Want to be able to enjoy wine country with a group of under-age-21 friends without the wine? Look no further than Sonoma County which boasts scenic coasts, majestic redwoods, and inviting towns that will make any younger crowd feel welcomed.
Throughout Sonoma there are adventures to be had, meals to be eaten, and memories to be made. Don’t let a simple thing such as age dissuade from visiting Sonoma County and seeing all there is to offer. Whether it be for a group of friends, a multi-gen family reunion, or a girls’ getaway, there’s something here for everyone.
It’s difficult to find a destination where everyone will be happy, especially in the 18-20 age group. And yet, Sonoma County offers a remarkable number of things to do that are perfect for anyone, whether it’s canoeing down the Russian River, ziplining through the redwoods, or walking around one of the many regional parks.
When the sun is shining beautifully, what better way is there to fully appreciate the warmth than by going out on the water? There are many options in Sonoma County to grant anyone’s wish. Spring Lake Regional Park is perfect for any adventurous and fun-loving group of friends that want to experience the outdoors. Rent some row or paddle boats and spend time gliding over the water and enjoy the peaceful serenity all around before having a picnic or eating at the seasonal café at the swimming lagoon.
The lake is also surrounded by hiking trails and beautiful scenery and when it gets too hot, slip into a swimsuit and dive into the three-acre swimming lagoon located next to it. Just remember to use sunscreen.
Another great water option would be to spend the day on the banks of the Russian River surrounded by lush greenery and gentle water. Renting canoes and kayaks at Burke’s Canoe Trips is an easy way to explore the entire county as the river winds down from northeast Sonoma County in Cloverdale to where it empties into the Pacific Ocean near Jenner. The river is a versatile place where it’s possible to relax on the banks, have a nice picnic, and visit different towns while canoeing downstream.
When the weather makes the outdoors seem not so appealing, head on over to the Epicenter in Santa Rosa. This newly finished and massive sports and games complex is entertaining enough to make anyone never want to leave. The 130,000-square-foot Epicenter boasts a bowling alley, trampoline park, arcade, fitness center, and so much more. There’s even a Starbucks and other restaurants to stop for a bite to eat before the fun begins again.
Spend the afternoon in downtown Healdsburg surrounded by small-town charm. Browse through boutique shops and stop for a bite at the many different dining options ranging from beautiful and eccentric ice cream at Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Bar to a stop at the charming Dry Creek General Store, which sells local farm fresh produce, hand crafted sandwiches, soups, and other delectable items.
Unique Things to Do
Take a guided horseback ride through stunning scenery only minutes from downtown Healdsburg at The Ranch at Lake Sonoma Horseback Riding. Explore nature on the back of a sure-footed horse. With views of Lake Sonoma, Dry Creek Valley, and the Rockpile wine region, The Ranch offers a variety of guided rides, from an easy trek along the trail to more rugged, challenging tours for thrill seekers.
Walk among the giants in Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve and witness the magnificent redwood forest tower above all and truly feel one with nature. It’s impossible to not let all worries and cares float away when surrounded by so much history and beauty all around. Walking through trees that are more than a thousand years old is something that anyone of any age can enjoy. California’s coast redwoods are not only the world’s tallest living things, but are also among the oldest and it is impossible to not feel that spirit as you walk through the trees on foot, or on horseback.
Want something a little more exciting to make the redwoods even more memorable? Join Sonoma Canopy Tours to experience the historical trees from a new perspective – the top. Go ziplining on their extraordinary course of seven ziplines, two sky bridges, beautiful spiral staircase and finally, a rappel back to the forest floor. With one of the ziplines extending more than 800 feet long, it would be hard to miss the panoramic views and the rush of adrenaline that come with the experience.
- From San Francisco (or farther south), head north across the Golden Gate Bridge and less than an hour’s drive up Highway 101
- From Seattle or Portland, go south on US-5 to Sacramento
- From Sacramento head west on US-80, then west on Highway 12/121
If you’re flying in, the Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport (STS) offers direct air service on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Sun Country (seasonally), and the Sonoma County Airport Express runs frequent buses to and from the San Francisco and Oakland airports.
- Lyft offers ride shares to and from STS
- Several companies offer taxi service at STS
- Sonoma County Transit provides bus service countywide.
- If someone in your group is at least 20 years old, they can rent a car from Hertz, and if they’re 21 or older, they can rent from Budget, Enterprise, or Sixt — but there’s typically an extra daily charge of $15-$27 to rent to anyone younger than 25.
- If you have a military ID, you can rent a car from any company starting at age 18 (you don’t have to be on duty).
Although some Wine Country lodgings are aimed only at the over-21 crowd, most will rent a room to anyone with a valid credit card (call to make sure that the minimum age for check-in is 18).
Coast: Bodega Harbor Inn
East: Sonoma Creek Inn
South: Quality Inn Petaluma Sonoma
West: Fern Grove Cottages
If you’re interested in roughing it, there are a variety of options for camping throughout Sonoma County.
For more options, check our listings of Sonoma County Hotels & Lodgings.
Written by Sophie Hiltebrand.