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Free Outdoor Family Events in May

Plowing Day

Sonoma County offers many free things to do throughout the year, and a lot of activities are geared to families. Here are a few events coming up in May that are super family-friendly. Some require a parking fee, but aside from that they won’t put the slighest dent in your wallet:

Castles and Kites at Bodega Bay’s Doran Beach (Saturday, May 7, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.)

An annual celebration of sandcastle building and kite flying on Doran Beach, Castles and Kites brings out amateurs and experts alike for a day of old-fashioned fun. Bring your own kite and fly it high, or sit back and watch others show exhibit their kite-handling skills (and local shops have plenty of colorful kites for sale). If your family wants to show off its sandcastle-building talents, you can borrow free tools and molds that day from Sonoma County Regional Parks; it’s also a lot of fun to just walk around and watch expert sand sculptors work on elaborate creations. Admission is free. Parking is $7 or free for Regional Parks members. More information.

Petaluma Adobe Living History Day (Saturday, May 14, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.)

Travel with the kids all the way back to 1840's Mexican California at the former ranch of General Mariano Vallejo. The long-ago era comes to life outside the two story adobe walls of Vallejo’s rancho headquarters, which remains impressive more than 150 years after its heyday. You’ll enjoy watching interpreters dressed in costume as the vaqueros, traders, cooks, crafts men and women, and others who lived in Old California. For more information, visit petalumaadobe.com.

“Let’s Go Swimming!” at Santa Rosa’s Finley Aquatic Center (Saturday, May 14, 1-4 p.m.)

The 13th annual bi-lingual “Let's Go Swimming!” event, sponsored by Sonoma County Regional Parks, provides swim lessons to kids ages 5 and older, while parents receive water-safety training. Participants also get a voucher for two weeks of swim lessons at a greatly reduced price. “Let’s Go Swimming!” will also be held on May 15 at Healdsburg Swim Center, and May 22 and Ridgway Aquatic Center in Santa Rosa. Bring the family and swimsuits for the kids. Space is limited, so sign up soon. To register for one of the upcoming events, please call Sonoma County Regional Parks at 707-565-8034. For more details visit this page.

Great Russian River Race, Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville (Saturday, May 21, 12-4 p.m.)

Compete in a kayak, canoe or SUP—or just hang out on the beach in one of the world’s most beautiful wine regions, watching watch the fun amidst food trucks, live music (Cahoots and Bad Apple String Band), vendor booths and a costume contest among racers. Bring chairs and blankets. This is a great way to kick off the summer season. To learn race details, competitor age and other information visit this page.

33rd Annual Plowing Play Day at Jack London SHP (Sunday, May 22, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.)

A long-time favorite event for families, Plowing Play Day is sponsored by the North Coast Draft Horse and Mule Association. With author Jack London’s Beauty Ranch as a backdrop, the Play Day features historic farming practices that include plowing and mowing demonstrations—and free wagon rides around the historic ranch buildings. You’ll learn about mules as well as Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire, and Belgian draft horses. Demonstrations include blacksmithing, horseshoeing, sheep shearing, early day gas engines and more. The event is free; expect to pay a park entry fee of $10 per vehicle. Food and beverages will be available for purchase or bring your own picnic lunch to enjoy in the park. More info.

Tidepool Talk and Exploration at Bodega Bay (Saturday, May 28, 10 a.m.-noon)

Explore tidepools, learning about the complex and dynamic creatures that call them home. Tidepools are vibrant and diverse habitats, and on this outing a Regional Parks ranger and naturalist will describe the world of sea stars, sea anemones and other sea life found along the rocky shore. Meet at the Pinnacle Gulch parking area; the trail is 1.3 miles round-trip, and requires a gradual but steady climb on the return. Bring a picnic and enjoy the beauty of Pinnacle Gulch after the walk. Dress in layers, wear waterproof shoes, and carry drinking water. No registration is required. Learn more about Pinnacle Gulch Coastal Access Trail.

Find more things to do in Sonoma County.

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