Petaluma Travel Guide

  • Petaluma
    by GracesTrips
  • Petaluma
    by scottstevens630
  • Petaluma
    by GracesTrips

Petaluma Highlights

  • Pro
    WulfstanTraveller profile photo

    WulfstanTraveller says…

     Great architecture & history; near San Francisco 

  • Con
    scottstevens630 profile photo

    scottstevens630 says…

     Pot holes and growth 

  • In a nutshell
    scottstevens630 profile photo

    scottstevens630 says…

     Great place to live. Absolutely. 

Petaluma Things to Do

  • Temperance Fountain

    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...

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  • Petaluma Museum - Old Carnegie Library

    Petaluma has a beautiful old Carnegie library downtown, built in 1904, which has a stained-glass dome. It was used as the libary until 1976 and is now a museum.

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  • Old Post Office

    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.

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  • For Architecture buffs

    There are some great examples of nice Victorian style architecture all around the downtown area. Kind of reminds you of the French Quarter a bit. Take your camera, take a stroll, gaze at some fine craftsmanship, and enjoy that sweet, oh so sweet, California weather

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  • Downtown Walk

    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.

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  • Petaluma Marina

    Here is a tip for boaters: The Petaluma Marina has 190 slips, free parking, phone service, utilities, restrooms, security, and other amenities.

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  • Victorian Homes Walk

    Petaluma has one of the largest intact collections of Victorian homes in the state. Nearly all are in excellent condition. St Vincent DePaul Catholic Church is the most beautiful church in this town.

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  • Old Banks

    In addition to Victorian ironfronts and the like, Petaluma also has a couple interesting, grand old neo-classical bank buildings made faced with faux marble. They are both antique and carpet stores now and one an go in the old vaults, open with things to see.

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  • Ironfront Buildings

    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...

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  • St. John's Episcopal Church

    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...

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  • St. Vincent Catholic Church

    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...

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  • Old Houses

    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...

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Petaluma Hotels

See all 9 Hotels in Petaluma

Petaluma Restaurants

  • Ice Cream Parlour

    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...

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  • Great "Gourmet" Mexican-Latin American...

    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...

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  • Great Brewpub

    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...

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  • Great, Skilled Take on Comfort/Diner...

    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...

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  • Pretty Good Thai Place with Cocktail...

    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...

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  • Pretty Good Indian Restaurant

    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...

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Petaluma Nightlife

  • WulfstanTraveller's Profile Photo

    by WulfstanTraveller Updated Dec 15, 2006

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

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Petaluma Transportation

  • by lady_luma Written May 23, 2009

    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.

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Petaluma Shopping

  • Good New and Used Bookstore

    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...

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  • Crystal, Glass, and Christmas...

    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...

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  • Petaluma Hotels

    9 Hotels in Petaluma

    376 Reviews and Opinions

Petaluma Local Customs

  • Smile and Say Hello.

    Petaluma is famous for welcoming new comers and tourists. Heck, we welcome EVERYBODY! Unlike the streets of big cities and, of late, Europe, eye contact on the street is encouraged and greetings are common and appreciated. Why not smile and wish someone a good day?

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  • Petaluma Sidewalk Art

    Like many other California towns, Petaluma has its own locally produced sidewalk art. Since American Graffiti was filmed here, the theme is old 1950s and '60s cars. The variations on this theme are very creative. It's fun to just go around looking at them.

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  • People are typical Northern...

    People are typical Northern California. They are generally nice and open minded, but sometimes centered on themselves. For out of country people: Typical U.S. tipping and greetings and cultural beliefs.

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Petaluma Off The Beaten Path

  • Absorb BREATHTAKING views in the...

    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...

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  • Helen Putnam Regional Park

    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...

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  • Must Hatch Incubator Co.

    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.

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Petaluma Favorites

  • JeanCooke's Profile Photo

    by JeanCooke Written Oct 4, 2002

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: 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

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