Whether it's a gentle shower or a sudden downpour, rain can be a good thing – it nourishes the wine grapes that make Sonoma County famous, covers the rolling hills with a carpet of fresh green grasses, and gives the air that wonderful wash-cleaned feeling. Plus, Sonoma County offers just as many enticing things to do indoors as outdoors. Here's a quick list of a few rainy day possibilities.
1. Taste the Fruit of the Grape
This is Wine Country, after all, and tasting doesn't require sunshine. Sonoma County's more than 400 wineries offer tasting rooms in historic buildings, modern structures, castles, caves, barrel rooms, downtown storefronts, or cozy corners of their production facilities. Step inside, make yourself comfortable, and taste the many reasons Sonoma County wines are praised worldwide. Review our 7 Tips for Sonoma Wine Tasting, then explore our list of Sonoma County Wineries to discover your perfect tasting destination.
2. Go With a Guide
Sign up for a guided wine tasting tour, and leave the driving and the details to a wine-savvy local guide or chauffeur; you can just relax and enjoy. Travel by limo, bus, van, or luxury vehicle. The itinerary can be customized to match your interests, and tour companies often offer a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at wineries, and perhaps meet the winemakers. Our Guide to Food And Wine Tours provides an overview, and our Sightseeing & Tours listings detail all the options.
3. Peek into the Past
If history sparks your interest, Sonoma County is the place to be. Explore exhibitions highlighting the North Bay region's rich and colorful past at the History Museum of Sonoma County, located in the historic 1910 Post Office building in downtown Santa Rosa. Sebastopol's beautifully restored Mission-style railroad depot (built in 1917) now houses the West County Museum, which focuses on western Sonoma County history. Authentic railroads cars form part of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society's Depot Park Museum; the Windsor Historical Society operates a museum in the Hembee House Museum, a 1930s Spanish-style home; you can stroll through Victorian rooms in the Gould-Shaw House Museum, part of the History Center operated by the Cloverdale Historical Society; and the Russian River Historical Society recently set up shop in the newly restored Guerneville Bank Club.
4. Sip Various Brews
We're not just about the wine. Craft beverages of all types flourish in Sonoma County, which boasts nearly two dozen operating breweries, more than half a dozen cider producers, and slightly more than a dozen distilleries. Use the Sonoma County Beer, Cider, and Spirits Map to pick your destinations. Or, if you don't want to take the do-it-yourself approach, Brew Brothers Brewery Tours, North Bay Brewery Tours, and On Tap Beer Tours offer fun, entertaining, and educational visits to Sonoma County breweries and distilleries.
5. Dine on Farm-Fresh Goodness
From down-home cooking to signature California Wine Country fare, you're sure to find what you want in Sonoma County's more than 600 restaurants. Wine Country chefs typically use locally-produced meat, fish, cheese, fresh produce (often organically grown), olive oil, wine, beer, and other local products to create their delicious dishes. Read about the Best Restaurants in Sonoma County, narrow your focus to Top Romantic Restaurants in Sonoma County, find out which ones have earned a Michelin Star, or search our list of all Sonoma County Restaurants to find your newest favorite.
6. Climb, Play Tag, Drive, or Skate (Indoors)
Not all the action is outdoors. Test your climbing skills on extensive top rope, lead, and bouldering terrain for all strength and skill levels with a day pass at Vertex Climbing Center in Santa Rosa. Score points by tagging opponents in a multi-level arena at Laser Tag of Santa Rosa. Race around the track in high-speed electric karts at Driven Raceway, in Rohnert Park. Strap on skates or blades and glide away at Cal Skate Roller Blading and Skating Center in Rohnert Park.
7. Let the Music Take You Away
In addition to any number of local pubs, clubs, and community stages that feature musical performances of all types, Sonoma County boasts two outstanding concert venues. The Green Music Center at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park presents a varied musical schedule in its 1,400-seat Weill Concert hall, modeled after Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, and its 240-seat, cathedral-like Schroeder Hall, with a 1,248-pipe organ in the balcony. Or enjoy an eclectic mix of music, theater, dance, comedy, lectures, and family shows in the recently remodeled Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa. For even more options, check our Performing Arts listings and our Calendar of Events.
8. Understand Wine History Through Tools
Tools handcrafted more than a century ago are the stars of a theatrical show with lights, movement, and narration in the Wine Tool Museum at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma. The history of winemaking unfolds through an examination of long-handled cutters that resemble medieval battle axes to plow blades, pruning knives, shears, and picking boxes and baskets. Museum tours are offered daily by appointment, and typically include tasting a flight of current release wines, although museum-only tours are available.
9. Nibble Something Sweet
From the Costeaux French Bakery, which has been a Healdsburg tradition since 1932, to Raymond's Bakery tucked away under majestic old growth redwoods in Cazadero, to both Asian and Western baked goods at East Wind Bakery in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County offers an amazing number of opportunities to sip your coffee or tea and nibble on delicious baked goods. And those three bakeries are just the start. Read our picks for the Best Bakeries and Patisseries in Sonoma County, or check our listings of all Sonoma County Bakeries.
10. Relax and Indulge at a Spa
Refresh and rejuvenate yourself with the relaxing, pampering, and healing powers of a Sonoma County spa. Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn in Sonoma is one of the only luxury spa resorts in the country with its own source of thermal mineral water. At Health Spa Montecito in Santa Rosa, you can relax and unwind with a eucalyptus steam, dry-infrared sauna or simply soak in a whirlpool tub with every treatment. Or enjoy "me time" in the zero-gravity lounge chairs at Me Spa in Santa Rosa. Kenwood Inn and Farmhouse Inn are great choices for an indulgent spa getaway.
11. Get in a Good Workout
A day pass can give you access to a number of exercise and wellness facilities countywide. For stadium cycling, hot yoga, and xtend barre, take a class at The Studios in Montecito Heights in Santa Rosa. A day pass at the Sonoma County Family YMCA in Santa Rosa gives you access to its indoor swimming pool, weight room, and classes ranging from meditation and gentle stretching to martial arts, group cycling and cardio hip hop. One day passes are also available at the Sonoma Valley's Sonoma Aquatic Club, where water from underground natural hot springs fills three pools; the facilities also include a workout room with treadmills, elliptical machines, weights, and other equipment.
12. Cook Up Something Special
Where better to enjoy a cooking class but in the heart of Wine Country's farm-to-table freshness? Dedicated to capturing the essence of Wine Country living – fresh foods, fabulous wines, and good company – Ramekins Culinary School in the Sonoma Valley offers both demonstration and hands-on classes and workshops, as well as private cooking classes. And Relish Culinary Adventures brings together talented chefs and fabulous cuisine at its state-of-the-art Healdsburg center or in a variety of captivating Wine Country locations. Relish classes and culinary events focus on a variety of topics, such as DIY canning, wild mushroom foraging, cheese making, and ethnic cuisines; private cooking lessons are available.
13. Let the Force Be With You
Enjoy a distinctive interactive experience at Rancho Obi-Wan, a 9,000-square-foot nonprofit museum that was officially recognized by Guinness World Records in 2014 as the world's largest private collection of Star Wars memorabilia. Exhibits explore the interaction of Star Wars and popular culture, and the immense changes in technology over the decades. The Star Wars Arcade offers a chance to play vintage video games and pinball machines, all set on free play. Be sure to plan ahead, as this facility on the outskirts of Petaluma is open by appointment only. Friday tours are led by Head of Docents Lucas Seastrom, and Saturday tours are led by owner Steve Sansweet.
14. Watch the Stars, Indoors
Enjoy spectacular visual effects and up-to-date astronomical information at the Santa Rosa Junior College Planetarium. With the aid of special effects projectors you'll feel like you are outdoors under a night sky, far away from the city lights and smog. And in an instant, you've been transported into space to see other worlds close at hand. Witness beautiful sites such as halos, rainbows, auroras, thunderstorms, eclipses, fireballs, comets, supernovas, and black holes.
15. Visit Snoopy and the Gang
Cartoonist Charles "Sparky" Schulz, creator of the beloved "Peanuts" comic strip, lived and worked in Sonoma County from 1969 until his death in 2000. The 8,000-square-foot Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa celebrates the cartoonist's life, his characters, and the impact Charlie Brown and the gang made worldwide. Next door to the museum you'll find Snoopy's Home Ice (also known as the Redwood Empire Ice Arena), where you can strap on ice skates and glide, or enjoy hot chocolate and other snacks in the Warm Puppy Café. The nearby Snoopy's Gallery & Gift Shop sells all things Peanuts. If you want to round out a family-friendly adventure, visit the highly interactive Children's Museum of Sonoma County, located just down the street from the Schulz museum. Or, locate Peanuts statues countywide by following Explore Snoopy and the Peanuts in Sonoma County 2-Day Itinerary.
16. Stroll Art Galleries and Museums
The arts flourish throughout Sonoma County, and what better way to spend a rainy day than happily exploring some of its many galleries and museums. The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art in the town of Sonoma demonstrates that a small Wine Country community can bring in exhibits that rival its big-city counterparts. The Art Museum of Sonoma County in downtown Santa Rosa presents national and international shows of modern and contemporary art; its collection features artists who have lived and worked in Northern California. The 222 Paul Mahder Gallery presents world-class contemporary art in the largest (at 8,500 square feet) single-story gallery in California – and it's just one of some two dozen art galleries within walking distance of the Healdsburg Plaza. To learn all the options, check our arts listing in our Calendar of Events.
17. Enjoy a Bit of Retail Therapy
Even if it's pouring down rain, you can stay dry while shopping brand-name stores and restaurants at the indoor, two-story Santa Rosa Plaza Mall in downtown Santa Rosa, or the more than 60 specialty shops and restaurants in the indoor Coddingtown Mall in northern Santa Rosa. If the rain lightens a bit, you can explore the upscale boutiques, restaurants, and cafés in the open-air Montgomery Village Shopping Center in eastern Santa Rosa, or hunt for bargains in the open-air Petaluma Village Premium Outlets. For even more options, read our round-up of where to go Shopping in Sonoma County.
Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.