Things To Do in Sonoma When Not Drinking
I don't know if I'm right, but I suspect I am when I say that the vast majority of visitors to my Sonoma Valley come here with the intent of visiting one of America's most historic wine regions and tasting wine. But let's face it, sometimes the good tourist is wined-out and wants to spend at least one day resting their drinking arm. Believe it or not, there are things to do in Sonoma Valley that doesn't involve standing in front of a bar, swirling and swallowing, perusing trinkets and lugging bottles.
Here's a Top Ten List of things to do in Sonoma Valley when wine tasting just won't do.
Located on Arnold Drive on the south side of the town, Cornerstone Gardens is a collection of very unique and interesting stores set among a variety of garden installations that are…well, different. You can't miss this place. The entrance is announced by two 20 foot tall Adirondack chairs. There is winery tasting here, but it's not obligatory. You can easily spend and hour or two going through very unique and old architectural objects for sale, galleries, very odd gift shops or just sit and sip some tea and have a salad and sandwich.
Located just north of the Sonoma Plaza, the Sonoma Cemetery is an oak-infested, shaded, creepy-but-beautiful resting place for Sonomans. Some headstones date back to the 19th century and a number of beautiful tombs exist. It's a pleasant place to walk on a warm afternoon. If you get creeped out by cemeteries you wont' want to go. This place can't be mistaken for a park. I've always liked it and liked walking around it.
Ramekins Cooking School
I've taken a couple different cooking classes here. It's a very welcoming place that takes food seriously and has a huge number of cooking classes of all sorts. Often times chefs from San Francisco, the town of Sonoma, Napa Valley and Sonoma County will be holding classes on topics such as Asian noodles, cooking shrimp on a barbecue, basic sauce, creating tapas, and any number of other culinary subjects. It's a great way to spend an afternoon.
Sonoma Farmers Market
Tuesday evenings, April through October, Sonomans come out to their Plaza, claim a place on the grass under the trees and enjoy the company of local farmers at one of the nicest farmers markets in the county. While some folks come to buy the vegetables and fruits that are in season, others come to just hang out, watch people, sip wine and have snakes. It's a party with families enjoying themselves, kids running around, music playing and friendly faces everywhere you look.
Walk the East Side
That area east of the Sonoma Plaza was the part of town where a residential neighborhood was first developed. If you walk east from the Plaza you'll come across 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc streets. The landscaping is mature with ancient trees and the homes, though many are remodeled, are beautiful to stroll past. Many of these homes have gorgeous landscaping, some picket fences, but most of all it's an area that invites strolling. Zig zag the numbered streets between Spain and Patton streets. You'll shave a good two hours off your day in relaxing fashion.
Manhattan at The Girl & the Fig
I've written about the bar at the Girl & The Fig restaurant before, probably because I do spend a little time there. This great restaurant on the northwest side of the Sonoma Plaza is known for its French-country inspired foods and its Rhone-only wine list. But, the bar is lovely and every single bartender serves up a great Manhattan. The bar is interesting and almost always has a mix of locals (that's me) and tourists who mingle together over libations. You can get the full menu at the bar too. Oh, they also serve more than Manhattans. If you aren't in the mood for bourbon and if it's a warm day, try your hand at Pastis. They serve it exactly the way it should be.
Cheese Tasting at Raymond & Company in Glen Ellen
Raymond & Company is a small cheesemonger located in Jack London Village on the southside of the town of Glen Ellen in Sonoma Valley. What makes this small cheese shop special is its owner, John Raymond. The man is freak of nature when it comes to cheese. You'll enter the cool little shop and immediately be hit by "that smell". But once you belly up the small presentation and tasting bar you will be gifted with cheese after cheese. The things is, if you want an education, you want John to be there. Ask him about cows. Ask him about different grasses the cows eat. Ask him about ratios one type of cow milk to another. You'll leave with cheese in hand, I promise, as well as an education.
Golf at Sonoma Golf Club
Sonoma Golf Club is a gorgeous track. It has been here for decades and used to be public. Not any more. Today the only way to get on it is to put down your thousands of dollars to join the club o
r to stay at the Fairmont in Sonoma. So….Stay at the Fairmont. Sonoma National is also the home to the Charles Schwab Cup Senior Tour event. But again, if you go (it's held in October) you only get to watch, not play. The place was Sam Snead's favorite course. I've only played the course twice, but each time I was distracted more by the courses beauty than by my terrible slice…that's saying something.
Bi-Plane Rides Over Sonoma
Sure. Everyone thinks about drifting over vineyards in Balloons. But that's for pansies. Real Tourists hop in open cockpit, vintage bi-planes and fly over the vineyards. South of the town of Sonoma on Arnold Drive and not far from Cornerstone Gardens is the Vintage Aircraft Company. Here you can book a flight in an old bi-plane, soar over the vineyards scream until your heart's content. It's a little pricey but think about this: you live once and just once you should probably go up in the air and be upside down all at the same time.
Every weekend, sometime in the late morning I hear the train whistling down the tracks. No trains come to Sonoma any more. But we have trains. Actually we have Train Town, a somewhat weird little place that might not be appreciated unless yo are 7 year old. However, if you are 7 years old and or if you own a 7 year-old this is a good distraction. The attraction of Train Town is simple: you get to ride miniature reproductions of vintage trains. It's a little surreal. But then so are 7 year-olds.