Explore Sonoma Valley’s family-friendly budget destinations

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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

Bartholomew Park

The historic 375-acre private park is where Count Agoston Haraszthy established California’s premium wine industry. It offers hiking trails and walkways along vineyards, gardens and forests; Check out the replica of Haraszthy’s 1861 villa. The Villa museum opens noon to 3 p.m. weekends only. Stop by the on-site Bartholomew Estate Winery. Picnic tables are available. Cost: Free.

Where: 1695 Castle Road, Sonoma

Details: 707-938-2244, bartholomewpark.org

Benziger Family Winery

Blend wine tasting with family fun by taking kids on the 45-minute Biodynamic Vineyard Tram Tour, where visitors can watch for the sheep, cattle and insectary that are important to biodynamic farming. Cost: $30 for adults (includes wine tasting), $10 for those under 21. Reservations are requested.

Where: 1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen

Details: 888-490-2739, benziger.com/experience-our-winery

City bike paths

Explore Sonoma along 4 miles of level, paved paths.

Where: Download a map at https://bit.ly/2WUhJPF

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; food vendors are available. 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

Jack London State Historic Park

The 1,400-acre park features 29 miles of trails (easy to strenuous) to sites including London’s cottage, the Pig Palace and the Wolf House ruins. Picnic at the park and visit the exhibits at the House of Happy Walls Museum. Cost: $10 per vehicle. Cottage entry cost $3 for adults and teens, free for kids 12 and younger.

Where: 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen

Details: 707-938-5216, jacklondonpark.com

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

Saint Francis Winery & Vineyards

Catch the 10th annual “Stars Under the Stars” outdoor film festival at the winery. The festival offers movies rated G, PG and PG-13. Pre-show concerts start at 7 p.m., and movies follow. They include: “The Italian Job” (1969) on July 9; “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” on July 16; “La La Land” on July 23; “The Goonies” on July 30. Admission is free. Guests also receive complimentary popcorn

Where: 100 Pythian Road, Santa Rosa

Details: 707-833-0242, stfranciswinery.com/upcoming-events/filmfestival/

Sonoma 9 Cinema

Admission is $4.75 on Tuesdays, with some restrictions. Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” is now playing. Watch for the all-new “The Lion King.”

Where: 200 Siesta Way, Sonoma

Details: 707-935-1234, https://bit.ly/2KqgZLx

Sonoma County Regional Parks

Sonoma Valley is home to three regional parks. Adventures at the 1,750-acre Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve include camping, backpacking and hiking, but with elevation gains that can be strenuous. The 40-acre Maxwell Farms Regional Park has a large playground, sports courts and fields, picnic sites and 2.5 miles of level trails, plus a skateboard park. Sonoma Valley Regional Park, with 202 acres and a 1.2-mile paved path, features a grassy picnic and barbecue area and is popular for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Parking costs $7.

Details: 707-539-8092, parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov

Sonoma Community Center

A local gem for families, the Sonoma Community Center will hold a “Fabulous Pom-Pom Party,” where participants will learn to make yarn pom-poms. It’s open to those 5 and older. Sessions are offered 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 1:30-4 p.m. Saturday. It’s free for kids, $20 for those 18 and older. Kids 5-8 must be accompanied by an adult. All materials provided.

Where: 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma

Details: 707-938-4626, ext. 1, https://bit.ly/2IrTW0T

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 Overlook and Montini Preserve Trails

These popular Sonoma nature trails offer hikes with views of Sonoma Valley and beyond. The Overlook Trail begins at the Mountain Cemetery gate, 90 First St. W. Access the Montini trails at Field of Dreams, 151 First St. W., or Fourth Street West at Haraszthy Drive. Cost: Free.

Details: overlookmontini.org

Sonoma Plaza

This National Historic Landmark is the setting of numerous community celebrations. Upcoming free, family-friendly events include Sonoma Hula Mai’s 10th anniversary Hawaiian music and hula performance, from 5-7 p.m. Saturday in Grinstead Amphitheater; an Independence Day parade at 10 a.m. July 4, with a festival until 5 p.m. (and nearby fireworks at dusk); and the Sonoma City Party with live music and festivities from 6-9:30 p.m. Aug. 1. Cost: Free.

Details: 707-938-3681, sonomacity.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. Free, slow-paced 1-mile “Twilight Hike” meets 7 p.m. June 29 at the Vallejo Home parking lot, 363 Third St. W.

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 Museum of Art

The modern and contemporary art museum offers exhibits and programs for kids and families. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids 13-17 and free for 12 and younger. Family admission is $15; all ages enter free Wednesdays. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday.

Where: 551 Broadway, Sonoma

Details: 707-939-7862, svma.org

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. The library is closed Sunday.

Where: 755 W. Napa St., Sonoma

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

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and Robert Ferguson Observatory

The park offers camping and 25 miles of trails, from easy to challenging, as well as mountain biking and horseback riding. The observatory provides public viewings and educational programs. Upcoming Star Parties will be held on Saturday and July 27 and Aug. 3 and 24, with solar observing 11 a.m.-3 p.m., and telescope viewing and classroom programs 8 p.m. Park admission is $10 a vehicle, $8 for students and those 62 and older. Solar Parties cost $5 for adults, under 18 are free. Solar observing are free.

Where: 2605 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood

Details: 707-833-5712, sugarloafpark.org. Observatory: 707-833-6979, rfo.org

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

For more information, contact the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau at 707-996-1090. Or stop by the visitor centers in the Carnegie Library (453 First St. E.), on the Plaza, or at Cornerstone Sonoma; or visit sonomavalley.com.

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