Santa Rosa is seventh heaven for children from 0 to 199 years old. Ask any Peanuts fan; they’ll tell you all about Charlie Brown’s hometown. In the shadow of the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s sometimes overlooked as a family getaway destination. But for a multigenerational group, it is an ideal place to play, learn, eat, and unwind.
Santa Rosa is a small city with fewer than 2 million residents. Founded in 1833, it’s the county seat of Sonoma County. The metropolis has endured earthquakes, wildfires, and droughts, rebounding from each and rebuilding a better Santa Rosa every time.
Santa Rosa is perfect for a multigenerational holiday. It’s compact and easy to get around. Budget-friendly lodging, eateries, and excursions are of high quality. From wineries to playgrounds, there are experiences everyone will enjoy.
Nothing is more multigenerational-friendly than Peanuts. Santa Rosa is the Mecca for Peanuts or Charles M. Schulz fans. Dotted along West Steele Lane is the Charles M. Schulz legacy to Santa Rosa and the world. Called the “Schulz Campus,” you’ll find the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, Snoopy’s Home Ice, Warm Puppy Café, and Snoopy’s Gallery and Gift Shop.
1. Charles M. Schulz Museum
The Charles M. Schulz Museum is a must whether you are a Peanuts fan or not. The museum is full of light, color, art, laughs, and inspiration. Permanent and changing exhibits show the development of Schulz’s cast of characters throughout his career. It’s captivating and informative.
Everyone loves Peanuts, and the museum displays examples of the love from around the globe. Charles Schulz’s office/studio was moved from his nearby home to the museum. It’s just as he left it on his last day of work there — including paper that missed the bin.
The Education Room is for everyone. There, you can learn to draw a Peanuts character with the guidance of instructors.
Don’t miss the theater. There are documentaries and animated films showing daily. Theater admission is included in your museum ticket. Outdoors you will find shady areas for daydreaming and picnicking.
2. Snoopy’s Home Ice
When you leave the museum, head east to Snoopy’s Home Ice (Redwood Empire Ice Arena). Charles Schulz created a first-rate ice arena for figure skating, hockey, and ice shows. The arena offers skating sessions, lessons, and skate rentals year-round. In addition, local hockey teams play and practice on Snoopy’s Ice.
3. The Warm Puppy Café
Whether you are a skater or an observer, stop in the Warm Puppy Café for a cup of hot cocoa, a snack, or lunch. The café is located at Snoopy’s Home Ice. Picture windows are made for rink viewing while you enjoy soups, sandwiches, four flavors of hot cocoa, and Mr. Schulz’s favorite — tuna on wheat. I liked the vegetarian chili with cornbread.
4. Snoopy’s Gallery And Gifts
After your hot cocoa, walk 3 minutes east to Snoopy’s Gallery and Gifts. In addition to a wide range of Peanuts-themed memorabilia, you’ll enjoy a museum-like gallery of Peanuts merchandise and art from all over the world.
Take time to look at the signed and unsigned lithographs of Peanuts comic strips. You are bound to find one of your favorites to take home.
The Great Outdoors
5. Children’s Museum Of Sonoma County
Head west from the Charles M. Schulz Museum to the place that should be called the “Fun For Everyone Museum.” At the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, exhibits are meant to be touched, and no one will need to be quiet.
One of the best parts of the museum is the gardens and playgrounds with food and ornamental plants; everyone can learn about where our food comes from and how it’s grown.
6. Armstrong Redwoods
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is an ancient redwood forest. The tree inhabitants are among the largest and oldest living organisms on earth. To walk among them in silence, listening to the forest’s soundtrack, soothes the heart and lifts the spirit.
Pack your picnic basket, binoculars, and cameras, and take a nature break. Sit and forest bath, soaking up the redwood fragrances and sounds. Take a hike, look for wildlife, then take a nap.
Twenty miles of trails are maintained, some of which are accessible. Armstrong is a beautiful picnicking location, as well. Picnic tables are available in addition to restrooms. Learn more on this brochure (PDF).
7. Safari West
Safari West, the Sonoma Serengeti, is a wildlife preserve on the outskirts of Santa Rosa. Nine hundred animals representing 90 species roam 400 acres of woodlands and rolling hills in Sonoma County.
Many animals are protected, studied, and bred at Safari West. Hooved animals like giraffes and antelope, carnivores like cheetahs, and fabulous birds like flamingos and ibises are just a few of the many inhabitants here.
This place deserves an overnight stay and two nights would be ideal. After a day of jeep touring in small groups, return to your glamping en-suite safari tent, where R&R awaits before dinner in the dining room.
8. Francis Ford Coppola Winery
“Take your place in the sun” is the welcoming phrase at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Made for a multigenerational experience, the winery is a place to spend the day relaxing by the pool. Rent a cabana for the day and enjoy the sun and water. Food and beverage are available at the pool or indoors at the restaurant.
Of course, wine tasting and wine purchases are available for adults. There are also automobiles, costumes, and props from many of Coppola’s movies. In addition, plenty of wine and movie-related merchandise is available to satisfy a “shopping jones.”
9. Luther Burbank Home And Gardens
Another one of Santa Rosa’s favorite sons, Luther Burbank not only made a lasting mark on Santa Rosa, he influenced the world by developing plants that would produce more food for a growing nation and hungry world.
The beautiful Luther Burbank Home And Gardens in the center of Santa Rosa is free to stroll, smell, admire, and photograph. The grounds are a living museum to the hundreds of plants Burbank has developed and bred. I think you’ll be surprised at how he influenced our diets with things like the Burbank potato, now the most common potato in the world. In addition, he developed many fruits, vegetables, and flowers. See them all in this divine garden. Also, keep an eye out for fairy houses while on your self-guided tour.
Check out the gift shop for information about docent-led tours. The gift shop is also the perfect place to find a gift for a gardening friend or buy seeds from Burbank’s creations.
10. Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market
On Wednesday night, strolling from stall to stall under the downtown redwood grove is something you can only experience in Santa Rosa. The enormous market has stalls filled with local farmers’ produce and prepared local favorites. There are also artists, craftsmen, cooks, and importers selling wares.
Grab a dish or two from a vendor and head to the town square where you can sit and enjoy the delicious bounty of Sonoma County. That also includes beer and wine made in the area. While sitting in the square, you’ll be entertained by local artists and performers. Check out the “Entertainment” tab on the Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market’s website.
11. Photo Ops With The Peanuts Gang
Somewhere you least expect it in Santa Rosa, a member of the Peanuts gang is waiting for a photo with you and your companions. Peanuts on Parade features 5-foot-tall fiberglass figures of Peanuts characters. You’ll find them at airports, train stations, parks, shops, and shopping malls. The statues were decorated by local artists, then sold to raise money for art scholarships.
About 70 of the camera-ready effigies are located in Santa Rosa. See how many you can include with you in a photo. Then, check them off using the Peanuts on Parade locator (PDF).
The Golden Gate Bridge is 50 miles south of Santa Rosa. The region’s airport, Charles M Schulz Sonoma County Airport (STS), has direct service to and from Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orange County, Portland, Phoenix, Reno, San Diego, and Seattle.
Rental cars are available on airport property. The train station is just a mile away. Local and regional buses are a few steps from the terminal, including airport shuttles to San Francisco and Oakland.
The small airport is easy to get in and out of and crowds are rare. It can really take the stress out of flying with a group. If you are flying into San Francisco or Oakland, consider taking the Sonoma County Airporter to STS, where you can pick up your rental car and save driving through city traffic. Buses with Wi-Fi and luggage storage are frequent, safe, and comfortable.
Why Take The Family To Santa Rosa?
Santa Rosa is a small northern California city north of San Francisco. It’s a family-friendly town, with activities, eateries, and lodging for all ages, styles, and budgets.
From adults to toddlers, you and your grandchildren will enjoy activities for all age groups, those just for adults or those designed for little ones.
To learn more about Santa Rosa, go to Visit Santa Rosa.
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