One of my favorite things to do when visitors come to town is take them on a stroll around the Sonoma Plaza, it’s always a good time and no one is ever disappointed. I haven’t photographed it in quite a few years since I posted about some stops on a day trip to Sonoma from San Francisco. I still recommend the wineries in that older post as a place to get a view of the vineyards, but the Plaza is the place to spend and afternoon and it’s where you’ll get a little taste of everything.
Out-of-towners always ask, “Napa or Sonoma?” and I always say “Both”. You’ll get a totally different experience wherever you go. I love to visit Napa, it’s sophisticated and stunning to see, but I grew up in Sonoma County so I’m biased and I like our more casual vibe. Sonoma is home to me and I so love to play tour guide right here in my backyard.
I shot all of these pictures with my go to favorite lens, the 35mm Nikkor f2 that I mentioned years ago in this Yosemite post. I love this lens because of its small size and versatility for walkabout shooting. Its range is f/2 to f/22 so you can get crisp shots from far away for landscapes, or shallow depth of field at a wide aperture when needed.
Start wherever you park your car but be sure to walk the entire square, it’s worth it.
On the north side of the Plaza you’ll find the famous Girl & the Fig restaurant and a gorgeous home store called Summervine. Dine at the old time Swiss Hotel, or pick up a picnic at the Sonoma Cheese Shop.
On the east side of the Plaza you’ll find several shops, bars, and art galleries, as well as several cool alleys to duck down and explore. You’ll pass the famous Basque Cafe (amazing breads and salads), also the Sebastiani Theater and the Ledson tasting room. Stop in to the Sonoma Wine Shop, they know their stuff and sell only boutique wines, it’s a nice contrast to the high volume commercial wines from the Sonoma valley.
The south side offers various shops, restaurants, and wine tasting rooms. I love the vibe of the Pangloss Cellars wine lounge.
On the west side you’ll find a great bar, olive oil tasting room, art gallery, the Sunflower Caffe and my favorite place to splurge on lunch, the courtyard of the El Dorado Hotel.
Note there are grandfathered alcohol consumption laws in the Plaza so you can bring or buy a bottle of wine and food, and picnic in the park without a care. Two playgrounds means you can bring the kids along too. :) Or pop into a variety of other tasting rooms you’ll find just off the Plaza there are so many.
Hope you enjoyed the stroll, come and visit us sometime in the Sonoma Plaza, it won’t disappoint!