Sonoma County is a well-known destination for adults who appreciate wine in all of its diverse flavors and scents. Vineyards stretch out in every direction - gorgeous symmetrical vines against blue skies. Beautiful estates and wineries beckon drivers to stop in for tastings at every turn and the gorgeous climate invites travelers to linger.
On our recent visit, we were traveling with our three young daughters so wineries weren't on our must-do list. We did, however, walk the store-lined streets of Sonoma Plaza. The cobblestoned town has a park and visitor's information center in the middle and boutiques on the surrounding streets. We walked thru Sonoma State Historic Park (free and not a tourist destination in and of itself) before sampling (and buying) cheese at the Sonoma Cheese Factory.
Tucked in Sonoma County is Safari West, a 400-acre private wildlife preserve in Santa Rosa. Featuring roaming giraffes, rhinoceros, cheetahs, flamingos, zebra, and variety of African fowl, the preserve is open for overnight stays, dining, and/or jeep tours.
For our overnight adventure, we stayed in a luxury tent (this is "glamping" - glamorous camping). Our tent was warmly and simply decorated with wood linoleum floors and African inspired items. There were two Queen beds, plus an additional sleeping cot for our 7-year-old. There was also a bathroom - complete with toilet, two sinks, a shower, and accompanying organic toiletries. The only thing the tent didn't have is central heating and cooling...but - not to worry - there are fans for summer and space heaters for cold weather. I was a little worried about the lack of sound barrier (no solid walls), but our girls went to sleep with relative ease after our active afternoon. It was so relaxing to hear the birds after dark! A nature lullaby!
Included in your overnight stay is a basic complimentary continental breakfast with fresh fruit, pastries, oatmeal, and cereal - plus juices, coffee, and tea. A pleasant way to start the day off!
Note that Safari West also offers Safari Ranch Lunch and BBQ Dinners - to guests and to the public (by reservation only). Booking a meal with your stay is a good idea if you are traveling from afar since the property is well-secluded from the city and there aren't many dining options in the vicinity.
The MAIN ATTRACTION at Safari West are the jeep tours - which can be scheduled whether or not you are spending the night. The tours consist of approximately 45 minutes of a walking tour around the grounds and a 1.5-2 hour driving tour. The driving tours are only available for ages 3+ so Tim took the older two, while I visited the giraffes and monkeys with our toddler. They came back with happy reports - especially of riding "up on top" where they could get an even better view of the animals!
Although not top-of-mind for families, Sonoma County is a place with hidden gems where people of all ages can interact, enjoy the scenery, and have fun.
Have you ever been to Sonoma County with kids? What travel tips would you add?
* Thanks to Sonoma County Tourism and Safari West for hosting us.