Great architecture & history; near San Francisco
Pot holes and growth
Great place to live. Absolutely.
One unusual, interesting, and useful, landmark in downtown Petaluma is the old Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) drinking fountain, erected in 1891. It stands on Western Ave near Petaluma Blvd, in the heart of downtown and is an interesting small landmark to see, since relatively few places still have one. It's the only one I know of in the...more
The predecessor to Petaluma's current downtown post office, which opened in 1932, still exists but is now commercial space. It was the post office only from 1920-1932 but still says "Post Office" on the front. It was designed by renowned local architect Brainerd Jones, who designed many of the prominent commercial builginds and houses around town.more
Downtown Petaluma has an impressive collection of 19th-century Iron Front buildings. They're all within a few blocks of each other. It's no wonder that this town has served as the setting for movies; it's among the most picturesque in all of California. And, even though it lies near San Francisco, the 1906 earthquake did little damage to it.more
One of the defining elements of Petaluma's downtown and architectural heritage is its wealth of ironfront Victorian commercial buildings. They tend to be quite ornate and several, such as the 3-storey Mutual Relief Building (1885) and the Masons' Building (1882), are pretty large. Their primary concentration is at the very core of downtown, with...more
This is a striking church designed in about 1890 by Ernest Coxhead, who designed, among others, many Episcopal buildings in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and other parts of California. It is apparently considered among his finest buildings and is paradigmatic of his eclectic style and his use of shingles. Coxhead was a British architect who...more
This is a beautiful, grand church built in the 1920s. It has two small domes decorated with tiles, including tiles with images of all the Spanish missions in California. The church is one of the taller buildings in town and it is very prominent from the hilly areas around town, with the sun gleaming off the domes. It has its original beautiful...more
In addition to its downtown architecture, Petaluma has a wealth of old houses, including many beautiful Victorians, some very large. It also has a couple houses, one very large with servants' quarters, etc., designed by Julia Morgan, who helped Hearst design Hearst Castle among other things. Most of these are west of downtown, especially along D...more
The biggest benefit of this hotel is the walking distance to downtown. What is slightly weird about...more
Great location, recently updated rooms and an outdoor pool all at less than $100 / night (usually)...more
745 Baywood Dr, Petaluma, CA 94954
Good for: Solo
This is a lovely, old-fashioned ice cream parlour that opened fairly recently, filling what was for a long time a major gap. I think every region needs at least one good, old-style ice cream parlour and Sonoma County has been sorely lacking in them since the mid-1990s at least. Anyway, this has a great location in the heart of downtown Petaluma on...more
When I eat Mexcian food, I usually stick to simple taquerias, which I find are not only cheap but usually have the best food. However, I do appreciate all kinds of cooking and more "up-scale" Mexican food can be great, too. Tres Hombres is one place that in fact does a great job, with a nice range of Mexican, or variations on Mexican-influenced...more
Dempsey's is the local Petaluma brewpub and it has been here since 1991. It's right across the river from downtown proper, in the Golden Eagle shopping centre. However, since it's right on the river and there is a pedestrian bridge across the river from Water St. near the foot of Western Ave. right to Dempsey's, it's essentially downtown. The place...more
This is an upscale (but not too upscale) take on traditional American diner food. It has a slightly classier version of urban diner decor and the food is prepared carefully, thoughfully, with skill, and with slight twists on the traditional themes. They also have a pretty good, if small, beer selection.Thankfully, it doesn't suffer from the...more
This is a long-standing Thai place downtown. It's pretty good but it's not great and is fairly standard for American Thai placees. There are two other, much better, Thai restaurants in the vicinity (see my tips on those), but this place will do fine, especially if one just wants the usual stuff. The food is standard and can be a bit...more
This is a pretty good Indian place, decent and pretty standard, but pretty solid and enjoyable. The people are pretty friendly but the atmosphere is pretty basic and the location, in an ugly shopping centre on the generally cookie-cutter, drab east side, leaves a lot to be desired. If you're visiting town, there is little reason to come to this...more
Nightlife in Petaluma is pretty minimal, although one can find some places if one tries. But then, that's not the reason one should, or would, go to Petaluma.
One place is McNear's Mystic Theatre, a music venue with many performances. Conveniently, it is right next to McNear's Saloon (see tip), open late with pretty good, family-friendly pub-style food, beer, bar, etc., and which stays open until midnight.
There are several 24-hour private cab services throughout Petaluma. One has been in service for at least 2 decades (A-1 Taxi). They are easy to take and cost about $10 to $12 to get from one end of town to the other. You won't be able to wave down a taxi, except perhaps at the bus depot, the airport express shuttle at the fairgrounds, or from in front of a bar on a weekend night during peak hours... however, they are extremely easy to use if you call and generally reliable.
Anyone in Petaluma can tell you the names of the local transportation service.
You may wait up to 45-minutes for a taxi during peak weekend hours since Petaluma is a "bar town," but otherwise, expect a wait of about 15 minutes.
Tipping is encouraged and appreciated: 15-20% for short rides.
Service runs to the airport for those who miss their airporter as well, a fairly common occurance, particularly to Oakland Airport, where service is every two hours, or for the last airporter of the night to Oakland or SFO.
Copperfield's is a great local bookstore chain with stores in Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol (the original) and Napa. The one in Petaluma has an extensive selection of old used and rare books in the basement, which is my favourite part of the store.My favourite place for used books in Petaluma was Read Moore Books down Kentucky Street near the...more
Marisa's Fantasia is a neat store that has been in downtown Petaluma for many years. It sells all kinds of crystal and glass and has a Christmas store that during the Christmas season is packed with wonderful ornaments and other decorations of all kinds, ranging from very inexpensive to quite expensive. It is a wonderful, festive experience and has...more
355 Reviews and Opinions
Having driven through 42 States, I still think the country roads surrounding Petaluma afford some of the most exquisite views in the United States. Often compared with Ireland or Northern Italy, there are several particularly stunning drives where you can see gorgeous rock formations, rolling hills, vineyards, dairy farms, our famous oak groves, or...more
This is a pretty nice opne-space Sonoma County park just west of Petaluma. Nestled among rolling hills, it has open grassy areas, wooded areas, and some light hiking up hills that can afford pretty nice views of Petaluma. It is close to town.It's at 411 Chileno Valley Rd. From downtown, take Western Ave,. west, out of town, and then head left/south...more
This is the former Must Hatch Incubator Co., one of Petaluma's first incubator companies. The company was founded in 1898 but I understand that the current brick building was constructed some years later. I read that for some time it was the poultry largest hatchery in the US. It is on 7th Street and is quite an interesting building.more
Take the walking tour of historic downtown Petaluma's Victorian buildings and churches. Or bike ride around town and out into Petaluma's picturesque countryside dotted with cows, sheep and chicken coops.
Fondest memory: Beautiful Historic Adobe