Nestled like a gleaming jewel in California’s Coastal redwood crown, Santa Rosa is the largest wine country city of the Golden State, so, needless to say, there’s plenty to see and do, So much, in fact, that you may struggle to figure out how to fit it all in.
Well, the absolute best way to cram as much culture, action, and enjoyment into your trip is to book a spot on a handful of the many amazing cultural tours that guide you through all the essential and enjoyable aspects of Santa Rosa life and history.
Today, we’ll be breaking down our shortlist of the 10 best cultural tours that you absolutely must go on to make the most of your Santa Rosa trip!
What better way to cover a lot of ground (or air!) than a dreamy hot air balloon voyage over the sprawling wine country of the Northern Bay Area?
That is of course a rhetorical question, as there is no better way to drink in this beautiful landscape than floating joyously above it.
While this tour is a majestic experience for just about everyone, I’d particularly recommend it to seniors with achy joints that prevent them from ascending the topographical peaks of this gorgeous land by foot.
Hoisted to the heavens by hot air balloon, you’ll witness the breathtaking panoramic views of Santa Rosa and beyond that you’d otherwise miss out on.
You’ll gaze down on sprawling vineyards and wineries, observe the sinuous course of the Russian River, and on a clear day, you may even get an eyeful of Napa Valley, San Francisco, and the Pacific Ocean!
Now, I know what you’re thinking… if we’ll be flying over the wineries, we won’t get a chance to actually drink the wine — Boo!
Well, fear not, my soon-to-be airborne friend, as there are multiple packages available, all of which conclude with celebratory sips of champagne, and one particularly special option involves a trip to an animal petting farm, followed by stops at two different vegan wineries!
Luther Burbank, also known as “The Wizard of Horticulture”, was a pioneering horticulturist known to have developed over 800 new plant varieties over the course of his life, so, needless to say, he kept some pretty impressive gardens.
His creations run the gamut from fruits and flowers, to grasses, grains, and even some vegetables. Notable Burbank strains include the Elberta peach, the fire poppy, the flaming gold nectarine, the Santa Rosa plum, and the white blackberry.
Having passed on in 1926, his home and gardens are now a cultural landmark situated just outside the Santa Rosa city limits, where visitors are free to explore this great life-giver’s legacy.
Tours run semi-frequently and are an absolute must for the green-thumbed travelers out there.
And once the tour reaches its conclusion, you’re only a stone’s throw away from the Railroad Square Historic District, the perfect stop to pick up some delicious food and do some souvenir shopping.
You knew this was coming! How can I not mention some choice wine tours when talking about the wonderful Santa Rosa?
And the Castello di Amorosa is about as culturally rich as a boozy trip can possibly get!
This winery is no ordinary winery, it’s also a full-blown castle modeled after the Tuscan mega-structures of old, and it’s downright jaw-dropping!
The castle, consisting of 107 rooms, each unique in both decor and core design, took 15 years to build, but boy-oh-boy was it worth it.
During your curated tour, you’ll have full access to the courtyard, truncated tower, chapel, knight’s hall, great hall, main tasting room, and gift shop, so there’s plenty of exploring (and sippin’) to do!
The premium package is a little pricey, but not as much as you’d think considering you’re joined by a professional wine educator who guides you through the production area, the armory, and the… torture chamber.
In fact, you’ll get to taste a nascent Cabernet Sauvignon directly from the barrel when you reach the grand barrel room, but that’s not the only tipple you’ll enjoy on this tour.
You’ll also get the opportunity to sample five of the winery’s high-quality reserve and small-production wines!
I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are hundreds of wineries and vineyards sprinkled throughout the Sonoma County countryside, but the problem is, after a couple of tastings, you’re not going to be safe to drive, so what’s the solution?
Are you to accept the fact that you’ll only see a handful of these beautiful institutions?
No! You hire a private driver to ferry you about like royalty as you sip your cares away trying some of the finest wines in the world!
The tour lasts roughly six hours, comprising four stops at four different wineries, and don’t worry, you’ll also enjoy a private dinner, so you can line your stomach and then carry on drinking — Hooray!
Would you rather cycle through the lush and varied landscape of the Sonoma countryside than drive?
Then forget that last suggestion and consider this bike tour and wine tasting expedition in which you visit three wineries, enjoy a picnic amongst utter scenic beauty, and take a relaxing ride through the quiet back roads of stunning Healdsburg.
That’s right, folks, don’t worry about angry motorists; all you’ll hear is birdsong and the expert narration of your award-winning guide.
You simply cannot visit Santa Rosa and not take a hike through the giant redwood forests — These excursions can be life-changing!
This particular tour guides you through the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve where you’ll feel like a tiny little insect (in a good way) amongst these towering red giants that rank as some of the tallest trees on the planet, but that’s not all…
Once you make it through the forest, you’ll visit two wineries for some much-needed tasting sessions before heading to the Russian River valley for a lovely picnic.
Do bear in mind, however, that this is a 10-hour tour, so it’s not for everyone.
Furthermore, it starts and terminates in San Francisco, which is just shy of an hour’s drive from Santa Rosa, so it’s a long day but perhaps also one of the best of your life.
Any cartoon lovers in the house? If yes, then you must dedicate one day to visiting the Charles M. Schulz Museum situated down Hardies Lane in Santa Rosa.
Creator of the Peanuts comic strip and all the beloved characters within, including Charlie Brown, and of course, the whimsical and oh-so-cute Snoopy, Charles Schulz is widely accepted as the most influential cartoonist in history.
The museum offers a whopping seven different tours, including a day-in-the-life experience, an ASL-interpreted tour, and a tactile tour, so there’ll almost certainly be something that you and your co-travelers will enjoy.
You can even book a tour with the head honcho, the museum’s director, for a first-class educational experience.
If you’re bringing the kids to Santa Rosa with you, making a pit stop here is a no-brainer, as it’s fun, fun, fun for all the family, and just about as inspirational as a day trip gets.
Aaaand we’re back to big kid fun time at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens. Kendall-Jackson wine is incredibly well regarded, so it’s definitely worth a visit if you like a tipple (or ten).
You’ll be given a wonderful tour around the many beautiful gardens and family-owned vineyards, followed by an extended taster session that will set your palette aflame with the earthy wonders of this rich and fertile location.
If that sounds good to you, you’ll need to book between April and October. The tour will not be offered during any other month.
Granted, you have to drive for about 50 minutes to reach Point Reyes from Santa Rosa, but you won’t be disappointed when you get there.
Not only will you be met with some of the most mind-blowing seascapes California has to offer, strewn with shipwrecks and punctuated with the infamous lighthouse, but you’ll learn all about the rich ranching history of the area, which is to learn about the foundation of Point Reyes itself.
It’s a self-guided tour with all the details accessible on your smartphone, so if you like to take things at your own pace, this is the tour for you.
For those with an adventurous heart, there’s no better way to enjoy this spectacular area than by taking to the waters of the Russian River in a kayak and journeying right to the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
Over the course of this three-hour excursion, you’ll see seals, many different birds, and if you’re lucky, maybe even a whale or two!
There you have it — 10 truly amazing tours in and around the Santa Rosa area that you absolutely must do.
Obviously, you won’t get them all done in one trip, so you’ll just have to return to Santa Rosa for your next outing as well… Oh well.
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