It had been a little while since our last weekend getaway, and with the 4th of July falling on Thursday, we had the perfect excuse to take a Friday off and get out of town. We found some cheap flights into San Francisco, but knew we didn't want to stay in the city. Since we had never been to the Sonoma/Napa Valley area, we decided to hit the road and drive north once we landed at SFO.
A few years ago, we did a San Francisco to Seattle road trip. We weren't able to stop at one of the standard Instagram spots along the way, so we factored that into this trip and took a more scenic route to our home base for the weekend - Santa Rosa. After researching hotels and Airbnbs in Sonoma, Napa, Calistoga, and a few other smaller towns in the area, we opted for Santa Rosa. It was the most cost effective option, while being a short drive to most wine country activities. As is turns out, we spent most of the weekend in downtown Santa Rosa - there were plenty of restaurants and bars to keep us well fed and entertained.
We packed quite a bit in the relatively short trip but still managed to relax and take plenty of naps. Below are the highlights from the trip and some things we recommend if you're planning a long weekend in Wine Country.
Where We Stayed
Astro Motel - I did quite a bit of researching hotels for this trip. After my first choice was ruled out due to the price, I narrowed it down to Astro Motel and The Sandman motel. Both were about the same price, but I ultimately went with Astro due to location and Yelp reviews. I booked through Hotel Tonight
Where We Ate
The Mill - This was our first stop on our mini-road trip. We wanted a light breakfast and this pup-friendly place with a small menu of stuff on toast fit the bill. Adam had the pesto + cream cheese on rye, and I went with the avocado mash topped with the biggest sea salt crystals I've ever seen. Basic. Both of these sound pretty simple, but the bread. was. amazing. The proximity to the Painted Ladies - our next stop on the trip - was also a definite plus.
Taqueria Las Palmas - This is your typical local, cheap Mexican restaurant. But it was sooo good! Since it was right around the corner from our hotel and the yelp reviews seemed good, we stopped by to grab lunch. Then, after walking around downtown Santa Rose and having a couple beers, we went back so I could get a bedtime quesadilla.
Russian River Brewing Company - Once Adam realized this brewery was in town, we added it to our list of stops so we could try Pliny the Elder, but I'll talk a little more about that below. Since there was a decently long wait, we decided to just get dinner there, as well. We split a pizza - half Mamma Mia, half Excel - and wings. The pizza was on point, but the wings were lacking in my opinion.
El Coqui - We almost didn't go here, but I'm SO glad we did. The pictures of the food didn't really do it justice - there were a lot of browns and some other not-so-appetizing colors. Adam and I planned on sharing the picadillo and pollo al horno, but we both enjoyed our own dish that much that we barely got a bite of the other. We cleared our plates, and probably would've gone back if we were staying in town longer.
Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Bar - This was one of the few places I knew I wanted to go ahead of time, and I wasn't disappointed. Again, we ended up here twice. I got the dutch cookie ice cream in a waffle cone both times. The fun part of this place is that two toppings are included - I usually never go for toppings because they're always extra. If you get the dutch cookie, the sea salt flakes and caramel sauce are fantastic additions.
Picazo Cafe - This was a good choice for a brunch-time meal on our way into Sonoma. It was along the way, super easy to get to, and had patio seating (that came with a friendly neighborhood cat). The menu was pretty big, with some breakfast options served all day. Adam got a giant salad, and I got a breakfast bowl and mimosa. Both were super fresh, tasty, and filling.
Basque Boulangerie Cafe - We had a hard time finding a coffee shop in Sonoma, so we popped in here to get out of the heat and get some water. Adam got coffee, and I couldn't pass up the giant slice of tres leches cake. It definitely hit the spot and gave us a little pick-me-up for the rest of the afternoon.
Calistoga Farmers Market - We walked through on our way to the Mount View Inn and noticed a BBQ stand. We decided to grab lunch there after our time at the spa - which was a great choice! Everyone was super friendly, and the BBQ was delicious. I recommend the pork belly on a stick - yum!
In n Out - I mean, we went to California. What did you expect?
What We Drank
Russian River Brewing Company - Like I mentioned up above, we mostly stopped here for Pliny the Elder, not dinner. Adam had mentioned wanting to try this beer sometime ago and always looks for it when Russian River beers are on the menu. We both ordered it due to the hype and both agreed we'd come back for the pizza.
The Jade Room - This place is an instagram dream. From the green velvet bench seating to the Poppin Bottles neon sign to the midcentury bar decor, it's hard not to want to do an entire photoshoot here. Even the bathrooms are insta-worthy with flamingo and lemon wallpaper. Enough about the decor - the drinks were good, too! Adam went with a local beer, which they had a surprising variety of for a champagne bar. I tried the champagne cocktail (prosecco with a sugar cube and bitters) and rosemary flavored drink. Both were very good and, again, worth a boomerang or two.
Beer Baron - We stopped in here during our wait for Russian River, since we were sticking to beer for the evening. They had a large beer and whiskey selection - with a lot of local and west coast options. That said, there wasn't much that caught my eye, as far as beers go. This may have been a better option for snacks or dinner, since the food menu looked really good.
3 Disciples Brewing - Since this was one of the few places open on the 4th of July, we stopped in for an afternoon beer. They had quite a few IPAs, a majority of those of the hazy variety. I really enjoyed my beer, and so did Adam. We even came by the next day, which I was more than happy to do as a new hazy was released. The friendly bartender that remembered us from the day before, was a definite plus.
B.R. Cohn Winery - Our trip to wine country only included one winery. I'm think we might've done the trip wrong, but it worked for us. This winery was along our drive back from Sonoma to Santa Rosa and seemed super approachable. Once we got there, we realized it was just that. We're not going to pretend to be wine snobs - we just want to do a tasting where we won't be judged for picking up on jammy notes or tannins or whatever. We enjoyed all of the wines we tried and stepped outside of wine-based comfort zone. The winery had beautiful views and a super cute color scheme. We're tempted to go back in September for a musical festival they're hosting, too!
What We Did
Painted Ladies - Everywhere you look, everywhere you go...... Yea, yea - pretty basic stop in San Fran, I know. I'd never been before, so I enjoyed stopping by. I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to see them, but if you're in the area and feeling nostalgic about the Tanner family, it's worth it.
Point Reyes National Seashore & Cypress Tunnel - We wanted to stop here on our San Francisco-Seattle road trip, but it was too far out of the way. We were in no particular rush on our way to Santa Rosa, so we detoured to Point Reyes National Seashore and made an Instagram stop at the the Cypress Tunnel. It was exactly like the pictures, but with more people and cars around. It was a neat place, but I'm not sure it's worth going out of your way if you have a place to be.
Mud Bath @ Mount View Inn & Spa - When looking for places to stay, I was hoping to find something reasonably priced in Calistoga. When that didn't happen, I still knew I wanted to visit and go to a mud bath. I mostly went with the Mount View Inn & Spa, as I could book an appointment online (then learned that I still had to talk on the phone to confirm the booking, as the online system was only a request for appointment). The mud bath was super relaxing but not what I expected. It wasn't thick, gunky mud, but what I referred to as "dirt water". Honestly, I think this was much better as first time mud bath-goers. The room was equipped with a two person tub, ice water, and a shower. The 30 minute soak was so relaxing and the perfect amount of time. Day use of the pool was included with the spa booking, so we took advantage of that, as well!
Luther Burbank Gardens - The gardens were directly across the street from our hotel in Santa Rosa, so we walked through on our way downtown one evening. It didn't take much time to walk through, but it was a nice and relaxing little stroll. My favorite part was the GIANT cactus - I've literally never seen a cactus that big!