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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.

ArtEscape Sonoma

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

Cline Cellars

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

Funky Fridays

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

Sonoma Raceway

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

Where: 29355 Arnold Drive, Sonoma

Details: 800-870-7223, ext. 209, https://bit.ly/2XpFmiw

Sonoma Skypark Airport

Kids 8 to 17 can fly for free over Sonoma Valley with volunteer pilots through the Young Eagles program 9-11:30 a.m. the second Sunday of every month (except December), weather permitting. Signed waivers are required. Upcoming flights” July 14, Aug. 11 and Sept. 8. Donations welcomed.

Where: 21870 Eighth St. E., Sonoma

Details: 707-996-2100, sonomaskypark.com

Sonoma State Historic Park

Visit all historic sites near the Sonoma Plaza, including the Sonoma Mission and nearby General Vallejo’s Home and the Petaluma Adobe, with same-day admission. Cost: $3 adults, $2 children 6-17. Admission is free for kids 5 and younger.

Details: 707-938-9547, sonomaparks.org

Sonoma Stompers

Cheer on the independent professional baseball team and meet Rawhide, the mascot. Next home game starts at 6:05 p.m. Thursday. Admission starts at $10.

Where: Arnold Field, 180 First St. W., Sonoma

Details: 707-938-7277, stompersbaseball.com

Sonoma TrainTown Railroad

The site features a wheelchair-accessible, quarter-scale railroad on four miles of track. The 20-minute ride stops at a miniature town with a petting zoo. Kids also can enjoy the six amusement rides and explore the vintage train cars. Admission and parking is free. Train tickets cost $7.50, but kids under 12 months ride free. Amusement rides are $3.75 each, or five for $14.75.

Where: 20264 Broadway, Sonoma

Details: 707-938-3912, traintown.com

Sonoma Valley Regional Library

Ask the locals to name their favorite family-friendly location and you’ll get repeated shout-outs for Sonoma Valley Regional Library and its beloved longtime children’s librarian, Clare O’Brien. Her story-time programs are not to be missed. Free.

Where: 755 W. Napa St., Sonoma

Details: 707-996-5217, https://bit.ly/2RkZb52

Vella Cheese Company

Operated by the Vella family since 1931, this local favorite is located in a stone building constructed in 1904. Taste samples and marvel at the wheels of Jack and other cheeses, all made by hand on the premises. Closed Sundays and Fourth of July. Free samples provided.

Where: 315 Second St. E., Sonoma

Details: 707-938-3232, vellacheese.com

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