Spending the holidays in Sonoma Wine Country promises great fun. Wineries are decked out for the holidays, and many magical events and activities await visitors of all ages. With shopping, sipping, skating and more, here are a few ways to celebrate. You'll also find more current festivals and events on our Sonoma County Calendar of Events.
The official lighting ceremony is 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 17, but the Holidays in Sonoma festivities continue through December at the Historic Sonoma Plaza. Attractions include 8 acres of 100,000 sparkling lights, periodic musical performances, hot cider, hot chocolate, and cookies.
This offering from Wine Country Walking Tours is so popular that it’s now become an annual event. At the heart is a guided Fine Wine and Foodie Walking Tour beginning at the festive tree lit Healdsburg Plaza, voted as one of the Top 10 Plazas in America according to Travel & Leisure. Then, stroll the decorated tree lined streets throughout downtown, stopping at restaurants, tasting rooms, and boutiques to savor freshly baked artisan breads, delicious chocolates, Ports, warm holiday spiced teas, and delectable bites paired with wines all along the way. Four-hour day tours and two-hour evening tours are available.
The annual Lighting of the Snowmen Festival is set for 4-8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. It all began in 2004 when David Allen, owner of Artefact Design & Salvage at the Cornerstone Sonoma center, discovered that a snowman factory in Boston was closing, and bought its entire stock. Each year since then, the hundreds of smiling snowmen are arranged in a creative and stunning scene that varies from year to year. After the festival,the lighted snowmen remain on display through the end of December, creating a unique backdrop for holiday events at Cornerstone. The lighting festival includes live music, kids' holiday crafts and games, wine and beer tasting, and and more.
Guerneville’s Korbel Champagne Cellars is known for its elaborate gift shop, gourmet deli and gardens, and gift packs like the popular combo of three bottles of Korbel Champagne, two Champagne flutes, and a box of Champagne truffles. Through the three-day spree, the winery will offer special sales, Christmas carolers from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and an appearance by Santa Claus from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Celebrate the season and find gifts for all of your loved ones with a festive shopping experience featuring over 80 local artists at the Finley Center in Santa Rosa. There will be live entertainment, a visit from Santa, kettle corn, cookies, and hot beverages for purchase.
The Dickens Dinners are a highlight of the year at Madrona Manor, when carolers wander the dining rooms, dressed in period clothing of Olde 19th Century England, and The Twelfth Night Singers pause for private a-cappella serenades of “Jingle Bells” (complete with theatrical cracks for the whips) and breathtaking hymns. Even more delicious: Michelin-star executive chef Jesse Mallgren prepares a five-course celebration of new and old holiday traditions, paired with wines.
Santé at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa puts together one of the most elaborate Christmas dinners to be found, in a lavish buffet made even more elegant with live music. The menu from chefs Bruno Tison and Andrew Cain offers table after table of appetizers like house made pâté de campagne wrapped in Hobbs applewood smoked bacon; house made terrine of Liberty duck and organic pork in pastry; charcuterie; local and artisan cheeses; and caviar blinis. There are salads, soups, and the showstoppers - carving stations featuring items like roasted all natural goose with spiced cranberry, apple and raisin relish; Niman Ranch beef tenderloin Wellington with mushrooms duxelle and sauce financière; and roasted marinated leg of venison with sauce poivrade. Other temptations can include braised veal sweetbreads, roasted lamb shoulder à la Provençale, and dozens of hand-crafted desserts from pastry chef Dave Blom.
Take a Hike (all winter long)
The Armstrong Redwoods State National Reserve spans 805-acres, in lush groves of 500 to 2,000 year-old trees towering to 350 feet (that’s taller than a football field is long). Breathe deep and savor the velvety quiet and solitude; the massive trees are often shrouded in mystical fog with swords of sunlight piercing through. For one of the easiest way to navigate, take the mile-and-a-half long round trip Pioneer Nature Trail over mostly flat terrain. Tip: dogs are not allowed on trails, though they can join you in the developed picnic areas.
Find more things to do over the holidays on the Sonoma County calendar of events.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.