5 Fun Things to Do in Santa Rosa

Spring Lake Regional Park, Santa Rosa

Smack dab in the heart of Northern California’s Wine Country, the vibrant city of Santa Rosa blends the pleasures of urban culture with the romance inherent in its beautiful countryside.

It’s the perfect destination for people who want to spend their days wine tasting, exploring back-country roads, and engaging in outdoor adventures … and their nights enjoying top-notch arts and entertainment performances or cuisine ranging from comfort-food cafés to special occasion restaurants.

Here are 5 fun things to do while you’re in town:

1. Visit Luther Burbank Home & Gardens

Flowers bloom in front of the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens, Santa Rosa
Luther Burbank Home & Gardens

Known as the Wizard of Horticulture, Luther Burbank was 27 when he moved from Massachusetts to Santa Rosa in 1875. A self-educated agricultural scientist who had already developed the Russet Burbank potato, he would go on to develop about 800 plant creations in Sonoma County’s mild climate and year-round growing season. Among his big successes are the Santa Rosa Plum, July Elberta peach, Flaming Gold nectarine, and Shasta daisy.

The Greek Revival home where Burbank lived from 1884 to 1906 is now a National Historic Landmark open to the public. The grounds also contain a greenhouse, one acre of gardens planted with Burbank creations, and his grave. The house’s furnishings are original, and the former carriage house is now a museum/gift shop.

Charming and serene, it’s all located in downtown Santa Rosa, which was open countryside when Burbank took up residence.

2. Enjoy an African Trek at Safari West

Guests take photos of a giraffe up close at Safari West Wildlife Preserve & African Tent Camp, Santa Rosa
Safari West

Riding in an open-air vehicle through Safari West’s 400-acre preserve — while catching sight of gazelles, zebras, cheetahs, antelopes, cape buffalo, wildebeests, giraffes, and other exotic animals — you’ll feel as if you’re on the Serengeti Plains.

About 700 animals reside in this wildlife preserve, and in conditions close to their natural African habitat, you’ll see them socializing, eating, and playing. Spend the night, and you’ll sleep in a luxury tent imported from Africa; the beds are plush, and the showers are hot.

3. Go Boating, Fishing, or Swimming at Spring Lake Regional Park

A couple sits on a bench next to the water at Spring Lake Regional Park, Santa Rosa
Spring Lake Regional Park

This 320-acre regional park, surrounded by hills, is home to a lake, ponds, oak woodlands, grasslands, meadows, and spring-through-summer wildflowers. Among many popular activities here (including hiking, camping, cycling, and birding), three involve the park’s water features.

Boating: Go boating throughout the year in a canoe, kayak or paddle boat — or windsurf! Rentals are available May through September, or bring your own craft (up to 16 feet in length, no gas-powered engines allowed). Life jackets must be worn while on the lake.

Fishing: The lake is stocked with sunfish, catfish, and large-mouth bass, allowing you to catch lunch or dinner (and, if you like, grill it on one of the picnic area grills). Anyone over 16 needs a California fishing license.

Swimming: From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the lake provides a lovely 3-acre swimming lagoon with a sandy beach. A colorful, inflatable water playground lets adults and children (age 6 or older) bounce, climb, slide, and balance on a series of floating play stations.

4. Hang with Charlie Brown & Friends

A statue of Charlie Brown greets visitors to the Charles M. Schulz Museum, Santa Rosa
Charles M. Schulz Museum

Go ice skating at Snoopy’s Home Ice, built in 1969 by local resident Charles M. Schulz, creator of the legendary comic strip Peanuts. An avid ice skater, Schulz, who died in 2000, could often be found here — usually playing ice hockey.

Surrounded by redwood trees and resembling a Swiss chalet, the arena offers daily public skating. The Warm Puppy Café serves sandwiches, burgers, and salads, and you can pick up Peanuts memorabilia in Snoopy’s Gallery and Gift Shop.

Nearby, you’ll find the Charles M. Schulz Museumwhich is dedicated to Schulz’s life, career, and art. On a visit, you’ll find the world’s largest collection of original Peanuts artwork, watch animated Peanuts specials, view Peanuts products dating from the 1950s onward (dolls, toys, games), and delight in unexpected treasures like the “Wrapped Snoopy House” — a doghouse wrapped and turned into an environmental artwork by legendary artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

And thanks to community fund-raising art projects over the years, whimsically decorated statues of four Peanuts characters — Charlie Brown, Woodstock, Snoopy, and Lucy — are scattered throughout Santa Rosa. For details about how and where to find them, read Explore Snoopy and the Peanuts in Sonoma County.

5. Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

Two balloons float over vineyards in Sonoma County
Hot air balloons glide over vineyards in Santa Rosa.

Graced with extraordinary views, from steep mountains to the Pacific Ocean, Sonoma County hot-air ballooning makes for an unforgettable experience. Most balloons launch in the early morning when winds are light and temperatures cool — factors that ensure an easy launch and safe landing.

hot air balloon over the russian river valley
A hot air balloon soars over mountains and trees.

Two excellent companies in Sonoma County offer balloon expeditions, meeting passengers at easy-to-reach sites and transporting them by van to the day’s launch site.

For more details, read Hot Air Ballooning in Sonoma County, which gives a brief overview of each company — Up & Away Ballooning and Wine Country Balloons.

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