We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.



Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.



Here are some of the most popular local travel guides from Copperfield’s Books in Montgomery Village:

“Best Dog Hikes Northern California,” (Falcon Guides) by Linda Mullally: Reveals the 51 best hiking trails in Northern California that are dog friendly.

“Day Hikes Around Sonoma County” (Day Hike Books) by Robert Stone: A collection of 95 of the county’s best day hikes, providing access to well-known and out-of-the-way green spaces.

“Hiking and Adventure at the Sonoma Coast (Wilderness Press) by Stephen Hinch: A complete guide to the six state parks and 15 coastal and riverside regional parks at the Sonoma Coast and Russian River, including hiking, camping, diving, whale/seal watching.

“Hiking California’s Wine Country” by Bubba Suess (Falcon Guides): Includes 67 hikes in the area for hikers of all abilities.

“Lonely Planet Northern California” (Lonely Planet): This guide goes from San Francisco and the Napa Valley to the redwoods of the Sonoma/Mendocino Coast.

“Moon California Camping” (Avalon Travel) by Tom Stienstra: This well-known outdoors writer rates more than 1,400 camping options throughout the Golden State.

“Top 10: California Wine Country” (DK Travel): This book provides dozens of top 10 lists, from the 10 best winery tours and grape varieties to the top 10 beaches, natural sites and restaurants.

“Walking Softly” by Sarah Cornelius: This hyperlocal guide by the originator of The Walking Class at the Santa Rosa Junior College offers gentle, level walks along the creeks and in the parks of Sonoma County.

“Sebastopol Walks” by Richard Nicholas and others: This guide, whose first edition was funded by the City of Sebastopol, is now in its third edition. It grew out of a volunteer committee that has organized 100 walks around town for 3,000 participants.

— Diane Peterson

Where is the best bakery in Sonoma County? The best place to watch the sun set? The best place to drink beer with your dog?

When Lizzie Simon first visited Santa Rosa with her husband, the New Yorker was always looking for a guidebook that would point her toward some of these small, offbeat adventures. But that book was elusive as a warm day on the Sonoma Coast.

So Simon decided to write her own book, called “The Spinster Sisters’ Guide to Sonoma County” because she is married to Santa Rosa native Eric Anderson, a founding partner of The Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa and Prune restaurant in New York.

“As an outsider . . . I only knew the area through what Eric and his friends love to do,” she said. “I’d look at Sonoma County travel stories, and Santa Rosa is never mentioned, even though there’s so much to do here.”

The guide is as quirky and creative as the A Street neighborhood where The Spinster Sisters restaurant is located. It’s a colorful block or two of art galleries and shops, bakeries and restaurants just south of the green expanse of Juilliard Park and the concrete edifice of the Downtown Mall.

If you like hipster Portland and the Republic of Berkeley, you probably feel at home in this artsy corner of Santa Rosa nicknamed SOFA.

Calling upon her background as a freelance writer who covers theater and dance for the Wall Street Journal, she used 50 of the restaurant’s staff, farmers, winemakers, neighbors and regular customers as sources.

The resulting guide includes suggestions for local farms and wineries to visit, plus interesting spots to dine, drink, shop, take the kids and explore the outdoors. An index in the back provides details about each suggestion, and there are photo portraits of each of the sources, who range from Moonlight Brewing Co. founder Brian Hunt to Flying Goat Coffee owner Phil Anacker.

“It’s a community that goes a lot deeper than the cooks and the servers,” said Liza Hinman, executive chef and co-founding partner of the restaurant. “A lot of them are characters from the neighborhood that people often run into at the bar.”

Taking the cliched farm-to-table concept and turning it on its head, Simon describes the book as a “table-to-farm” guide, suggesting that you try a cheese or a wine at the restaurant, then take a trip back to the source. You can order a hamburger, for example, then drop by the Sonoma County Meat Co. in Santa Rosa to buy your own grass-fed beef.

“Talking to 50 people leads you down so many different roads,” she said. “Sonoma County is about all these little roads and smaller, intimate experiences ... going to Joe Matos cheese, where the cows are grazing, and seeing Mark Malicki cooking at The Casino in Bodega.”

The book also includes some well-known artisan winemakers such as Duncan Arnot Meyers of Arnot-Roberts in Healdsburg, who provide insider information on the best wines to try and wineries to visit.

“That’s incredible, to get that kind of intel from someone who is so renowned,” Simon said. “Most of these wineries they suggest . . . are under the radar.”

While travel stories about Sonoma County tend to focus on luxury experiences, Simon’s guide offers ideas for more affordable pleasures, like beaches and back roads, art galleries and murals, farmers markets and coffee shops. She even asks about people’s favorite “Sonoma aromas,” which range from grape pomace after the crush to the earthy scent of cow manure.

Simon also interviews a golden retriever named Maximus, who lives in the SOFA neighborhood and belongs to a server at The Spinster Sisters. Maximus gives tips on the best beaches for dogs (Dillon Beach) and dog-friendly bars (Cooperage Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa), among others.

With a holiday looming and some extra time (hopefully) to explore in your own backyard, here are a few ideas for some secret, out-of-the-way adventures you may not know about.


Best Coffee: Brew in Santa Rosa. “When I lived in San Francisco, I went to Ritual Coffee almost every morning. Now Brew serves it just a few blocks from my home here.” — Ela Jean Beedle, general manager of The Spinster Sisters

Favorite bar: Ernie’s Tin Bar in Petaluma. It’s an old auto body shop from the 1920s. “Very strict no cellphone rule.” — Noah and Kelly Dorrance, owners of Banshee Wines and Reeve Wines in Healdsburg


Best Place to Boogie: Bergamot Alley in Healdsburg. “Sarah and Kevin bring in amazing musicians from all over, bands you would never see in Sonoma County otherwise.” — Liza Hinman, chef and co-founding partner of The Spinster Sisters

Late Night Spot Free of Drunk People: Aroma Roasters in Santa Rosa. “There’s always live music on the weekends, and it’s the only coffee shop open until midnight.” — Felica Jing and Ben Wallco, regulars at The Spinster Sisters


Favorite Spot for Dinner on the Coast: The Casino Bar & Grill in Bodega. When chef Mark Malicki is in the kitchen Friday to Monday. — Molly Perez, artist and co-owner of The JaM JAr retail shop at 320 South A St.

Local Bread: The rye from Nightingale Bakery in Forestville. “That’s the one I can’t live without.” — Brian Hunt, founder of Moonlight Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa


Best Public Garden: The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. “They have gardens, a nursery and a historical component, plants that have been there for a very long time.” — Eric Sussman, owner of Radio-Coteau and County Line Vineyards in Sebastopol.

Recommended Garden: Quarryhill. “While the plants I covet change over time, the garden at Quarryhill in Sonoma is timeless in its appeal for me.” — Kathleen Stewart, co-founder of the Downtown Bakery and Creamery in Healdsburg


Great Place to Take Kids: Snoopy Ice Arena in Santa Rosa. “The snack bar is incredible. Get a Peppermint Patty hot chocolate and a hamburger, served in a dog bowl. Kids go crazy for that.” — Marcy Smothers, popular radio host and author

Best Park to Take Kids: Super Playground in Willard Libby Park, Sebastopol. — Dawn Zaft, chef/owner of Criminal Bakery Co. and Undercover Noshery in Santa Rosa.


Recommended ride: Coleman Valley Road. “Gorgeous, iconic coastal cruising at its finest. Stop in Occidental on your way out for a delicious breakfast from Howard’s Station Cafe.” — Nicholas Haig-Arack, writer and illustrator

Favorite Hike: To Bullfrog Pond in Armstrong Redwoods. “It’s a 10-mile hike, pretty strenuous. If you go early enough, you can watch the fog melt over the river.” — Patrick Rhodes, manager of Front Porch Farm in Healdsburg

Most Beautiful Spot on the Coast: Russian Gulch, four or five miles north of Jenner. “My parents have taken me there my entire life. It’s secluded and not overused.” — Dave McDowell, chef at The Spinster Sisters

Favorite Drive: Skaggs Point to Stewart Springs Road. “There’s nothing on it, which is what I love. Just California fauna and flora without people and buildings.” — Fred Peterson, owner of Peterson Winery in the Dry Creek Valley

Recommended Foraging: Salt Point State Park. “A now well-known locale for finding wild and edible mushrooms during the wet months, it’s a gorgeous place to take a walk whether you come out with the goods or not.” — Vanessa Pritchard, former server for The Spinster Sisters

Suggested Spot to Watch the Sunset: Cavedale Road in Sonoma. “You can see the Golden Gate Bridge on your left and all of Sonoma lights up when the sun finally sets.” — Sara K. Cunningham, server at The Spinster Sisters


Bookstore: Lucky Mojo Curio Co. “Coolest witchy store and the best books on local plants and herbs.” — Mary Petersen, server at The Spinster Sisters

Favorite Town for Strolling: Downtown Petaluma: “I like seeing all of the old architecture, and you can get great bread and cheese.” — Amanda Artru, ensemble member of The Imaginists theater company in Santa Rosa

Visual Art

Place to see art: Fulton Crossing in Santa Rosa. “It’s a little arts collective, a funky little spot that used to be a chicken processing plant.” — Sheryl Chapman, illustrator and designer

Recommended Gallery: Graton Gallery. “It’s an artist collective of accomplished, hands-on artists.” — Giovanni Cerrone, founding partner and wine and beverage director of The Spinster Sisters


Suggested Vineyard: Porter-Bass in Forestville. “They have a beautiful, biodynamic vineyard, and make elegant, subtle wines.” — Ranch Czech of Unturned Stone Productions in Bennett Valley

Vineyards to visit: Quivira, Preston, Red Car, Copain and Littorai. “They’re all welcoming and not pretentious.” — Duncan Arnot Meyers, co-owner of Arnot-Roberts Winery in Healdsburg

“The Spinster Sisters’ Guide to Sonoma County” is available at all Copperfield’s Books, Book Passage in Corte Madera, Banshee and Reeve wines in Healdsburg, at The Spinster Sisters (401 South A St.) or at thespinstersisters.com. ($15 for soft cover, $20 for hard cover)

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

Show Comment