGNIFICANT OTHER

Murphy’s Pub again; EDK; the Plaza; hiking the Overlook Trail (First Street West just past Arnold Field and the Veterans Memorial Building) which zigzags up the side of the ridge above town offering spectacular views all the way to San Pablo Bay.

TAKE THE KIDS

It’s called Train Town (20264 Broadway, 707-938-3912) and it’s all about trains. A 20-minute tour on a scale steam train takes you and your kids through a 10-acre forest, over trestles, through tunnels and past miniature waterfalls. There are full-size train cars to play in, along with vintage amusement rides including a Ferris wheel and a petting zoo. After that, take the kids to the Plaza or up the Overlook Trail.

PAMPER YOURSELF

There are spas all over the Valley but our votes go to:

SHOP AT A FUNKY LOCAL BUSINESS

If you don’t go to Hipkiss Family Gallery (414 First St. East, 707-938-5477) just off the Plaza, and at least look at Cynthia Hipkiss’s oversized porcelain people, you’ll be missing a local treasure. Her figures are plump, provocative, sometimes profane and profoundly funny. Cynthia shares gallery space with her artist daughter Caroline who paints serious cows and farmyard scenes.

DANCE

Little Switzerland in Boyes Hot Springs (401 Grove St., 707-938-9990) tops the list with rotating bands playing everything from rock and salsa to (if you’re old enough and have the energy) polka, one night a week. It is the place to dance in the Valley when there isn’t an organized event going on.

Food and Drink Essentials: Best Places to ...

DRINK WINE
You’re kidding? You could start Monday morning and drink your way 24/7 through the week to Sunday evening and you wouldn’t see or even find them all.

  • Buena Vista (18000 Old Winery Road, 800-926-1266) has the oldest building and some of the best wine.
  • Bartholomew Park (1000 Vineyard Lane, 707-935-9511) is great for weddings.
  • Chateau St. Jean (8555 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707.833.4134) looks elegantly French and makes great Chardonnay.
  • Ledson Castle (7335 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-537-3810) is extravagantly grand and has 77 different bottlings with some fantastic reds.
  • Gundlach Bundschu (everyone calls it Gun Bun) is touched with whimsy, brilliant vintages and an outdoor stage where Shakespeare is performed (2000 Denmark St., 707-938-5277).
  • Kaz (233 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood, 877-833-2536) claims to be the smallest winery in the Valley and, if you want a big, bare-chested, organic Zin, that’s where you’ll find it.
  • But the best wine the Valley has to offer, like Petroni’s Brunello di Sonoma (Petroni Vineyards, 990 Cavedale Road, 888-290-9390), can only be tasted with a private reservation or membership in a club.

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