If you’ve never been to Sonoma, first off you’re missing out and need to add it to your must-see list! I’ve been fortunate enough to travel there pretty frequently. My family lives in Sonoma and as much as we jokingly call it “Slownoma”, it really is a great place to visit! Most people may have the perception that it’s pricey because it’s wine country in the Bay Area, but there are tons of free things to do in Sonoma. I’ve rounded up fourteen free things to do from my own experience and my mother who is a resident expert (see what I did there 😉).
1. Sonoma Plaza
You can’t visit Sonoma without taking a walk around the Square. The Plaza is lined with cute shops, fantastic restaurants and plenty of tasting rooms. The center of the square features a park, City Hall and the Sonoma Valley Visitors Center. Throughout the year, various events are held in the square and it’s home to the local favorite Tuesday Night Farmer’s Market. The park is also the perfect place for a picnic… and yes, you can bring wine! Learn more about what the Sonoma Plaza has to offer.
2. Sonoma Farmer’s Market
The Tuesday Night Sonomaʼs Farmerʼs Market is a weekly event from May 7th through September 24th. Enjoy this community celebration with residents and tourists alike. Enjoy live music while indulging in a picnic of your making (there are a selection of food trucks as well) and a bottle of wine.
3. Walking Path
Walk along the Sonoma Bike Path past Vallejoʼs Home and through vineyards.
4. Depot Park Museum
This museum is housed in a Railway Car, take a step back in time at the history of California and the early residents of Sonoma the first Capital of California.
5. Sonoma Barracks Interpretive Center
Step back in time to see and hear with artifacts and short informational videos about the story of California from Mexican rule, to the push of Californiaʼs independence and joining the Union.
6. Toscano Hotel
Just a few steps down from the Barracks, this hotel was used as a stopping point for 49erʼs to rest and gather supplies before they headed to the Sierras to pan for gold. Free docent tours are offered on Saturday, Sunday and Monday 1-4pm.
7. Sonoma Valley Museum of Art (Free on Wednesdays)
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art is a world class art museum in a small package. They feature artists of national prominence, have docent lead tours and itʼs free all day on Wednesday.
Stroll among the gardens and art at Cornerstone. Enjoy looking in the stylish stores that have a California vibe in home wears, clothes, gift items etc…
9. Bartholomew Park
This beautiful park is set in a sprawling vineyard with hiking trails. Grab a picnic lunch, enjoy the views and grab a glass of wine at one of the nearby vineyards after lunch.
10. Olive Oil Tasting at Figone Olive Oil
Olive Oil tasting at Figoneʼs. Everything from their olives to the herbs & citrus they infuse them with are grown on their organic farm.
11. Self-Guided Vineyard Tours
Wine country has many beautiful sights. One of my favorite sights to soak in is the beautiful view of vineyards. Sonoma is reminiscent of Italy with it’s rolling hills that turn golden in the summertime and its endless views of olive trees, vineyards, and stone wineries. There are select Sonoma County vineyards that offer free self-guided walking tours. There’s no obligation to wine taste at the vineyards. You can go, grab a guide and enjoy a leisurely stroll with stunning views. Find participating wineries here.
12. di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art
This beautiful property that was once the home of art patrons Rene and Veronica di Rosa. The Center is home to a wonderful collection of contemporary art from some of the leading artists of Californiaʼs art scene of the ‘60ʼs and beyond. The art is displayed in several galleries , the di Rosaʼs former home and a sculpture pathway on the back end of the property surrounded by vineyards. di Rosa is free to college students and faculty with valid college and faculty IDs.
13. Sonoma Overlook Trail
Hike up the Sonoma Overlook Trail where you can get a good cardio workout while taking in the sweeping views of not only Sonoma Valley but on sunny days San Francisco as well.
14. Free Wine Tasting!
Yep you read that correctly! Obviously you’re in to free things since you’re reading this post, but oh boy, who wouldn’t love free wine?! This is a double win as you’re in beautiful wine country, enjoying free wine! What could be better? Make sure you visit Highway 12 Winery Tasting Room where you can taste for free. This wineryʼs vineyards are in the Carneros region, one of the premiere regions in Northern Californiaʼs wine country, which is on the boarder of Sonoma and Napa. The two wine makers are from prominent wine making families with three generations of wine making experience between them.
Have you ever been to Sonoma or wine country in California? What’s at the top of your must-see list in wine country?