Thursday, February 22, 2024

Santa Rosa - The Heart of California's Sonoma County

California Visitors' Center


Sonoma County is one of the centers of California wine country, and Santa Rosa is the county seat of Sonoma. So, on a trip to the area, I decided to make Santa Rosa my base of operations. It is centrally located in the county, and offers a wide range of restaurants and hotels.

The land where Santa Rosa is today was the home of the Bitakomatara tribe of the Pomo people. Europeans settled in the area in the early 19th century. Santa Rosa was founded in 1833 by the Maria Ygnacia López de Carrillo, a member of the Carrillo family, who were highly connected in the Mexican-California ranch society and government. Today Santa Rosa is a slightly sprawling city of around 175,000 residents.

Public domain via wikimedia commons

I started my visit at Railroad Square, where the California Visitors’ Center located, inside the historic rail depot. The center is a wonderful resource, offering a range of local walking and driving tours in the county, along with the usual array of pamphlets advertising businesses, restaurants and wineries. Their staff is friendly and a font of useful information. 

One walking tour I took was of the historic West End of Santa Rosa. The West End is an old area, with houses and businesses originally built between 1880 and 1930. It was an area where people lived near the factories and warehouses where they worked. Today, it is still home to working-class families. It is filled with small bungalows and houses, along with new companies filling the old buildings.

Jacobs Building - Historic Railroad Square

A'Roma Roasters, Historic Railroad Square

Hotel La Rose, Historic Railroad Square

521 Adams Street. Home to West End restaurants since 1900

Santa Rosa Creek and Greenway trail

202 W. 7th Street. - Franco American Bakery - a neighborhood staple since 1938

DeTurk Round Barn

6th Street Playhouse occupies the old Del Monte cannery

Santa Rosa was the home of Charles M. Schultz, creator and artist responsible for The Peanuts comics. His work is celebrated at the Charles M. Schultz Museum and Research Center. The day I visited, there was a special exhibition of strips dedicated to the experiences of Schultz’s beloved characters at school. 

The original Peanuts cast

Original hand-drawn comic strips are framed and hung around the museum, celebrating all eras of Charlie Brown and his friends.

The Peanuts around the World

Charles Schultz's office and studio

The Peanuts Gang is featured all around Santa Rosa, with statues sprinkled around the city.

Another area that is fun to visit is the McDonald neighborhood. McDonald is home to tree-lined streets with stately homes, an area of middle and upperclass residents. The area is also home to some excellent examples of Sonoma’s farm to table restaurants. I recommend The Bird and the Bottle. Its menu is a mix of southern and Asian palettes, with both large and small plates available. I enjoyed the Little Gem salad and the duck confit tacos.

As an east-coaster, I am always amazed that I can pull into almost any strip mall in California and find a phenomenal Asian restaurant. One example in Santa Rosa is Lee’s Noodle House on Hopper Ave. It was down the block from the Hampton Inn where I was staying, and their phò was a wonderful balm for a chilly, rainy California evening.

Santa Rosa is a great base for a visit to Sonoma County, it is unassuming, yet provides great places to stay and eat at reasonable prices.

No comments:

Post a Comment