The Definitive Guide to Family-Friendly Fun in Sonoma County
With a little planning, creativity, and flexibility, the whole family can enjoy a vacation in Wine Country.
Many parents think their days exploring Northern California's Wine Country must be put on hold while their kids are small. Not so in Sonoma County. With its exceptional variety of natural attributes — the Pacific Ocean, rivers, lakes, ancient redwood forests, farmlands — and family-friendly indoor attractions, you will discover unique and memorable adventures for the whole family (along with plenty of world-renowned wine, of course).
Here are just a few kid- and parent-approved vacation ideas in Sonoma County.
This 805-acre reserve is a great place for your family to take in the towering majesty of Sonoma County's coastal redwood trees. As big as the park is, it's easy to navigate the mostly flat, mile-and-a-half-long Pioneer Nature Trail. Some of the most popular trees include the Icicle Tree, with its mysterious burl formations, the Colonel Armstrong Tree, estimated to be over 1,400 years old, and the Parson Jones Tree, towering to 350 feet (that's taller than a football field is long!).
Even though this paved trail runs along a salt marsh that's home to wildlife and thousands of birds throughout the year, rowdy kids and leashed dogs are welcome. Give the kids binoculars and see which animals they can spy with their little eyes. The path is easy — looping one mile through Doran Regional Park and Bird Walk Coastal Access Park along Doran Park Marsh and tidal channels, over a new 110-foot bridge that spans Cheney Creek, and connecting to the Bird Walk Park up on the levees.
Candy & Kites and Second Wind, Bodega Bay
With some of the best-ever kite-flying conditions found on Sonoma County’s breezy coast, it’s no wonder the tiny town of Bodega Bay boasts two kite stores. You could bring your own ... or, shop for a delightful new one in town at Candy & Kites and Second Wind, both located on coastal Highway 1. The nearby Doran Regional Park hosts the Castles and Kites Festival each May, with spectacular kites, demonstrations, and kite-flying training on the beach, as well as sandcastle sculpture creations.
Horseback Riding, Bodega Bay
The hillsides and coastal forests of Bodega Bay bring gorgeous Pacific Ocean views, made even finer on horseback. There are two great local options for guided horseback rides, each offering beach, sand dune, and inland trail rides, all as relaxing or exhilarating as your experience level allows: Chanslor Stables and Horse N Around Trail Rides. When you see the big, gentle eyes of the noble steeds, you know the creatures are well loved. Combine happy animals with stunning open range, vistas, cliffs, and beaches, and you're in for a special encounter.
Featuring an amusement park with a miniature train ride, carousel, animal farm, and pony rides, this community park is an ideal place to bring the family while out exploring Santa Rosa. Howarth Park also has several unique playground structures, a beautiful lake for fishing and boating, a softball field, tennis courts, picnic areas, and miles of hiking and jogging areas.
Petrified Forest, Calistoga
Step back in time and witness redwood trees that were turned to stone 3.4 million years ago by a local volcano. Visitors can take self-guided tours throughout the forest on one or both of the park's 1/2-mile trails. Although the post office lists this as a Calistoga (Napa County) address, the park is located just over the border in Sonoma County.
Enjoy a “wild” time by riding in an open-air safari vehicle through this 400-acre wildlife preserve. You’ll catch sight of more than 900 animals, including giraffes, lemurs, cheetahs, and wildebeests. And it gets even better — you can stay overnight in one of their luxurious safari tents.
If your teens (ages 13+) need some excitement, check out the Sears Point Driving Experience, which houses the longest go-kart racing track in California. Or, quench your teen's thirst for speed by booking a racing lesson with one of the seasoned professionals on staff at Sears Point.
Discover the California redwoods from a heightened vantage point with Sonoma Zipline Adventures. Here you will traverse through a redwood forest, over a ravine, and along a creek from 300 feet in the air. Their course includes seven ziplines — one of which is the longest in California — as well as two sky bridges, a 30-foot spiral staircase, and a 60-foot rappel to finish. Families can choose from Tree Tops, Forest, and Night Zipline Tours. Tour times vary by day. Reservations are required.
Sonoma Plaza, Sonoma
This eight-acre park in the center of Sonoma includes a duck pond and two playgrounds, making it a great place for kids to burn off some energy. We recommend stopping here for a picnic and to feed the ducks before enjoying the shops, historic sites, and other things to do around Sonoma Plaza.
State and Regional Parks, throughout Sonoma County
The more than 55 state and regional parks scattered around Wine Country offer a wide array of family fun, including fishing, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, and dedicated cycling trails. Many offer seasonal programming, so check the schedule to see what's happening during your visit.
Does your kid love Thomas the Train? If so, this old-fashioned, scaled-down railroad will surely delight them! The 20-minute train ride goes over bridges, through tunnels, and stops in its miniature town, “Lakeview,” which includes a petting zoo. Kids will also get to enjoy six other rides including a carousel and Ferris wheel.
While experiencing our many outdoor activities, please encourage your children to help us preserve and protect our natural environment for all of the other families making memories in Sonoma County by following the seven Leave No Trace Principles.
Activities on the Water
Finley Community Center & Aquatic Complex, Santa Rosa
If you're visiting Sonoma County during the summer, come cool off at the Finley Aquatic Complex. Along with its two pools, this 12.2-acre community park offers a large playground area, picnic tables and barbecues, paved walking trails, and basketball, tennis, horseshoe, and sand volleyball courts.
Johnson's Beach, Guerneville
Get the party started just beneath Guerneville's entryway bridge, lounging on the spotlessly clean river sandbar — Johnson's Beach. Here you can rent umbrellas and beach chairs as well as by-the-hour canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats. If you and your kids like to chat with new friends, you'll like it here, since groups gather to socialize and gossip about small-town doings. Rustic cabin-type rooms and tent campsites are also available.
Ridgway Swim Center, Santa Rosa
This year-round public swimming center offers a nine-lane competition lap pool and shallow pool (2- to 3.5-feet deep) with a 140-foot water slide and several tumble buckets. Hours vary by season, so we recommend calling ahead before planning your trip.
Spring Lake Regional Park, Santa Rosa
This 320-acre park features camping sites, fishing piers, hiking and biking trails, and picnic areas as well as paddleboard, kayak, and boat rentals. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the lake opens for swimming, and the Water Park — an inflatable, floating play structure on the lagoon — is available as well. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer months.
Spring Lake also includes the Environmental Discovery Center, with interactive displays and activities aimed at kids ages six to 12. Youngsters can touch sea creatures in tidal-action pools, watch fish from the park's lake swimming in an aquarium, and learn about Mother Earth in the storytelling cavern. The center is open to the public from noon to 5 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays.
Owner Suki Waters is a local Native American descendant, guide, and kayak instructor specializing in wildlife, Sonoma County history, and ecology tours. From beginner boaters to skilled paddlers, there's an adventure for all on the amazing coast. 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.
As one of the North Bay Area’s only roller skating rinks, Cal Skate lets you strap on skates or blades and glide away. On Fridays, Open Skate features a series of games and modern hit music for a fun family night out.
Children's Museum of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa
Dedicated to instilling a sense of wonder and teaching children (and their parents) about the arts, sciences, and the world around them, the Children's Museum provides hands-on, interactive exhibits and activities in a safe environment, custom-designed for families with children ages 10 and younger.
Scandia Family Fun Center, Rohnert Park
This kid's fantasyland includes two 18-hole miniature golf courses complete with tiny buildings, bridges, and waterways. A favorite for kids, the bumper "blaster" boats come equipped with water sprayers (a great way to cool off on a warm day), while the straight track and banked turns of Lil' Indy Raceway gives kids an adrenaline-pumping racing experience. Also featured are 18 batting cages with slow pitch and fast pitch.
Fundemonium, Rohnert Park
This toy, hobby, and game store boasts 14,000 square feet of fun. Options include a children’s play area, a slot car track, an indoor, radio-controlled car track, rock tables for radio-controlled rock crawlers, a snack bar, and LEGO play.
Charles M. Schulz Museum, Santa Rosa
If you happen to have some Peanuts fans in the family, visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum and research center. This fun, laidback museum has some interesting exhibits about the famed cartoonist and his beloved Peanuts characters. Directly across the street is Snoopy’s Home Ice stadium for ice skating with the family. For more details about all things Peanuts, read Explore Snoopy and the Peanuts in Sonoma County 2-Day Itinerary.
Pacific Coast Air Museum, Santa Rosa
Imagination takes flight at the Pacific Coast Air Museum, whose mission is to educate children and preserve aviation history. The museum displays historic aircraft and features antique World War II planes. They also host several events throughout the year, like the Wheels & Wings Car Show in September.
The House of Happy Walls Museum sounds delightful even before you know what it is. What makes this National Historic Landmark abode so cheerful is that it salutes author Jack London's artistic life, set appropriately enough in Jack London State Historic Park. Jack lived for adventure, and today, families can hike the 26 miles of connecting trails of this 39-acre backcountry woodland retreat and mountain expanse, just as he did. Free guided tours are available on the weekends.
Check out more family-friendly things to do in Glen Ellen.
Epicenter Sports and Entertainment, Santa Rosa
Packed with a unique mix of attractions built for adults but fun for kids, Epicenter is the North Bay's largest all-in-one destination for sports, recreation, entertainment, dining, and nightlife. The facilities includes a trampoline park, upscale bowling lounge, 100+ game arcade, two-story laser tag arena, multi-sensory 7D adventure ride, and much more. There's also a sports bar on-site, so your family can make a whole day of it!