The Sonoma List: Favorite day trips

Bakeries, breweries and bangles at the Barlow

The Barlow in Sebastopol is less than an hour from Sonoma and my favorite kind of day trip with two equally good routes. Check out the vines changing colors along Highway 12 on the way there and stop by the farm stands and antique shops on Route 116 on the way back. Once at the Barlow, the outdoor “market district” boasts a handful of cool shops and a dozen food and drink options including tastings outdoor at Golden State Cider and Crooked Goat Brewery and wine on tap by the ounce at the new hot spot Region. Kendra Kolling’s Farmer’s Wife will deliver a gooey artisan grilled cheese to your table outside any venue and you’re almost guaranteed to hear some live music. The overall vibe is distinctly young, hip, casual and carefree. 6770 McKinley St. -- Lorna Sheridan

Bolinas, where visitors are always welcome

Marin County has a handful of wonderful beaches all about an hour-and-change drive from Sonoma. But for those looking to avoid the sometimes-packed Stinson, about a mile to the west is Bolinas – a favorite beach for families, surfers and the crowd-averse. The beach is set below a ridge, which allows for consistently wind-free days, and in facing south, the impact from the Pacific is more temperate – in other words, the waves are big enough for hanging 10, but also safe for kids. Why is such a great beach not always crowded? It might be because the hyper-insular locals are renowned for tearing down road signs directing drivers into town – and currently someone has nailed up homemade placards declaring the town is closed to visitors until the pandemic is over. Unless Caltrans has started making signs out of plywood and colored chalk, ignore those grouches – and have yourself a day at the beach. – Jason Walsh

Downtown Santa Rosa

Rediscover downtown Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma County, through its Open and Out program. Sections of Fourth Street in downtown Santa Rosa have been closed off to vehicular traffic so pedestrians can stroll the streets, shops, and enjoy several different places to eat and drink outside. There is live music on weekends starting on Friday nights, an artwalk with new art installations along Fourth Street and new artists to watch in action, plus free parking every night after 5 and all day on weekends. Start your day early with coffee and a stroll to support the shops that are open. Midday stop in for a proper tea and snack, then drop in to a number of places for a local craft beer, local wine, or artisan cocktail. There are several choices for dinner and if you’ve saved room there is a specialty ice cream shop. It’s an easy drive down Sonoma Highway from Sonoma Valley to downtown Santa Rosa. Check out for more details. -- Anne Ward Ernst

Colusa National Wildlife Refuge

Backyard birdwatching is one positive result of the last five months of staying home. Crows, jays, finches, towhees and the occasional oriole might keep us company, but when they become as familiar as our neighbors, set aside a full day to drive up and back to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a complex of five wildlife refuges (Colusa is the closest, 100 miles away) where you’ll find viewing platforms overlooking expanses of shallow water packed with avifauna: dancing ibis and double-crested cormorants, pipits and plovers, snow geese and white pelicans. Bring the essentials – binoculars, bird book and a bento box – and compare notes with your fellow birders. A 3-mile auto loop encourages slow, slow, slow speeds for best viewing. It’s enough to remind you the natural world still has surprises in store for us, a day’s drive away. — Christian Kallen

Cocktails at Cavallo Point

Nestled at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, where the wind blows clean, clear and cold, a paradise known as Cavallo Point sits, an oasis from life’s tribulations and trials. Carved from what was a forgotten military base, the resort is all clean lines and long views. There—beyond the edge of an emerald lawn—the city sparkles, framed by the elegiac beauty of its famous bridge. Here, tucked into the base of a golden hill, a serene spa and warm outdoor pool wait. And on the wide veranda fronting Farley Bar, tucked under lap blankets against the fog, is you, or at least the day-tripping version of you, frosty cocktail in hand, worries in check. Fort Baker, Sausalito. -Kate Williams

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