The best summer music concerts and music festivals in Sonoma Wine Country, San Francisco Bay Area, are listed here. Enjoy Broadway Under the Stars in Jack London State Park, wine festivals, Fourth of July Fireworks at the Green Music Center, plaza concerts, farmers' markets and much more.
One of the highlights of summer is the annual 4th of July Celebration at Green Music Center in Rohnert Park, a dazzling fireworks display on the lawn and in Weill Hall. The world-class Green Music Center is situated on the picturesque campus of Sonoma State University, and hosts hundreds of notable concerts of all kinds all year long.
Yet that’s just one grand affair, amid an array of al fresco concerts playing in Sonoma County this summer of 2016. Take in the spectacular weather of long warm days and cool nights, and make plans to get your groove on at music festivals, rock-n-roll parties, and tastes of uncommon favorites like zydeco and Mexican pop.
Broadway Under the Stars at Jack London State Park, June 17 through September 11, 2016.
Now under private management, the non-profit Jack London State Park is breathtakingly beautiful at dusk, and turns even more mystical in the summer, with the sounds of Broadway musical theater acts serenading under the stars. Each of the concerts begins before sundown at the spectacular Kohler & Frohling winery ruins in the park. This is the highest caliber musical theatre, too, showcasing ballads in a series of four concerts: This Magic Moment, Fantastical Family Night, Dance the Night Away, and the Gala Celebration in a season-closing showstopper. Festive pre-show picnicking at the Beauty Ranch begins at 5 p.m., so bring your own feast or purchase food and beverages including signature wines from local wineries at the park. Then, prepare to dance and sing, when the show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival, Sept. 10 and 11, 2016
Part of the appeal of this immensely popular annual gathering is the magical setting, at Johnson's Beach & Resort on the Russian River. It’s just one block from Guerneville’s Main Street, and towering redwoods keep the crowds cool against the banks of the water. Even cooler is the line-up of top performers – still TBD but guaranteed to be top-notch (last year bought big names like Buddy Guy, Dave Koz and Rick Braun, Taj Mahal Trio, WAR, Jackie Greene, and more. The fun plays over two stages, and guests are invited to bring a blanket and low-back chairs. Doors open at 10 a.m. daily and the music rocks until 6 p.m., rounded out with food vendors, wine tastings, dancing in the grass, and even canoes, kayaks and paddle boats for rent on the river. Get your tix at the Russian River Chamber of Commerce & Visitor's Center in Guerneville, by calling 707-869-1595, or online.
Details: Johnson's Beach Russian River Festivals, 16241 First St., Guerneville
Tuesdays in the Plaza Concerts, Healdsburg, May 31-August 30, 2016
A true community gathering, hundreds of locals and visitors stake out their blankets and folding chairs early in the day to secure prime viewing of bands playing everything from swing to cool jazz to country and rockabilly. Bring a picnic and wine (some regulars bring small, low tables and set up candelabras and flower vases), then settle back in the grass for acts like Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings, Stompy Jones, The Dixie Giants, and Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. The music runs from 6 to 8 p.m. each Tuesday, with plenty of food trucks to feed you, too.
Friday Night Live at the Plaza, Cloverdale, June 3-September 2, 2016
Cloverdale’s summer-long, free concert series plays alongside the Farmers Market in the Downtown Plaza. The market begins at 6 p.m. and the music plays from 7 p.m. until around 10 p.m. There’s music for everyone, in a weekly changing showcase of alternative country, pop, rock, blues, American rock, soul, funk, salsa, Latin jazz, and indie - even zydeco and Cajun French tunes.
Details: The Downtown Cloverdale Plaza
Rodney Strong Vineyards Summer Concert Series, June through August, 2016
This year’s dates and artists are still being finalized, but every year for the past 26 years, fans of this winery’s lavish celebrations have looked forward to seeing such intimate performances by world-class musicians in a stunning vineyard setting topped off by sweeping views of the Russian River Valley. Big names are a given; last year welcomed stars like Kenny Loggins, Randy Newman, George Benson, and Kenny G. Take a picnic meal to enjoy on The Green, or purchase an assortment of delectables from local purveyors who will be onsite. You can also stock up on Rodney Strong wines, to sip while you sing along.
Details: Rodney Strong, 11455 Old Redwood Hwy., Healdsburg
Summer Nights on the Green, June - August, 2016
There’s simply too much good music to pack into the small town of Windsor, which is why this weekly event is always packed, with thousands of partygoers. The Windsor Farmers Market, complete with food trucks and lawn games, runs from 5 to 8 p.m., and the free music concerts start at 6 p.m. Check back for exact dates and performers, but you can be guaranteed a line up of fun bands that will have everyone up and dancing.
Details: Windsor Town Green
Country Summer, June 3-5, 2016
As Northern California's largest country music festival, the weekend features some dozen big name acts, sprawled across the grassy, five-acre Carnival field at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. State-of-the-art staging and sound are enhanced by two 16-foot video walls, showcasing talent like Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, and Billy Currington. Concessions serve beer, wine, spirits and Wine Country food alongside an array of western themed and festival activities.
Funky Fridays at Hood Mountain, May 27 - September 2, 2016
The summer-long Funky Fridays concert series outgrew its previous venue at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and will now be bringing its eclectic variety of music to historic Hood Mansion in the Sonoma Valley. Weekly concerts on the lawn will entertain from 7 to 9 p.m. with bands like The Bruthas, Soul Fuse, The Blues Burners, and Gator Nation. Funds raised will support Sonoma County Regional Parks. Tickets are only $10 for adults and free for kids 18 and under.
Details: Funky Fridays, Hood Mountain Regional Park, 1450 N. Pythian Road, Santa Rosa
Huichica Music Festival, June 10 & 11, 2016
First, it’s pronounced We-Chica. Second, it’s an annual concert at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma, selected because the 152-year-old Gun-Bun (as regulars call it) was once part of the land called Rancho Huichica by Mexican General Mariano Vallejo, and Huichica is the name of the unique soil of the region that makes for great winegrowing. The festivities start at 3 p.m. on Friday and continue at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, with a diverse lineup of 28 bands, including groups like Mystic Braves, Fruit Bats, Mild High club, and Vetiver. Keeping everyone fueled are “bunk” sandwiches, salumi, Rancho Gordo beans, craft beers and plenty of wine.
Details: Huichica, 2000 Denmark St., Sonoma. Tickets start at $40.
Valley of the Moon Music Festival, July 16-31, 2016
It’s an authentic taste of centuries old inspiration, as this inaugural three weekends of concerts will be the first in the nation devoted to classical and romantic chamber music on period instruments. Set in intimate, private home plus the 300-seat concert hall at Hanna's Boys Center in the Sonoma Valley, the works feature old and new favorites from composers such as Schubert, Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, and Mendelssohn.
Details: 17000 Arnold Drive, 707-996-6767, more info.
Fort Ross Festival, July 30, 2016
Fort Ross State Historic Park is wonderful to visit all on its own, with historic crafts, militia cannons, and living breathing history of its founding in the 1800s. For this special festival, there is also a multi-cultural food court, marketplace, children’s crafts, costumed re-enactments, dance, and the highlight: live music. Set in a dramatic natural outdoor amphitheater with the Pacific Ocean as its backdrop, authentic re-enactors will perform periodic songs accompanied by historic instruments and twirling dancers.
Details: Fort Ross Festival, 19005 Coast Highway One, Jenner
Petaluma Music Festival, August 6, 2016
Plan for a whole day of entertainment, with gates opening at noon and live music continuing until 9 p.m. Spread out on the expansive lawn areas in front of the main stage and garden stage, or grab a VIP Premium ticket for shaded reserved seats under a canopied area complete with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, wine and beer. Wherever you sit, food is a highlight, offered for sale by gourmet food trucks and washed down with Lagunitas Brewing Company beers and Sonoma wines. Or check out the food pavilion, featuring locally grown and produced cheese, bread, chocolate, organic farm produce and more. And then, there’s the music from Jackie Greene, Steve Kimock and Friends, The Mother Hips, David Nelson Band, David Luning, The Highway Poets, and many more groups. As a bonus, proceeds from the weekend will be distributed among Petaluma’s public elementary and secondary schools to support their music programs. Tickets start at $40.
Details: Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, 175 Fairgrounds Dr., Petaluma
The Sonoma County Fair Concert Series, July 22 - August 7, 2016
One of the biggest parties of the year, the Fair attracts top-notch performers amid the carnival rides, games, great food and wine. Headline acts are still being finalized, but last year, big names included Montgomery Gentry and Thompson Square, Bridgit Mendler, classic hard rock tribute band Snake Oil Sinners, and popular Mexican group La Adictiva Banda San Jose de Mesillas.
Details: Sonoma County Fair, 1350 Bennett Valley Rd., Santa Rosa
Summer Concerts at Montgomery Village, May 22 - October 9, 2015
Summer concerts in the heart of the picturesque Montgomery Shopping Village include Michael Brandeberg Jazz Trio, Caravanserai, the Sun Kings, Pride & Joy, and more. Concerts Under the Stars are every other Thursday in Village Court from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Rockin' Concerts take place each Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. and on a couple of Sundays in Village Court. Sunday Concerts are weekly on Village Terrace from 1 to 4 p.m. Make shopping and dining on the patios even more fun with a bit of groove! See the schedule for concert line-ups.
Details: Montgomery Village, 911 Village Court, Santa Rosa, 707-545-3844
Other Events and Festivals: please check our Sonoma County Calendar of Events
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet