Serenity in the City
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.
Great Stone Heads
These large stone heads are reminiscent of Easter Island, but they are gifts from one of Santa Rosa's sister cities, Jeju City in South Korea.
There is a pretty little park there, with a bridge, a bamboo grove, and a small waterfall. It's a nice place to sit and rest for a while.
Festa Italiana is an annual event sponsored by the North Bay Italian Cultural Foundation, and it's a lot of fun for the whole family, even if you're not Italian. There's live Italian music, dancing, cooking demonstrations, classic cars, a silent auction, handicrafts and baked goods for sale, and -- of course -- food and wine.
For $1, your bambino can do arts and crafts projects under adult supervision while you shop in a different part of the room.
The Festa usually takes place in late September or early October. Tickets are $5 in advance, $8 at the door (under 10 years - free).
Lunch is a bargain at $5: it includes salad, garlic bread, and your choice of pasta, risotto, polenta, chicken, or tri-tip sandwich. There are also gelato and drink stands.
For more photos of the classic car show, see my travelogue.Related to:
First Friday Artwalk Downtown
During summer, on the first Friday of each month, downtown Santa Rosa, including the core around Old Courthouse Square, as well as Railroad Square area and, to the south, the South A Street neighbourhood (see my tip on that part of town), hosts art and art displays. Artists set up their works on the street and in various shops, there is often free wine, snacks, etc., and one can look at and buy art of a wide range. There are often street musicians, etc., and the South A Street neighbourhood, with its art galleries and studios, opens the studios to visitors.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
6th Street Playhouse - Plays and Musicals
This venue, opened in the old 1894 Del Monte cannery near Railroad Square, offers live performances of plays and musicals. The variety is pretty wide and although quality varies a bit, overall it's quite good, is one of the main locations for live performances in the whole county, and it does a very good job of filling this niche for the region. Its productions are popular, the facility is very nice, snacks and beverages are available, and it is just a very short walk from the core of Railroad Square. It is just 3 blocks from the Hotel La Rose, 1 block up Wilson St and two blocks west on 6th, across the railroad tracks.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Theater Travel
Like other towns in Sonoma County, Santa Rosa has a wealth of beautiful, quaint, or cute old neighbourhoods with interesting old houses.
In Santa Rosa the grandest old houses, including large plantation-style houses, and very substantial Victorians, tend to be concentrated mostly on and near McDonald Ave., just NE of downtown. These include Mableton, the mansion of Mark McDonald powerful local businessman who owned, among other things, the local power company. This house was used in the old Disney movie Pollyanna and is on a huge corner lot. McDonald Ave. has huge, beautiful old trees, too. Other nearby neat streets include Monroe, Spring, Proctor, 16th St., etc.
The Burbank Gardens area south of downtown has smaller, but very interesting homes in another old-fashioned neighbourhood. It is next to its namesake, south of Sonoma Ave., east of Santa Rosa Ave.
The South A St area is nearby and similar. It's mostly along South A St, but includes Sonoma Ave west of Santa Rosa Ave, Sebastopol Ave., Boseley St. It's between Hwy 101 to the west and Santa Rosa Ave to the east, south of downtown.
The Cherry St. area in the northern part of downtown has many Victorians. This area is primarily north of 7th St, south of College Ave., and between Mendocino Ave and E St.
The St.Rose area of northern downtown is another significant area. It is between Hwy 101 and Mendocino Ave, north of 7th and south of College Ave.
The West End is a neighbourhood north and west of Railroad Square, mostly between Wilson St and Dutton Ave, south of 9th St. It connects to the Ripley St neighbourhood, not yet officially designated, which is between Wilson/Cleveland Ave to the west, Hwy to the east, north of 9th and south of College.
On Mendocino and College Avenues, busy streets north of downtown, there are many other large, architecturally significant homes, many of which are now offices. Mendocino in particular has some significant houses, including the large Comstock house.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Creek Park and Paths (Prince Memorial Greenway)
There is a nice park/greenway, walking/bicycle path area along much of Santa Rosa Creek in downtown Santa Rosa, extending west from the corner of Santa Rosa Avenue and Sonoma Ave. beyond Railroad Square all the way out to the Laguna de Santa Rosa west of town. It is very well-constructed, with different levels, and provides a nice opportunity to walk between these areas away from cars, etc., and connects to the new convention centre south of Railroad Square as well as to a small park with a playground. On can walk along it from the sourthern edge of downtown, under the freeway, to or beyond Railroad Square, and go out to eh countryside. It is now also connected to the Joe Rodota Trail, a pedestrian and bike path which goes right to downtown Sebastopol. The connection is at a bridge behind the Courtyard Marriott hotel in Railroad Square and there are signs. As a result, one can ride or walk on an improved path all the way between downtown Santa Rosa and downtown Sebastopol.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Railroad Square Area
Railroad Square is the most old-fashioned part of downtown Santa Rosa and is focused on Depot Park and the old Railroad Stations. One station, the old NWP depot, is made of rough-hewn basalt blocks like the nearby coffee house and the old La Rose Hotel across the street on Wilson Street. See my tip on the California Welcome Center. The other station, the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad station, is at the south end of the square, is a Mission Revival building, and is now Chevy's restaurant. There are other neat old buildings on the various blocks in the area.
It was here, at the NWP depot, that Joseph Cotten arrived in Santa Rosa in the 1943 Hitchcock film Shadow of a Doubt. Much of the immediate area still looks basically the same, and several existing buildings, such as the Hotel La Rose on Wilson and the 1906 Lee Brothers building at 4th and Wilson, are visible in the film.
See also my tip on the California Welcome Center and my travelpage about Railroad Square and the West End.
One of the great things about this area is that, while kind of touristy and capitalizing on its old charm, it is still a "real" example of downtown, a normal, functioning, living area. It is not some artificial tourist trap with cheesy shirt stores and sweet shops found in places like Old Sacramento. Instead, it is still a normal, functioning part of town, typical of how Santa Rosa's downtown can be a great place to visit or relax while still functioning as a real town. Along with the nice eateries, hotels & antique stores, there are, among others, numerous old homes, new condos, offices, an appliance store, an engineering firm (where the modern hop-harvester was created), a feed/farm store, and 100-year-old warehouses still being used as such.
A final note is that the Railroad Square Association webstie (see below) has plenty of information on events and a "virtual" walking tour of the area.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
Spring Lake Walk
Spring Lake is surrounded by paths for strolling through oaks and scrub. The adjacent hills have paths for hiking. The scenery is beautiful. At dusk, we often see deer. Lots of dog walkers in morning.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
Charles Schultz lived in Santa Rosa for 42 years of his 50-year career of writing the comic strip, Peanuts. The comic strip debuted in 1950 and Snoopy's "Joe Cool" character first appeared in 1970. Schultz retired from writing Peanuts in 1999 and died the next year at the age of 77. He is buried in Sebastopol.
In the summer of 2007, Santa Rosa has placed 95 Joe Cool Snoopy statues around the city at some of the favorite spots for visitors and locals.
The Charles M. Schulz Museum opened in 2002 and is also in Santa Rosa.
Wednesday Night Market
Every Wednesday evening from mid-May through August, Santa Rosa has a "Downtown Market" known as the Wednesday Night Market. It has been going on for almost 20 years (but was originally on Thursday) and is a free event that is essentially a cross between weekly streetfestival and farmer's market. It takes up the core of 4th St. downtown between B Street and E street, usually with a portion going up Mendocino Ave. (between B & D) to 5th St., but the exact layout has fluctuated over the years.
The event is free and includes numerous vendors selling all kinds of crafts, art, breads, candies, various services, and a wide range of food. There are also street musicians and artists numerous people espousing varied political views, walking around with placards and handing out pamphlets. People seem to come out of the woodworks for this to show themselves off, meet others, or people watch and the event draws a wide range of people, including some very interesting folks. Some people come quite a distance to go.
It can be frustratingly crowded at times, but is also fun.
I should add that this is not Santa Rosa's "real" farmer's market, as people sometimes seem confused and the farmer's market portion of this event is limited compared to the large, regular farmer's market. The real farmer's market takes place every Saturday until noon all year long at the Veterans' Memorial Auditorium at the corner of Brookwood and Maple, across the stree from the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. It also is every Saturday except when the Wednesday Night Market is going on.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Food and Dining
Sugar Loaf Ridge
Sugar Loaf Ridge State Park lies to the southeast of Santa Rosa. The hike to the top is challenging, with a climb of well over 1,000 feet in elevation. But the view from the top is great. The ridge provides an excellent view of the wine country; on a clear day, you can barely make out San Francisco Bay. It's also a good place to view wildlife. Be sure to bring along plenty of water--you'll need it.Related to:
- Horse Riding
- Hiking and Walking
- National/State Park
Church of the Incarnation
This is the local Episcopal/Anglican parish church in Santa Rosa. Located downtown, it is the oldest church building in continuous use as such that still survives in Santa Rosa (the Church of One Tree, the former Baptist church, is roughly the same age but is no longer a church). It was completed in 1873.
The redwood-timber building was constructed in such a way that when a larger building was needed in 1885, the church was quartered, drawn apart, and expanded.
It has beautiful stained-glass windows.
This church and its rectory, due to its central location and minimal damage, served as an infirmary and morgue in the wake of the 1906 earthquake.Related to:
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
Free Outdoor Concerts
During summer, Santa Rosa hosts the Sunday Concert Series at Julliard Park. This is a beautiful old park with both gently undulating open grass areas and extensive amounts of beautiful trees, as well as a creek and a stone bridge. It's conveniently located on the southern edge of downtown near the intersection of Santa Rosa Ave. and Sonoma Ave. The concerts are Sunday evenings 5-7 and attendance is free while one can also buy food, coffee, etc.Related to:
Safari West Wildlife Preserve
Safari West Wildlife Preserve and African Tent Camp is an amazing place to experience. The property is 400 acres with several tents and cabins to stay in very close to the animals. We stayed in a tent (which is very nice ~ not roughing it at all) that had a view of a lake from our deck in the front and view of giraffes and other animals (that looked like sort of like deer) from the side windows. The bathroom had an opening in the canvas above the shower where you could see animals grazing on the hill. The bed was very comfortable and the few furnishing there were nice. A continental breakfast is served in the morning in the dining room. They have jeep tours twice a day in the winter and three times a day in the summer lasting about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The tour guide was very knowledgable and entertaining. The day we took our tour it was raining so we were unable to see much of the property due to the slippery mud roads. We opted not to do the walking portion of the tour due to the rain as well. The property is beautiful and I am looking forward to going back for another stay during the summer when I can count on good weather. Sorry the photos are so poor. I opted to use my cheap camera due to the rain. I highly recommend a visit and overnight stay!Related to:
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