Things to do in Wine Country Besides Wine Tasting
Updated: Feb 16
Coming to California's Wine Country but not really interested in the wine scene? Not to worry, there is still plenty to do in the area! Here are some ideas and resources to help you have just as much fun as those winos touring the wineries and tasting rooms.
Just like there is no shortage of wineries in Wine Country, there is also no shortage of hiking and walking trails. Small mountain ranges like Hood Mountain and Bald Mountain have many trails as well as more challenging ones like Mount St. Helena.
Different forests also have many walking trails and tabled areas that are perfect for a day trip with a picnic. Armstrong Woods and Muir Woods are some of the most popular ones in the area.
Another option is taking a drive out to the coast and walking along the mountain ranges with the view of the ocean. Dillon Beach and Fort Ross Historical Park are relatively close by and offer walking and hiking trails for all levels.
Some of these state and national parks have parking charges or permits that are required to enter, so it's best to do a little research before hand. Here are some resources that I find are most helpful.
Go Paddle Boarding on the Russian River
Located just south of Healdsburg, Russian River Paddle Boards offers guided tours on the Russian River. Tours last about 2 to 2.5 hours and are great for beginners to intermediate paddlers. You have the opportunity to paddle along some of the most undisturbed and pristine parts of the river in Sonoma County.
You can also do a self guided tour and rent the paddle boards for a day. The owner gives you the option to meet you at one of two locations on the water to drop off the paddle boards for the day. Or, if you want more time with the boards, you also have the option of picking up the boards at their home location and renting them for the weekend, or a full week!
Enjoy a Hot Air Balloon Ride
See this beautiful area from the air in a peaceful and/or romantic hot air balloon ride. Thankfully there are several companies that offer private hot air balloon experiences. Here are a few:
Take a Cooking Class
Wine country has a great food scene. Some of the worlds best chefs have their restaurants in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. Not only are there fantastic restaurants to eat at, there are also many places you can learn to cook meals inspired by these chefs as well as by the diversity of the area.
Relish Culinary Adventures has their main location in Healdsburg, California. However they do offer several cooking class opportunities throughout the area at local wineries, sustainable family farms, and even out at the coast. They also offer in-home cooking lessons for private parties.
Ramekins Catering Events and Inn was originally a public cooking school in the Sonoma Valley starting in 1998. They have since developed into an event space, catering company and boutique inn, with their cooking classes remaining an integral part of what they offer their guests. Check out their website to see their list of offered classes.
Take a Safari Tour at Safari West
Experience Africa in the heart of wine country and get the chance to see zebras, giraffes, lemurs, cheetahs up close as well as hundreds of other animals. Safari West offers daily group tours as well as private experiences. They even offer over-night stays in their luxury "glamping" tents. Be sure to check out their website for tour times, rates as well as special events/deals they hold from time to time.
Tour the California Cheese Trail
Having such a great food scene in wine country, also means you can get some real high quality cheeses. The California Cheese trail offers a map, an app, and all the contact information to get you connected to artisan cheese makers and family farmers that offer tours, tastings as well as cheese-making classes.
Go Horseback Riding
Want to explore the area a little more? Why not do it on horseback! There are several ranches in the Wine Country area offering trail rides and lessons through the vineyards, forest trails, or even out at the coast.
Head Out to the Coast to Shuck Some Oysters
At Hog Island Oyster Company you can reserve a picnic table and purchases oysters that you can shuck yourself to eat raw or even BBQ. They also have a full service cafe with more food items as well as wine and beer. They have 4 different kinds of oysters you can buy as well as one type of clam.
At The Marshall Store, just a little further down the road from Hog Island Oyster Company, walk on into the full service deli and and order some freshly shucked oysters, along with some delicious chowder, specialty sandwiches, salads and other food options. You can even order some wine and beer to go along with your meal. The communal tables outside are first come first serve and have a great view of the bay.
The Graton Resort and Casino located in Rohnert Park not only has tons of gaming options, it is also a full function hotel and spa. There are several restaurants and event spaces, as well as an outdoor pool.
River Rock Casino is located in Geyserville, which is just north of the charming little town of Healdsburg. Driving through wine country to get to this casino is half the appeal. Once you're there, choose to play at their slot machines, table games, or in their high limit room. There are also several dining options, including a full buffet.
The Twin Pine Casino and Hotel is a little further north, in a town called Middletown. This full service casino also has a hotel with several luxury suites. This casino also boasts 4 different restaurant options to choose from.
Go to a Concert or a Comedy Show
Summertime in Wine Country is especially fun because of all the concerts happening in the area. Country Summer, Bottle Rock and the Sonoma Harvest Music Festival are a few very popular weekend long concert series in the Sonoma and Napa Counties. You can also take advantage of the free concerts happening in downtown Windsor or on the Healdsburg Plaza with local bands as well as vendors and artisans.
You can also check out The Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa, The Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, or The Uptown Theater in Napa for their list concerts and comedy shows happening all year round.
Take a Spa Day
Need a little extra rest and relaxation when you're in Wine Country? The Sonoma and Napa Valley's have a plethora of full service spa's to give you that extra bit of pampering during your visit here. Many of these full service spas are inside some really nice hotels. For most of these places you don't need to be staying at their location to take advantage of their services.
Here is a small list of my favorite spas:
What better way to spend your getaway to wine country than to stay in a luxury 4-walled tent on the river. Just north of Healdsburg is a brand new glamping site, Wildhaven Sonoma. It's located right on the Russian River, with private river access where you can either spend the whole day floating or lounging on the beach. It's also super close to some of Sonoma County's best wineries if you decide you do want to taste a little.
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