In this post, I’m outlining everything you need to know to plan your trip to Sonoma with this info-packed Sonoma travel guide!
Doesn’t everyone want to take a trip to wine country at least once in their life? Napa Valley is often the destination for these trips, but trust me–you don’t want to overlook Sonoma! Sonoma is the more chill, equally beautiful, and absolutely amazing counterpart to Napa. Still deep in wine country, Sonoma has wineries for days and so much more to see and do.
We visited Sonoma in summer 2021 and I cannot wait to go back. The city was everything I needed it to be–quaint, charming, and a little bit quirky. Crowds gathered in the square for July 4th, our VRBO hosts were perfectly polite and chatty in the perfect way (and even ran a yoga studio out of their home!!), and the wine was crisp and fresh. Ugh, am I writing a love letter to Sonoma?! Might as well be.
But I digress. If you want to hear more about how much I love Sonoma, we can chat over in my DMs. So I’ll get to what you’re really hear for: The Ultimate Sonoma Travel Guide.
Table of Contents
Sonoma is a city in California, aptly named due to its location in the Sonoma Valley and Sonoma county. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, it’s about 30 minutes east of Napa County. And if that doesn’t mean anything to you, it’s about an hour north of San Francisco. What I love about this area (aside from having delicious wine!!!) is that the weather is pretty much always fantastic.
Sonoma Valley is home to over 400 wineries, so if you love wine this is the place to be! What I love most about Sonoma though (aside from the wine, that’s my absolute fave obviously) is that there is so much more to do than just drinking wine! Great eats, beautiful trails, and the cutest city to explore are all here.
So why does everyone flock here to drink wine? To get drunk, duh. Kidding!!! Basically, the area is famous for wine because the region is perfect for grape growing. And good grapes make good wine. Sonoma has over 63,000 acres of grapes and produces a couple hundred thousand tons of wine each year.
Have I convinced you yet??? Of course I have. So let’s get to the actual planning, shall we?
GETTING TO SONOMA
Sonoma is located about an hour north of San Francisco. I would fly into SFO and take a day to explore the city, before renting a car to head up to Sonoma. There is a tiny airport in Sonoma, but you’ll most likely pay through the teeth to fly into there.
There’s also a shuttle that runs from San Francisco, Oakland, and Sonoma but honestly, just rent a car.
Unless you are renting a driver each day (go fancy pants!), you will definitely want to rent a car. The wineries are all FAR from each other. I’ve heard many people hire a driver for just one day and drive themselves the rest to save money. Luckily, my husband was our built-in DD. Thanks, Michael!
WHERE TO STAY IN SONOMA
Sonoma has an endless amount of accommodation options from Airbnbs to boutique hotels. I recommend staying in the city of Sonoma because it’s walkable, has lots of good eats, and is cute as heck.
We stayed in a VRBO (similar to Airbnb) near downtown and could not have been more pleased! Find it here. Perfect for couples and the owners were the sweetest!
Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn: Best Westerns on the West Coast are where it’s at!!! And the Sonoma Valley Inn is no exception. It has an awesome pool and good interiors. A super great deal if you’re not looking to spend an arm and a leg.
If you’re wanting to get a little bit fancier but not quite Ritz-Carlton fancy, check out the Inn at Sonoma, A Four Sisters Inn. Cozy and cute, this B&B matches the Sonoma vibe perfectly.
There are also tons of cute Airbnbs in the area but I found them all to be pretty expensive when we went (June/July 2021). Just something to consider, as some people would rather have the conveniences of a hotel if they’re going to spend a little extra!
WHAT TO DO IN SONOMA
Drink wine. And that’s it!
Ok. Joking again. What kind of Sonoma Travel Guide would this be if that’s all I gave you?
Aside from wine (we’ll get to that in a minute) there is so much to do in Sonoma!
- Walk around downtown: Sonoma is so laid back and chill. If the weather is nice, you’ll see plenty of people walking around and enjoying the area. Pop into a bookstore, grab a coffee, and enjoy life.
- The food scene! Sonoma is a farm to table paradise.
- Follow the cheese trail. Yep, there’s a dedicated cheese trail with stops by artisan cheese maker shops.
- Picnic at a winery. So many picturesque spots!
- Hiking! Would this be Ashley on the Move if I didn’t suggest hiking?
As I mentioned earlier, there are so many wineries in Sonoma. You definitely cannot hit them all. Well, maybe on lots of different trips (a good bucket list item?!). I suggest choosing 3 wineries per day spread 2-3 hours apart. Each winery will do a variety of different wines, but specialize in a certain type (like bubbly, Pinot, or Chardonnay).
Sonoma is home to huge wineries like Ferrari-Carano and some smaller, family owned wineries like Mayo Family winery. You can also find eco-friendly wineries, like Anaba Wines and a little bit hipster wineries like Scribe winery. Try one of each style and figure out what you like!
What we personally tried and loved:
Gundlach Bundschu. It is the longest family owned winery in the area and had an amazing outdoor space.
Gloria Ferrer has absolutely beautiful grounds and feels very celebratory with their selection of sparkling wines! They also have caves that you can book separate from your tasting!
Buena Vista Winery has been around since 1857 so they know the deal. The grounds are beautiful with historic buildings and beautiful gardens.
If you’re going to a bigger winery or planning to do a tour, you’ll most likely want to make a reservation!
WHERE TO EAT
Sonoma is a foodies paradise! So many places to choose from including upscale, farm to table, and casual eats.
I highly recommend Tasca Tasca! It’s Portuguese tapas and I LOVE tapas. This did not disappoint!
The girl & the fig to get your French food fix, located right downtown.
For low key breakfast and lunch, head over to Black Bear Diner.
We weren’t able to try Oso, but it was at the top of my list! It’s an upscale tavern with small plates (just the American word for tapas amirite??)
If you’re looking for good coffee, cocktails, and a great brunch head over to Taub Family Outpost. It was also very Insta-worthy!
And of course, I have to include some sushi. We got take out from Sushinoma and it was very satisfactory! It’s a little hole in the wall place, which is how you know it’s good!
Sonoma is such a not-so-hidden gem that’s often overlooked for Napa Valley. But if you’re headed to the area, you’d be remiss not to spend some time in Sonoma. We absolutely loved our time in this laid back town and I’m already itching to go back! Or move there???!!! Seriously, it was that great.
Go ahead and book your flights for a long weekend. Make sure you take this Sonoma travel guide along with you!
Have you visited Sonoma? What did I leave out?
Before you go, check out other posts from our 7 week road trip!:
- how to see Yosemite National Park in 3 days
- Sedona secret gems; the best less crowded hikes in Sedona
- The BEST Hikes in Sequoia National Park