Santa Rosa is an “old California” town. The city was founded by Europeans in 1833. Since then, the area has become a melting pot of cultures and traditions. Santa Rosa is a community in every sense of the word, working together to build and rebuild a lively and thriving city. Shaken down by an earthquake, devastated by fire, the citizens of Santa Rosa have reimagined and restored their lovely Northern California town.
Santa Rosa welcomes you with open arms. Here are some of my best things to do in Santa Rosa, California.
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The 11 Best Things To Do In Santa Rosa, CA
Get To Know Sparky
The author and artist of the Peanuts comic strip, Charles M. Schulz, was a Santa Rosa citizen for more than 40-years. Sparky, as he was called, left an enduring legacy of humor and love to the world through his cartoons.
But he also gave the citizens of Santa Rosa institutions that will endure, enlighten, and entertain many generations. So, catch Peanuts-mania while in Santa Rosa. It’s worth every giggle, laugh and selfie you’ll experience.
Charles M. Schulz Museum
First stop – Charles M. Schulz Museum, my favorite California museum. Filled from top to bottom with the Peanuts gang and how they came to be, this beautiful museum is fascinating, delightful and continually developing its collection and adding new exhibits.
A movie theater shows Peanuts movies and TV specials throughout the day. A schedule is posted, and admission is included with your ticket. Another fun place is the art room where everyone can draw their favorite Peanuts character. I personally love Snoopy.
Snoopy’s Home Ice
Snoopy’s Home Ice, Redwood Empire Ice Arena, is a professional ice arena hosting leisure skating, hockey, figure skating, and ice shows. The arena is open year-round. No skates? No problem, rentals are available. Can’t skate? Lessons are available for all ages. Snoopy himself comes here to skate; you might get lucky and see him on the ice.
Peanuts around town
Santa Rosa has one of America’s most long-lived art installations, Peanuts on Parade. The enchanting collection of fiberglass statues is scattered around town. The Peanuts characters are five-foot-tall. Area artists designed new personas for the shapes, bringing the white forms to life. Local businesses purchased and now display the whole Peanuts gang. Two hundred statues were sold, collecting $500,000 for art education.
Today, you’ll find 70 of these selfie-partners all around Santa Rosa. Check out the Peanuts on Parade locator for all locations.
Museums Of Sonoma County
Museums of Sonoma County is a county institution with two branches. Located side-by-side, the Art Museum and the History Museum have permanent and changing exhibits. In addition, an outdoor sculpture garden sits between the two buildings.
The History Museum is the old Santa Rosa Post Office. After most of downtown was destroyed in an earthquake, the 1700-ton building was moved to its current location. The distance of 800-feet took more than 75-days to carry the building along on stone rollers.
Artifacts from – First Peoples, the Bitakomtara, European settlers, early industry, and local history are exhibited inside.
Sonoma County Contemporary artists’ work adorns the walls of the art museum. Recently, the Museum had celebrated 35-years of Contemporary art display with a collective of the past 35-years of exhibitions.
St. Rose Historic District
After visiting the Sonoma County Museums, take a short stroll through the Victorian neighborhood, St. Rose Historic District. It’s two blocks NW of downtown and right behind the Art Museum.
A walking tour explains the history of these Victorian-era homes, cottages and apartments. Many were located in the downtown district that was demolished in the 1906 quake. To save the architectural beauties from the wrecking ball during the rebuilding of downtown, local citizens bought them for $1. Then, they had them moved to the St. Rose District.
Children’s Museum Of Sonoma County
At Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, you are welcome, regardless of age. You can engage with the exhibits and learn about nature, science, art, and music.
A year-round garden surrounds the exhibit building. It’s used to show kids where food comes from and how to harvest and cook nature’s bounty.
Luther Burbank Home And Gardens
Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is the origin of more than 800 fruits, vegetables, nut trees, and flowers created by Luther Burbank. Due to his decades of cross-breeding plants, you may have eaten or seen one of them today. The Burbank Potato, the Shasta Daisy, Santa Rosa plums, and a spineless cactus are just some of Mr. Burbank’s outstanding horticultural inventions.
Santa Rosa was Burbank’s home in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Burbank’s Victorian home, beautiful greenhouse and abundant gardens are open year-round. A complimentary audio self-tour or a small fee guided tour are available.
Luther Burbank Center
Luther Burbank Center is a performance facility. Ranked in the top 100 live performance places, LBC hosts top-quality national and international entertainment. Year-round you can enjoy music, theater, visual arts, and classes. LBC’s mission is to “provide accessible arts and family entertainment to the community.”
In Santa Rosa’s heart, Railroad Square is home to the train station. The area was filled with warehouses and factories in the late 1800s. Raw materials were shipped in, finished goods were shipped out.
The old warehouses that survived the 1906 earthquake are trendy eateries, lively bars, and stylish shops. A new hotel, AC Hotel by Marriott, opened in August 2020. The hotel has a blend of Spanish roots with European style.
Take the Railroad Square Walking Tour and learn the captivating Victorian-era building’s background.
Insider Tip: Take a day trip to San Francisco from the Railroad Square Train Station.
Santa Rosa Libations
What’s your favorite beverage? Whether you savor wine, beer, spirits, coffee, or tea, Santa Rosa can satisfy your thirst.
In Sonoma County, you’ll be spoiled for choice with over 495 wineries. Wineries cover the gamut from family-run to popular labels known throughout the world. 25 craft breweries range from tiny to titans. Over 32 spirits are distilled in Sonoma County, with more coming online. Caffeine lovers will find three small-batch coffee roasters. In addition, there are lots of independent coffee shops. I found teas of every description in most of the coffee shops.
Farmer house in a vineyard
I can’t list all the places where you will find your favorite libation. But the Santa Rosa Libations Guide can. It includes wine, beer, spirits, coffee, tea, kombucha, and yerba mate. Sip away!
Sleep In Santa Rosa
Art House – A brand new sleek modern design. Thirty-six rooms 2-blocks from Courthouse Square.
Hotel E – Overlooking Courthouse Square. Walk to eateries, breweries, farmers markets, entertainment, tasting rooms, and shopping.
Hotel Flamingo – This iconic resort and spa has undergone a renovation. Pool, spa, rooms, dining, and the lobby are reimagined and ideal for a family or solo getaway.
Getting to Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa is 50-miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. STS (Charles M Schulz Sonoma County Airport) has direct service to and from several major cities and smaller regionals.
Rental cars are available at the airport. A train station and buses are nearby. San Francisco and Oakland airports are about an hour and a half from Santa Rosa.
Which of these best things to do in Santa Rosa would you like to try first? Let us know in the comments section below!
Mary Charlebois is a freelance journalist, photographer, videographer, and editor. Her home base is the wild, remote, and fragile Mendocino Coast of Northern California. Her travels include domestic and international destinations. No matter where Mary wanders, she digs in, getting to know people, history, food, and art. She is always drawn to the ‘path-less-taken.’