Santa Rosa is the largest city in Sonoma County, California, and fifth largest in the San Francisco Bay Area. The city is a jumping off point for visiting the wine country of Sonoma County and the Napa Valley, or driving out to the beautiful coastal and parks throughout the Sonoma County.
Santa Rosa's history is rich in culture and many different groups have called the area their home. Pomo, Miwok, and Wappo Indians first settled the area followed by the Spanish in the early 1800s. The first deeded land was held as the Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa and was given to Senora Maria Ignacia Lopez de Carrillo by Spanish authorities.
In 1867, the county recognized Santa Rosa as an incorporated city and in 1868 the state confirmed the incorporation, making it the third incorporated city in Sonoma County, after Petaluma, incorporated in 1858, and Healdsburg, incorporated in 1867.
The city continued to grow when other early population centers declined or stagnated, but by 1900 it had been, or was being, overtaken by many other newer population centers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. According to a 1905 article in the Press Democrat newspaper reporting on the Battle of the Trains, the city had just over 10,000 people at the time.
The April 18, 1906 San Francisco Earthquake essentially destroyed the entire downtown, but the city's population did not greatly suffer. However, after that period the population growth of Santa Rosa, as with most of the area, was very slow.
In 1943, Alfred Hitchcock filmed his thriller, Shadow of Doubt in Santa Rosa. He would continue to use Santa Rosa, and later Bodega Bay in many of his films. Thanks to this, Santa Rosa became, and continues to be a major hub in the Bay Area for numerous movies.
Santa Rosa is 55 miles north of San Francisco via Highway 101. Depending on traffic conditions, this drive can be done in less than an hour; during commute hours, the trip may be as long as two hours. It is best to avoid highways during weekday rush hours, and on the weekend after sporting events. Beautiful and alternative routes exist on Highway 1, and through Sonoma Valley.
Golden Gate Transit offers daily bus service from San Francisco, and around the North Bay. The buses are large and comfortable, but are subject to the same traffic delays despite having access to the carpool lanes up and down Highway 101.
- Golden Gate Transit, ☏ , from Sonoma and Marin counties.
- Greyhound, ☏ , offers transportation to San Francisco, with onward connections, and Arcata.
- Mendocino Transit, bus service from Mendocino County.
- Sonoma County Transit
- 1 Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport (STS IATA). You can fly Alaska Airlines nonstop from Los Angeles, Orange County, Portland, San Diego, Seattle. With American Eagle, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. United Express: Denver, and San Francisco
- San Francisco International Airport is 70 miles away and has flights from destinations far and wide. Hourly shuttle service is provided by Sonoma Airport Express. For a cheaper option, take Samtrans to San Francisco and then Golden Gate Transit.
Although none of the ferries in the San Francisco Bay Area extend as far as Santa Rosa, they can be used as a connection to the numerous bus services to the North Bay, while providing fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline.
- Golden Gate Ferries, ☏ . Serving Larkspur and Sausalito. The SMART train connect Santa Rosa to the Larkspur ferry.
- Blue and Gold Fleet, ☏ . Serving Alameda, Angel Island, Oakland, Sausalito, Tiburon and Vallejo.
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, or SMART, connects Santa Rosa with Sonoma County Airport, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Novato, and San Rafael. The train and bike path connects to the Golden Gate Ferry in Larkspur, with connecting service from San Francisco; it provides commuter mass transit between some of the most major cities in the Wine Country.
- 2 Santa Rosa Downtown railway station, 7 4th St.
Hitchhiking in the North Bay is an accepted practice, but as always have your wits about you. Travelers will find more luck along the coastal highway, which are teaming with tourist, rather than near Highway 101. If you are looking to escape San Francisco, walking across the Golden Gate to Vista Point, where all traffic will be heading north bound after leaving the scenic spot. Ask nicely, and many of the friendly Bay Area residents will be happy to give you a ride north toward Sonoma County and Santa Rosa.
Being largely suburban, a personal vehicle remains the most common method of getting around Santa Rosa and the surrounding area. There is the Santa Rosa CityBus, but frequency, operating hours, and coverage leave much to be desired. Sonoma County Transit and Golden Gate Transit also provide service in Santa Rosa, but focus mainly on inter-city travel.
Bicycling in Santa Rosa is a reasonable option. Most destinations are reachable via not-too-busy roads, and notable car-free pathways exist from downtown to and beyond the western city limit. The primary off-street bicycle and pedestrian path system is the Prince Memorial Greenway, extending along the banks of Santa Rosa Creek from City Hall in the heart of downtown, out beyond the city to the west. On the western edge of downtown, near the Marriott Hotel in Railroad Square, this connects to the Joe Rodota Trail, a paved off-street path going to Sebastopol paralleling CA highway 12. Much of the city is relatively flat.
The downtown core is easily walkable, and if one were staying downtown they could conceivably while away a day on foot.
- 1 Charles M. Schulz Museum, 2301 Hardies Ln, ☏ . Celebrating Mr. Schulz's world-famous creation: the Peanuts comic strip.
- 6th Street Playhouse, 52 West 6th St, ☏ . A state-of-the-art professional theatre facility, home of the Santa Rosa Players and the Actors Theatre, in downtown's historic Railroad Square District.
- 2 Safari West, 3115 Porter Creek Rd, ☏ , toll-free: . A 400-acre wildlife preserve that is home to over 400 mammals and birds.
- 3 Luther Burbank Home and Gardens (on the corner of Santa Rosa Avenue and Sonoma Avenue, downtown), ☏ . The historic Burbank home property was given to the City of Santa Rosa by Burbank's widow, Elizabeth, upon her death in 1977. The Luther Burbank Home & Gardens Board and City staff cooperatively oversee and maintain the property. The gardens contain a rose garden, and medicinal garden. The site is open to the public and its programs are staffed by volunteers. Free to visit, but there is an additional cost for docent-led tours.
- 4 Museum of Sonoma County, 425 7th St, ☏ . The Sonoma County Museum is in the former U.S. Post Office and federal building, completed in 1910, one of the oldest surviving federal buildings in the state and a premier example of federal architecture from the era. It is located in downtown Santa Rosa one block west of B Street, north of the downtown shopping mall, the Santa Rosa Plaza. It has a collection of works relating to the artist Cristo and has rotating displays on art, culture, and local history, including such displays as the works of Ansel Adams and the history of mapping the California Coast.
- Visit some nearby wineries. Santa Rosa sits in the center of the famous Sonoma Wine Country and has nearly 200 wineries to choose from.
- Play golf. There are three public courses: Bennett Valley Golf Course (18 holes), the Fairgrounds Golf Course (9 holes), and Oakmont Golf Club (36 holes).
- 1 Redwood Empire Ice Arena. This well-known ice rink also known as "Snoopy's Home Ice" features Snoopy and the gang and was once owned by Charles M. Schulz. It is across Hardies Lane from the Schulz museum.
- Hike the county and state parks. A few minutes from downtown, two adjacent parks offer short and long hikes in varied terrain, featuring two lakes. Lots of dogs, ducks and geese to see. A nice way to get in a bit of exercise without too much effort. Parks include:
- Howarth Park (city). A family park with jungle gym, rope climbing structure, and large picnic area. In the summer, kids love the miniature railroad, pony rides, and small carousel, and refreshments are available at a little stand. Tennis courts and softball diamond can be found somewhat separated from the larger picnic area, and a hiking trail behind them is very little-known.
- 2 Spring Lake Regional Park, 393 Violetti Rd (Campground and boat launch at South Entrance, 5585 Newanga Ave), ☏ . 7AM-Sunset. Between Howarth Park and Annadel lies Spring Lake Park, easily accessible from either one. A paved biking and walking trail encircles Spring Lake, and dozens of smaller side paths range from cool and shady lakeside areas to hot and dry gravel trails. The swimming lagoon and dining area were refurbished and reopened in 2015. Parking ̩$7.
- 3 Annadel State Park. A true treasure of Santa Rosa, Annadel State Park deserves much praise for its incredible scenery and amazing hiking trails. The park is a favorite year-round for hikes of any length, affording stunning views from the peaks. Sonoma County locals will be only too happy to recommend their favorite routes.
- 4 Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.
- Indulge in culture:
- Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, ☏ . The center offers more than 200 performances each year: music, dance, theatre, speakers, and comedy. The adjacent one acre sculpture garden is open to the public at no cost.
Shopping malls and shopping centers
- 1 Santa Rosa Plaza, 1071 Santa Rosa Plaza, ☏ . M-F 10AM-9PM, Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Macy's, Forever 21, J. Crew, Apple, and 100 or so more stores and kiosks in a two-story indoor mall
- 2 Coddingtown, 733 Coddingtown Mall, ☏ . M-F 10AM-9PM, Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. This mall features Macy's, JC Penny, Target, Nordstrom Rack, Whole Foods, and over 100 other stores. The 72-foot-tall revolving sign in the parking lot was declared a historical landmark in 1993 by the City of Santa Rosa.
- 3 Montgomery Village, Farmers Lane and Sonoma Avenue. Outdoor shopping center includes several streets of chain and local stores, a mix of boutique and more pedestrian options, and several good restaurants.
Downtown Santa Rosa consists of two main shopping areas, divided by Highway 101:
- The 'main' downtown, centered around 4th St. east of Santa Rosa Plaza mall, primarily from B St. to E St., with less-concentrated options within a several-block radius of that core. Bookstores, newsstands, a music (instrument) store, small specialty shops, jewelry stores, and a number of restaurants are on offer.
- Railroad Square, centered around 4th St. west of Santa Rosa Plaza mall and the freeway, primarily between Davis and Wilson streets. This growing area includes a number of antique shops, art galleries, and shops focusing on wares from places such as Indonesia and Mexico. A large local outdoors outfitter is on 3rd St.
- 1 Ca' Bianca Ristorante Italiano (Ca' Bianca), 835 2nd St, ☏ . Excellent Italian food. Restaurant is in a large converted Victorian house in a quiet neighborhood near downtown, and so can be easily missed.
- El Charro, 1529 Farmers Ln (In shopping center off Farmers Lane between Bennett Valley Rd. and Freeway 12.), ☏ . Good Mexican food.
- El Patio, 901 4th St. Excellent and inexpensive Mexican food. A fixture for locals since the 1990s.
- Fourth Street Deli, 300 Mendocino Ave. Sandwiches and salads. Great place to grab lunch to eat at the park across the street.
- 2 La Gare, 208 Wilson St (Just north of the intersection of 3rd St and Wilson), ☏ . French/Swiss cuisine. Local favorite.
- Lepe's Taqueria, 4323 Montgomery Dr. Delicious Mexican cuisine, fast-food style. Indoor and outdoor seating, close to Spring Lake and Howarth Park.
- Mary's Pizza Shack. Family-friendly Italian restaurant and Sonoma County tradition. Features good-value lunch specials until 5PM. Two locations in Santa Rosa: 535 Summerfield Road (across from Howarth Park on Summerfield Rd. near Montgomery Dr.); and 3084 Marlow Road (Northwest Santa Rosa at Marlow Rd. and Piner Rd).
- Oliver's Market. Local semi-gourmet grocery. In addition to standard supermarket options are at taqueria, very good freshly-made sushi, excellent desserts, very good cheese and wine selections, and a salad bar. Tables available to eat there, or take out. The Santa Rosa location is in Rincon Valley, on Montecito Dr. at Middle Rincon Rd.
- Osake, 2446 Patio Ct (near Montgomery Village), ☏ . Japanese.
- Shogun, 2350 Midway Dr (Montgomery Village shopping center).
- The Warm Puppy, 1667 West Steele Ln (inside the Redwood Empire Ice Arena), ☏ . This small café with a cozy alpine atmosphere was once the favorite hangout of Charles M. Schulz. The table he routinely sat at as part of his daily activities is perpetually reserved for his presence.
- Yao-Kiku, 2700 Yulupa Avenue Suite #23, ☏ . M-Sa 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5P-9:30PM. Excellent Japanese food, sushi, and sashimi. Arguably the most authentic Japanese restaurant in the area, as the menu and specials often include items not typically seen in Japanese restaurants in America, such as ume-shiso maki and various natto dishes.
- St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, 100 Pythian Rd (near Oakmont, just off Highway 12), ☏ . It's a winery, yes, but it's even better known for its wine and food pairing experience. What's offered is a multi-course, seasonal menu, not just bites to go with wine.
- Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens, 5007 Fulton Road, Fulton (Take the River Road exit off route 101; go west to Fulton Road, then north.), ☏ . Just north of the city limits of Santa Rosa is the town of Fulton (population of about 500). The most prominent attraction is the chateau-like Kendall-Jackson winery, which offers, in addition to the standard wine tasting, a four-course food and wine pairing focusing on a selection of small-production, limited-release wines; a cheese pairing with artisan cheeses from Sonoma and Marin counties; and a wine and chocolate pairing. The winery also hosts an annual farm-to-table dinner series set in the estate gardens; the gardens are open to the public during normal hours.
- The 440 Club. The quintessential dive bar. Jackalope mounted on the wall, local music in the jukebox, and friendly service. Can't beat a Sierra Nevada draught for $2.
- Russian River Brewing Company, 725 4th St. Daily 11AM-midnight. Perhaps now overshadowed by the much larger version in Windsor, this homey haunt offers specialty pizza, pub grub, and word-class ales.
- Third Street Aleworks, 3rd St (Downtown, between Santa Rosa Ave. and D St). Popular brewpub with good food. Both bar- and restaurant-style seating available, plus patio seating in good weather and billiards upstairs. Frequently loud.
- 2 Best Western Garden Inn, 1500 Santa Rosa Ave, ☏ , fax: .
- Extended Stay America - North, 100 Fountain Grove Parkway, ☏ , fax: .
- Extended Stay America - South, 2600 Corby Ave, ☏ , fax: .
- 3 Flamingo Resort Hotel, 277 4th St.
- 4 Courtyard Santa Rosa, 175 Railroad St, ☏ , fax: .
- 5 Hotel La Rose, 308 Wilson St (Located in Railroad Square, Northwest of Highway 101 and Highway 12's intersection), ☏ , toll-free: . This historic stone building was built in 1907 and renovated in 1985. With 48 guestrooms, you'll find amenities like whirlpool tubs or balconies overlooking the rose garden courtyard. Rates range between $100 and $300.
- 6 Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country, 170 Railroad St, ☏ . Part of the Hyatt family of hotels, this Mediterranean styled hotel is located in historic Railroad Square and features amenities such as a on-site spa, sauna, bar, and free parking. Rates average $300.
- 7 Vintners Resort, 4350 Barnes Rd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Renovated in 2018, the property has 78 rooms and a 5,000 ft² full-service spa.
|Routes through Santa Rosa|
|Eureka ← Windsor ←||N S||→ Rohnert Park → San Francisco|
|END ← Sebastopol ←||W E||→ Kenwood → Fairfield|
|END ←||N S||→ Rohnert Park → San Rafael|