Hidden Sonoma: 8 Fun Things to Do in Sonoma County

Just because you’re making a trip to wine country doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time in tasting rooms. Here are a few fun alternatives. 

This article is part of a series called “Hidden Sonoma.” To see the full list of 80+ things to do in Sonoma County, click here.

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Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Aah: Sonoma Canopy Tours
With your harness attached to a pulley on a heavy steel cable, soar above ancient redwoods and deep ravines at up to 25 mph on the zip lines at Sonoma Canopy Tours near Occidental. The seven lines are connected by platforms, two skybridges and a spiral staircase, providing an eco-friendly workout and thrill ride that ends with a rappel to the forest floor. Look down if you dare. $99-$109; discounts for ages 10 to 17 and seniors.

6250 Bohemian Highway, Occidental, 888-494-7868, sonomacanopytours.com

Johnson’s Beach Alternative: Monte Rio Beach
Guerneville’s Johnson’s Beach may have the history, yet Monte Rio Beach on the north side of the Russian River below the bridge in Monte Rio is a favorite spot for frolicking families and kayakers looking for a soft, shallow spot to put in for a paddle. The concession stand and boat-rental facility are located in the parking lot. In summer, when river levels drop, the Monte Rio Recreation and Park District installs a wood boardwalk that connects these facilities to the water’s edge.

Highway 116, Monte Rio, 707-865-0400, mrrpd.org/monteriobeach.html

In summer, the cool water of the Russian River at Monte Rio is always a local favorite. (Photo by Kent Porter)
In summer, the cool water of the Russian River at Monte Rio is always a local favorite. (Photo by Kent Porter)

Cut the Rug with Flamingos: Dancing at the Flamingo Lounge
Sunday nights are salsa (and bachata) nights in The Flamingo Lounge, the retro bar inside the Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa in Santa Rosa. Every week, local salsa bands take over the lounge and crank out live music for smartly dressed dancers. The party usually starts at 7 p.m., when dance pros offer an hour of salsa lessons ($10 a person). Open dancing ($8) begins at 9 p.m., and usually stretches late into the evening. Order food before 9 p.m. and get 10 percent off.

2777 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. 707-545-8530, flamingoresort.com

A Man of Many Faces: Actor & Historian George Webber 
Sonoma’s George Webber isn’t really a defrocked Mexican generalissimo, though he plays one. Webber has for years made appearances at Sonoma events as the famous Gen. Mariano Vallejo, and expanded his “George Webber experience” to the Gen. Vallejo Walking Tour of the Sonoma Plaza. Webber’s got more than a beloved 19th-century land baron up his sleeve. He also brings to life Mark Twain, enologist Professor Vine and Count Agoston Haraszthy.

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George Webber plays Count Agoston Haraszthy for Buena Vista Winery. He is the ambassador for the winery, bringing the founder of the winery to life (photo by Jeff Kan Lee, 2012)
George Webber plays Count Agoston Haraszthy for Buena Vista Winery. He is the ambassador for the winery, bringing the founder of the winery to life. (Photo by Jeff Kan Lee)

 

Lawful Speeding: Sonoma Raceway
Wednesday night is a drag, we know. But this time it’s in a good way. The Wednesday Night Drags at Sonoma Raceway is a safe (and legal) opportunity for teenagers and seniors alike to channel their inner Jeff Gordon and drive their vehicles fast and furious down the raceway’s quarter-mile strip, supervised by Bay Area law enforcement officers. The season runs March through November, 4 to 10 p.m.

29355 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 800-870-7223, racesonoma.com

Beer and Burlesque
What pairs well with a Lagunitas Imperial Stout? How about a sword swallower? The Daytime IPA goes great with a contorting burlesque dancer on a trapeze. Every August, Lagunitas Brewing’s Beer Circus in Petaluma celebrates steampunk weirdness, vaudeville spectacle and, of course, beer. More than 200 artists and performers, food purveyors and dozens of regional microbrews make this a can’t-miss festival, on Aug. 15 this year. Tickets sell out fast.

Lagunitas Brewing Co., 1280 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma, 707-284-1020, lagunitas.com/beercircus

Lagunitas Beer Circus (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)
Lagunitas Beer Circus (Photo by Beth Schlanker)

It’s You and Not the Sky That’s Falling: NorCal Skydiving
The beauty of the Sonoma landscape takes on an even more precious quality from above, when you’re falling from the sky toward the Alexander Valley at 120 mph. This is the experience with NorCal Skydiving, an outfitter whose planes take off from the Cloverdale Municipal Airport. Once you jump and your chute deploys, the experience is eerily quiet. On clear days, you can see Mount Shasta and the Pacific Ocean on the way down. Prices start at $179.

220 Airport Road, Cloverdale, 888-667-2259, norcalskydiving.com

NorCal Skydiving. (photo by Jeff Kan Lee)
NorCal Skydiving. (Photo by Jeff Kan Lee)

Lawful Speeding
Wednesday night is a drag, we know. But this time it’s in a good way. The Wednesday Night Drags at Sonoma Raceway is a safe (and legal) opportunity for teenagers and seniors alike to channel their inner Jeff Gordon and drive their vehicles fast and furious down the raceway’s quarter-mile strip, supervised by Bay Area law enforcement officers. The season runs March through November, 4 to 10 p.m.

29355 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 800-870-7223, racesonoma.com

Groovy Racing: Slot Car Raceway
Slot-car racing didn’t die with America’s innocence in the 1960s. It’s alive and well in Rohnert Park, where Slot Car Raceway welcomes hobbyists to race their miniature model cars on slotted tracks, steered by hand-held controllers. While most enthusiasts leaped to more sophisticated iRacing on computers, Slot Car Raceway does it old school with its in-shop track and cases full of parts and equipment for home hobbyists. If you fondly recall your 1967 orange Manta Ray and spring-loaded plunger, this place is for you.

305 Southwest Blvd., Rohnert Park, 707-795-4156 scrhobbies.com

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