48 Hours in Santa Rosa

Jul 1, 2018

In my line of work, I get asked all the time for quick-trip suggestions. Even though I draw a blank whenever my kids ask what we’re going to do on any particular day, I have a lot of suggestions for others! By the way: what ever happened to kids just being bored all summer? What’s with this constant expectation to be entertained?! Ugh. 

For this post’s brainstorming, I consulted with Paul Malone, Santa Rosa’s finest driveway winemaker and the person I happen to call my sweetheart. We came up with our Santa Rosa two-day tourist guide within about four seconds…enjoy!

First of all, we have chickens so we’d probably just make breakfast ourselves – but there are a handful of great breakfast spots, too. We love Dierk’s Parkside, and Criminal Bakery off the top of our heads. 

If our visitors arrived in summer, we’d check with the City of Santa Rosa to find out if they’d be giving any tours of the underground creek tunnels, because this activity is awesome and full of information about Santa Rosa’s creek system. Plus, the graffiti is really cool. 

For lunch, we’d prepare for the gluttony to come later by eating at Gaia’s Garden, which is next door to The Last Record Store (check it out), and serves vegan, gluten-free, vegetable-laden and super-healthy meals. 

After that, we’d head over to the SOFA neighborhood (South A) for some art gallery perusal. Not every art space is open all the time, but it’s amazing to see the variety of work being created in this one tiny little neighborhood. 

Over on Cleveland Ave is Vintner’s Square, a fun little stop for doing some wine tasting with a group because they’ve got a lot of other things going on, too. There’s an organic juice bar for the DD, a cigar shop, and a pizza place, because I am of the strong opinion that it never hurts to have some pizza at any given point in the day. Plus there’s Fogbelt Brewing Company for our beer nerd friends, and if we’re lucky they’ll be hosting one of their hilarious comedy shows, always featuring both local comedians and those from afar. We’d make a point to eat dinner at Lococo’s in Railroad Square because we’re suckers for a red and white checked tablecloth and classic garlicky Italian food. 

Paul loves a hike so on Day 2 we’d amble our way up Taylor Mountain, which is a bit of a haul for me because, let’s be honest: I’m quite lazy. But the stellar views of Santa Rosa and beyond are incredible and so worth it. As an additional reward for the climb, I would insist we treat our guests to some no-frills soft-serve ice cream at Foster’s Freeze on 4th Street, because it reminds me of being a kid, when everything was no-frills. 

Across 4th Street from Foster’s is the Proctor Terrace/McDonald neighborhood, where we’d take a little walk (on a flat surface this time!). In the spring, the cherry and plum blossoms are off the hook, and in the fall the yellow ginkgo leaves covering the streets make us feel like we’re in Oz. 

The McDonald Mansion was lovingly restored several years ago, and it’s super fun to stand outside, clutching the gate at the end of the driveway, shouting “MOM! Let me innnnn!” That’s normal…right? 

I’ve always been fond of pretending I’m a very rich and fancy lady so this place suits that daydream pretty well. In this fantasy, clearly I am also the mom. Anyway – McDonald Ave itself is nice and wide for strolling, with beautiful, immaculately-kept historic homes to admire on either side. 

Since we were already feeling very quaint and old-world, we’d then catch happy hour at The Villa, which sort of feels like being in a black and white movie, filled with everyone’s favorite grandparents. The curved, cream-colored naugahyde booths are only slightly mafia-inspired, and the view over Santa Rosa’s treetops is superb. 

The Villa has a pretty extensive Happy Hour food menu, but my vote would be to head over to Rosso’s pizzeria for dinner, where their wood-fired pizzas are to die for. They’re topped with anything from your traditional sauce and cheese, to salmon with capers and arugula, to their ‘Goomba’, which has spaghetti and meatballs on it. Yes, you read that right: spaghetti and meatballs on a pizza! So yeah, we like to take our nearest and dearest there. 

Do I even need to tell you what happens next? We roll home, of course. We roll home, sleep it off, and get up to do it all over again with the next round of guests. 

What are your go-to entertainment spots when guests come to town? Let me know in the comments!

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