We sometimes receive zany questions from visitors: “Is Sonoma County open on Tuesdays?” “Where can I find the white Zinfandel vineyards? I’ve never seen pink grapes.” “Do Canadians enjoy Sonoma County?”
(Answers: “Yes.” “Surprisingly, white Zin is made from a mix of red Zinfandel grapes and the magic of wine making.” “Most definitely, eh?”)
However, around 90 percent (and, no, I didn’t do the math on this; it’s just a nice round estimate) of the questions we get are variations of the same. Here’s a compilation of what we’ve deemed the top questions visitors ask about Sonoma County and the answers to those questions.
Are there any wineries that offer free tasting?
Can I get to Sonoma County from San Francisco on mass transit?
How far are the airports from Sonoma County?
Are there day trips to Sonoma County from San Francisco?
What can I do as a day trip or ideas if I’m staying in Sonoma County?
How do I find out about B&Bs and vacation rentals?
Are there good roads or trails for bicycling?
What special events or concerts are going on when I visit?
You say there’s a coast in Sonoma County; where is it and what is there to do?
What is there for kids to do?
Are the spas in Sonoma Wine Country different from other destinations?
Can I explore Wine Country with my disabilities?
Pet-friendly? Can I bring my pet with me to Sonoma County?
How far is Napa County to Sonoma County?
Why Sonoma County over Napa County?
What's the Climate / Weather like in Sonoma County?
Distances and getting around?
Where are electric vehicle charging stations located in Sonoma County?
How do I ship wine home from Sonoma County?
What are water safety tips for Sonoma County?
Still More Questions?
Yes, there are dozens of wineries in Sonoma County that offer either free tastings or waive the tasting fee with a wine purchase. Find a list of the wineries that offer complimentary tastings (subject to change, please double check with the wineries).
Members of Sonoma County Vintners’ Visa Signature program also offer free tastings to Visa Signature card members. Learn more about the Sonoma Vintners’ Visa Signature program.
While the best way to experience Sonoma County is renting a car, yes, you can use mass transit to visit. Check our listings of local companies that offer private transportation.
Airport Express (707-837-8700) offers transportation from San Francisco and Oakland international airports. There are four drop-off locations in Sonoma County: Petaluma Fairgrounds, DoubleTree by Hilton in Rohnert Park, the park and ride across from the Sonoma County fairgrounds in Santa Rosa (not available in late July through early August for the Sonoma County Fair), and the Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport (STS), Santa Rosa.
The journey is part of the adventure. If you’re in San Francisco, take the ferry from the San Francisco Ferry Building to Larkspur. From there, you can take Golden Gate Transit buses (some transfers) to downtown Santa Rosa. Use the Golden Gate Transit trip planner to find the next bus. Or, if you aren’t near the Ferry Building, use the planner to find a Golden Gate Transit bus directly into Sonoma County.
From the Larkspur ferry building, another fun option is to take a Sonoma-Marin Area Regional Transit (SMART) train to Sonoma County. SMART carries passengers in energy-efficient, clean diesel trains along 45 miles of track, from Larkspur in Marin County to the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport station at the north end of Santa Rosa, with six train stations in Sonoma County. (Note: SMART will extend its service to Larkspur in mid-December 2019; until then you will need to ride a bus to the SMART station in downtown San Rafael.)
However, if you want to have the freedom to experience all Sonoma County has to offer, renting a car is highly recommended.
Sonoma County has its own airport, with daily flights on three major airlines. Otherwise, Sonoma County is located:
- 75 miles, or 1:33 hours north of San Francisco International (SFO)
- 76 miles, or 1:30 hours north of Oakland International (OAK)
- 119 miles, or 2:06 hours west of Sacramento International (SMF)
Best of all, when you buy wine in Sonoma County, your wine flies back home free on Alaska Airlines.
Several companies operate one-day van or bus trips to Sonoma wine country from San Francisco. Check with your hotel concierge for tips. Once you're in Sonoma County for the day, there is a long list of potential things to do. For suggested itineraries, read our articles on day trips from San Francisco to Bodega Bay, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Sonoma, and the Russian River Valley.
Of course, one day doesn’t do justice to an area more than 1 million acres in size. You should spend the night.
Enjoy the second-most reason (first being wine) people visit Sonoma County – the sheer natural beauty. Discover the great outdoors by hiking, cycling, or kayaking more than 40 state and regional parks and beaches. Find out more at:
If you need more “on the ground” information, visitors centers or chambers of commerce are located throughout Sonoma County. Go to Visitor Centers for a list.
With 1,400 miles of lightly traveled secondary roads and a growing system of off-road bike trails, Sonoma County appeals to a wide variety of riders. Whether you are a dedicated cyclist attacking mountain passes or a weekend pedaler eager to sip wine and cycle through the vines, Sonoma County can provide you the perfect track.
For ideas, read Guide to Cycling in Sonoma County and Popular Bike Itineraries: Cycling through Wine Country. Plus, the nonprofit Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition sells a waterproof cycling map showing primary and secondary road routes, paved and unpaved bike paths and trails, and locations of a variety of cycling-related services and facilities throughout Sonoma County.
A good round-up of events can be found at the calendar of events.
What else is there to do in Sonoma County other than visit wineries? Visiting Sonoma Wine Country doesn’t mean you’re required to only taste wine, get massages, or explore 50-plus miles of Pacific coastline. (Though, that itinerary sounds delightful.)
With a zip line course through the top of a redwood forest, an African-style safari, challenging golf courses, and a thrilling car racing course, Sonoma County boasts myriad activities, ensuring you’ll have something to write home about. Find out more at Things to Do. You can filter for various types of activities.
Even from the far eastern and northern borders of the county – the towns of Sonoma and Cloverdale, respectively – the coast is less than an hour-and-a-half drive away. At our Outdoor Activities listings, you can filter on such topics as Fishing/Boating, Hiking/Walking, Horseback Riding, Kayaking/Canoeing, Surf Shops, and Whale Watching. Also, check out the Bodega Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, BodegaBay.com, and the nonprofit Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods.
As for where it is, go west young man, or woman. The Pacific Ocean creates Sonoma County’s western border for more than 50 miles/80 km.
Sonoma County is known for its award-winning wines, luxury inns, romantic honeymoon vacations, and, yes, as the perfect place for an unforgettable fun-filled family vacation. With its exceptional variety of natural attributes – the Pacific Ocean, rivers, lakes, ancient redwood forests, and farm lands – you’ll discover unique and memorable adventures for the whole family. For details visit Family Fun.
As they say in real estate: Location, location, location. Spas here are different, because this is such a special place. In fact, here you can relax and rejuvenate through local water, wine, soil, and spirit in more than 40 spas and wellness centers. Read about how a Wine Country spa experience can enhance your visit. Find a spa for you in our Spas listings.
Sonoma County is a warm and welcoming destination that tries to accommodate all visitors. There are myriad lodging choices that are ADA compliant. Some of the smaller, historic B&Bs or inns may not be able to accommodate someone with limited mobility. Winery tasting rooms, shops, and other activities have handicapped parking available and can tailor the experience.
Depending on where you want to travel, the two are around 20 to 30 miles apart, or about an hour’s drive time.
- The two counties connect in the south, via Highway 29/121/12 – the cities of Napa and Sonoma.
- The northern connection is Santa Rosa and Calistoga, via Calistoga Road and Petrified Forest Road.
- Another northern connection is Healdsburg to Calistoga, via California Highway 128.
- Glen Ellen to Oakville is a twisty mountain road that’s not for the faint of heart, going from Highway 12 to Highway 29 via the Oakville/Trinity Grade.
- Bodega Bay and Sonoma Coast is about an hour and a half from the city of Napa, via Highway 29/121/12, US-101, and Highway 116.
They are both great destinations and we love our neighbors in Napa, located just east of Eden. But, with more than 425 wineries, miles of rugged Pacific Ocean coastline, and some of the most fertile earth in California, Sonoma County embodies the genuine, natural, and deliberate life that typifies wine country.
Sonoma Wine Country offers more than fermented grape juice. Come visit and stay awhile. Accommodations range from luxurious hotels to historic inns, romantic B&Bs, and modern campgrounds. Stay along the winding Pacific coast, among the redwoods, on a vineyard-lined lane, or in a casual urban setting.
With 40-plus spas, 18 golf courses, art galleries, museums, attractions, shops, rivers to paddle or float down, and miles of trails to bike or explore on foot, there is no bad time to visit Sonoma County, located less than 45 minutes north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Sonoma County’s natural beauty and moderate temperatures seldom dip below freezing, even in the winter. The area’s 25- to 30-inch annual rainfall happens primarily from November through April.
January – Average high /low
Inland: 58 F (14 C) / 36 F (2 C)
Coast: 56 F (13 C) / 35 F (2 C)
July – Average high /low
Inland: 90 F (32 C) / 52 F (12 C)
Coast: 80 F (26 C) / 48 (8 C)
Coastal Weather: Temperate year-round, the weather on the Sonoma Coast follows a pattern of maritime fog in the morning giving way to California sunshine around noon. When inland valleys heat up, the coast remains cool. The weather can be changeable, layered clothing is recommended.
What to Wear: Check the local weather before you depart. Temperatures can vary from the coast to inland each day. Wine country casual is fine for evenings out; jeans, khakis or shorts, T-shirts, comfortable walking shoes, a sweater and a medium-weight jacket should suffice for sightseeing. Think layers. A chilly, foggy summer morning may heat up to the 80s by 2 p.m. Temperatures start to drop after the sun goes down. In winter heavy coats aren’t necessary, but you’ll want a medium-weight water-resistant jacket.
In the U.S. hospitality industry it’s customary to tip people who help your vacation run smoothly. These include airport porters, hotel bellhops, hotel maids, cab drivers, restaurant servers, tour guides, limousine drivers, and massage therapists.
Plan on renting a car. Sonoma County has decent public transport but, with about a million acres, the buses may not run to attractions and wineries you want to visit. If you don’t want to drive, there are dozens of companies that offer wine tours.
Check this list of addresses for electric vehicle charging for each city/town in Sonoma County.
- FAQs about How to Travel to Sonoma County
- FAQs about Wineries in Sonoma County
- FAQs about Restaurants in Sonoma County
- FAQs about Hotels in Sonoma County
- FAQs about Visiting Cities and Towns in Sonoma County
- FAQs about Things to Do in Sonoma County
Still More Questions? Order our free visitor guide or call Sonoma County Tourism at 1-800-576-6662 or 707-522-5800.