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How To Take Kids To Sonoma Wine Country

Californians take Sonoma Valley’s wine country for granted for romantic sojourns and girlfriend getaways. But it’s also one of my favorite family destinations. It’s one of those places where it’s possible to find activities that keep parents and kids happy at the same time, making it a surprisingly rich destination for a weekend away with a child. (Also try this story on San Francisco playgrounds, too.)

Five Tips for Visiting Sonoma With Kids

sonoma-lodge-poolWhere to Stay in Sonoma Town

I love the valley’s many small B&Bs but when I visit with my son, I prefer the Lodge at Sonoma  because it’s location can’t be beat. With a TrainTown, playground and a Capri Ristorante’s good pizza all within a few blocks, you can entertain and feed active youngsters without having to wrangle with car seats or even strollers.

Where to Play

Start any trip with a visit to Sonoma’s tourist board to see what festivals or other special events might be going on. The Sonoma County Fair takes place in the first half of August. Petaluma hosts music, art and food festivals and a hot-air balloon festival (above) through the summer months. There are air and car shows later in August and family movie nights through out the summer.

Sonoma Plaza in the town of Sonoma has an Old West feel that my family loves. We like to buy a take-out picnic from just about any of the adjacent restaurants. Then we seek out shade under one of the Plaza’s big, leafy trees. Afterward, we head to the duck pond with our leftover bread or to either of two nearby play areas.

has a handful of amusement park rides but its main draw is a quarter-scale railroad that covers 4 miles of track and stops at a miniature town and petting zoo. Great for kids, but adult train enthusiasts (ie: most dads) get a kick out of it, too.

The Russian River is gentle and is a great place to swim or paddle, even with very little kids.

You can also try biking through Sonoma’s bucolic (but hilly) countryside. Several local bike rental agencies will deliver bikes and helmets right to your hotel. (Some have tandem bikes or trailers for kids too little ride on their own.)  Before you go, print out online bike maps  for the area.

Where to Taste Wine in Sonoma Valley

families can hike in the kunde Vineyards in Sonoma on Certain days.hiking the historic Kunde estate in SonomaIf you really have your heart set on wine tasting with kids along (it is wine country after all), visit on a weekday that’s not a holiday. The employees will be more willing and able to indulge your kids when they aren’t as insanely busy as they can be on the weekends.

Look for wineries that allow visitors to play on their grounds. Gundlach-Bundschu Winery has hiking trails and plenty of picnic space.  The Larson Family Winery has bocce ball, horseshoes and farm animals. It also allows you to reserve tables for BYO picnics. The Kunde Family Estate  hosts periodic hikes and other outdoor activities in its sprawling vineyards (suitable for kids who are old enough to not wander where they shouldn’t or small enough to be happy in a carrier).  The tasting room at Imagery Estate Winery is full of the colorful original artwork created for its labels and it has a bocce court on its back patio.

Where to Eat With Kids

fresh mozzarella at La Travigne in sonomaAdmittedly, when it’s time to eat we often head over to Napa Valley, where it’s easy to find food that appeals to grown-ups in places that make kids feel at home. We like the sandwiches at Giugni WF & Son Grocery Co., the pies at Pizzeria Tra Vigne, and burgers at Gott’s Roadside, all in St. Helena.

When we think our toddler can handle something a bit fancier, we love the Rutherford Grill, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen or even Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc + Addendum, where the food is served family-style.

Where to have a Date Night

We always try for at least one night out without our son when we’re in wine country because there’s no shortage of amazing “grown-up” restaurants and there’s always something new on our must-try list. The last meal we had there that really blew me away was at Redd in Yountville.

Planning a trip? Check reviews of things to do in Sonoma on *Trip Advisor.

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Sonoma is an easy weekend away even with a small child along. You can find lodging, restaurants, activities and even wineries where kids are welcome. And maybe have a date night!  #sonoma #weekend #kids
Andrea Barrett is a founder of,. and online babysitting service. She lives in Southern California with her family.

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  1. March 14, 2017 at 1:00 am — Reply

    I haven’t been to Sonoma yet! However, I have been reading about the area lately and feel more desire to visit than ever. Thanks for sharing your tips! #MondayEscapes

  2. March 13, 2017 at 2:41 pm — Reply

    I love the Sonoma valley although have never taken children. You found plenty of things to do for little ones and managed to combine it with things for you – a win! Thanks for sharing with #MondayEscapes

  3. March 13, 2017 at 2:00 pm — Reply

    Sonoma is on my list of places to go while I’m living in SF, thanks for the guide! While I don’t have kids, I’m always looking for suggestions for places to stay and where to eat so this was really useful. #MondayEscapes

  4. Tonya @ The Traveling Praters
    February 14, 2013 at 9:55 pm — Reply

    Love that very first picture with the Energizer Bunny! My family saw that hot air balloon in Tuscaloosa, Alabama a few years ago and it was very memorable. Sonoma looks like a wonderful place to visit! I can’t wait to explore California with my family.
    Thanks for linking up to the Best of the USA blog hop! I hope you’ll join me again next month.

  5. Family Travels on a Budget
    July 27, 2012 at 4:56 pm — Reply

    Great review. My kids are older, now, so I hope to visit the Sonoma Valley with just the hubby sometime soon!

  6. […] a Bay Area Getaway from […]

  7. Rebecca@RWTYM?
    July 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm — Reply

    Looks like a great place to go with the family for the weekend! Wish we lived closer!

    Thanks for linking up with us!

  8. Cathy Sweeney
    July 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm — Reply

    One of my favorite areas of the world — Sonoma Valley. Lots of great memories and I try to get that way as often as possible. When I was visiting there as a kid we spent a lot of time at the Russian River beaches. Need to do that again! Great family travel tips!

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