For a sampling of the best that Northern California’s famous Wine Country has to offer — fine wine, farm-to-table cuisine, art, music, natural beauty, small-town charm, world-class shopping, and relaxation — be sure to schedule time during your San Francisco visit to spend a day in Healdsburg.
Located about 65 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge (typically about a 90-minute drive), trendy Healdsburg (pop. 11,541) leads the way in savoring the good life, with charm and laid-back style. Drive straight up Highway 101 to the Central Healdsburg exit, and prepare to immerse yourself in the Wine Country lifestyle.
Follow the signs to downtown Healdsburg’s historic central plaza, named by Travel + Leisure Magazine as one of “America’s Most Beautiful Town Squares.” The plaza’s outdoor bandstand hosts free concerts, antique fairs, the annual holiday tree lighting, and other festivities.
Your first stop is the Costeaux French Bakery, a Healdsburg institution since 1923 and celebrated for its legendary artisan breads, fresh pastries, and yummy breakfasts. Or, check out the Healdsburg SHED, a market, café, and community-gathering place that won a 2014 James Beard Award for restaurant design. Either place makes a great spot to rest and refuel while deciding which of Healdsburg’s many attractions you want to enjoy first.
The stores and galleries around the Plaza are a shopper’s delight, offering everything from antiques and fine art, to clothing, fabric, books, cookware, crafts, gifts, and more. For art lovers, some two dozen art galleries are within walking distance of the plaza. A few blocks off the Plaza, the 4,000-square-foot Healdsburg Vintage antiques collective overflows with offerings from more than 30 vendors and dozens of consignors.
When you’re ready for a bite to eat, the options range from down-home goodies to farm-fresh gourmet delights. And, this being Wine Country and all, you can walk to more than two dozen winery tasting rooms in downtown Healdsburg.
Options abound. Healdsburg sits at the juncture of three prime winegrowing regions—the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Russian River Valley wine appellations. With more than 100 world class wineries and tasting rooms within a short driving distance, you can follow country roads winding through rolling hills to find that perfect vintage.
And to stretch your legs a bit between winery visits, you can take a free, self-guided vineyard walking tour at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Or, meander through five acres of dazzling gardenscapes at Ferrari-Carano Winery and Gardens.
All these acres of vineyards, rolling hills, stunning vistas, and quiet roadways means the Healdsburg area offers gorgeous cycling routes. Ace It Bike Tours offers a Sustainable Cycling Wine Tour that includes two Healdsburg wineries; Getaway Adventures offers a Healdsburg Sip ‘N Cycle tour; or check our listings of all bike rentals and tours.
Perhaps pampering indulgence is more your style. Spa Dulce offers hot stone aromatherapy massages, European facials, and seaweed body wraps; Elements on the Plaza blends ancient healing traditions with the latest advances in modern skin care research; or check our listings of all Healdsburg spas.
If you want to sip a bit more wine before dinner, several of the tasting rooms on the Healdsburg plaza — like Banshee Wines or Thumbprint Cellars — are open until 6 or 7 p.m. And when you’re ready for dinner, the possibilities are deliciously diverse.
The hyper-local Barndiva chooses the best ingredients from boutique Sonoma County farms and food producers, and serves its mouthwatering dishes in a mahogany barn with pitchforks on the walls. Or, enjoy a romantic dinner in a beautiful 1881 Victorian mansion at the Michelin-starred Madrona Manor Wine Country Inn & Restaurant, with a seasonal menu of the freshest local ingredients, including from the estate’s onsite organic garden.
Savor Yucatan flavors and Sonoma County ingredients made with French finesse at Mateo’s Cocina Latina; sample small plates designed for sharing at Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar; or find the cuisine you crave in our listings of Healdsburg restaurants.
There are a number of options if you want to experience a bit of Healdsburg night life before heading back to San Francisco. Filled with recycled furniture (such as elementary-school chairs converted into bar stools) and eclectic art, the popular Bergamot Alley serves international wines and local craft beers, and stays open until 1 a.m. Tuesday to Sunday, with the kitchen open until midnight.
Enjoy a classic cocktail or glass of wine, bistro menus, and a classic French supper Sunday evenings at Gallery + Barndiva Bar & Bistro, which serves as an art gallery by day, but offers dining and drinks at night, Wednesday to Sunday.
Or, be treated like family at the Wild Flowers Saloon, with a full bar, live music, and a daily happy hour in a down-to-earth, family-friendly atmosphere; open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
And if you decide to extend your day and spend the night, you can immerse yourselves in luxurious romance at Madrona Manor; relax in a wonderful 1912 Craftsman home amid year-round flowering gardens and vineyard views at the Irish Rose Inn; or browse our listings of Healdsburg hotels and B&Bs.
Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.