I was born, raised, and even went to college in Santa Rosa. I moved away from the area almost 20 years ago, but I return every year in July to “summer” there. Santa Rosa is located in Northern California, in the heart of the Sonoma County wine country, and is the perfect getaway for nature and art lovers. Here are my picks for fun things to do in Santa Rosa and surrounding areas with kids.
Things to do in Santa Rosa, CA with Family
1. Charles M. Schulz Museum and Snoopy Ice Arena
Probably the most iconic of the kid-friendly Santa Rosa things to do, the Snoopy Ice Arena celebrates the Peanuts characters in all their glory. When the heat escalates, cool your heels at the Snoopy’s Home Ice. During certain skate times, chairs are available for the novice skaters to assist with balance and help boost confidence on the ice.
When it’s time to rest, walk over to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and learn about the creator of Charlie Brown and the beloved Peanuts characters. During the summer months, the museum hosts summer classes for kids ages Pre-K to 6th grade, with themes ranging from comic illustrations to Lego Animation.
Are you visiting Santa Rosa, California in the winter? Check out these Santa Rosa Christmas events.
2. Jack London State Historic Park
Explore Jack London’s Beauty Ranch, the Winery Cottage, the House of Happy Walls, and surrounding grounds at the Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen. Here, the “Call of the Wild” author built his dream home, “The Wolf House,” which tragically burned down before he was able to reside there.
After circling its haunting remnants, take a picnic up to the lake and imagine what life was like in the early 1900’s. In addition, kids grades 6th to 8th can join Jack’s Camp, a day camp at the state park.
3. Safari West
Who knew the plains of Africa existed in California nestled among the vineyards? Experience an African Safari ride at Safari West, where animals roam free on a Wildlife Preserve. This is not a zoo or a theme park; this is a chance encounter with cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, and numerous other animals of the savannah. Reserve a day tour or stay overnight in one of their luxury tents or cottages.
Check out this comprehensive review of what it is like to stay at Safari West.
4. Hike Armstrong Redwoods
See the giant redwoods loom above you at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve in Guerneville. Ask at the Visitor’s Center for a scavenger hunt map and go searching for famous faces hidden in the trees.
There are hiking trails for all levels, but a stroll on the forest floor will leave you awestruck. Learn how these magnificent trees have survived for centuries. Be sure to visit the outdoor theater, where symphonies once played amongst the redwoods.
5. Canoe and Kayak Down the Russian River
While in Guerneville, take the afternoon to canoe down the river. Grab some gourmet sandwiches at Korbel Winery’s Deli (my husband’s favorite is the tri-tip), and rent your vessel (canoe, kayak, paddleboat, inner tube) of choice from Johnson’s Beach.
If you don’t feel like paddling upriver, start at Burke’s in Forestville and have them pick you up at a pre-determined spot down river. If you find yourself in Healdsburg, but would still like to explore the Russian River, River’s Edge Kayak and Canoe can set you up.
6. Getaway Adventures Tour
Join Getaway Adventures this summer for their Peddle and Paddle Tour. Meet up in the quaint town of Sebastopol, ride through Graton and the peaceful vineyards of West County until you arrive at the tree-lined town of Forestville.
After lunch, kayak down the slow-moving river as you gaze up at the wild flower covered banks. Biking skills are for “energetic beginners”. Recommended for kids 6 and up. Be sure to check out their Bike ‘N” Safari Tour as well.
7. Sonoma Canopy Tours
For older kids (10 and up), check out Sonoma Canopy Tours in Occidental. Zipline through Northern California’s Coastal Redwoods at speeds of up to 25mph. Take in the panoramic views of the forest at each aerial platform. This eco-tour educates their guests about the unique ecosystem of the impressive Redwoods, all while having soaring FUN!
8. Howarth Park/Spring Lake Regional Park
Rarely can you find a one stop outdoor park that has it all. There will be no kid’s complaints of “I’m bored” while exploring this Santa Rosa gem. At Howarth Park your kids can ride ponies, chug along on the mini-train, splash in the water fountains, and pretend they’re cowboys in the park’s Old West Town play area.
Just over the hill at Spring Lake, take bikes on the paved path, feed the ducks, paddleboat on the lake, and swim in the lagoon. During the summer months, a water park pops up where kids can play on inflatables on top of the water.
9. A Day in Bodega Bay
The picturesque drive out to Bodega alone makes this excursion worth it, but a full day in Bodega Bay brings fresh air, good food, and great memories. Begin at Spud Point for the freshest off-the-boat crab you’ll ever have. I recommend the crab cakes.
Journey on to Bodega Head and hike the bluffs hovering above the majestic Pacific. Go tidepooling at Schoolhouse Beach and dip your toes into the icy water of Doran Regional Park, where kite flying is always a good idea. Be sure to grab some saltwater taffy for the ride back.
10. Francis Ford Coppola Winery
You want to explore the wineries, but the kids just want to swim. Appease both at the family-friendly Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville. Coppola, the film director extraordinaire, has built a winery that houses much of his popular movie paraphernalia, great food, artisan ware, and a pool so the kids can swim.
Open every day in the summer, daily passes to this hot spot go fast. To ensure entry, reserve a “cabine” which includes pool passes, towels, lounge chairs, water bottles, and up to four wine tasting flights. Who says you can’t have it all?
Bonus Thing to do in Santa Rosa
Opened after the original publication of this article, I would be remiss if I did not include the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County as one of the top fun things to do in Santa Rosa for the 10 and under crew. The Children’s Museum “provides hands on interactive exhibits and activities in a safe environment”. Open daily, programs include art jams, science sparks, and music and movement classes. Memberships are available.
Santa Rosa Lodging for Families
For lodging, relax at the Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa, located in beautiful Sonoma County Wine Country, a short drive away from the towns of Healdsburg, Sonoma, Calistoga, and St. Helena. It’s the perfect location for day trips to the Pacific Ocean, the Russian River, and Armstrong Redwood Grove. Access to the Montecito Health and Racket Club and spa is available for a daily fee. Amenities there include 5 tennis courts, a lap pool, cycling and warm yoga classes, and spa treatments.
This post is sponsored by the Santa Rosa CVB. For more fun things to do in Santa Rosa, be sure to contact the Santa Rosa CVB for kid-friendly tips and recommendations when planning your visit.
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