It's not just the girls who like relaxing and enjoying some time with friends. Whether your group craves action or a chance to chill, Sonoma County Wine Country offers a wide variety of options for a guys getaway adventure. Here's a quick list of ten must-do Sonoma County experiences.
1. Wine Yourself Up
Wine tasting doesn't have to be completely sedentary. At Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Alexander Valley, you can swim in the huge courtyard pool after taking a complimentary hike across the 88-acre wine estate, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the famous movie director himself.
Or, if the cowboy look is more your style, Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery in Alexander Valley has partnered with Wine Country Trail Rides for jaunts through the vineyard, past ponds, and into the wilderness.
The free Sonoma County Vineyard Adventures program encourages you to enjoy no-appointment, self-guided vineyard tours, at many top wineries like Francis Ford Coppola, Matanzas Creek Winery with its expansive lavender fields, and the 156-acre Paradise Ridge Winery celebrated for its stunning sculpture garden.
To learn all the options, get a free wineries map.
2. Escape into Nature
Jack London State Historic Park is a jewel, taking you on wilderness trails past the famed author's historic cottage, burned out castle ruins, and up into the high mountains thick with redwoods and sunny meadows.
Hood Mountain Regional Park boasts tall peaks in the Southern Mayacamas Mountain Range, plus trails lined with creeks, wildflowers and meadows. Explore 1,750 acres of wilderness, and if you’re in good shape, trek to the top vista, where, on a clear day, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge from Gunsight Rock and Valley View Trail.
Hit the sandy side of life at Kortum Trail, which follows the breathtaking Sonoma Coast bluffs from Wright Beach to Blind Beach for about four miles, then on to Bodega Head, an easy-to-hike loop that’s popular for seasonal sightings of humpback whales.
3. Put Your Pedal to the Metal – Extreme Adventure
Zoom around the Simraceway Performance Driving Center at Sonoma Raceway. As your Audi R8 sports car grips the NASCAR track at more than 122 miles per hour on the 180-degree turn, you’ll be so happy you took your Audi Sportscar Experience safety training classes first.
Prime Dungeness crabbing season runs from mid-November through February in Sonoma County, so you’re just in time to explore the seas with NorCal Sports Fishing in Bodega Bay. These are the same winter months the whales are passing by, so pack your camera, and you can also outfit your charter boats for thrilling wrangling of rock cod, 25-pound-plus salmon, albacore, halibut, and even Humboldt giant squid.
Maybe you want to fly through the forest. Hidden away off the Bohemian Highway in Occidental is the Sonoma Canopy Tours zip line course, where you whoosh up to 25 miles per hour through a redwood wonderland, over a ravine 300 feet below, and along a creek. For another challenge, scale yourself across a 175-foot-long sky bridge.
Perhaps running is your thing. Enjoy gourmet food, fine wine, and the ultra-marathon experience with the professional guides at the Healdsburg Running Camp.
4. Party at a Sports Bar
Enjoy the boisterous, fun atmosphere of Healdsburg Bar & Grill. Sit at the big bar, glue your eyes to the TV sets, and dig into eats like crispy breaded or spicy Buffalo wings, Sonoma Brinery gourmet pickles, and bacon chips (bacon!) lightly breaded crispy critters dunked in chipotle aioli.
Bear Republic Brewing Company of Healdsburg is another immensely popular favorite, brimming with artisanal beers, a party atmosphere, and upscale pub grub like 5-cheese béchamel mac ‘n’ cheese studded with bacon and jalapenos, burrata and prosciutto di Parma, or chili crafted with wild boar, venison, antelope, chorizo and Big Bear Black Stout.
5. Settle In
Setting up a base of operations gives you a place to kick back and hang out between activities, giving the gang time to plan your next move.
On the Sonoma Coast, the luxurious guestrooms and suites at the Bodega Bay Lodge all offer views of the Pacific Ocean or Bodega Bay. The facilities include an ocean-view pool and whirlpool spa, an onsite golf course, and a fitness center and sauna, with free Wi-Fi access and a wine reception held daily.
Located amid towering redwoods in the Russian River Valley Wine Region, Northwood Lodge & Resort in Monte Rio features satellite TV with premium movie channels, Wi-Fi access, and a solar-heated swimming pool. The cottages include a wet bar, deck, fireplace, full kitchen, living room, and master bedroom. All of this is within walking distance of a nine-hole golf course designed by the famous Alister MacKenzie.
And tucked amid the lush vineyards and rolling hills northern Sonoma County, the Geyserville Inn is located just minutes away from some of the region's most celebrated wineries, as well as the River Rock Casino. Amenities includes a pool and hot tub, Wi-Fi access, fireplaces in the rooms, and an onsite restaurant.
Or, rent a great vacation home to use as the headquarters for your guys' getaway.
6. Enjoy Fine Dining
For the gourmets in your group, the Drakes Sonoma Coast Cuisine Restaurant inside the Bodega Bay Lodge and Spa fits the bill. Chef Jeff Reilly delivers seasonally changing cuisine as riveting as the views stretching across the water, with dishes like Dungeness crab cakes with tomato ginger chutney and smoked paprika aioli; madras braised California lamb shank with polenta, broccolini, roasted garlic tomato, and Cabernet braising jus; grilled pacific long line swordfish with crispy artichoke hearts; and Bellwether Farms whole milk ricotta gnocchi. And you might want to make time for a game of golf on The Links at Bodega Harbour Golf Courses nearby.
Santé, at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, was recently renovated for a brighter, modern minimalist design, but executive chef Bruno Tison and chef de cuisine Andrew Cain still keep plenty of flair in their dishes. Wrap your lucky taste buds around dishes like luxurious seared diver scallop and crispy veal sweetbreads with spring nettles, black trumpet mushroom mousseline and garlic soubise; or elegant sweet butter-poached Maine lobster with globe artichokes, sweet carrots, grilled spring onion compote, pickled pearl onions and barigoule vinaigrette.
In the Russian River Valley, the Farmhouse Inn and Spa has 25 luxurious rooms and suites and a Michelin-starred restaurant. The inn was recently named the #8 Best Hotel in the World by Travel + Leisure, and the famous spa has undergone a recent renovation.
The John Ash & Co. fine dining destination in Santa Rosa’s Vintner’s Inn is legendary, as one of Sonoma County’s first Wine Country cuisine restaurants. Acclaimed chef John Ash is no longer affiliated, but the food remains top notch under chef Thomas Schmidt. Start with buttermilk fried Devil’s Gulch Ranch quail prettied up with corn, baby squash, and bean salad, then move on to a gorgeous portrait of sesame-nori encrusted ahi with tempura prawn, daikon radish, snow peas, carrots, scallions, yuzu glaze, green tea soba noodles, dashi broth, tofu wasabi aioli, and pea shoots.
7. Where's the Steak?
If you prefer your food a bit more straightforward and macho, enjoy a giant, juicy slab of beef at Stark’s Steakhouse in Santa Rosa. Dark clubby wood décor, check. Stiff martinis, check. A full pound, bacon-wrapped rib-eye topped with roasted bone marrow, check.
The beef beckons from the window at Seared in Petaluma, gracefully aging and waiting to be grilled and put on your plate. The darkly lit, wood and brick ambience is the perfect setting for oversized plates of prime rib, and filet mignon presented with creamed spinach, crispy potatoes, blue cheese butter and demi.
One of the oldest roadhouses in the West, established in 1854, Stormy's Spirits & Supper in Petaluma’s Bloomfield area charms with a cottage mood, then wallops with serious beef like bone-in rib-eye, prime rib, and New York steak decorated in crunchy onion rings. It’s a manly meal, too — all suppers include Cramer's clam chowder, garden salad with house made creamy Italian, potato, fresh vegetable, French bread and butter.
8. Have a Beer
Beer goes with everything, and Sonoma County is known for its many boutique operations producing finely crafted beers based on local ingredients.
And if you enjoy both craft beers and mountain biking, Dirt Gypsy Adventures offers four- and six-day treks that visit the region's best trails and craft breweries.
But it's also easy to plan do-it-yourself visits, too, since you simply hop online and follow the Sonoma County beer map.
Start your trail of suds with some famous brew houses like Bear Republic Brewing Company in Healdsburg, Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, and Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa (home of the uproariously popular Pliny the Younger).
Newer destinations include Woodfour Brewing Company and Crooked Goat Brewing at The Barlow in Sebastopol, and Carneros Brewing Company in Sonoma. Taps Restaurant & Tasting Room, recently relocated and expanded to Petaluma — nearly next door to the very popular Dempsey’s Restaurant & Brewery. Then, there are tiny hot spots, such as Fogbelt Brewing Company in Santa Rosa and St. Florian’s Brewery in Windsor.
What’s the buzz (pun intended) about? It’s because all these independently owned operations showcase beer as art. At Fogbelt, brewers Paul Hawley and Remy Martin use exclusively California-grown hops, while at St. Florian, all the grain leftovers are recycled through local ranches where it is used to feed rescue animals.
9. Chill Out With Something Sweet
Who doesn't like dessert? Visit the Guerneville Bank Club, a historic 1921 bank recently reborn as a pie and ice cream emporium. The groovy-retro space is home to Chile Pies Baking Co. and Nimble & Finn’s ice cream, set in a chic lounge area with treats like Bulleit Bourbon ice cream with chocolate covered pretzels, or milkshakes made with a piece of pie blended with ice cream and milk.
Dulce De Leche with mix-ins of cheesecake bites and Twix candy is heaven already, as found at Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt in Sebastopol. The server handcrafts the ice cream in front of your very eyes, with great clouds of fog billowing out as the heavy cream is infused with refrigerated liquid nitrogen, a colorless, odorless liquid that churns around itself. The cream freezes so quickly that virtually no ice crystals form and the cellular structure of the fat isn’t disrupted, for a silky and light, yet rich and velvety dessert.
Screamin’ Mimi’s owner Maraline Olson draws from more than 300 recipes for her daily line-up of delights like lavender olive oil ice cream, or Mimi's Mud of espresso ice cream, handmade fudge, chocolate chips, and chocolate cookies. Each ice cream cone is weighed to determine the price, so scoop to your heart’s content.
10. There's Always Room for Hot Dogs
Roy’s Chicago Dogs at the Yard has perhaps the best in the universe. The funky, sports memorabilia-decorated diner is hidden away inside the Petaluma Livestock Auction Yard, but is well worth seeking out for the more than 1,000 variations on its core line-up of Vienna Beef hot dogs (three sizes, up to 12 inches), Polish sausage, a spicy fried Polish Fire Dog and a specialty sausage of the week. Toppings number nearly four dozen options such as homemade pineapple mustard, Sriracha, Hell Fire sauce, shaved pastrami, chili, onion rings and bleu cheese.
Happy Dog, too, will make you very happy, as a cash-only Sonoma roadside stand with a cheerful yellow and white, chef hat-wearing hound painted on the front of the building. It’s simple, cheap and yummy, offering a perfect hot dog, spicy chili cheese dog, or sweet-battered corn dog.
Lulu & Hill, connected to G&G Grocery Store serves up all-beef wieners on buns from a nearby bakery, served with Italian sodas. Delicious doggies include the basic frank, Louisiana hot link, Polish sausage, chicken apple sausage, or beer sausage, and you dress them as you like, such as with homemade chili, cheese and onions; tomato, blue cheese and bacon; or homemade sauerkraut, pickle, sauce and mustard.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.