It's 2 a.m., the party's over, where are you sleeping tonight?
Wedding photo from Lezlie Sterling.
At the end of Frank Capra's buoyant film It Happened One Night, two star-crossed protagonists tie the knot in a lavish upper-crust wedding before escaping to a threadbare roadside motel to knock down their "walls of Jericho." Oblivious to spartan surroundings, the couple (played by Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert) prove love is really the only amenity you need when it comes to honeymoon lodging.
Then again, neither of them apparently knew the inherent beauty of a grilled Vella cheese sandwich delivered to your bedside at 11:30 p.m. Or the convenience of free wireless. Or finicky in-laws of fastidious taste. Wherever you board yourselves-or the first cousins of your loved ones twice removed-there's a glorious glut of options available in Sonoma Valley. You can go for a swanky stay at one of the Big Four (see All-In-One Resort Spas), or you can veer off the beaten path and find some equally dazzling gems.
Sonoma Creek Inn, El Pueblo Inn and Sonoma Valley Inn are three of the most affordable and charming lodging options for friends and family. Thoughtfully decorated, tidy and memorable, none of them compromise quality for price. Directly on the Plaza, the historic Sonoma Hotel is a superb value for its location and Old-World ambience. It even comes with a complimentary ghost. Jack London Lodge in Glen Ellen is a burnished vintage throwback to another era-rich with history but minus the snaggle-toothed miners and characters of ill repute.
If you're the B&B type, it's hard to beat the following three properties (all walking distance to the Plaza): the ornate Victorian Garden Inn, a restored farmhouse brimful of lace, wicker and mossy walkways perfect for stealing a kiss; the bohemian Cooperage, a nouveau-inspired salon of suites afloat over the owners' art studio; and the plush Cottage Inn & Spa, a long cool drink of dazzling Mediterranean stucco and aromatic spa treatments.
Up north, Glen Ellen's Above the Clouds B&B steals your breath away at 2,000 feet-with its veranda overlooking the Mayacamas and airy, light-filled rooms. And if Rhett Butler could stroll the heavenly grounds at Beltane Ranch, I assure you he would give a damn. Buttercup yellow and built in the flirty manner of a Southern plantation, the 1890-era ranch served as a "boarding house" owned by legendary madame Mary Ellen Pleasant. Since then, Beltane's been upgraded to a delightful inn rife with gardens, olive orchards and heirloom fruit trees.
For Von Trapp-sized families, large vacation rentals are the way to go, and Sonoma Valley boasts stunning choices. Pick blackberries or play croquet at the sprawling farmhouse-style Brambleberry estate. Take a poolside snooze in the antique pump-house cabana at Sonoma Rose Villa-a comely coquette of an El Verano property with a checkered past (it used to be a bordello).
If you're actually looking to ditch your Von Trapp-sized brood, some Valley venues actually offer elopement packages, including the GlenElly Inn, described on page 54, and the elegant, Asian-inspired Gaige House, pictured above.
For help finding the perfect place, Stay Sonoma can book your reservation at any one of over 160 hotels, resorts, cottages, bed and breakfasts and vacation homes-
all in Sonoma Valley-and there's no charge to you for the service. Call 707.996.1888 or 866.647.8888, or book online at www.staysonoma.com.