Wine enthusiasts and nature lovers alike discover a great base of operations in the tiny (population around 1,000) and picturesque town of Kenwood. Perched on the northern end of California's Sonoma Valley, Kenwood is known for its world-renowned wineries, excellent restaurants and a quietly luxurious Mediterranean-style resort, the Kenwood Inn & Spa.
Here are 5 fun things to do on a visit to Kenwood:
Revel in Nature at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Nestled into the Mayacamas Mountains dividing the Sonoma and Napa valleys, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park includes the headwaters of 33-mile-long Sonoma Creek, a 25-foot seasonal waterfall, and 2,729-foot Bald Mountain. Within the park’s 4,000 acres are three basic ecological systems: chaparral-covered ridges, open meadows with oak and fir woodlands, and a redwood forest.
A Wappo village was once located on Sonoma Creek, and acorn-grinding rocks can still be seen here. Activities abound, including hiking and horseback riding on 25 miles of trails, fishing, camping, mountain biking, and fishing. Get more details in our blog about Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.
Find the Perfect Garden Decoration at Swede’s Feeds
Driving along Highway 12 through Kenwood, it’s impossible to miss Swede's Feeds Pet Garden Gifts. This one-of-a-kind store has many of its offerings arranged outdoors, and they’re definitely eye-catching. You might see a 12-foot welded-metal dinosaur or an equally tall metal giraffe, a swath of pots colorful enough to shame a rainbow, and multi-story birdhouses so fanciful you’ll want to move in.
Most people fall for the large collection of hand-made folk art pieces — blazing-pink flamingoes, multi-colored peacocks, man-sized roosters — all made from recycled oil barrels and machinery gears.
Inside the store, check out the beautiful artisan wine racks crafted from wine barrel staves, the hand-made, recycled redwood chicken coops, or the recycled redwood line of bluebird, bat, owl, and other avian-specific boxes. For more details, read A Colorful Roadside Stop Found at Kenwood's Swede's Feeds.
Discover Art and Nature at Wildwood Nursery
Inhabiting five gorgeous acres, Wildwood Farm Nursery and Gardens is home to rare and unusual plants from around the world, including more than 250 varieties of Japanese maples; many species of dogwoods, ginkgos, and conifers; and bonsai-style beech, maple, and evergreen trees.
Scattered throughout the grounds are outdoor sculptures — works of steel, ceramic, coated resin, and other weather-proof materials — that turn the entire place into a work of art. On a stroll you’ll encounter gates made of welded metal or ancient barn wood, an old potting table covered with massive hand-made ceramic bowls, a whimsical recycled-wood creature peeking from behind a fern, and one-of-a-kind fountains.
Within all this splendor, the maple trees — hundreds of them, in all sizes and varieties, with most, but not all, in containers — stand out. You will think of their beauty long after you leave. But since Wildwood Nursery ships anywhere in the U.S., consider sending one or two home. For more information, read Kenwood's Wildwood Nursery Entices.
Discover Kenwood’s Wineries
Some of California’s best wineries are located in tiny Kenwood. Many have tasting rooms clustered together on the west side of Highway 12, which allows you to enjoy a walking tasting. On the eastern side, wineries are a bit more spread out (but also larger and more fanciful).
At VJB Vineyards, Cellars & Marketplace you can sip wine while hanging out on an Italian piazza (and mangia all you like on panini, salumi, and other Italian goodies). On Saturdays from May into October, enjoy a complimentary horse-drawn carriage tour at Landmark Vineyards. Delve into a wine & food pairing at Ledson Winery & Vineyards, marvel over the Mediterranean gardens at Chateau St. Jean, take a hike at Kunde Family Winery, and experience a vineyard tour and tasting (by appointment) at family-owned MacLeod Vineyards. Learn more about all of Kenwood's wineries at the Heart of Sonoma Valley Winery Association.
Stroll the Solar System at Ferguson Observatory
One of the largest observatories in the western U.S. dedicated to public viewing and education is located in Kenwood: Robert Ferguson Observatory. Being in rural wine country and surrounded by a protective ring of hills that decrease urban light pollution, it’s a great place to view the night sky through their impressive telescopes (such as a 14-inch Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain Robotic CCD, which can image objects millions of light years away).
But the coolest thing here just might be PlanetWalk, a walkable scale model of the solar system (shrunk more than 2,360,000,000 times). PlanetWalk begins at a sign representing the sun and takes you on a 4.5-mile, information-packed, round-trip journey. Each step represents nearly one million miles of empty space. Other fun things to do here include daytime solar observation and star parties (many programs are free). For more info, read Kenwood: Star Parties and Walking to Pluto at Ferguson Observatory.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.