Taking “locally grown” to a new level

With its colorful history as a dairy town, foodie paradise, and gateway from the San Francisco Bay Area to Sonoma County, Petaluma offers visitors endless adventures — the quirkier the better.

The best places to explore in this river town are those long-treasured local favorites. The next time you find yourself in Petaluma, be sure not to miss some of the eateries, historical excursions, and open spaces that may not make it into every guidebook, but definitely make for a unique trip.

Here are seven hidden gems to work into your itinerary and get you started on your next one-of-a-kind Petaluma adventure:

Military Antiques & Museum

A tour of historic downtown Petaluma isn’t complete without a trip back in time at the Military Antiques & Museum. With thousands of vintage artifacts for sale, from the Civil War to contemporary conflict to the home front and everything in between, this military shop and accompanying museum provide an educational peek into the past. The museum features life-size dioramas of service people in action and enough artifacts to engage you for hours on end — for no entrance fee save what you choose to donate.

Chick-A-BOOM! Vintage

Another experience quite fitting to enjoy in the historical downtown is exploring Chick-A-BOOM! Vintage. Personally curated by proprietor Marissa Patrick since 2010, this collection features vintage pieces from as early as the 19th century to as recently as the 1980s and promises a good time for anyone who appreciates sartorial adventures. This specialty shop caters to vintage lovers of all genders, shapes, and sizes, and prides itself on offering high-quality clothes for everyday wear. Dare to play dress up and you may just fall in love with a new look.

Real Döner

Your search for the ideal gyro ends here, at one of Petaluma’s best-kept foodie secrets. Situated on a side street just off Petaluma Boulevard, Real Döner has been serving up premier Mediterranean and Turkish food at street food prices for a decade now. This casual eatery, a family affair run by immigrant and former taxi driver Ozkan Apaydin, opens the door to another culture. Stick to a classic, like their ever popular Lamb and Beef Döner, or get more creative with sides like Eggplant Salad, Lahmacun, or Tabouli. Whatever you do, don’t leave without a taste of their Turkish Tea and baklava! Jenn Edit

Achadinha Cheese Co.

In a town put on the map largely by the dairy industry, it can be a challenge to stand out amongst such a collection of artisan cheese makers. Yet Achadinha Cheese Company does just that. On their 230-acre farm just southwest of town, the Pacheco family has been herding cows and goats (affectionately referred to as ‘the girls’) since 1969, with their roots as dairy farmers extending generations back in Portugal. The Pachecos value all natural and sustainable practices and will excitedly show you what makes their goat cheese operation unique, from the brewer’s grain they feed their girls to the way they take the animals’ personalities into account. Be sure to call or email in advance to book a tour of their property or a cheese-making class, complete with some goat time and cheese tasting.

Tolay Lake Regional Park

Need a nature break? Just a few miles southeast of the city center, you’ll find Sonoma County’s largest regional park: Tolay Lake. Consisting of 3,434 acres of hillside, grasslands, and protected wildlands, Tolay Lake Regional Park features over eight miles of trails popular with hikers of all ages and even hosts an autumn celebration every year. Remarkable not just for its wildlife habitat, however, Tolay Lake has a long history of human settlement ranging back 8,000 years, with indigenous peoples such as Coastal Miwok and Pomo having made their home here as well. Before exploring the history and landscape of this remarkable park, be sure to get a free day-use permit.

Everest Restaurant

The best way to end a day of adventuring is with a hearty meal at a locally renowned gem. Serving up some of Petaluma’s best Indian cuisine, Everest Indian Restaurant gives its patrons a tasty glimpse into the realm of hand-ground spices and passed-down recipes. Notably, this family-run restaurant also hones in on the proprietors’ Nepalese background, showcasing harder-to-find Nepalese and Tibetan dishes as well. Change it up with their succulent Fish Curry or go straight for the Lamb Chutney for a taste of the Himalayas. Whatever you do, make sure to order extra naan.

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