Sure, you could take your special someone on a classic Wine Country date, like a fancy dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant or a wine tasting for two at a gorgeous vineyard. But if you’re looking for a more out-of-the-box date that the two of you won’t be able to stop talking about, then your search is over.
We’re compiling lively and memorable date ideas across Sonoma County. First up: Santa Rosa. This vibrant city in the heart of the county was ranked among the top 10 “fun places to live in the U.S.” by U.S. News & World Report last year. An abundance of arts, dining and recreational activities — from outdoor excursions to cozy indoor retreats — makes this city a great spot for any type of romantic rendezvous.
Here are 12 fun dates you can only experience in Santa Rosa.
Romance on ice — Snoopy’s Home Ice: Dress in layers to get ready for one of the coolest date night spots in the county — Snoopy’s Home Ice. Whether you’re a novice in need of a partner’s guiding hand on the rink or a skating savant hoping to impress your date on the ice, there are plenty of opportunities to get close and have fun. General skate sessions are $11, plus a $4 skate rental; late-night skate sessions are $9, plus a $2 skate rental. Check the calendar for skate times. After your skating session, snuggle up together with a cup of hot chocolate at the rink’s Warm Puppy Cafe, or head across the street to Kettles Vietnamese Bistro to share a large, steaming bowl of phở and a cocktail.
1667 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa, 707-546-7147, snoopyshomeice.com
Art and brews — Museum of Sonoma County: Show off your cultured side and take your date on a saunter through the sculpture garden and art exhibitions at the Museum of Sonoma County. The downtown Santa Rosa museum houses diverse mixed-media art exhibits, drop-in art making classes every second Saturday of the month and a carefully landscaped sculpture garden perfect for a hand-in-hand promenade with your artsy partner. General admission is $10 for adults and $7 for seniors, students and disabled people. After your museum trip, head to the nearby Brew cafe to discuss the artwork over a specialty coffee or craft beer.
425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa, 707-579-1500, museumsc.org
Food, fun and farmers — Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market: To get your meal, drinks, dancing and other exciting activities in one location, take your date to the Wednesday Night Market in downtown Santa Rosa. From 5-8:30 p.m. every Wednesday in summer through August, the grand community farmers market and street fair boasts rocking live concerts (with ample room to dance), exhibits and entertainers, art and clothing vendors, and of course, dozens of local farmers and food concession stands. Plus, there’s a dedicated Kid Space with plenty of fun activities for the young ones if you couldn’t get a sitter in time for date night. Where else can you stuff your face with Peruvian food and juicy, farm-fresh pluots while jamming to a Tom Petty tribute band?
Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa, 707-246-6741, wednesdaynightmarket.org
Rose garden strolls — Luther Burbank Home & Gardens: You could buy your date a dozen roses or, better yet, bring them to a lush garden brimming with hundreds of them. Luther Burbank Home & Gardens has a vast assortment of colorful flowers and plants, from year-round roses and hydrangeas to horticulturist Luther Burbank’s own hand-bred plum trees and Shasta daisies. Garden and museum tours are held 1-4 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, and the gardens are open to freely roam around every day until dusk. Tours are $10 for adults and $8.50 for seniors, college students and children ages 12-18. If your visit is timed just right, head to Juilliard Park across the street after your garden gallivanting to enjoy free music as part of the annual Live at Juilliard Concert Series, from 5-7 p.m. each Sunday, July 17 to Aug. 21.
204 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-524-5445, lutherburbank.org
Indie darlings — Summerfield Cinemas and East West Cafe: Switch up your typical dinner-and-a-movie night with an indie film at Summerfield Cinemas followed by a fresh Mediterranean meal at the nearby East West Cafe. Summerfield specializes in independent, art-house and foreign films — perfect for those with eclectic tastes. If you haven’t filled up on popcorn, walk over to East West Cafe to share a colorful Mediterranean Platter and baklava or vegan chocolate cake for dessert. Bonus: The charming Howarth Park is right across the street to walk around and discuss the film.
551 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa, 707-525-8909, santarosacinemas.com/summerfield
Walk on the wild side — Safari West: If you’re dating a zoophilist (a lover of animals), treat them to a wildly fun time in Sonoma’s Serengeti. From antelopes to zebras, Safari West’s 400-acre preserve is home to hundreds of animals, and there are plenty of ways to experience the wildlife, Wine Country-style. You can book a private safari, such as the Winos & Rhinos Safari Adventure, where you and your partner can sip wine while touring the preserve and learning about its amusing animals. Don’t forget to reserve a spot at the estate’s Savannah Café for a South African-inspired meal, or book a romantic overnight stay in a luxury glamping tent or cottage.
3115 Porter Creek Road, Santa Rosa, 707-579-2551, safariwest.com
Be kids again — Poppy Bank Epicenter: Relive your childhood with an exhilarating date at Santa Rosa’s epicenter, jammed-packed with exciting activities. The epicenter is home to an arcade, bowling alley, trampoline park, laser tag arena, virtual reality platform, a 3D interactive theater and even an axe-throwing arena. Plus, there are regular weekly events like comedy shows, musical acts, bingo, karaoke and paint nights, which can all be enjoyed along with a meal from the epicenter’s Victory House Sports Bar & Restaurant.
3215 Coffey Lane, Santa Rosa, 707-708-4625, visitepicenter.com
Take to the skies — Wine Country Balloons: Those with vertigo need not apply, as this stunning date will take you over a 1,000 feet in a colorful hot air balloon, with sublime views of vineyards, pristine pastures, oak woodlands and redwood forests. Rest assured the balloon pilots are highly-experienced — chief pilot Scott van der Horst has logged over 8,000 hours of flying hot air balloons, personally hosting more than 50,000 passengers. Reserved flights are $275 per person, and other amenities are available for additional fees, such as a cake for a special occasion or a custom DVD video of your ballooning experience. Wine Country Balloons also offers transportation to and from the launch and landing sites, ending at Kaffe Mocha & Grill for a post-flight champagne brunch.
397 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa, 707-538-7359, winecountryballoons.com
Get theatrical — 6th Street Playhouse: Let the talented theater company at 6th Street Playhouse dazzle you and your date with a captivating show in the renovated cannery near historic Railroad Square. The playhouse will open this season with its production of Jane Austen’s classic witty romance Pride and Prejudice, beginning Aug. 11, followed by an intimate and sultry performance of the Broadway hit Cabaret beginning Sept. 15. Ticket prices vary. After the play, you and your date can recite show tunes while strolling along the Santa Rosa Creek or treat yourselves to a romantic dinner at the nearby French eatery La Gare.
52 W. Sixth St., Santa Rosa, 707-523-4185, 6thstreetplayhouse.com
Climb time — Vertex and Session climbing centers: Get your heart pumping with an adventurous date of bouldering, rope climbing and other physical activities at Santa Rosa’s two climbing gyms. The tall rock climbing walls at Vertex and Session provide a perfect opportunity to support your partner as they find their footing and scale their way to the top. Vertex has aerial skills classes (starting in August) to fly in the air with silk bands, and both centers provide yoga classes for a more relaxed workout together. Day passes at Vertex are $20 for adults, $18 for youth and $16 for the early bird special (8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday and Friday). Day passes at Session are $25 for adults, $22 for youth, seniors and military, and $20 for the early bird special (before 4 p.m. Monday through Friday).
Scavenging sweethearts — Operation City Quest: Work together, and become closer in the process, to solve riddles and hunt for items around downtown Santa Rosa using Operation City Quest’s scavenger hunt app. The organization features fun photo scavenger hunts in cities across the nation, but just one in Sonoma County, starting in Old Courthouse Square to hunt for items within a two-mile radius. There’s even a special date version of the scavenger hunt, with six additional challenges to bond over and learn more about each other. To plan your couple’s scavenger hunt, purchase and redeem tickets on the website (original version is $20 per person and date version is $22 per person), download the app and begin your hunt at the suggested starting location (detailed instructions and a game code will be sent to your email).
50 Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa, 843-212-6609, operationcityquest.com
Dance the night away — Monroe Hall: Chassé into each other’s hearts at this 2,700-square-foot dance hall that’s been a dancing and social gathering spot since 1922. Monroe Hall has daily events along with exercise and dance classes — from folk dancing and jazzercise sessions to square dancing and hoe downs. Swing, cha-cha and waltz with your partner into the night in this charming and lively hall, learning some new impressive moves along the way. Vaccination is required but masks are optional. Prices range from free to $20 per session, depending on event or class type.
1400 West College Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-824-1008, monroe-hall.com