The Perfect Day Trip to Sonoma: Art, Wine, and Beauty

A day to ourselves to go somewhere new… As a married couple with two small children, we don’t get that very often, if ever. I live in Sacramento, California, which means that I am surrounded by some truly wonderful places to visit, from San Francisco and Napa Valley to Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains, all within less than two hours.

When you think about having a day to yourself to explore a place near your home, what kind of things come to mind? For me, this day-trip to Sonoma was the perfect mix of wine, views, and art.

Gardens? Sculpture? Landscape architecture? Art? It’s difficult to define the gardens of CornerStone. According to the website, each designer (including some of the world’s top landscape architects) was given a parcel of about 1800 square feet and complete freedom. The result: an eclectic, impressive mix of outdoor landscapes and art installations that was right up my alley.

tree sculpture

lily pads

lily pads

kinetic culpture

This one honors the Mexican immigrants who work in the fields of this area and was, according to Cornerstone, designed by the best landscape architect in Mexico.

honoring immigrants

Did I mention the gardens are free? Check out Cornerstone’s website for info.

California vineyardsAnd now for the wine… Everyone knows about Napa Valley, but right next door is Napa’s match, the Sonoma wine country. People who know CA wine country often prefer Sonoma to Napa Valley because it’s much more rustic. Instead of insanely beautiful, castle-like wineries that charge $15 or more for tasting and often are packed with tourists, Sonoma County is dotted with smaller, friendlier wineries, often without the big names but serving top-notch wine nonetheless. Some are reached by driving through tiny farms roads, covered in trees and barely marked with signs.

After visiting a couple wineries around the town of Sonoma, we set out on those little back roads for the lovely Gundlach Bundschu winery. It’s been family-owned for 6 generations (i.e. unlike some Napa establishments, it’s not owned by Disney or some other huge company). It’s small and cozy. It has cave tours, vineyard excursions, and scenic picnic areas.

wine cave

Sonoma winery

For me, the gorgeous drive through vine-covered hills to Sonoma, the fascinating outdoor art of Cornerstone Gardens, and the lovely wine-tasting at Gundlach Bundschu made a perfect day trip.

What would be a perfect outing for you? Have you been to Sonoma?

14 Comments

  • Dad says:

    Jenna, One of my favorite wineries for art tourism value is Clos Pegase just south of Calistoga on Dunaweal Lane, between St Helena Hwy (128) and the more attractive Silverado Trail. They have some permanent works on display, mostly sculptures, but years back they would have showings of various artists works. A great way to enjoy yourself – appreciating the creativity of art and wine.

  • This is a really good area and sounds like just the place you would enjoy! 🙂 I’ve done that area and like you, prefer it over Napa. A while back, we took a visit to Calistoga and really enjoyed the weekend there. We just biked all over town and rode among the vineyards and enjoyed the view.

    I’ve mentioned my favorite place close by is Apple Hill. I love going every Fall and it is such an enjoyable getaway that’s close to home. It is PERFECT for kids and I look forward to it every year. Cooler air, outdoors, away from the hustle and bustle, and just a lot of fun activities.

    Like you, I know what it means to have two kids and a family. It’s not easy to get away. Yet there are so many places around here to explore. Sonoma is definitely a good one as well – just don’t do it during race weekend! 🙂

    • admin says:

      I haven’t been to Calistoga but have heard people rave about it. It’s a place I always think about going but just haven’t gotten there.
      Apple Hill is really popular, especially among families. I have a lot of friends who enjoy going there in the fall, too.

  • Sonoma sounds absolutely enchanting and right up my alley as well. Gorgeous landscapes, historic wineries, and let’s not forget the wine!! Great article and nice photography my friend!

  • I love going to Cornerstone (it’s only 20 minutes from my house). It makes the perfect quick getaway. We are blessed to live in an area where there are dozens of day trips. Yesterday, it was wine tasting and today it’s the beach at Point Reyes. This is a beautiful area!

    • admin says:

      Only 20 minutes from your house? You must live in a gorgeous area, and as you said, there are tons of good getaway options from there. I love Point Reyes, too.

  • Sonoma and Napa have so many different options for perfect outings! I especially love Sonoma County. Although we’re originally from Chicago, my family has lived for many years in and around Santa Rosa. In fact, I was married in Windsor surrounded by vineyards. Very sentimental about the whole area!

    We’re lucky to live so close to such great wine regions, aren’t we?

    • Jenna says:

      Yes, there sure is a lot to do in those areas, more than a lot of people may realize. We are fortunate to live near both Sonoma and Napa counties (although I could do without the drive on 80!).

  • Matt says:

    My wife and I keep saying we are going to go there but we haven’t yet. The trouble is getting away from the kids. Maybe this fall. What time of year is the best to go?

    • Jenna says:

      If you want to go to the wine country, the fall is the best time because the vineyards are gorgeous– all the vines change color. And CA has a pretty late fall, so it’s usually pretty nice through November. Maybe you can bring your kids and plan a vacation that they would enjoy too…?

  • Bob Crunch says:

    Absolutely great pictures! It warms my heart to still see such beautiful natural and green areas in the world. In where I live we don’t see too much green areas like this.

  • Sonoma and Napa have so many different options for perfect outings! by the way Absolutely gorgeous pictures!

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