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5 Tips for Planning Your Big Gay Sonoma Visit

So you’ve booked your trip to Sonoma and now you want to know what to do next (or if you haven't booked yet, find hotels/lodging here). Here are five essential tips for guaranteeing that you’ll have a gay ol’ time while making the most out of your visit to Sonoma.

Do Plan Ahead.

This is one tip I can’t give often enough.  Sonoma County is vast, so you’ll absolutely want to organize your itinerary early so you can spend less time in transit and more time enjoying your stay. Also, because popular restaurants book up fast, particularly on holiday weekends, make your reservations earlier rather than later. Ditto for any wineries or special tasting rooms on your list given that space is often limited so you might miss out if you fail to plan in advance.

Finally, LGBT travelers looking to mingle with other LGBT travelers may want to take a look at the calendar and coordinate a visit around busier major holidays or big gay events like Pride, Gay Wine Weekend, Lazy Bear Weekend, and Women’s Weekend. After all, wine plus gay holiday often equals the gayest time of all.

Do Visit the Russian River (and pack a picnic or order one)

The Russian River Valley is still the gay nerve center of Sonoma and a stunningly scenic one at that. Whether you float down the river in summer, hike the neighboring woods at any time of the year, or simply stroll down Main Street in Guerneville, the Russian River Valley is a time capsule of gay life in the North Bay area that must be experienced. While you're there, check out Boon Eat + Drink and Big Bottom Market, and if you’re staying overnight, The Highlands Resort, The Woods Resort and The Applewood Inn are excellent options (and if you do stay at the Applewood Inn, be sure to make a dinner reservation at the property’s Michelin-starred restaurant for a special treat).

Do have drinks at Sunset at Madrona Manor

Spend a night at this romantic and historic former Victorian estate, which was built in 1881 as a private residence, and prepare to experience one of the most stellar examples of the gracious possibilities of Wine Country living. A glass of wine enjoyed amid the Manor’s eight wooded acres overlooking Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley is the epitome of a picture perfect Sonoma moment. Meanwhile, dinner at Madrona Manor’s Michelin-star winning restaurant seals the deal.

Do take a drive along the coast

There aren't many spots in America the very existence of which recommends them as highly as the portion of Highway 1 that runs along the coast of Sonoma. Plan an afternoon cruise with stops in Fort Ross, Jenner, and Bodega Bay, and be sure to leave lots of time to stop and take in the views which are basically cinema ready.

Do sample copious amounts of wine

Last but not least, do sample the wines that have made Sonoma famous. It may seem like I’m stating the obvious here but when I say sample Sonoma, I mean go off the beaten path and visit smaller wineries whose product is so limited it rarely makes its way out of the county limits. In so doing, you will unlock the treasures that keep regular visitors coming back for more, year after year. Find wineries here.

For more tips about planning your trip to Sonoma, click here.

Written by Sonoma Insider Duane Wells.