Free Things to Do in Sonoma County

Cornerstone Sonoma

The Sonoma Wine Country lifestyle is luxuriously full and rich – but that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive; there are many low-cost or free things to enjoy as part of the Sonoma County experience.

Wine, fresh food, the arts, and the great outdoors – these are some of the many treasures in Sonoma County. With that in mind, here’s a round-up of 30 – count ’em, 30 – low-cost or free things to do in Sonoma Wine Country.

Get the FREE Visitors Guide and Map

Already thinking about how to get here? Consider flying into STS – Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, where you can fly direct from Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, San Diego and more.

Together, we can protect and preserve the beauty and natural resources of Sonoma County for generations to come. Check out our page on Sustainable Travel, and look over the Leave No Trace Seven Principles.

Complimentary Wine Tastings

With the December 2017 creation of the Petaluma Gap district, Sonoma County contains 18 American Viticulture Areas (AVAs, appellations, or wine-growing regions) with unique soils and climates that allow specific grape varieties to grow particularly well. Each AVA is a place unto itself, and worth exploring. Drive around the area, and see what you can discover.

A sign for the free vineyard walking tours is posted at St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, Sonoma County
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

The Sonoma County Vineyard Adventures program offers free, no-appointment, self-guided vineyard tours, usually less than a mile long and easy to walk. When you visit one of the participating wineries, stop in the tasting room to pick up a detailed walking-tour guide to the vineyard.

Several Sonoma County wineries still offer free wine tasting, and those that charge a minimal tasting fee (usually under $20) typically will apply it to the purchase of a bottle. For specifics, search our directory of all Sonoma County Wineries.

Visit a Local Farm

For more than 40 years, Sonoma County Farm Trails members have opened their farms and ranches to the public. Use a Farm Trails map to explore Sonoma County’s agricultural heritage and to experience life on the farm with sheep, llamas, honey bees, butterflies, birds, and more.

Hundreds of pumpkins on display at Hale's Apple Farm, Sebastopol
Hale’s Apple Farm, Sebastopol

Or, explore Sonoma County’s agricultural bounty by attending a Wine Country farmers market, where in addition to vendors selling fresh produce and local crafts, you may also find live music, community activities, prepared foods, and more, depending on the market. Most farmers markets are seasonal, but some are year round.

Visit an Art Gallery or Exhibit

Sculptures made out of junk by Patrick Amiot line Florence Avenue in Sebastopol
Florence Avenue, Sebastopol

  • Florence Avenue in Sebastopol is guarded by giant, colorful sculptures made entirely from reclaimed items (otherwise known as junk). Drive or stroll down this three-block-long neighborhood and be greeted by a rat at the wheel of a hot rod, a tea-sipping Mad Hatter, a sea captain, Batman, and roughly two dozen more sculptures by Florence Avenue residents and artists Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent.
  • Christopher Queen Galleries specializes in early California paintings and contemporary art. The main gallery features early California art, dating from the 1860s to the 1940s, by artists who are represented in the Oakland Museum, the De Young, the Crocker Museum in Sacramento, and other museums and institutions. The downstairs salon features contemporary representational art depicting landscapes, figural, still life, and genre. Open daily 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Tuesdays.
  • Sonoma County Art Trails Open Studios allows you to travel the back roads of Sonoma County and visit artists in their studios. See how established and emerging artists work, and talk to them about their inspiration and motives. This annual event takes place over two weekends in October.
  • The northern Sonoma County communities of Geyserville and Cloverdale both host sculpture trails, which feature a wide variety of unique public artworks. For more details, read Following the Sculpture Trails in Northern Sonoma County.
  • Go walking to art: Sonoma County galleries and artists in several communities work together to present monthly “art walks,” especially in the summer months. It’s a chance to stroll through interesting neighborhoods, view a wide variety of artwork, sip a little wine, nibble an appetizer, and perhaps enjoy a bit of live music. 

Visit Gardens

The climate that makes Sonoma County perfect for growing grapes also makes it an ideal home for unique gardens and nurseries featuring an amazing variety of plants.

The gardens in bloom at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, Healdsburg
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, Healdsburg

Winery Gardens

  • Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery features five acres of diverse gardens done in an Italian/French parterre style with classic geometric shapes forming the backbone of the design. Enjoy meandering paths, foot bridges along a rippling stream, waterfalls, fish-filled ponds, bronze sculptures by world-renowned artists, and more than 2,000 species of trees and shrubs marked with identification tags.
  • The rose garden at Korbel Champagne Cellars blooms each spring, and continues into summer and fall with more than 250 varieties of antique roses. Originally planted in the 1880s, the garden also features more than 1,000 other types of flowers, all set in mini micro-climate gardens celebrating different areas of the world. Admission is free; a garden tour is offered daily, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday, mid-April through mid-October.

Famous Gardens

  • Now a unique city park, the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is where world-renowned horticulturist Luther Burbank lived and experimented with plants for most of his 50-year career. More than an acre of gardens include many of Burbank’s horticultural contributions, with special areas focused on medicinal herbs, cutting flowers, roses, wildlife habitats and ornamental grasses. The grounds are open daily, 8 a.m. to dusk, for free self-guided tours; docent-led tours of the grounds and buildings are $10 for adults and $8.50 for seniors or college students (children under 12 are free with an adult).
  • Use a free trail map to take a self-guided tour of the Luther Burbank Experiment Farm, on the remaining three acres of the 15-acre Gold Ridge Farm where the noted horticulturist developed and grew thousands of new hybrids and cross breeds. Engraved signs list the common and scientific names, making it easy to identify each plant in the garden. Burbank introduced more than 800 new varieties of fruit and nut trees, flowers, vegetables, ornamental shrubs, and grains, including the Shasta daisy and the common baking potato. The farm is dedicated to preserving, studying, and promoting Burbank’s work. Open dawn to dusk; free admission; docent-led tours are available by appointment.
  • Explore an ever-changing series of gallery-style walk-through gardens at Cornerstone SonomaThe gardens showcase new and innovative designs from the world’s finest landscape architects and designers. Each one is unique; some are architectural, some more plant oriented, and all encourage interaction and contemplation. Cornerstone is now home to the Sunset Magazine Gardens + Outdoor Test Kitchen, and also offers a mix of unique shops and galleries, as well as tasting rooms and a deli/cafĂ©. Festivals and other events are held on weekends.

Rare + Unique Gardens

  • Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve on Sonoma County’s northern coast offers one of the prettiest walks you’ll ever find, especially from early spring to mid-June when the 317-acre reserve’s enormous number of spectacular rhododendrons burst into bloom. Open daily from sunrise to sunset; leashed dogs and bicycles are allowed on the trails. And the rhododendron reserve is right next to Salt Point State Park, which features a pygmy forest and 20 miles of hiking trails.
  • Sonoma Botanical Garden nurtures the beauty and value of Asian and California native plants. Home to one of one of North America’s largest and most important collections of temperate-climate Asian plants, the Garden features mature flowering Asian trees and shrubs, as well as waterfalls, ponds, and amazing views. 
  • The Russian River Rose Company features 650 varieties of roses, and more than 2,000 individual plants. Special workshops and other events are often offered on weekends.

Farm Gardens + Nurseries

  • Western Hills Garden is a three-acre botanical gem, described by the New York Times in 2005 as the “Tiffany’s of plants.” Founded in 1960, the Western Hills Rare Plant Nursery was a destination spot for serious gardeners until it closed in 2010. It is now open for individual or group tours and plant sales by appointment on selected days. 
  • Wildwood Nursery is a family-run, four-acre, specialty plant nursery, where established gardens blend unusual plants from diverse cultures in unique displays. Highlights include 250 different Japanese maples, 50 varieties of dogwood trees, and a wide variety of companion plants for Western gardens.

Hike in Over 50 Regional and State Parks

A family with kids hikes amongst the redwoods at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Guerneville
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

  • Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is a living reminder of the magnificent primeval redwood forest that covered much of this area before logging operations began during the 19th century. This 805-acre park is the largest remaining old-growth redwood forest in Sonoma County, and features a magnificent grove of ancient redwoods, a large outdoor amphitheater, self-guided nature trails and a variety of picnic facilities.
  • Sugarloaf Ridge State Park straddles the boundary between Sonoma and Napa counties, and offers 25 miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding through oak woodland and chaparral; bicycles are allowed on designated paths; and on a clear day, visitors can see views of the Sierra Nevada and the Golden Gate Bridge from the 2,729-foot summit of Bald Mountain.
  • Robert Ferguson Observatory, located inside Sugarloaf park, periodically offers the public a chance to view the stars for free or for a nominal fee of $5 a person. Stroll along the Planet Walk, a scale model of the solar system that has been shrunk more than 2,360,000,000 times – small enough to include the orbit of the most distant planet, and large enough that the smallest planets can still be seen.
  • Jack London State Historic Park blends the great outdoors with history in a memorial to writer and adventurer Jack London, who made his home at the site from 1905 until his death in 1916. The park combines 1,400 acres of trails and pristine vistas with historic buildings demonstrating early 20th century life.
  • Sonoma County Regional Parks offer everything from sandy beaches to springtime wildflower meadows, from community parks with playgrounds to river access and camping facilities – and more. Some sites offer free entry and parking, while others charge a $7 parking fee for day use.
  • LandPaths is a nonprofit dedicated to creating ways for people to experience the beauty, understand the value, and assist in healing the land in their local communities. It offers unusual, off-the-beaten-path hikes and workshops on preservation land. Many hikes and activities are free.

Head to the Coast

People stroll along the beach at sunset at Goat Rock Beach, Sonoma County
Goat Rock Beach

  • See a live seal show in Jenner. Throw your kayak or canoe into the Russian River at Duncans Mills and paddle to the mouth of the river to get close to the seals and sea lions that sun themselves on the beach. Don’t get too close, as they are wild animals and should be treated as such. Learn all about local wildlife at the Jenner Visitor Center. Operated by State Parks docents, the center includes a nature store and interpretive displays of local history, flora, and fauna.
  • Goat Rock Beach, near the mouth of the Russian River, is part of the 17-mile-long Sonoma Coast State Park. Goat Rock Beach is known for its scenic shoreline, easily accessible sandy beach, the massive rock that gives the place its name, and the colony of harbor seals that make their home on the far end of this beach. Please stay 50 yards from the seals, especially during pupping season, March to August. Due to the protected status of the seals, no dogs are allowed on Goat Rock Beach. Admission/parking is $8 per vehicle or $7 per senior vehicle; picnic tables and restroom facilities are available.
  • Bodega Head, the rocky headland that forms the entrance into Bodega Harbor, is also part of Sonoma Coast State Park. At Bodega Head, the harbor side provides a popular crabbing area along the jetty; hiking trails on the ocean side allow access to small, sandy coves and spectacular scenic bluff-top views; and the high cliffs offer excellent vantage points for observing migrating gray whales. It’s also a great napping spot – open your car windows, lean the seat back and be lulled to sleep by the sound of the crashing waves. Parking is free.

Paddle Down the Fresh Water

Boats in the marina at Lake Sonoma Recreation Area, Sonoma County
Lake Sonoma Recreation Area

  • Lake Sonoma Recreation Area is one of the prime recreational areas in Northern California. Warm Springs Dam forms Lake Sonoma with more than 2,700 surface acres of water for canoes, sailboats, motorboats, fishing, and skiing. About 40 miles of trails are available to horseback riders and hikers. In addition to developed campgrounds, boat-in campsites and many picnic areas, Lake Sonoma hosts the Don Clausen Fish Hatchery (also known as the Warm Springs Fish Hatchery), the most modern fish hatchery in California.
  • Steelhead Beach Regional Park provides access to the Russian River for drift boats, kayaks, canoes, and other small water craft. It’s also great for bird watching, viewing river wildlife, and picnicking. Parking is $7; using the launch area requires a $45 annual recreational access permit; licensed dogs are allowed only if on a leash no longer than six feet.
  • Forestville River Access offers a wide, sandy beach along the Russian River – a great place to picnic, bask in the sun, splash in water, read a book, or just relax. Known locally as “Mom’s Beach,” this county regional park is a great place to take the kids, but it’s also fantastic for just about anyone who wants to enjoy riverside recreation. Parking is free; licensed dogs are allowed only if on a leash no longer than six feet.These are just some of the many options available. With its welcoming, friendly and relaxed atmosphere, Sonoma County can be a great value for those wanting to enjoy the Wine Country lifestyle without breaking the bank. The important thing is how much fun you have.
Two red adirondack chairs overlook the vineyard at Hanna Winery - Alexander Valley Hospitality Center, Sonoma County
Hanna Winery – Alexander Valley Hospitality Center

Looking for more fun things to do during your trip to Sonoma County? Take a look at the many outdoor activities to enjoy in the valleys, vineyards, coastline, and Russian River areas of Sonoma County.

Visit one or more of the 425+ wineries in Sonoma County for a bit of wine tasting, and enjoy farm-to-table delights at great restaurants when you get hungry.

See Sonoma County’s safety tips for water activities here.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more ideas when planning your trip to Sonoma County. 

You Might Also Like

Hamel Family Wines, wine tasting and non-alcoholic tasting

With a massive flood of zero-proof beverages recently hitting the market, it’s become fairly easy to find nonalcoholic alternatives on…

handmade pizza at Glen Ellen Star
Trip Itineraries

As a Sonoma local, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing Sonoma County’s finest offerings and generally end up with the…

Movie Prop Car On Display at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Occidental

As you meander the wee 60-yard block of downtown, strolling its wooden sidewalks past 19th-century, false-front buildings, you’ll feel as…

Winter scenery at Luther Burbank in Sebastopol CA
Outdoor Activities

Lush greenery, foggy coastlines, seasonal harvests and unique wildlife sightings – Sonoma County in winter is a place where visitors…

Hot air balloon ride in sonoma county
Sightseeing & Tours

Without a doubt, Wine Country is one of the world’s most breathtaking regions to travel through whether you are looking…

Girls Getaway in Sonoma County
Food & Wine

Winter might be considered the off-season for many of the world’s hottest travel destinations, but a Wine Country visit between…

Wine tasting at sunset.
Trip Itineraries

Fall is a busy time in Sonoma County — from colorful hikes to the perfect pumpkin patch, discover what locals…

Pig at Charlie's Acres
Sustainable Travel

Need a pick-me-up? These nonprofits offer ways to spend time with cute animals — you could even try some goat…

Yellow wildflowers covering field
Outdoor Activities

Springtime offers a brilliant array of things to see and do in Sonoma County, from wildflower walks to cheese crawls!…

Wingo, California, Sonoma County’s Ghost Town, photographed by @chrisjkam
Outdoor Activities

Traveling mindfully to Sonoma County allows us to have experiences that can be savored in a place focused on and…

See What’s Happening

Share your experience using #SonomaCounty or #LifeOpensUp