An hour from the ocean and mere miles east of lively Santa Rosa, Glen Ellen is your secret hideaway to indulge in mouthwatering local delicacies, sweeping acres of green vineyard rows, refreshing botanical gardens, and small-town intimacy with a European flare.
Not sure where to start? Here are some fun things to do in Glen Ellen.
1. Sample the Fruits of Sonoma County Wineries
Glen Ellen is ripe with wine-tasting opportunities and culture, including immersive experiences at sustainable wineries. Benzinger Family Winery, for instance, has been dedicated to organic and biodynamic wine production for generations; buckle up for a driving tour through hills of sustainably farmed grapes and you’ll see yellow wildflowers, mounting rows of greenery, and even fluffy white sheep (although you might hear them first). Or, taste the rich fruits of Chris Loxton’s labors at Loxton Cellars, an intimate, welcoming stead with a humble expanse of grape crops, tall trees, and pink planted flowers. Take a seat inside their tasting room or opt for a sun-spotted table, perfect for viewing the Mayacamas Mountains, and sip on vegan delights like a smooth Zinfandel or a sweet Port.
2. Picnic in Sonoma Valley Regional Park
Looking for a relaxing afternoon picnic? Grab ham-and-cheese sandwich supplies, fresh macaroni salad, and some SPF 50 at Glen Ellen Village Market. Visit the grand red farmhouse at Oak Hill Farm for organic strawberries, peaches ripe with juice that’ll dribble down your chin, and even a wreath made from eucalyptus. Then, head into Sonoma Valley Regional Park for the perfect sun-drenched picnic. While you’re there, take a hike along one of the accessible trails or take photos of the towering trees ensconcing you in cool shade.
3. Dine at Glen Ellen Restaurants
No matter what you're craving, you’ll find a restaurant in Glen Ellen to please any palate. Rejoice in saffron-broth-steamed mussels or the Dirty Dozen — 12 raw oysters on ice with a zesty bloody mary sauce — and a ginger-mule martini imbued with citrus from the French-inspired Glen Ellen Inn Grill & Martini Bar. For a modern twist on classic Italian, grab a seat on Glen Ellen Star’s string-light glowing patio or bring the party inside. Revel in the bacon-jam-packed roasted Brussels sprouts or sink your teeth into the Tomato Cream Pie — crust wood-fired to golden-brown perfection spread with tomato sauce, melty cheese, and sprinkled with smoky pepper flakes.
4. Tour Sonoma Botanical Garden
If enhancing your wellbeing through an inspiring nature walk is on your Glen Ellen bucket list, look no further than an expert- or self-guided tour of the Sonoma Botanical Garden. This peaceful space teems with plants from California and many temperate Asian countries, including the orange, butterfly-wing-shaped bloom known as the sticky monkey-flower, and the endangered Makino rhododendron (a tall, leafy shrub spotted with pale-pink, paper-like, ruffled flowers). Stroll along the gravel path to catch stunning valley views, hear the trickle of tranquil waterfalls, and celebrate the rejuvenating power of conservation.
5. Relax at a California Hot Spring
Nestled into the area’s thick-forested hills is Morton's Warm Springs Resort, an oasis seemingly separated from the rest of the world. These waters have provided healing powers long before the inception of their attraction to tourists. For centuries, the Native Americans who originally stewarded the lands on which Morton’s sits — including the Wappo, Southern Pomo, Coast Miwok, and Patwin people — recognized the restorative powers of these springs. Today, you can feel that same serenity in one of Morton's three steaming mineral spring pools or laid-back chaises, all with plenty of palm-tree shade providing the perfect calm vibe you need to recharge.
6. Adventure Around Jack London State Historic Park
Famed writer Jack London ("The Call of the Wild") made Glen Ellen his home for the last 11 years of his life, and as a result, the town is chock-full of historical sites dedicated to his life and work. Make a day of your escapades by visiting Jack London State Historic Park, which catalogs his homestead amidst abundant forests, redwood groves, and the remnants of his stone mansion.
Learn more about London or catch a piano recital at The House of Happy Walls, a Spanish-style estate built to commemorate the writer’s adventurous life. Sit beneath the summer constellations at Transcendence Theatre's Broadway Under the Stars, surrounded by the flourishing greenery of London’s park and nearby ruins of an ancient winery, to enjoy lively theater, munch on dinner, or sip on a glass of bold wine.
Encounter history in the surrounding outdoors by lacing your boots up for hikes through Jack London’s stomping grounds, including the renowned, 400-total-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail for expansive countryside hill views. Afterwards, explore the quaint Valley of the Moon and pop into the brick-walled Saloon at the Jack London Lodge for a craft beer before tucking into one of the lodge’s cozy beds.
Planning your trip? Find more places to stay in Glen Ellen.
7. Horseback Ride Through California Wine Country
Ditch the car and experience Glen Ellen the old-fashioned way. Triple Creek Horse Outfit offers year-round guided Wine Country horseback rides through Jack London State Historic Park with views of historical ruins and established vineyards’ sloping inclines. Saddle up and slow down as you get acquainted with your horse as well as Glen Ellen’s wide open spaces.
8. Treat Yourself to a Sonoma Bodyworks Massage
Sonoma Bodyworks delivers magic in the form of massage services straight to your home or hotel room. It’s the perfect self-care activity — melt the stress from your body with every knead of a tense, deep-tissue knot, feel the delicate heat of lava rocks along your spine with a hot-stone massage, or revitalize your skin with a facial. No matter the service, you’ll leave the session with more energy and a renewed spirit.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.