Blink, and before we know it, the holidays are here again. With that comes the joy of giving and receiving gifts, but first — the fun of shopping for them. Shopping is particularly joyous in Sonoma County, too, because rather than giant copycat malls, most of our destinations are quaint town squares, villages, and unique, independently-owned collections.
Marisa’s Fantasia/Christmas Fantasia, Petaluma
There are two stores in one at the historic Lan Mart Building in downtown Petaluma. The Christmas Fantasia section brims floor-to-ceiling with antique and modern heirlooms, captivating in glorious displays of trees, ornaments, home accessories, flocking, lights, and stockings to hang from the chimney with care. Even if you’re bah-humbug, all the beauty will tempt you to make holiday memories of your own.
Marisa's Fantasia, 29 & 39 Petaluma Boulevard North, Petaluma
Sonoma Plaza, Sonoma
As the largest Plaza of its kind in California, this eight-acre park and town center is ringed with charming shops, tasting rooms, and popular restaurants. The mix of small stores is beguiling, from lovely vintage inspired clothing at Bella Vita (see photo at left), to cozy handcrafted bedding at Broadway Quilts, to fair trade kid's wear, coffee, home decor and jewelry at The Global Heart.
You can stock up on boutique cheeses and jams at Epicurean Connection, gorgeous kitchen tools at Williams-Sonoma, and spices at the Savory Spice Shop. The list goes on and on, but be sure not to miss The Church Mouse, a treasure chest of gently loved clothing, furniture, books and jewelry with proceeds benefiting the St. Francis Solano School.
Sonoma Plaza is bounded by Spain Street, First Street West, First Street East, and Napa Street (Highway 12) in downtown Sonoma.
Healdsburg Plaza, Healdsburg
Healdsburg Plaza was named one of "America's Most Beautiful Town Squares" by Travel & Leisure in 2013. Spanning just an acre, it is ringed with boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants and wine stores, expanding into the edges of the residential neighborhoods surrounding it. It’s easy to spend an entire day wandering from place to place, stopping at Clutch for pricey purses by Francesco Biasia, Coach and Monsac; fancy goodies for Fido at Fideaux pet boutique; and designer baby clothing from Luna Luna and Fore Axel & Hudson at Cupcake Kids & Maternity. Yes, most of the stores here are upscale, but great bargains can be had at the many antique stores lining the blocks.
Healdsburg Plaza is bounded by Plaza Street, Matheson Street, Healdsburg Avenue, and Center Street, in the center of downtown.
Cornerstone Sonoma, Sonoma
The eclectic 9-acre property on the Highway 121 winery corridor of the Carneros region mixes lavish gardens with sculptures, landscape architect installations, art, flower and home design shops, a restaurant, and three wine tasting rooms. There’s so much to covet that you may find yourself buying as much for your own wishes as others, but we won’t tell. Artefact Design & Salvage is a gem for architectural repurposing alongside organic and contemporary designs, while Tesoro puts a whimsical flair on elegant home accessories. You’ve never appreciated how beautiful garden pots can be, either, until you’ve seen the collection at Potter Green & Co. This is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon with your dog, too, strolling the gardens, sipping some wine on the Meadowcroft patio, or sharing a seasonal, Cal-inspired snack from Park 121 Restaurant.
Cornerstone, 23570 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-933-3010
Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa
One of the grandest shopping centers in Sonoma County, this open-air mall covers all the bases, with more than 70 shops offering fine clothing, shoes, home accessories, jewelry, and beauty products. Some highlights include J. Jill, Sur La Table, White House/Black Market, and Copperfield’s Books. Amid the anchor tenants, some special finds include Birds Nest Antiques, Fireside Stationery, Village Art Supply and an endless array of adorable must-have items from Reverie Baby. Part of the fun is walking from store to store on a path of gardens, frequent live music performances, and al fresco relaxation, as you refresh and refuel at Acre Coffee, or enjoy a meal at Monti’s Rotisserie & Bar.
Montgomery Village, 911 Village Court, Santa Rosa, 707-545-3844
The Barlow, Sebastopol
The 12.5-acre wonderland spans as a 220,000-square-feet, $23.8 million culinary and arts center, with the notable difference that most products sold here come directly from the people who make them, and from where the products are made. That means an array of more than two dozen food producers, winemakers, brewers, distillers and artists create their crafts on-site, in space viewable to the public.
Stock up on charcuterie from Zazu Kitchen & Farm, organic coffees and teas from Taylor Maid Farms Coffee, rare books from Ben Kinmont Bookseller, and fine art originals, kiln glass, jewelry, mixed media and sculpture from CounterCulture Art Haus Gallery. Then, when all the shopping has you feeling weary, stop for a beer and small bite at Woodfour Brewing Company, or a glass of Pinot Noir at La Follette Wines.
The Barlow, Highway 12 and Morris Street, Sebastopol, 707-824-5600
Railroad Square, Santa Rosa
The thriving Railroad Square Historic District dates back to nearly 50 years, when Western Farm Center opened as a feed and pet supply store in 1967. The neighborhood is older than that, of course, as the old Northwestern Pacific Railroad Train Depot welcomed its first trains in 1870 and the Hotel La Rose across the street was built in 1907. Today, the locally quarried stone depot and hotel are beautifully restored, and surrounded by dozens of stores ranging from Green Fish Trading (hand curated items from Asia), to Cast Away Yarn Shop (Malabrigo yarn and lace, hand spun and hand dyed in Urugua), to Whistlestop Antiques (delicate china tea cups).
The Railroad Square district is on the west side of Highway 101, stretching roughly from Third to Seventh streets.
It’s actually an entire, tiny town in west Sonoma County, and it couldn’t be more quaint and perfect for unique gifts. All the stores are independently owned, with often one-of-a-kind merchandise, all set in a convenient cluster joined by gardens, fountains and benches. Burgeon your energy with breakfast or lunch at Cape Fear, serving delightful California cuisine with a Southern flair.
Then hit the stores – there are nearly two dozen, such as Mr. Trombly's Tea offering specialty teas, vintage teapots, tea wear, linens and gifts; the lovely liquid jewelry by Studio Nouveau; nostalgic candies and toys from Sweets ‘n’ Stuff; and pretty much anything from Thistledown Antiques, “purveyors of the curiously collectible and fine antiques.”
Duncans Mills is located on Highway 116 along the Russian River between Guerneville and Jenner, approximately 25 miles west of Santa Rosa and 4 miles inland from the coast.
Petaluma Village Premium Outlets, Petaluma
People drive from all across the North Bay for this collection of more than 60 high-end stores offering bargain prices on their name brand goods. The mood is elegant, in an open-air setting, and popular names like Adidas, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5TH, Tommy Hilfiger and Wilsons Leather.
Petaluma Village Premium Outlets, 2200 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma
Coddingtown Mall, Santa Rosa
Just renovated and updated with many brand new tenants, this is a more traditional mall set-up, with rows of under-roof shops. Opened in 1962, it’s long been the go-to for Sonoma County shoppers, and for good reason. The selection is comprehensive, such as the legendary Coddingtown Jewelers, Thomas Kinkade Gallery, and The Humidor with 150 cigar selections. Anchors are the classic J.C. Penney and Macy’s.
Coddington Mall, 733 Coddingtown Center, Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa Plaza Mall, Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa's downtown mall, where you can find over 120 specialty and name brand stores: Macy's, Sears, Forever 21, Abercrombie & Fitch, The Disneystore, The Apple Store, Brookstone, Eddie Bauer, Victoria's Secret and many more.
Santa Rosa Plaza, 1071 Santa Rosa Plaza (Fourth Street and Mendocino Avenue), Santa Rosa