Top 10 Family Summer Activities in Sonoma County
Summer time, and the livin's easy … especially when you're with your family in Sonoma County. With more than a million acres to explore, the landscape brims with variety, be it sandy beaches and rugged ocean cliff hiking trails, grassy meadows and boating ponds, or tall mountain trails amid lush forests.
Here are some top picks for how the whole family can enjoy a vacation in wine country – together! Find even more info in our Guide to Family Fun in Sonoma County.
Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail, Bodega Bay
Even though this paved trail runs along the 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' bridge that spans Cheney Creek, and connects to the Bird Walk Park up on the levees. To access the trail, park at a 10-car space parking lot off Highway 1 at the south end of town (between Smith Brothers Road and Doran Park Road), or enter through Doran Regional Park at the north end of town.
Fuel up with lunch at The Boat House in town, where owner Captain Rick Powers' schooner hauls in seafood straight from the water for Dungeness crab cake sandwiches, briny oysters, and legendary rock cod fish-n-chips.
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Guerneville
Owner Suki Waters is a local Native American descendant, guide, and kayak instructor, specializing in wildlife, Sonoma history, and ecology tours. From beginner boaters to skilled sports enthusiasts, there's an adventure for all, staged along 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.
Horsebackriding, Bodega Bay
The hillsides and redwood forests bring gorgeous Pacific Ocean views, made even finer on horseback. 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. There are two 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.
Horse N Around Trail Rides
Sonoma Canopy Tours, Occidental
Capture the moment after your zip line instructor straps you into the specially-designed harness and Go Camera you'll wear for this high-speed scream through space. That's because your eyes may be closed the first time you traverse this zip line course winging you up to 25 miles per hour through a redwood forest, over a ravine 300-feet below, and along a creek. But soon, you'll be smitten by the fun and ogling the views. Part of the challenge is just getting to the jump canopies, since eleven different platforms test your clambering skills, too, daring you to scale a skinny spiral staircase 30 feet up, and wobble across a 175-foot-long sky bridge.
Johnson's Beach, Guerneville
Get the party started just beneath Guerneville's entryway bridge, lounging on the spotlessly clean river sandbar with rentable umbrellas and beach chairs, or on the water, meandering its gentle currents with by-the-hour canoes, kayaks and pedal boats. If you 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 available.
Spring Lake Regional Park, Santa Rosa
This 320-acre park features camping, fishing (you'll need a license if you're over 16), swimming from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, hiking, and biking, as well as picnic areas with barbecues, and five group picnic areas. Spring Lake also offers year-round boating (no gas motors/engines): bring your own craft up to 16 feet in length or rent from the concession stand May to September. Spring Lake also features a swimming lagoon with floating play structure for kids, near the Violetti Road park entrance. Life guards on duty during the summer months.
Spring Lake also includes the Environmental Discovery Center, with interactive displays and activities aimed at kids 6-12. Youngsters touch sea creatures in tidal-action pools, watch fish from the park's lake swimming in an aquarium, view taxidermied mountain lions and coyotes, and learn about Mother Earth in the storytelling cavern. They have lots of fun — but they also walk away with knowledge of earth stewardship and earth science. The center is open to the public from noon to 5 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. Admission to the center is free (but parking inside the park is $7). Adjacent Howarth Park offers a large play environment for young children and parking is free at Howarth Park.
Scandia Family Fun Center, Rohnert Park
This kid's fantasyland includes two 18-hole miniature golf courses complete with tiny buildings, bridges, and waterways. Also featured are 18 batting cages with slow pitch and fast pitch. The bumper 'blaster' boats, equipped with water sprayers, are a great way to cool off on a warm day (or night, since the place is open late all week long), while the Lil' Indy Raceway gives a racing experience with its straight track and banked turns.
Enjoy a "wild" time by taking an open-air safari vehicle along this 400-acre wildlife preserve. You'll catch sight of giraffes, lemurs, cheetahs, and wildebeests. And it gets even better — you can stay overnight in one of their luxurious tents.
House of Happy Walls Museum, Glen Ellen
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 fantasy, and you can hike the 26 miles of connecting trails of this 39-acre backcountry woodland retreat and mountain expanse just as he did. The centerpiece is the ruin of the huge Wolf House that the London family built, but which burned down before they could move in. So close to his heart was this dreamed-of home that Jack is buried there. You can go on free weekend tours with a guide, or trek on your own anytime, through the restored Cottage where London wrote and died, and learn about London's worldwide adventures at the Museum itself.
Epicenter Sports and Entertainment, Santa Rosa
We know we said we'd give you a list of the top 10 ideas for family summer activities, but there are so many fun things to do in Sonoma County, it's hard to keep it to just 10. So here's a bonus idea: When you still want to be active but you're ready to move the fun indoors, check out Epicenter Sports and Entertainment in Santa Rosa. Packed with a unique mix of attractions built for adults but fun for kids, Epicenter is the San Francisco North Bay's largest all-in-one destination for sports, recreation, entertainment, dining, and nightlife.
The facilities include: a trampoline park; upscale bowling lounge; 100+ game arcade; two-story laser tag arena; laser maze; multi-sensory 7D adventure ride; an arena sports center for basketball, volleyball, and more; a fitness center; a sports bar and restaurant with two 40-foot walls filled with massive screens; and more. Epicenter delivers 130,000 square feet of fun, food, and entertainment, all conveniently located under one roof.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.