Explore Sonoma Valley’s family-friendly budget destinations
Sonoma Valley may be known for romantic getaways and world-class wine tasting, but there are plenty of family-friendly destinations. Many are free or low-cost, and several wineries offer attractions for children.
The historic region extends from Schellville to Kenwood, with the northernmost boundary reaching Santa Rosa. Toddlers to teenagers will find plenty to explore.
Many locals head to the seasonal Tuesday Night Market hosted by the Valley of the Moon Certified Farmers Market, a popular draw on the Sonoma Plaza with live music, picnicking and vendors 5:30 p.m. to dusk. The picturesque 8-acre plaza is the largest of its kind in the state, with two playgrounds, a duck pond, the Bear Flag Monument and an amphitheater among its attractions.
Kids can learn about California history at Sonoma State Historic Park, where docent-led tours and special events bring history to life throughout the year. Mission San Francisco Solano, the northernmost of California’s 21 missions, is among the park’s historic sites.
Below is a look at some of the family fun in Sonoma Valley, with everything priced at $15 per child or less. Discounts are available for several attractions through Groupon.
The nonprofit arts center offers art camps, classes, exhibits and special events. Current exhibit, “Rite of Passage,” runs through July 27, featuring works by artists of all ages. Gallery admission is free.
Where: 17474 Highway 12, Sonoma
Details: 707-938-5551, artescapesonoma.com
The winery features the free California Missions Museum, with scale models of all 21 California museums, plus lawn areas, ponds (watch for fish and turtles), donkeys, an aviary and picnic tables.
The free “Family Day on the Great Lawn” runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 30, July 27, Aug. 25 and Sept. 22, with complimentary family portraits by Megan Cline.
Where: 24737 Arnold Drive, Sonoma
Details: 707-940-4044, clinecellars.com
Cornerstone Sonoma Gardens and Sunset Test Gardens
The garden displays (some interactive) allow kids to explore for everything from art installations and architectural designs to gardens highlighting food production and bee habitats. The cost: Free.
Where: 23570 Arnold Drive, Sonoma
Details: 707-933-3010, cornerstonesonoma.com/gardens
Depot Park Museum
Dive into local history in a replica century-old train depot, which includes railroading memorabilia. Visitors can even ring a steam locomotive bell. Explore the three railroad cars at Depot Park. Open 1-4 p.m. weekends only. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.
Where: 270 First St. W., Sonoma
Details: 707-938-1762, depotparkmuseum.org
Family-friendly summer concerts are held outdoors at Hood Mansion from 7-10 p.m. Fridays, through Aug. 30. Gates open 5:30 p.m.; picnics are welcome. Admission is free for kids under 18, $10 for adults. The concerts benefit Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation. Free parking provided.
Where: 389 Casa Manana Road, Santa Rosa
Details: 707-833-6288, funkyfridays.info
Larson Family Winery
Pack a picnic and head down the rural country road to Larson’s, where three gentle winery dogs preside. It features a lawn area, bocce ball court, goats, and kids’ activities. Dogs and picnicking welcome. Cost: Free.
Where: 23355 Millerick Road, Sonoma
Details: 707-938-3031, larsonfamilywinery.com
Morton’s Warm Springs Resort
Established in 1946, Morton’s features two geothermal mineral pools, a wading pool, grassy hills and creekside picnic grounds and barbecue sites. It’s closed Mondays. Cost: $12 for adults, $10 for teens and those 65 and older, and $6 for ages 3-12. Kids 2 and younger are free.
Where: 1651 Warm Springs Road, Glen Ellen
Details: 707-833-5511, mortonswarmsprings.com
Sonoma Fun Center
The 18-hole miniature golf course features peewee-sized replicas of historic Sonoma sites, plus an arcade. It’s closed Monday and Tuesday. Golfing costs $9.75 a game, which arcade games range from 25 cents to $1.
Where: Maxwell Village Shopping Center, 19171 Highway 12, Sonoma
Details: 707-343-7375, facebook.com/sonomafuncenter/
Sonoma Garden Park
A project of the Sonoma Ecology Center, the garden park is an ideal place for children to see sustainability practices in action for free. From 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays, the seasonal Harvest Market in the Straw Bale Barn offers eggs from free-range hens, plants and produce grown on site.
Where: 19996 Seventh St. E., Sonoma
Details: 707-996-4883, sonomagardenpark.org
The track offers Wednesday Night Drags most Wednesdays through mid-November. It’s open to teenage drivers, who also can test their road skills as Top the Cops competitors. Next event this Wednesday, with gates opening at 3:30 p.m. and racing from 4-10 p.m. Racing costs $25, or $15 with high school ID. Spectators pay $10, free for 12 and younger