Perfect Spring Saturdays in Sonoma County

Wildflowers explode throughout Sonoma County in springtime.

Springtime in Sonoma County is hard to beat! Plan ahead with our weekend-by-weekend, month-by-month collection of popular experiences — from wildflower walks to cheese crawls. Your expert guides? Sonoma County writers who offer insider knowledge with pride.

For other ideas, check out our calendar of events.

March

Sonoma County Artisan Cheese Festival
Cheese is on display at the California Artisan Cheese Festival in Sonoma County.

Spring’s Best Cheese

A hands-on cheese making class at The Epicurean Connection in Sonoma will lead you through the making of 2-plus pounds of a delicious crème de ricotta, which students get to take home. Cheese expert and instructor Sheana Davis will also lead students through a tasting of several different local artisan cheeses. Either before or after class, the back patio at Sunflower Caffé, filled with flowers and plants, is a lovely place to kick back with a glass of white peach sparkling wine and eggy French toast with bacon. The Plaza is yours to explore for the rest of the day—perhaps try a flight of wine at Corner 103, named one of the best tasting rooms in the country. –Mya Constantino

Sugarloaf Ridge Wildflowers

They’re tiny but tenacious, spreading out in vast swaths or hiding amid the spring greenery. Sugarloaf Ridge is a particularly fertile place to search for spring’s wildflowers. The vast state park above Kenwood has everything from penstemon and trillium to golden fairy lanterns and lupine. Several of the trails here are rigorous, but the Canyon-Pony Gate Trail loop is a moderate choice. Two miles will take you through a redwood grove with starflowers and other spring greenery. Ready for a bite? Tips Roadside awaits at the bottom of the mountain with cold pints and comfort food. The fried Brussels sprouts, with enough to share, are the stuff of dreams, and don’t miss the beignets. -Meg McConahey

London’s Fantasy

Sonoma County is home to many public parks, but none more famous than Glen Ellen’s Jack London State Historic Park. A visit to the novelist’s vintage white-clapboard cottage, shows the office and adjacent sunroom where London wrote many of his later books and short stories. Abundant hiking trails within the park reveal London’s life as a farmer and early conservationist, with a revolutionary-for-its-time pig barn and a 100-year-old dam. The House of Happy Walls, where London’s widow, Charmian, lived after the author’s death, is now a recently-revamped museum. Back in town, head to the Fig Café to polish off an excellent burger. -Kienan O’Doherty

April

Donum Estate in Sonoma County
Art installations amaze through The Donum Estate property.

Nursery Crawl

For Earth Day, Bay Area gardening geeks know that Sonoma County is the best destination for a nursery crawl. Clear your trunk, lay down a tarp and head out for a plant lover’s dream day. Start at The Nursery at Emerisa Gardens in Santa Rosa for quality perennials, grasses, and shrubs. Then explore the enchanting 7-acre display gardens at Sebastopol’s Hidden Forest Nursery for blooming azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias. Stock up on tools, seeds, and starts at Harmony Farm Supply and Nursery. Then refuel for an afternoon of planting at Hole in the Wall, serving an all-day breakfast fit for a farmer, with the veggie-stuffed Gardeners Omelet. -Meg McConahey

High-Design Tasting

Last summer at The Donum Estate, a biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir and Chardonnay house in the Carneros region, Berlin-based designers Studio Other Spaces completed an art installation housing a high-end tasting experience like nothing else. The new Vertical Panorama Pavilion has a swirl of rainbow-hued glass panels arching overhead, like an otherworldly Easter bonnet alighting to rest in the middle of the vineyard. Beneath the dome, the riot of color brings to mind an explosion of spring wildflowers, an optimism reflected in the complexities of the wine. A tasting held inside the pavilion is a once-in-a-lifetime splurge, but other tasting options here offer views of the installation along with tours of the art collection and sculpture garden. After, try downtown Sonoma’s Tasca Tasca, where a satisfying snack of Portuguese tapas for two runs about $30. -Abigail Peterson

Gothic Mansion

General Mariano Vallejo founded the town of Sonoma and was involved in California’s transition from a territory of Mexico to becoming part of the U.S. His beautiful two-story Carpenter Gothic home was built in 1852 on land the Native Americans called “crying mountain,” which Vallejo translated into Latin as “Lachryma Montis.” It’s decorated in 1850s Victorian style, almost as if the Vallejo family still lives there. Or maybe they are, in spirit? On one of my visits, a locked closet doorknob vigorously rotated back and forth without having been touched. After your visit, an adjacent bike and walking path leads to the Sonoma Plaza, where El Dorado Cantina has delicious to-go duck confit tacos. -Yovanna Bierberich

Whales Head North

In late April and early May in particular, the peninsula at Bodega Head, part of Sonoma Coast State Park, is a great place to see gray whales during their migration back from Baja California to Alaska. They swim north along the coast just offshore, providing great viewing opportunities without having to leave land. Look closely and you might catch some mothers and their calves. –Marisa Endicott

Natural Escape

Riverfront Regional Park in Healdsburg is a beautiful spot for all kinds of outdoor excursions, but one of my favorites is kayaking in the park’s two lakes. Nestled along the Russian River off picturesque Eastside Road, the park feels like a true escape to the natural world. There’s leisurely fishing plus plenty of birds and other wildlife to spy through the trees. Beforehand, the best way to kickstart a day of kayaking is to grab a big breakfast—crepes, pork buns, pastries, or egg sandwiches— at the Saturday morning Santa Rosa Farmers Market at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. -Emma Murphy

May

Mitote Food Park in Santa Rosa, CA
Mitote Park in Santa Rosa has an array of food options.

Latino Heritage

Southeast Santa Rosa’s Taylor Mountain Regional Park is perfect in May, with native oaks and rigorous uphill hikes that will get your heart racing. After, the nearby Mitote Food Park, a hub of Mexican food trucks in the heart of Roseland, is a celebration of local heritage. Try the fresh mango ceviche at La Victoria or succulent mushroom tacos at Gio Y Los Magos. Linger for a lively fiesta fueled by local bands and dancing. For the Aztecs, the word “mitote” means a round dance or a community celebration– and that’s exactly what you’ll find here. -Alana Minkler

Forgotten History

It’s known as Sonoma County’s ghost town, but the truth is that Wingo is neither haunted (as far as we know) nor deserted any more. Back in the day, Wingo—in the marshlands south of Schellville – was accessed only by rail and by boat. The small cluster of houses, many now being fixed up by locals, all have docks on Sonoma Creek, which connects to a network of sloughs. For a 5.5-mile round-trip hike, start at Larson Family Winery on Millerick Road and follow along as the road turns to gravel. At some point, you’ll convince yourself you’re lost, but keep going and eventually Wingo will appear like a hallucination. When you get back, why not return the favor to the Larsons and taste some of their wines? Then head east a short way on Highway 121 to Lou’s Luncheonette. Order whatever you’d like for lunch, but you’re missing out if it isn’t the spicy chicken and waffles. – Phil Barber

Plein Air Painting

Sonoma County is just as full of artists as it is of interesting landscapes and places to paint. A surface and some paint or sketchpad and pencils are all you need to jump into outdoor, or “plein air,” painting. On any given weekend, you might find artists with easels set up on the beach, in downtown Petaluma or at local parks, capturing the scene. But you don’t have to paint alone. Local parks like Pepperwood Preserve occasionally offer classes led by artists who teach how to paint natural settings, and professional and amateur artists meet for regular outdoor painting sessions through groups such as Ready, Set, Sketch!. -Antonie Boessenkool

Steam Power

Sturgeon’s Mill is a working museum and turn-of-last-century lumber camp on the outskirts of Sebastopol. Steam whistles, sputtering engines, and buzzing saws help volunteers tell the fascinating history of this mill, which for 50 years supplied redwood lumber to the area. Kids will love seeing draft horses and blacksmiths at work, and it’s a real treat for everyone to watch an enormous redwood get turned into planks of lumber. The only catch? It’s only open four weekends a year, typically in May, June, September, and October. Before you go, fill up with a hearty breakfast at Willow Wood Market Café in nearby Graton. -Jennifer Graue

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