Fun things to do in Santa Rosa

  • Joe Rodota Trail
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Santa Rosa

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    Shadow of a Doubt Film Locations

    by WulfstanTraveller Written Mar 9, 2014

    Alfred Hitchcock's classic1943 Shadow of a Doubt was both set and filmed in Santa Rosa. It is notable in that it was fairly rare for films to be made on location at that time and because the town itself was as much a character and integral part of the film as were the people. Much has changed, partly for the worse, but much is still intact from that time. Key filming locations in Santa Rosa that were prominent in the film and which have survived and look much as they did then include:

    1) the Newton family house at 904 McDonald Ave.
    2) the Empire Building (formerly Bank of Italy and Bank of America) on Old Courthouse Sq (the tall building with clock tower on top in the middle of town)
    3) the NWP RR Depot and adjacent area of Railroad Square, including the Hotel La Rose, all seen in the early scenes where Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) arrives and the climax of the film.

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    Howarth Park

    by WulfstanTraveller Written Oct 14, 2013

    I've already mentioned this in the tip on "3 parks in one," but I figured that I should expand on this, the largest of Santa Rosa's city parks.

    It has a small lake with paddle boats, etc., hiking trails both paved and unpaved around the lake and in the forested hills, some connecting to other parks also mentioned in the other tip, Spring Lake County Park and Annadel State Park. In addition, it has a large grassy lawn area next to Playland, a playground complex that has a faux town, slides, swings, large web tower to climb, pony rides, a merry-go-round/carousel, small train ride through a tunnel, over a trestle, and through woods, and a small petting barn with goats, etc. There is also a snack bar serving ice cream, hot dogs, candy, etc. It has a great mixture of untamed countryside and wooded hills, plus traditional lawn and playground. There are several nice picnic areas under trees, with some near the lake. The lake has lots of ducks and geese most of the time, too.

    It is right in the eastern part of town, too, with the entrance right in the town even though it is partly wild and connects to the other parks which go off into the wild hills.

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    South A Street Neighborhood (SOFA)

    by WulfstanTraveller Updated Aug 17, 2013

    The neighbourhood along South A Street is a neat area of town just south of downtown that until recently was neglected and kind of a skid row. It is one of the last old parts of town to transform itself and now, although small, has a dense collection of small art galleries, hair salons and restaurants. It also has one of the few remaining cobblers/leather repair shops in town and there's a video store.

    The small art galleries are a prime attraction of the area and they have an eclectic range of local art, usually by the proprietors themselves.

    The heart of the area is the intersection of South A St. and Sebastopol Ave., which runs between Hwy 101 and Santa Rosa Ave. A nice away to walk to or from the area is through beautiful Julliard Park, which extends from Santa Rosa Ave. in the east to South A St.

    The area has events throughout the year, especially the Winter Blast with the "Electric Sofa Parade" where people ride their sofas down the street and lots of fun for adults and kids alike. More regularly is the SOFA stroll on the 3rd Thursday of every month, 6pm-8pm, when all the galleries are fully open to the public and fun things are going on.

    Places to eat right in the neighbourhood include Spinster Sisters, an excellent and highly regarded restaurant at the corner of South A & Sebastopol Ave, and Criminal Baking, on Sebastopol Ave. Another great place to eat breakfast and lunch nearby, although not technically in the neighborhood, is Park Side Cafe on the opposite side of Santa Rosa Ave. just south of Julliard Park. See my tips on these places.

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    Sonoma County Fair

    by WulfstanTraveller Updated Sep 7, 2012

    Santa Rosa is home to the Sonoma County Fair, one of the largest county fairs in the state. It's large, has a large carnival area, lots of eating choices, music, shows, horse races, lots of vendors and the Hall of Flowers, which I once read is the largest themed flower show on the West Coast. Every year, the Hall of Flowers has a different theme for the flower and landscaping displays, to go along with the year's theme for the fair.

    The fair lasts for 2-3 weeks at the end of July and early August.

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    McDonald Neighbourhood and Mansion

    by WulfstanTraveller Written Mar 29, 2012

    The McDonald Neighbourhood, an old resdidential area developed mostly in the 1870s-1890s and near the less majestic JC Neighbourhood, has long been Santa Rosa's most grand residential area and is full of large Victorian and other houses. It is also lined with many large, old trees.

    It takes its name from its most prominent street, McDonald Ave, and the fact that it was developed largely by the wealthy McDonald family, who owned gasworks, rail, and other interests.

    In 1878, the McDonalds built the neighbourhood's most famous old mansion, Mableton (also called the McDonald Mansion and was used in the 1960 Disney film Pollyanna), which is located right on McDonald Ave.

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    Autumn in the McDonald Neighbourhood

    by WulfstanTraveller Written Mar 27, 2012

    The McDonald Neighbourhood, an old resdidential area developed mostly in the 1880s-1890s and near the less majestic JC Neighbourhood, has long been Santa Rosa's most grand residential area and is full of large Victorian and other houses. It is also lined with many large, old trees, including a large number of gingkos, which produce vibrant colours in the autumn, mostly later November.

    It takes its name from its most prominent street, McDonald Ave, and the fact that it was developed largely by the wealthy McDonald family, who owned gasworks, rail, and other interests, and who built the town's most famous old mansion, Mableton (also called the McDonald Mansion and was used in the 1960 Disney film Pollyanna), which is located right on McDonald Ave.

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    Luther Burbank Home

    by Tom_Fields Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Luther Burbank (1849-1926) created many fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and other plants. Many we now take for granted. Others were never accredited to him (in horticulture, intellectual property is a difficult thing to protect). His most famous contribution was the Russet Potato. This is what we most often eat--used to make french fries, hash browns, mashed potatoes, and potato chips.

    Born in Lancaster, Massachusetts, he moved to Santa Rosa in 1875. This house, originally built to store horse carriages and feed, served as Burbank's home from 1884 to 1906. After his death, his widow moved in. She remained here until her death in 1977. In 1986, it was renovated again as a museum. It now houses many artifacts of his life, and a modest gift shop.

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    Snoopy and Friends

    by Rixie Updated Nov 17, 2010

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    The Charles M. Schulz Museum is a memorial to the work of the late cartoonist Schulz, the genius behind the cartoon strip Peanuts, and a must-see for fans of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, et al.

    There are huge statues of Charlie Brown and Snoopy and an impressive mural by Japanese artist Yoshiteru Otani, made up of thousands of Peanuts strips cast in ceramic tile. The galleries show Snoopy and friends as they evolved through the years.

    Upstairs you can see a reconstruction of the artist's study and even a section of wall from a house he once owned, that he painted for his daughter. What touched me the most were the tributes to Schulz -- in cartoon form, of course -- from other artists. There's a small museum shop next to the lobby.

    Admission is $10 general, $5 seniors and youth, museum members and under 4 free. Closed major holidays and Tuesdays in winter, fall, and spring.

    But wait... there's more. Across the street you can grab a snack at the Warm Puppy Cafe (Schulz's table is stil reserved for him), go for a skate at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, a.k.a. Snoopy's Home Ice, or shop at the Snoopy gift shop.

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    Peanuts Characters

    by WulfstanTraveller Updated Sep 30, 2010

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    Santa Rosa is the home of Charles Schulz, as well as his ice arena and the museum about him and Peanuts. Therefore, in Summer 2005, the city began a celebration of Peanuts with statutes of Charlie Brown set up all over town during the celebration of "It's Your Town, Charlie Brown". Some were auctioned off but others remain. This year, Woodstock is the character being honoured in "The Summer of Woodstock" and this is expected to continue in the future with other characters.

    Therefore, all over town, with a concentration in downtown, there are Charlie Brown and Woodstock statues. More characters from Peanuts are planned for similar events, since Santa Rosa was the home town of Charles Schulz and is the location of Schulz's Redwood Empire Ice Arena/Snoopy's Home Ice and the Schulz Museum.

    One can obtain maps and info from, among other places, the Cal. Welcome Center in the old RR depot in Railroad Square. One can obtain souvenirs there and at the gift store at the Schulz museum and the ice arena (see my tips on those places).

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    Old NWP RR Depot - California Welcome Center

    by WulfstanTraveller Updated Sep 30, 2010

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    In the heart of Railroad Square, the western portion of downtown Santa Rosa, is the NWP railroad depot. It was built in 1904 of rough-hewn basalt blocks, like many of the nearby buildings. Currently, alas, it is not a functioning depot (although we here in Sonoma County are pushing for rail service again!), but it houses the local California Welcome Center and the Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau. Therefore, in addition to being a great building to see, it is a conveniently located place to find travel and event information, maps, and Sonoma County/Santa Rosa souvenirs.

    Inside, the depot has a visitor-information desk, a gift shop, and a small display on the railroading history of the area, a small electric train setup, and the controls for the train signals. Visitors are free to manipulate the controls (seen in the accompanying pictures I provide), which still operate, and therefore can change the depot's train signal right outside (also in the pictures here).

    For cinema buffs, this is also the place where Joseph Cotten arrived in Santa Rosa, and from which he embarked the train to leave in Hitchcock's film Shadow of a Doubt. The station is quite prominent in many shots of the film both when "Uncle Charlie" is arriving and leaving, and it looks pretty much identical today as it did in the film.

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    Handcar Regatta

    by WulfstanTraveller Updated Sep 30, 2010

    Every year in late September since 2008, Santa Rosa's Railroad Square is home to "The Great West End & Railroad Square Handcar Regatta & Exposition of Mechanical & Artistic Wonders." This event combines a handcar regatta, a race on the railroad tracks of human-powered vehicles like traditional handcars or anything else people can create with a "steampunk" Victorian science-fiction theme. People create and race a huge variety of vehicles from traditional railroad handcars to double penny-farthings rigged to ride on rails, and many others, while people dress in the steampunk sci-fi-Victorian garb, etc. The whole event takes up much of Railroad Square and can be a lot of fun, with a lot going on, including food, music, creative children's activities, home-made Victorian-style or steampunk machinery, art, and a lot more.

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    Charles Schulz Museum

    by WulfstanTraveller Updated Sep 29, 2010

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    This new museum showcases the life and work of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, who lived in Santa Rosa. It is next to Schulz's Peanuts-themed Redwood Empire Ice Arena.

    The museum has extensive galleries of Schulz's work, with rotating exhibits of the cartoon plates, plus extensive memorabilia from his youth and his early artwooks dating back to childhood. It also has an entire wall from Schulz's home in Colorado where he and his family lived for a few years in the 50s. Schulz had painted that wall with Peanuts characters and other cartoons for his daughter. The entire wall was donated by the new owners of the house.

    Another feature is a recreation of the inside of Schulz's studio (which was in a building about a couple blocks away on Hardies Lane), with his desk, chair, books, bookcases, memorabilia, curtains, etc.

    Included are a large wooden Peanuts sculpture and a large mosaic made up of Peanuts cartoons in tile form.

    It also has a wrapped version of Snoopy's doghouse by Christo, which Christo presented after Schulz made a cartoon where Snoopy admired Christo's work only to find his doghouse wrapped up by the artist.

    Unfortunately, pictures are only allowed in the hall areas and not in the actual galleries.

    Upstairs is a children's area for doing art, practicing making cartoons, etc.

    It includes a garden in back.

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    Three Wonderful Parks in One

    by WulfstanTraveller Updated Sep 29, 2010

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    Santa Rosa is blessed with a wonderful group of three great parks all tied together right in the city, not very far from downtown. They are a Howarth Park (a large city park), Spring Lake Park (county park), and Annadel State Park, a large park of semi-wilderness in the hills that extends down toward the Sonoma Valley.

    All are large and one can walk from one to the other, so that one can start at Howarth Park right in town and end up in undeveloped, open hills out of town in the Sonoma Valley. Both Howarth and Spring Lake have lakes. Howarth park has canoe and paddle boat rentals, pony rides, a merry-go-round, and a miniature train to ride through oak trees, a tunnel, and over a small bridge. it also has a large, well-developed playground with a climbing net, bridges, a play town, and a lot more. Spring Lake has a swimming lagoon and there is good hiking in all the parks, ranging from paved paths to open trails through grass and oaks. The hike and bike trails connect to the Bay Area Ridge Trails. All the parks also have lots of trees, and there are picnic areas and campsites.

    Below I give the wbesites for both Sprink Lake and Annadel.

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    Ice Skating & Charlie Brown - Snoopy's Home Ice

    by WulfstanTraveller Updated Sep 29, 2010

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    The Redwood Empire Ice Arena, also called Snoopy's Home Ice, is the only ice arena in the area. It was created by Charles Schulz, opening around 1970, and thus has a Peanuts/Snoopy theme. One can go skating, take lessons, and see some ice hockey events as well as Peanuts holiday ice shows like The Great Pumpkin Festival. Since the mid 1970s, it has also hosted the annual Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament.

    It is also right next to the Charles Schulz Museum and the Snoopy's Gallery and Gift Shop. It has a restaurant as well, the Warm Puppy Cafe, where Charles Schulz would apparently get breakfast every morning when working at his studio up the street.

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    Serenity in the City

    by Rixie Updated Oct 12, 2009

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    Julliard Park is a beautiful green patch in downtown Santa Rosa, with water and arched bridges and decorated park benches. The city often puts on a summer concert series here.

    For two other views of Julliard Park, see my Santa Rosa main page.

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