Windsor is a town of 27,000 people (2019) in Sonoma County in the Bay Area of California 9 miles north of Santa Rosa and 63 miles north of San Francisco. It may not be on the main tourist trail through California's Wine Country, but it will appeal to people looking for small, family-owned businesses, an eclectic mix of shops, and summertime entertainment.
Windsor is primarily accessible by car, although it is also a destination for those bicycling through California's wine country. California Route 101, a restricted-access highway, runs through the middle of the town, and Old Redwood Highway (formerly Route 101) runs roughly parallel to the highway. The main commercial district is just south of the town square, just west of the central Windsor exit for Highway 101.
Just south of Windsor is the Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport (STS IATA), which has direct daily commercial flights from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Denver, and Phoenix; daily summer flights from Dallas-Fort Worth; and weekly flights (seasonally) from Minneapolis and Las Vegas. There are several rental car options at the airport, and a bus (line 62N/62S) to and from Santa Rosa, a much larger city about five miles south of Windsor.
The Sonoma County Airport Express has multiple daily buses between the Sonoma County Airport and the Oakland and San Francisco airports. Locally, Sonoma County Transit (SCT) provides bus service (on Route 60) between Santa Rosa, Windsor, and (to the north) Healdsburg and Cloverdale. (SCT's "NextBus" system provides real-time bus arrival information via shelter LED signs, PCs, and smartphones.) Mendocino Transit Authority also serves Windsor.
The town of Windsor is almost completely flat, and almost all streets have sidewalks, so walking is feasible to most places within town limits. The town has been modifying streets to add bike lanes, and plans to continue to add to them. The town is actually one of the best in California for getting around by bike, though not many locals do so.
Sonoma County Transit has one bus line, Route 66, that provides service within Windsor; that service is free through at least until the end of June 2021. There is one local taxi company, Windsor Express Taxi, but Santa Rosa and Healdsburg are close enough for their taxi companies to provide service to addresses within Windsor. Windsor is also fully served by Uber (more than 600 drivers in Sonoma County) and Lyft.
If you're driving, note that the traffic lights will change quickly, for example if there is no traffic coming toward a green light - the traffic system is designed to be very responsive. And blinking, yellow left-turn arrows (left turn permitted if no oncoming traffic) are common.
Windsor was a small north coast community which experienced noticeable development after it was incorporated in 1992. Visitors will find a mixture of revival architectural styles, built to create a new small town, near the new Town Green. This development demonstrates aspects of new urbanism and the growth supported by expanding interest in tourism in California's wine country.
- Windsor Historical Society & Museum, 9225 Foxwood Dr, ☏ . F-Su 9:30AM-4:30PM. A charming, small museum. A pleasant walking path along Windsor Creek is nearby (cross the bridge located to the northeast of the museum). Free.
- 1 Pacific Coast Air Museum, One Air Museum Way, Santa Rosa, ☏ . Tu Th Sa Su 10AM-4PM, closed major holidays. It's near the airport, so it is not in Windsor (but is close by). PCAM is definitely worth a visit for those interested in airplanes, or those with children old enough to be interested in the wide variety of (mostly) military planes, helicopters, and aircraft-related displays.
Windsor's "do" activities primarily relate to "buy" and "eat", but strolling around the downtown, investigating the small shops and restaurants, and enjoying activities on the town green may also be experienced without actually buying or eating anything. Most notable are the summer music concerts on Thursday nights (June through September) and kids movies on Saturdays (June and July), on the town green. See website. Both are free, though a donation is requested.
Options for activities include:
- Golf at the Windsor Golf Club, a beautiful 18-hole course (not really a "club"; no membership required)
- Bowling at the Windsor Bowling Center, which also has indoor miniature golf and an escape room.
- Renting a bike, either at Windsor Bike and Sport, off the town green, or from Ace It! Bike Tours, two blocks away on Windsor River Road. (You can also book a brewery and/or winery tour through Ace It!)
- Hiking in a regional park. There are three in or near Windsor (before hiking, best to print a map), which are open from dawn to dusk:
- Riverfront Regional Park. The easiest (flat), but lacking in longer hiking opportunities. The complete trail around the lake, which takes less than an hour to walk, is problematical in the months during and immediately after heavy rains.
- Foothill Regional Park. Relatively easy trails, and some great views. At least 90% of the park burned in the Kincade fire of October 2019, but the damage was primarily to the underbrush. More than half of the trails in the park have reopened as of January 2020.
- 1 Shiloh Ranch Regional Park, 5750 Faught Rd, ☏ . 7AM-sunset. With the least-developed trails, and more elevation changes Parking $7.
- Mystery dinner theater. At Charlie's Restaurant, near the golf course, on select Friday and Saturday nights
- Trivia night (first and third Thursdays) and bingo night (second and fourth Thursdays), 7-9PM, at Corks and Taps, downtown; no cost to play.
- Golden Nectar Farm, 6364 Starr Road, ☏ . Tours are by appointment only, but fresh produce is available (without an appointment or taking a tour) eight months a year. Tours: $15/person, $30 minimum, children under 18 are free.
For more ideas, check out the town's Visitor's Center, operated by the Windsor Chamber of Commerce, at 9001 Windsor Road. Their hours are M-F 8:30AM to 4:30PM, and Sa Su 10AM to 3PM.
Windsor offers a variety of local shops, plus the usual chain stores.
Downtown Windsor features many small shops with offerings ranging from apparel to candy to a lifestyle general store. Oliver's Market, just north of the Town Green, is an upscale supermarket.
One large cluster of retail locations within Windsor is two adjacent shopping complexes (Lakewood Shopping Center and Lakewood Village Shopping Center) just east of Highway 101, close to the central Windsor highway exit. Another large shopping center, just east of the Shiloh Road exit off 101, is anchored by Walmart, Home Depot, and Grocery Outlet. [Grocery Outlet is essentially a West Coast chain - if you've never been to one, it's definitely worth a visit to at least browse.]
Almost all other retail businesses within Windsor are on Old Redwood Highway, which is roughly parallel to Highway 101, or on Conde Lane, also along Highway 101, south of downtown.
Visitors have their pick of several dozen restaurants, mostly not chain restaurants, ranging from pub fare to higher-end dining. Many are found just south or east of the town square, on McClelland Drive or on Windsor River Road.
The Windsor Farmers Market takes place Sundays, April through December (10AM-1PM), just off the town square. From June through August, it is also held Thursday evenings from 5-8PM; the Thursday version is oriented toward those listening to evening music on the town green (selling food to be eaten out) rather than toward those looking to buy produce.
The best restaurants in the town, listed alphabetically, are:
- Ana’s Cafe and Espresso, 10333 Old Redwood Hwy, ☏ . M-F 5AM-3PM; Sa 5AM-2PM. It's small; it's in a strip mall; the decor is nothing to write home about. But the breakfast burrito gets near-universal raves, as does the Mexican mocha. And Ana herself.
- Barley & Bine Beer Cafe, 7765 Bell Rd, ☏ . M W Th 11AM-10PM; F Sa 11AM-midnight; Su 11AM-9PM. Tucked away in the beverage district about a mile south of downtown, the cafe offers simple but creative food, plus 38 taps with a rotating section of craft beer, cider, and wine (four options). For families, there is a "Kids Corner " for the young ones.
- Himalayan Restaurant, 810 McClelland Dr, ☏ . Tu-Su 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5PM-9PM. A wide variety of really good food; the top-rated restaurant in Windsor.
- KC's Downtown Grill, 9501 Duvander Ln, ☏ . Daily 7AM-9PM. Facing the town green, the restaurant aims to "capture the exciting times of the post-modern late 50s and early 60s, when Elvis was King and The Jetsons was the coolest show on television!" There is a covered patio, so diners can eat outside year-round. The diner-style breakfast menu is epic; try the Famous Potato Pancakes.
- PizzaLeah, 9240 Old Redwood Hwy. Suite 116 (In the Bell VIllage shopping center), ☏ . Su noon-8,PM Tu-Sa noon-8:30PM. Not your ordinary pizza. The baker, Leah Scurto, is truly award-winning - her Mush-A-Roni pie pan pizza won first place at the U.S. Pizza Cup in 2018, for example. The restaurant also offers a variety of traditional crust pizzas.
- Skillets Cafe, 8776 Lakewood Dr, ☏ . Daily 6AM–3PM. A breakfast/brunch/lunch restaurant at the end of a shopping center, the large menu includes sandwiches, burgers, and wraps, as well as breakfast food served at any time.
- Sweet T's Restaurant + Bar, 9098 Brooks Rd S, ☏ . M-F 11:30AM-9PM; Sa Su 11:30AM-10PM. Southern-style cuisine, wine country version. Full bar. Reservations strongly recommended.
- Tomi Thai Restaurant, 426 Emily Rose Circle, ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-9PM. It's small, and tucked away two blocks from the town green, but worth searching out (and making reservations for) if you like Thai food.
- Ume Japanese Bistro, 8710 Old Redwood Highway, ☏ . M-F 11AM-2:30PM; M-Sa 4:30PM-9:30PM. Good Japanese food, just east of the central Windsor exit off Highway 101.
For dessert, consider these places:
- Cravin's Candy Emporium (formerly Powell's Sweet Shoppe), 720 McClelland Dr (just south of the Town Green), ☏ . M-F 11AM-9PM, Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 10AM-8PM. An incredible variety of candy and other sweets, plus ice cream. Ideal for kids and for those looking for memories of being a kid.
- Mango's (Flavor Fiesta), 8499 Old Redwood Hwy, Ste 108, ☏ . Tu-Su 10AM-9PM. A diverse dessert and refreshment shop serving excellent Boba, coffee, drinks, and ice cream; next to Round Table Pizza in the Palms Shopping Center.
- Two Dog Night Creamery, 9240 Old Redwood Hwy, Ste 100 (northeast corner of Bell Village, north of the Town Green), ☏ . Su-Th noon-8:30PM, F Sa noon-9PM. Fresh, organic, locally sourced ingredients in their gelato-style ice cream, using liquid nitrogen.
Quite a few wineries with tasting rooms are located five to ten minutes drive outside Windsor's town limits, primarily to the north (along Old Redwood Highway) and south (on River Road or nearby) - too many to list. Below are wine, beer, and other tasting opportunities within town limits, or just outside them.
In the downtown Windsor area, you'll find these drinking opportunities within a block of the Town Green:
- On Windsor Road, near the train station, at #9050, is Mutt Lynch Winery, a dog friendly hound lounge, tasting room, and gift shop; at #9058 is The Tasting Lounge for Baldassari Wines (new, 2019)
- In Oliver's Market (new, May 2016), at 9230 Old Redwood Highway, the Tavern Off The Green, with local beers on tap and an affordable tavern-style menu. Anything in the adjacent grocery store can be brought into the pub space. Open Su-W 11AM-8PM, Th-Sa 11AM-10PM.
East of downtown, in a shopping center, is the newest brewpub in Windsor:
- No Quarter Brewing, 8786 Lakewood Dr, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Su-Th noon-9PM; F Sa noon-10PM. Serving small-batch craft beers, produced onsite, along with sausages from Healdsburg's Journeyman Meat Company. Mondays you can bring your own vinyl record(s) to play.
Clustered together, about a mile south of downtown, is a small beverage district:
- Tap Room of St. Florian's Brewery, 7704A Bell Road, ☏ . Th 4-8PM, F-Su noon-8PM. Food is available from a food truck on Thursday through Saturday; snacks are sold inside; includes a patio and game room (with a sandbox on the patio)
- Guerrero Fernandez Winery, 7724 Bell Road, ☏ . F-Su 11AM - 5PM. The wine tasting room opened December 2016.
- Four producers, at Artisan Alley, are open to the public on Saturdays, 11AM to 4PM: Colagrossi Wines, at 7755 Bell Road; Sonoma Brothers Distilling, 7759 Bell Road; Tilted Shed Ciderworks, at 7761 Bell Road; and Two Shepherds Winery, at 7763 Bell Road. (Other days are by appointment only.)
- Also part of Artisan Alley, opened January 2018, at 7765 Bell Rd, is Barley & Bine Beer Cafe, with 38 taps offering mostly craft beer, but also cider and wine. The cafe's food includes grilled sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, a cheese plate, and nachos. It opens W-M at 11AM and closes Su at 9PM, M W Th at 10PM,and F Sa at midnight.
- Zouzounis Wines (formerly Deux Amis), is open for tasting by appointment, at 7680 Bell Rod - 12 noon, 2PM, or 4PM.
- K Squared Cellars, 7975 Cameron Dr., Bldg 1500-A, ☏ . F 1-6PM; Sa noon-6PM; Su noon-5PM; M-Th 10AM-6PM by appointment only.
Continuing south, you'll find a huge brewpub and brewing facility just off Conde Lane, completed in late 2018:
- Russian River Brewing Company, 700 Mitchell Lane, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-10PM; F Sa 11AM-11PM. An 85,000 square-foot, 195-seat brewpub, with patio and a one-acre, pet-friendly beer garden. The beer is exceptional, the quality of the food and service a bit inconsistent. Free guided tours are available by reservation. The original RRBC location in downtown Santa Rosa is still open.
Just a short distance further south, around the corner from the Russian River Brewing Company, is another production facility opened in 2018:
- Grand Cru Custom Crush, 1200 American Way (off Conde Lane), ☏ . By appointment, can taste wines made by around a dozen boutique wineries. Tours are also available.
In a commercial area off Shiloh Road, east of Highway 101, is a tasting room (plus production facilities) for a local brewery:
- Barrel Brothers Brewing, 399 Business Park Ct, Ste 506, ☏ . Th-F 4PM - 8PM, Sa Su 1PM - 8PM. The tasting room opened July 2016.
Just south of town:
- Bricoleur Vineyards, 7394 Starr Road, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Th-Mo 10AM-5PM. The winery has an extensive food tasting menu to accompany wine tastings, plus Wine and Pizza nights in the summer and fall. It also has "Wine and Food To-Go" offerings.
There are three regular hotels in Windsor:
- Hampton Inn and Suites, 8937 Brooks Road South, ☏ . If you're staying here, avoid the Applebee's restaurant nextdoor, unless you really like eating at that chain. There are four much better restaurants within two blocks.
- Holiday Inn Express, 8865 Conde Ln, ☏ . For those who want to walk around downtown Windsor, the closest hotel, five or so blocks to the Town Green. It features an indoor heated pool, and the bowling alley is next door.
- Holiday Inn, 8755 Old Redwood Hwy (just east of highway 101, off the central exit to Windsor), ☏ . Opened September 2017; most parking is in the underground garage.
Besides the usual options for renting a private properties (via Airbnb or similar), there is also a timeshare complex where units can be rented:
- WorldMark Windsor, 1251 Shiloh Rd, ☏ . A Wyndham property, almost next to the Windsor Golf Club's 18-hole golf course. If you're disinclined to drive, Charlie's Restaurant - an easy walk - isn't bad.
By resisting the temptation to get back on Highway 101, and instead taking Old Redwood Highway (or other alternate routes), travelers will find many local spots of interest, from tamales vendors to wineries.
|Routes through Windsor|
|Eureka ← Healdsburg ←||N S||→ Santa Rosa → San Francisco|