Cooking class in Wine Country
Courtesy of Visit California

6 Fun Activities in Wine Country

6 Fun Activities in Wine Country
Take a cooking glass, paddle down a river, marvel at redwoods, admire great art, and more

Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center

Peanuts characters are alive and well at this Santa Rosa institution, which celebrates the life and legacy of Snoopy creator Charles M. Schulz. The museum was founded in 2002 by Jean Schulz, the cartoonist’s widow, and today it houses the largest collection of original Peanuts artwork in the world. Permanent exhibits include a look at some of Schulz’s original comic strips, as well as a recreation of his art studio. There’s also a tile mural composed of 3,588 different comic strips. Temporary exhibits change throughout the year. The museum also has an outdoor area with sculptures that depict iconic moments from the cartoons (such as Charlie Brown with a metal kite stuck in a real tree) and a theater that screens documentaries on a loop. If you’re traveling with children, the best part of the museum is the laid-back-but-hands-on education room, where docents help visitors learn how to draw specific characters. Also worth exploring with kids: the Redwood Empire Ice Rink, located across the street. Schulz loved skating at the rink, which is open to the public. Skate rentals are available, and a café serves breakfast and lunch daily.

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Grays and greens abound in this public conservation tract in the tiny town of Guerneville along the Russian River. The area predates logging in the northern part of the state, so the preserve is home to some of the oldest and tallest trees in Sonoma County—one, the Parson Jones Tree, is more than 310 feet tall. Not coincidentally, the park is also a popular place for weddings; go on a weekend and you’re practically guaranteed to see one. As far as public parks are concerned, Armstrong Redwoods is more accessible than most. The main sections of the reserve are relatively flat, and there are ample picnic areas for hikers of all abilities. There’s also a self-guided nature trail just behind the visitor center. On foggy summer mornings, the damp pathways inside Armstrong are great places to spot banana slugs—just one of a few attributes that makes the park kid-friendly. With more than 30 miles of trails, the park offers plenty of longer hiking or running options, too. When you’ve had your fill of nature, head down the hill to downtown Guerneville for an ice cream cone at Nimble & Finn’s, inside the Guerneville Bank Club.

CIA at Copia (The Culinary Institute of America)

Consider the Culinary Institute of America at Copia the center for continuing education about food and wine. The facility—which in its first iteration was bankrolled by the late Robert Mondavi—offers to the public a host of cooking classes, wine and beverage explorations, chef demonstrations, and more. Situated next to the Oxbow Public Market on the east side of the Napa River, CIA at Copia also has expansive chefs’ gardens and an on-site restaurant. Most of the programming involves education, with classes ranging from demonstration-style to hands-on. Some, such as one on how to make ice cream, are family-friendly. Others, like sabering a bottle of champagne, are geared distinctly toward grown-ups. Private classes for groups of 10 to 20 people are also available. Throughout the year, CIA at Copia also hosts a number of regular events such as a seminar series, as well as the popular Easter Egg Hunt, Bud Break Festival, Summer Luau, Ciderfest, Oktoberfest, and Holiday Marketplace. There’s even a store on-site, which is stocked with kitchen tools, hard-to-find ingredients, cookbooks, and housewares.

The Hess Collection

Yes, the Hess Collection in Napa makes wine and sells it under the same name. But really, the brand is about something equally wonderful in entirely different ways: modern art. Owner and entrepreneur Donald Hess began collecting art in the 1960s, and the collection on display at the Mount Veeder winery and tasting room represents a small portion of the pieces he’s amassed since then. The three-story gallery is open to the public for free and displays work from artists Franz Gertsch, Francis Bacon, Leopold Maler, and others. Despite the high caliber of work on display, the Hess Collection gallery is relaxed and without pretense. Visitors can take self-guided strolls through the collection or sign up for a formal docent-led tour. This latter option provides guests with insider information about the art, and follows the tour with a private tasting of Hess Collection wine. Housed in a circa-1903 stone winery originally constructed by Colonel Theodore Gier, the building evokes the grandeur of yesteryear—especially in summer, when ivy covers the stone walls of the gallery.

Round Pond Estate

Yes, this Rutherford-based agricultural operation sells wine. But what sets Round Pond apart from just about every other Napa Valley winery is its olive mill. Through tours and tastings, visitors get an intriguing behind-the-scenes look into the world of olive oil. Tours wind through the olive orchard while guides explain the process of harvesting. Tastings take place inside the mill; you smell the oil first and then taste it with different vegetables, breads, meats, and cheeses. With the exception of a few reserve samplings, most wine tastings at Round Pond occur on the second-story tasting lounge and covered terrace, a space with panoramic views of the estate and the palm-lined driveway. To combine both sides of the house, try the Il Pranzo tasting, which includes wine and food on the winery side and olive oil and food on the olive mill side. What’s more, for an unparalleled winery visit, book a spot at the weekly garden-to-table brunch, a four-hour experience that includes a tour, a harvesting session in the winery garden, a cooking class, and a farm-to-table meal served in the garden itself.

Napa Valley Paddle

Napa Valley Paddle (NVP) rents kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and inflatable paddleboards by the hour, day, and weekend. But the company—based on the Main Street Dock at Riverfront Plaza—also offers guided tours that offer a completely different perspective on a part of wine country that so many visitors see only by land. There are four such trips, including a two-hour paddle around the Oxbow River in downtown Napa; a four-hour fishing excursion from downtown Napa to the top of San Pablo Bay; and a day-long adventure through the marshlands south of Napa and the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge (both are prime spots for bird-watching). Tours include all equipment (including a personal flotation device and a waterproof bag to keep wallets and cell phones dry), as well as a brief safety lesson. NVP can also orchestrate casual “unguided” tours of downtown, complete with maps and gourmet picnic lunches, or family-friendly excursions on inflatable stand-up paddleboards that are big enough for six paddlers at once. All tours and rentals are subject to weather conditions, so it pays to call ahead.

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Northern California

Discover the San Francisco Bay Area

A crimson bridge, cable cars, a sparkling bay, and streets lined with elegant Victorian homes—San Francisco is undeniably one of the world’s great cities. Located along the Northern California at the state’s distinctive bend in the coast, the region has an alluring magic that stretches beyond the bay to diverse cities with nightlife and trend-setting cuisine.

"I left my heart in San Francisco, High on a hill, it calls to me." —singer Tony Bennett

The Bay Area is also home to some of the world’s finest wine country, including Napa Valley and Sonoma, plus waterfront towns, dramatic beaches, and the tech-savvy southern end of the bay known as the Silicon Valley, where lunchtime ideas at Google, Facebook, and Apple, turn into the next brilliant innovation. 

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Journeys: San Francisco

Explore world-class museums, enjoy culinary masterpieces, and shop to your heart’s content
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Half Moon Bay

This delightful little beach town possesses serious surf DNA and is just a short drive from San Francisco

Half Moon Bay is situated 45 minutes south of San Francisco on Highway 1, but it might as well be half a world away. Home to the world-famous...

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Journeys: Wine Country

Experience laid-back luxury on this 6-day trek through Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties
Quintessa Wine Estate, St. Helena, California

The final day of your Northern California Wine Country trip should be spent savoring the very best of the region. In other words, it should be all about the wine, with olive oil and honey tastings to cleanse the palate. From Meadowood, head north along Silverado Trail to...

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Sausalito

Explore this quaint town that’s just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, a steep hillside covered in chaparral and eucalyptus drops from Highway 101 to a flat, sunny shoreline, two...

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Spotlight: Napa Valley

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Explore ultimate wine country luxury in the land where Cabernet is king

Napa Valley reigns as the land of grand estates, expansive tasting rooms, quaint towns, and elegant lodgings, many of which edge up to the...

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Spotlight: Sonoma County

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Escape to wine country with secret vineyards, cozy inns, and rich history

Spanning more than one million acres from the Pacific Ocean to the rugged Coast Range, this slice of wine-country bliss defies typecasting. Yes,...

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4 Awesome Wine Country Resorts

Luxurious spas, farm-to-table dining, and easy access to dozens of wineries—these Napa and Sonoma resorts offer the indulgent getaway you need

Ready for some “me time” amid decadent surroundings? Reserve your spot at one of these spectacular Wine Country resorts.

Farmhouse...

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Spotlight: Berkeley

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See a stunning museum, shop, and feast in the Bay Area’s most outspoken city

A haven for backyard artists and coffee-shop philosophers, Berkeley has deep roots in the Flower Power movement of the 1960s and ’70s. But...

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Make memories at some of California's family-favorite beaches

Sand, water, and kids—it’s a natural combination for easy family fun. This sandy dozen offers appealing, family-friendly features, such as calm water for new swimmers, tide pools for intrepid...

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Russian River Brewing Company

CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo

The co-owner of the wildly popular Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa shares her story, along with a few Golden State favorites

Natalie Cilurzo will never forget the day everything changed for the Russian River Brewing Company. It was February 5, 2010—the first Friday in...

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San Francisco's cable cars are the country's only mobile National Historic Landmark.
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Taste the delicious dishes from these amazing California chefs

From a candy-colored pastry shop to Michelin-starred dining rooms, top restaurants run by celebrity chefs dot the Golden State. And even if you don’t know these chefs from the TV...

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San Francisco has only one drawback - 'tis hard to leave.
Rudyard Kipling
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Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that...

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World-class accommodations in world-class locations

Head to the heart of California’s cities for luxurious stays at world-class accommodations. From San Francisco’s historic hotels to celebrity hot spots in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, California’s...

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San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.
William Saroyan
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Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Northern California

Explore the best of Northern California's Great Outdoors
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Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisanal cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets...

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From Gold Rush history to the 8th wonder of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

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Performing Arts

Museums, music, and a hint of bohemia

Nested near the city’s cupola-topped City Hall, impressive performance spaces in San Francisco present some of California’s—and the world’s—...

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Spotlight: San Jose

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Tech savvy, international flair

The first hit of this city’s unmistakable techy-ness starts right off the bat—if you get here by plane. Meet Space Observer, a 26-foot/7.9-meter-...

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Livermore

Ranches, vineyards, and relaxed appeal east of San Francisco

With warm sun and wide-open spaces cradling vineyards, ranches, and wine-country estates, the Livermore Valley makes an appealing destination just...

It's simply a very romantic place. Just one look at any of those streets, and you couldn't be anywhere else -- it's so beautiful, and there's that location, and the sense of the free spirit. ... Who couldn't become ravenous in such a place?
Julia Child
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Old-fashioned fun in the Golden State

Historic oceanfront playgrounds, classic city-park charmers, boisterous adventures—smaller theme parks and attractions offer an array of ways to play.  These smaller parks offer old-...

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Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you're in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you'll find it here. Want to sample fresh produce? Try our farmers...

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According to legend, Winchester Mystery House's maze of passages and building oddities were designed to confuse the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles.
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Kids get an inside look at wildlife, space, and more

From cool ways for your kids to learn about wildlife, to an insider’s look at a space station, to a chance to walk through a rain forest or learn about the night sky, there’s a bumper...

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Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

San Francisco Bay Loop

Discover this something-for-everything loop tour around an iconic bay
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End your road trip by exploring one of the world’s great cities. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the “City by the Bay” truly has it all. Trend-defining cuisine ranging from Michelin-starred dining to...

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Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind-the-scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of worth-the-...

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