4th of July Trip: Sonoma County in 4 Days
Get away this summer with this colorful Fourth of July adventure in California's Wine Country - four days of fun and frolic, from July 1 to July 4, with multiple chances to watch fireworks in Sonoma County.
With Fourth of July parties, barbecues, camping, and traditional summer gatherings at the beach, you'll want to pack in as many days as you can. This itinerary suggests some specific choices, but check our list of the best fireworks and 4th of July parties in Sonoma County for other options. And of course, this itinerary is a great starting point for any summer trip to Sonoma County with or without the Fourth of July.
Start your four days of Fourth of July adventure by heading west to quaint Bodega Bay for brunch at The Tides Wharf Restaurant & Bar (800 Highway 1, Bodega Bay, 707-875-3652). Known as the backdrop for scary scenes in Alfred Hitchcock's horror classic, The Birds, this oceanfront eatery specializes in local seafood. Choose a breakfast of grilled snapper, eggs and hash browns; a Hangtown Fry of crispy oysters tossed with eggs and bacon; or oysters Benedict.
It’s summer time, and the beaching is easy, especially at nearby Doran Regional Park (201 Doran Beach Road, Bodega Bay). The two-mile stretch of dog-friendly sandy beach is quiet and secluded. This area is protected by the bay, so the water is calm, perfect for dipping toes. Bring your picnic basket, your camping gear, and even your boat. There’s a rock jetty at the harbor mouth for fishing and crabbing under gentle wind-scudded clouds dancing across the sky.
To fuel that picnic, stop at Pelican Plaza Grocery & Deli (1400 Highway 1, Bodega Bay, 707-875-2522), for monster-sized sandwiches, cheeses, breads, wine, and beer. Or pick up a crab sandwich or a to-go cup of clam chowder (fans claim it’s the best they’ve ever tasted) at Spud Point Crab Company (1910 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay, 707-875-9472).
Then, celebrate America’s natural beauty with a drive north on Highway 1. The Sonoma Coast State Park stretches for 17 miles along the coast, offering a series of long sandy beaches and rugged headlands, with natural arches and secluded coves. Enjoy bluff-top trails, scenic vista points, and great opportunities to go beachcombing or explore tide pools.
For a taste of California’s roots, a bit farther north the Fort Ross State Historic Park (19005 Coast Highway, Jenner, 707-847-3437. Parking/gate fee $8) offers a rich adventure. This former Russian colony was established in 1812, and some of the ancient wood structures still remain on the 3,200 acre cliff-top site, as does an antique canon and water tower. The park’s visitor center features ongoing interpretive presentations about Russian-era buildings, neighborhoods, intercultural relations, agriculture, and trade.
As the afternoon draws to a close, head back down to Bodega Bay and check in for the night. The hillside Bodega Bay Lodge (103 Highway 1, Bodega Bay, 707-875-3525) offers views of both the Pacific Ocean and the bay itself. The lodge is located close to Doran Beach for a stroll or the Links at Bodega Harbour for a round of golf (21301 Heron Drive, Bodega Bay, 800-503-8158). And the lodge’s Drakes Sonoma Coast restaurant is renowned for its fresh-from-the-ocean seafood, sustainably farmed produce and meats, and attention to detail.
If you don't want to head back south to Bodega Bay, there are several other coastal options for your evening stay. In the town of Jenner, River’s End Restaurant & Inn offers spectacular sunset views at a one-of-a-kind location where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean, with cabins designed for couples looking to rejuvenate (no TVs, no telephones, and no data ports).
North of Fort Ross, the Ocean Cove Lodge Bar & Grill (23255 Highway 1, Jenner, 707-847-3158) provides an intimate retreat with 16 rooms nestled around a hot tub and picturesque gardens. Tip: The upstairs rooms have private sun decks, Jacuzzi tubs, and spectacular ocean views. The hotel’s Bar & Grill offers fresh coastal fare in a relaxed setting with outdoor seating and a beautiful ocean view.
For more options, read Sonoma Coast & Sea Villages.
Ocean air stirs the appetite, and if you're still on the coast the Café Aquatica (10439 Highway 1, Jenner, 707-865-2251) is a charming roadside retreat for a casual, organic meal, and a hot cup of coffee.
The deck overlooks the water, with its resident ducks, pelicans, otters, seagulls, and more. During seal pupping season, you’ll usually see the playful animals, too, as they poke their curious heads out of the water.
Soaking up the sun in such a spectacular setting makes the simple fare all the more delicious, so go for breakfast pastries, cookies still warm from the oven, overstuffed breakfast burritos, and the specialty — poached eggs on homemade toasted pesto focaccia with crab or lox.
If you didn’t stop at Goat Rock Beach yesterday, be sure to check it out this morning. Part of Sonoma State Beach, Goat Rock offers views of immense sea stacks (tall rocky columns), white-capped waves, sand dunes, and the massive rock that gives the place its name. With a legal launch point above the sandy beach, hang-gliders are a common sight. Whales are often spotted offshore, particularly during the migration season, and each summer a colony of Pacific Harbor seals and their frisky pups make their home on a sandy spit at the far end of the beach (always stay at least 50 yards away from the seals).
If you’re eager to get out on the water, WaterTreks EcoTours (10438 Highway 1, Jenner, 707-865-2249) offers coastal adventures for all, from beginner boaters to skilled sports enthusiasts. Owner Suki Waters is a local Native American descendant, guide, and kayak instructor, specializing in wildlife, Sonoma Coast history, and ecology tours. Explore the quiet estuary or tackle the dancing sea, and keep your eyes peeled for area residents like sea lions, harbor seals, otters, birds, and maybe even a whale.
Follow Highway 116 west just a couple miles inland from Jenner and explore the tiny hamlet of Duncans Mills. Nestled in a wide, flat area along the Russian River, this former lumber town and railroad stop now boasts more than a dozen unique specialty shops, several restaurants, a bakery, a wine tasting room, and a tiny regional museum. It’s a great place to stroll and shop, and perhaps enjoy a bite to eat.
Then it's time to head a little further inland to dine and sleep in the charming Russian River Resort area.
Built in 1906, The Village Inn & Restaurant (20822 River Blvd., Monte Rio, 707-865-2304) offers 11 unique rooms; many overlook the river while others provide peaceful garden views. The restaurant serves classic American cuisine and cocktails. The kitchen favors local ingredients and the setting is beautiful, too, boasting walls of windows and an expansive deck overlooking the forest.
The Applewood Inn & Spa (13555 Highway 116, Guerneville, 707-869-9093) offers a choice of accommodations: The historic charm of the original house or a room in the newer building that suggests a modern-Mediterranean feel.
And for a "glamping" (glamorous camping) experience, stay in a custom Airstream trailer or luxury tent at AutoCamp Russian River (14120 Old Cazadero Road, Guerneville, 707-604-6103).
Enjoy a flavorful espresso, latte, mocha, or a specialty coffee with a handmade, flaky pastry at Gold Coast Coffee and Bakery (25377 Steelhead Drive, Duncans Mills, 707-865-1441). Chomp down on an innovative breakfast sandwich (with a side of fruit salad) at the hip yet retro Big Bottom Market (16228 Main St., Guerneville, 707-604-7295).
Perhaps you're ready for a bit of wine tasting — this is Wine Country after all. Dutton-Goldfield Winery (3100 Gravenstein Highway N., Sebastopol, 707-823-3887) crafts highly coveted, cult-quality reds and whites, which are perfect for summer sipping and barbecues. Extend your visit by scheduling an appointment for a seated tasting on the courtyard patio (call 707-827-3602 or email [email protected]).
Then take a walk across the lawn to Red Car Wine (8400 Graton Road, Sebastopol, 707-829-8500), which is right next door. Think convertible cars for summer fun, rockin’ music, and wonderful Syrahs and Pinot Noirs from owner/winemaker Carroll Kemp, focused on all-Sonoma County fruit. Much of the décor comes from local antiques shops, too, like a green velvet couch and plush orange armchair-footrest combo, plus a stuffed fish.
Apple pie. Need we say more? No Fourth of July is complete without the treasured treat, and the prime place to indulge is at Kozlowski Farms (5566 Gravenstein Highway N., Forestville, 707-887-1587). The bakery’s marvelous double-crust fruit pies, pecan streusel crumb-top pies, and bites like oatmeal jam squares are made on-site, using apples grown in the surrounding orchards.
If you feel like being a bit more active, rent a canoe or kayak from Burke’s Canoe Trips and Campground (8600 River Road, Forestville, 707-887-1222) and paddle the waterway, or stroll under a canopy of majestic trees at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve (17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville, 707-869-2015).
When you're ready, head to the family-friendly town of Windsor in central Sonoma County. Windsor's Town Green is home to some of the most diverse dining options in Sonoma County, with many great Asian restaurants as well as barbecue, Mexican, Cuban, Wine Country with European flair, tasty pub grub, classic American, classic diner delights, pizzerias, and even a deli inside a corner store.
Within walking distance of the Town Green are three hotels - Hampton Inn & Suites (8937 Brooks Road, Windsor, 707-837-9355), Holiday Inn Express (8865 Conde Lane, Windsor, 707-837-0808), and the full service Holiday Inn Windsor Wine Country (88755 Old Redwood Highway, Windsor, 707-838-8800).
You're here for Windsor Kaboom! 3rd of July Fireworks in Keiser Park (700 Windsor River Road, Windsor). The afternoon includes live music, food, and plenty of fun for the kids including arts and crafts, jumpy houses, obstacle courses, and clowns. And after darkness falls, enjoy an amazing fireworks show.
Then bed down for the night, in preparation for the fourth day of your Fourth of July journey.
Get an early start and head east along Highway 12 to the Sonoma Valley, and the town of Kenwood. This small community hosts an all-American Fourth of July starting with an old fashioned pancake breakfast provided by Kenwood Community Church, at Kenwood Plaza Park (7 to 11:30 a.m., 200 Warm Springs Road, Kenwood, kenwoodparade.com).
Then, work off the indulgence with the community-building, friendly 3k-10k footrace that starts at 7:30 a.m. and tours through the bucolic town of Kenwood.
Return to the park by 10:30 a.m., to cheer and celebrate a perfect small-town-charming parade, showcasing classic vehicles, music, bicycles, Uncle Sam, and gaily-dressed pets. All entries will be judged for awards in various categories. After the parade, loosen your belt for a family style barbecue on the park lawn.
But the Kenwood celebration is just one of the Fourth of July options in the Sonoma Valley. If you start your day just a little farther south in Sonoma Valley, breakfast simply doesn’t get any better than it is at El Molino Central (11 Central Ave., Boyes Hot Springs, 707-939-1010), with a salute to our American heritage of organic, heirloom corn. The kernels are ground on-site with an authentic stone wheel, for superior tortillas and masa. Owner Karen Taylor Waikiki (Primavera Tamales) packs the crowds into the tiny blue-and-red-trimmed white building, wooing with chilaquiles, juicy meat, or roasted green chile and cheese tamales, savory pozole, and a morning cup of Blue Bottle Coffee.
When it’s time to start celebrating, the historic town of Sonoma has its own Americana-style festival, including a large fireworks display. Sonoma’s Old-Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration, a tradition for over 50 years, includes a large, smashing, and dashing Fourth of July parade at 10 a.m., plus food, beverage, and game booths from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the historic Sonoma Plaza.
After checking out the party, enjoy some wine tasting and shopping around the Plaza. There are dozens of great salons and stores, and one that is actually both. In a novel combination, The Corner Store/Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery shop (498 1st St. E., Sonoma, 707-938-8091) is a home accessories boutique, outfitted with a bar offering complimentary tastings and selling wines from Michael Sebastiani, of the well-known Sebastiani winemaking family. With its location in a graceful brick building on the southeast edge of the historic Sonoma Plaza, this a one-stop destination for customers in search of everything from a pretty ceramic chicken, to a floral bedspread, to a nice bottle of Chardonnay Nueva from Carneros.
What could be more convenient than watching the town of Sonoma’s annual Fourth of July Fireworks Display at Depot Hotel Restaurant (241 1st St. W., Sonoma, 707-938-2980), right off the Sonoma Plaza?
The fireworks explode in the air directly above the garden of the iconic restaurant, and so each year the chef prepares a sumptuous Tuscan buffet dinner, including an oyster bar. A few typical tempting choices include porchetta, fried chicken with Tuscan herbs, baked orecchiette pasta with ricotta, and Bolognese ragu.
It’s a bit late to head home after the fireworks, so stay at the Sonoma Creek Inn, a darling, reasonably priced 16-room hideaway (239 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma, 707-939-9463). Many of the recently updated, colorfully decorated rooms have private outdoor patios or porches, and the hosts offer complimentary tasting passes at area wineries.
Or revel in luxury at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa (100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma, 707-938-9000).
And a few miles further north, The Jack London Lodge in Glen Ellen (13740 Arnold Drive, 707-938-8510) hangs onto its historic motor court vibe, while giving guests the amenities they've come to expect: free WiFi, complimentary Continental breakfasts on the weekends, a pool and hot tub, and more.
Of course, there are lots of other Fourth of July activities across Sonoma County, too, in case your travels take you to another town.
On the coast, the Fourth of July in Bodega Bay Maritime Celebration includes an 8 a.m. kayak paddle in the harbor; a craft fair and kite flying event in the afternoon; a 3:30 p.m. boat parade around the harbor and bay; and a dance with live music in the evening.
Celebrate America's independence by joining the annual 4th of July Bell Ringing celebration at 10:30 a.m. on the steps of the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum.
The Santa Rosa Symphony and Transcendence Theater Company join together to host an evening of show tunes and patriotic classics in their 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park.
And the sky over the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa lights up with the annual Red, White and Boom fireworks display.
When all is done with this weekend of discovery, you’ll be refreshed, rejuvenated, and feeling full of your very own fireworks.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet