At first thought, camping in wine country sounds like the perfect way to relax and unwind. What’s not to like about playing in the shade of redwoods, and falling asleep under the stars? But before you get to the good stuff, first you need to find your gear, pack the car, pitch your tent, and if you’re traveling with kids, be ready to entertain during all waking moments. Right about when you go to sleep – on the ground – you remember camping is a lot of work.
That is, unless you’re experiencing the great outdoors in Sonoma County, at the San Francisco North/Petaluma KOA.
“If you want to rough it, we’re not for you,” said co-owner Pauline Wood.
Built in 1972, the 60-acre family-owned and operated campground resort is high end, but still Sonoma County country. Bathrooms and showers scattered throughout the resort are lined with granite. The camp store sells s’mores fixings alongside a varied selection of Sonoma County wines and craft beers.
If part of your family bonding experience requires sleeping on the ground, there are 38 tent campsites that deliver. More than 200 sites (many of them beautifully landscaped) are dedicated to travel trailers and RVs. But it’s the 60 accommodations at the Petaluma resort that make for a unique wine country glamping experience. Deluxe Cabins or Lodges come with kitchens or kitchenettes, bathrooms, and sleep up to six people. Studios sleep four, and offer perks including bathrooms, microwaves, toasters and small refrigerators.
Camping cabins are a bit more rustic, but still cozy, with a full bed, a set of bunk beds, and room outside to set up a tent. All accommodations have a television and there’s Wi-Fi throughout the resort, but the variety means there’s something for just about every family’s needs and budget.
Sleeping well means kids (and kids at heart) have plenty of energy to get the most out of long, summer days. Family-friendly amenities are plentiful and complimentary. In addition to outdoor games like cornhole, horse shoes, and bocce ball, there’s a pool, playground, jumping pillow, (it’s like a massive trampoline) rock wall and petting zoo. (The San Francisco North/Petaluma KOA Camping Resort is home to 100 animals ranging from cows and goats to sheep and miniature donkeys.) Hayrides roll through camp in the evening, and everyone is invited to Karaoke on Friday nights, and the poolside dance party on Saturdays.
For campers looking to spend days exploring wine country, concierges can help arrange everything from wine tastings and dinner reservations, to providing directions to nearby Lagunitas Brewing Company.
Depending on accommodations, rates range from $100 to $300 per night. Tent site average costs are $50 to $80. Midweek tends to be quieter with more availability. Friendly dogs are welcome. 20 Rainsville Road, Petaluma, 707-763-1492, koa.com/campgrounds/san-francisco/
If you can pull the kids away from the pool long enough to dry off, here are few other family friendly things to check out in Petaluma.
Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory: Visit the factory floor and see how stickers are made at Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory. Tours run Monday through Thursday at 10:00am, 11:00am, 1:00pm and 2:00pm. Each tour is approximately 50 minutes, and includes free stickers. Admission: $7.00 for adults, $5.00 for kids age 3 to 11, under 3 are free. Reservations are required, no walk-ins. 3810 Cypress Drive, Petaluma, 707-765-8554, mrsgrossmans.com.
Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue: Public guided tours of the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue are held on Saturdays, May through September, at 12:00pm and 2pm. (October through April, there is a tour at 2pm only.) Tours include a bag of pick your own produce from the organic Wildlife Education Garden. Admission: $25 adults and teens, $10 for kids age 4 to 12, under 4 are free. Reservations are recommended; tours can fill. 403 Mecham Road, Petaluma, 707-992-0274, scwildliferescue.org
Lala’s Creamery: Flavors the likes of Rocky Road, Salted Caramel, Banana Peanut Butter Fudge, and White Chocolate Blackberry Swirl are made using local organic Strauss dairy products. Dairy-free/vegan treats are made with coconut milk. Even the waffle cones and sauces are made from scratch. 134 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, 707-763-5252, lalascreamery.com.