WHAT’S NEW IN SONOMA COUNTY - FALL/EARLY WINTER 2023
SONOMA COUNTY, CA (November 8, 2023) Some say that late fall and early winter in Sonoma County offers visitors a more intimate experience, welcoming those who savor the charm of changing seasons, exquisite wines, and a warm, inviting ambiance. Whether you're a wine lover, a nature enthusiast, a devoted foodie, or simply seeking a rejuvenating getaway, it’s an enchanting time of year to discover the diverse experiences our destination has to offer. No matter your preferred way to unwind, explore, or disconnect-to-connect—you'll discover an abundance of new possibilities in Sonoma County, where Life Opens Up.
New for the Holidays
The 50th anniversary of the animated classic A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving! will be celebrated at the Charles M. Schulz Museum. Younger visitors create their own meal to-go with popcorn, pretzels, jellybeans, and toast. Make a Snoopy chef’s hat, collage thank you cards, and watch the movie on the big screen in the museum’s theater. Also, meet the voice actors behind Charlie Brown and Lucy: Todd Barbee (Charlie Brown) and Robin Kohn (Lucy Van Pelt). Jason Mendelson of Lee Mendelson Film Productions, the longtime producer of the Peanuts series, will speak about the history of the animated special and its music. November 18 | 1:00 pm
Immerse yourself in an irresistible DIY wonderland, where you'll cozy up with exquisite wines while toasting marshmallows on your very own mini fire pit. Your Dutton Estate Winery host will guide you through four delectable red wines, perfectly paired for your indulgence. Bask in the vineyard garden on a beautiful day or cozy up by the fireplaces in the Dutton Estate’s charming tasting room. Daily | November 17 to February 9, 2024
The annual Petaluma Holiday Food Fair is an indoor farmer’s market in the ballroom and courtyard of Hotel Petaluma where visitors can purchase directly from Sonoma County food artisans to prepare for Thanksgiving and beyond. It is free to attend, but tickets and reservations are required. Donations at the door support a raffle of different prizes benefitting Petaluma People's Services. Santa will be on site for photos, and it will be snowing in the Hotel Petaluma courtyard. November 21 | 3:30 pm
Beginning November 20, the iconic resort will be transformed into a tropical winter wonderland full of retro tiki holiday décor. Get lost in the whimsy of Sippin’ Santa, the Lazeaway Club’s holiday themed cocktail pop-up. Envision Santa on a surfboard instead of a sleigh, replace the classic pine tree with palms decked with ornaments, and hang hibiscus garlands alongside tinsel—in essence, that is the Sippin’ Santa spirit. Those looking for festive family fun at the Flamingo Resort will enjoy Festive Ornament Decorating on Thursday afternoons and Holiday Cookie Decorating on Saturday afternoons through December.
Cirque de Bohème returns for their 10th year at Cornerstone Sonoma presenting their 2023 Winter Circus Holiday Spectacle: “Consolamentum” show. To celebrate this anniversary, Cirque de Bohème returns with an international cast and a new show full of surprises and novelties. Guests will be transported to a distant era as the mysterious Bohemian of Cirque de Bohème guides the spectators through the corridors of time. Delight in the work of these amazing performers featuring magicians, acrobats, contortionists, trapeze, flying pole, dancers and more. Enjoy this French holiday tradition in the beautiful gardens at Cornerstone in Sonoma under Cirque de Bohème’s old-fashioned tent. The event runs from Friday through Sundays, November 24 until December 24, 2023, at 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00 pm. A portion of ticket sales will benefit the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance.
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus are coming to Petaluma. They aren’t arriving in their typical mode of transportation via sleigh but rather sailing up the Petaluma River on a tugboat and docking at River Plaza Center. Prior to their arrival, enjoy live entertainment from Petaluma Pete and the Pacific Empire Chorus beginning at 11:30 a.m. Following the docking, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for family photos at the festive riverside tent at Taps Restaurant. Don’t forget to bring your Christmas wish list! November 25 | 11:30 am
Broadway's finest performers will toast the season with music, dance, and holiday cheer creating an intimate, cozy experience. Filled with seasonal songs and good tidings, this festive indoor event is perfect for the entire family. December 1-10 | Check schedule for show times.
Sip, shop, play and mingle at Abbot’s Passage Winery’s family friendly Winter Marketplace — a collaboration of local artists and small businesses. Tickets include a glass of wine, light snacks, kids’ crafts, and activities. Expect a curated line up of artisans from 2023 along with fresh new faces and entertainment including: Gjenmi fine jewelry, Bon Ton Studio / Bon Ton Kids, Elizaberry locally made earrings, Born to Roam Vintage, Abbot’s Passage gift sets, Gigi Pip hats, Tejido Collective, Kambric Goods resort ware and chainstitch embroidery, Thin Wild Mercury fragrance, Folklore records, and Jak W homewares. Children’s crafts by GUILD Napa. A percentage of proceeds will benefit Every Mother Counts, whos’ mission is to make pregnancy and childbirth safe, equitable and respectful for every mother, everywhere. December 2 | 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Gather at the Sea Ranch Lodge Saturdays in December for kid-friendly events on the Sonoma Coast. Enjoy the season’s cheer and get crafty with your little ones. All supplies will be provided. Kids of all ages are welcome. Saturdays in December | 2:00 pm
12/02: Making Ornaments, popcorn garlands, and menorahs.
12/09: Kwanzaa noodle necklaces, pinecone trees, bead and pipe cleaner candy canes.
12/16: Meet Santa Clause, making wrapping paper, orange and clove pomanders, yule logs.
12/23: Decorating cookies, piñatas for Las Posadas.
A Christmas Tea Party in the Barn at Lake Sonoma featuring teas from around the world! Christmas festivities feature live music, charcuterie, and wine. One ticket includes 5 flights of tea tastings from all around the world. Endless and amazing charcuterie from Nichole Barron. Words from a tea sommelier along with tea history, and live music during the event. The afternoon will conclude with tiny treats and wine or bubbly. (wine included for ages 21+ only). Formal tea dress code required. December 9 | 4:00 pm
The Jack London Piano Club will present a program of holiday music from around the world that will be performed on Charmian London’s 1901 Steinway piano, located on the second floor the House of Happy Walls, Charmian’s former home and now the museum of Jack and Charmian’s life together in the Valley of the Moon. Even before she met Jack London, Charmian was an accomplished pianist. She initially purchased the 1901 Steinway on an installment plan. After receiving a hefty sum from his publisher, Jack gave Charmian $500 to finish payment and bring the piano to the ranch, where it became the center of entertainment for the London’s many guests. Six members of the Piano Club, including professional musicians, will present a varied program ranging from classical, jazz, and popular music designed to appeal to all musical tastes. December 10 | 2:00 pm
Indulge in a truly enchanting holiday evening, blending beautiful music, exquisite wine, delectable food and philanthropy at Bricoleur Vineyards. The experience commences with a warm welcome reception, treating you to 3 delectable hors d'oeuvres perfectly paired with Bricoleur wines. As you gather around communal tables, Winemaker Cary Gott personally selects each wine, while Executive Chef Thomas Bellec and his culinary team craft an unforgettable three-course dinner that perfectly complements the wines. The holiday-themed evening season features songwriters, Patrick Davis, and Lauren Jenkins. Their 90-minute holiday concert will fill the air with festive melodies and heartwarming tunes. To spread even more joy, Bricoleur Vineyards is hosting a toy drive for TOYS 4 TOTS. Bring an unwrapped toy in support and help make this holiday season extra special for children in need. December 16 | 5:00 pm
Join Osmosis Day Spa in the meditation garden for their winter solstice sound healing ceremony with Siberian Vocalist, Zarina Olox Kopyrina. With intention, all in attendance will be invited into coherence, connection, and stillness. Zarina was born in one of the most remote and cold inhabited places in the world – the Republic of Sakha – Yakutia (arctic Siberia). She was three years old when she started to learn the language of birds and animals. She is the creator of “arctic beatbox” – the reindeer breath and is the author of “Neoshamanic Healing.” On the winter solstice Zarina will channel divine energy skillfully crafted to meet this moment of life. Afterward, there is an additional opportunity to extend the journey in a small group while partaking in an Enzyme Footbath. December 21 | 8:00 am
Browse our Calendar of Events for more Holiday Events.
New in Restaurants
The owners of Sonoma’s critically acclaimed Animo Restaurant are in the final stages of opening their second restaurant, Golden Bear Station at the former site of Tips Roadside in Kenwood. The restaurant is named for the Golden Bear gas station that stood at the location in the 1930s. The American cuisine brasserie will be a more casual cousin to Animo in Sonoma. Executive Chef Joshua Smookler and Heidy He’s new eatery will lean heavily on hearty European-inspired dishes alongside seasonal Sonoma County produce.
After a revamp, Marla, a popular Sonoma County bakery with a production facility in Windsor, has taken over the space previously occupied by food and wine shop Miracle Plum, in Santa Rosa’s Historic Railroad Square. The production kitchen will remain in Windsor, but the new location features sandwiches and salads for lunch, in addition to fresh-baked breads, pastries, and a limited to-go menu. The shop will feature Oakland-based Cute Coffee (a woman-run company), as well as beer and wine.
Described as a “California meets New England clam shack” concept, Valley Swim Club is a new seafood restaurant from the team behind Sonoma’s Valley Bar + Bottle Shop. “Swim Club references classic poolside, seaside, and roadside traditions, as well as the spirit that imbues them. Swim Club exists where New England flavors, surf aesthetics, and late ’60s California Naturalism intersect.
Named one of the Top 10 vegan barbecue spots by USA Today, Oakland-based Vegan Mob is opening a plant-based location in Santa Rosa. Vegan Mob is the brainchild of former rapper Toriano Gordon, who sought to meld vegan fare with hip-hop culture and the dishes he enjoyed growing up in San Francisco. The southern-inspired soul food takeout cuisine, which is as tasty as it is eco-friendly, has resonated with Bay Area locals and celebrities alike.
New in Wineries
Flambeaux Wine and The Harris Gallery Wine present TOWN, a dinner series created to highlight all the beauty Sonoma County has to offer during the fall and winter months. Short for “Traveling Off-Season for Wine Night”, TOWN will feature a uniquely themed dinner paired with a winery once a month, beginning in November and concluding in March. TOWN participants will be able to purchase travel packages at hotels such as The Madrona, allowing them to attend their chosen dinner and, at their option, either spend one night in Sonoma County or enjoy a weekend of curated activities and stay through Sunday. Three of the dinners will take place in Healdsburg, two others will be held in Sebastopol and Geyserville. Every dinner will be different, but the goal will be the same: create a magical and interactive themed dinner experience that highlights seasonally driven culinary artistry and carefully pairs it with some of the best wines Sonoma County has to offer.
Barber Cellars owners Mike and Lorraine Barber have been making wine in Sonoma County for 18 years. They established their winery’s tasting room in Hotel Petaluma in 2015. They recently converted their Downtown Petaluma tasting room into a European style cheese market. Wine tasting and glasses of their small-production, estate-grown wines will all be available to visitors, but cheese is now front and center. The Barbers hope that changing the focus of their tasting room will encourage new customers (and even non-wine drinkers) and travelers to visit more frequently and re-think what a Sonoma County Wine Country experience is all about.
New in Hotels
After recently undergoing extensive renovations, The Sandman Hotel is celebrating its reawakening, combining the harmonic balance between sweet sleep and invigorating adventure. The Sandman’s guest rooms have been thoughtfully redesigned, boasting expansive walk-in showers and fully equipped kitchenettes. The hotel has also introduced a new outdoor dome, set to host invigorating yoga sessions, tranquil meditation activities, and more. The artistry of Ty Williams also now adorns the premises with vibrant new murals.
New in Events
The new tasting tour at The Barlow provides guests with a behind-the-scenes view inside some of The Barlow’s hidden gems. The tour showcases the specialty food and wine offerings of The Barlow, from handmade English cheese to classically foot-stomped wine. The tour lasts 90 minutes and consists of 7 stops, with multiple tastes and sips along the way. They include II Fusti (olive oil), JG Switzer (wool), Wm Cofield (cheese), SpiritWorks (distillery), Fern Bar (restaurant/bar), and Pax Winery (wine). Bookings open November 15.
Experience the beauty and splendor of Sonoma County while plunging into the waters of your own writing. The experience begins with a convivial welcome dinner at The Spinster Sisters, located a short walk away from the mid-century modern Astro Motel, where participants will be staying during the retreat. Then, every morning for the next five mornings, the day will start independently with breakfast at the Astro and a few hours for writing, rest, and reflection. From 11am to 1:30pm writer, producer, and property co-owner Lizzie Simon lead a writing seminar with a Spinster Sisters catered lunch, and in the afternoon, you’ll have a choice of small group excursions, from wine tastings, walks along coastal cliffs, yoga with memoirist Phyllis Grant, or wandering amongst the Redwoods. January 3-8, 2024.
New in Arts & Culture
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art’s annual poetry pairing features the light-filled landscapes of Richard Mayhew and poetry from the stunning and newly released book, Leaning Toward Light—Poems for Gardens and the Hands that Tend Them. Attendees will hear from the four of the poets in the book: Tess Taylor (editor) Forrest Gander, Katie Peterson, and Maw Shein Win at the event. December 9 | 4:00 pm
The newly renovated Sonoma County Airport has unveiled a three-panel art installation by local artist Marissa Moroz. The piece, titled “A Place Worth Visiting is a Place Worth Protecting,” celebrates the connection between art, nature, and responsible travel. The artwork was commissioned by Sonoma County Tourism, through Creative Sonoma’s ArtSurround program, with input and guidance from Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport.
New in Awards and Accolades
The Condé Nast Traveler Top 20 Hotels in Northern California: Readers’ Choice Awards 2023 ranked The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn #1 in the Readers’ Choice Hotel Awards, and another Sonoma County property, The Farmhouse (#9) was also included in the readers’ Top 10.
Healdsburg continues its streak as one of the hottest destinations in Sonoma Wine Country. In a recently published article, Travel + Leisure magazine called it “the jewel of California Wine Country” and listed the best places to eat, drink, and play during a visit.
Shane McAnelly, the culinary force behind Healdsburg's Brass Rabbit and Chalkboard restaurants, and Bricoleur Vineyards has stepped into the role of Executive Chef at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen.
Bricoleur Vineyards sustainably farmed culinary gardens have been awarded Slow Food International’s USA “Snail of Approval,” by the Slow Food in Sonoma County chapter, for growing produce that meets Slow Food USA’s standards for good, clean, and fair food. The Snail of Approval award is given to select restaurants, farms, ranches, and producers who are making a significant contribution to improving the food system.
Boon hotel + spa has joined Kind Traveler’s Every Stay Gives Back program. Travelers unlock exclusive offers from participating Kind Hotels with a $10 or more donation to a local charity that positively impacts the community they are visiting, or to another charity of choice on the platform. As an example, a $10 donation to Farm to Pantry in Sonoma County will provide 23 servings of produce for those facing food insecurity.
New in the Digital Landscape
For story ideas and inspiration, check out our popular “What’s Happening in Sonoma County” video series.
About Sonoma County Tourism
Sonoma County Tourism is the region’s destination stewardship organization. Inspiring travel to the region through a variety of sales and marketing programs aimed at consumers, meeting and event planners, the travel trade, and media, the organization strives to ensure responsible tourism helps create a robust economy for the Sonoma County region. For more information visit sonomacounty.com.
Birgitt Vaughan, Director, Public Relations
Chris Vomvolakis, Senior Manager, Consumer Public Relations