The city of Santa Rosa is the cultural, economic and political heart of Sonoma County. Just 55 miles north of San Francisco, this California city is quickly growing and has a population of approximately 175,000, making it the largest city in Sonoma County. Santa Rosa’s population was only 50,000 as recently as 1970.
Sonoma County is known for the grapes grown here and the world-famous wines that result from that harvest. The area surrounding Santa Rosa is home to more than a hundred wineries and vineyards, many with attractive tasting rooms, gardens and picnic areas.
The city of Santa Rosa has a diverse economy that would be the envy of cities twice its size. Its many businesses include manufacturing, electronics, wood products, tourism, higher education and more. Shopping areas are abundant and include the Historic Railroad Square, a mix of restaurants, retail stores and shops in refurbished stone and brick buildings, two malls, Coddingtown Center and Santa Rosa Plaza, and Montgomery Village in east Santa Rosa features almost 100 shops under attractive ivy-covered walkways. Downtown Santa Rosa includes every sort of restaurant, clothing store, gift shop, bookstore or business imaginable. It is a lively, vibrant area.
For culture in the city, the Santa Rosa Symphony orchestra performs over 20 concerts every year between October and May, and the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts provides a venue for a variety of entertainment and art exhibits. Railroad Square and Courthouse Square are downtown landmarks, both featuring a number of restaurants and antique shops that beckon visitors from far and wide. Another attraction that brings visitors from all over the world is the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, which is dedicated to the creator of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts franchise.
Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park Highlights
- Downtown Santa Rosa – shopping, restaurants, Luther Burbank Home and Gardens and more. Weekly market Wed., May through Sept. 1, 5 to 8:30 p.m. at Fourth and E streets, (707)524-2123.
- Dorothy Spreckels Performing Arts Center – theater, symphony concerts, ballet, art exhibits and more, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park, (707) 588-3400.
- Historic Railroad Square – Shops, dining and more. Davis, Wilson, 3rd, 4th and 5th sts., Santa Rosa, (707) 578-8478.
- Luther Burbank Center for the Arts – dance performances, Santa Rosa Symphony, California Museum of Art, concerts and more. 50 Mark West Springs Rd., Santa Rosa, (707) 546-3600.
- Sonoma County Museum – local history, arts, and culture. 425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa, (707) 579-1500.
- Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – 2435 Professional Dr., Santa Rosa, (707) 526-7744
- Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau – 9 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 1-800-404-ROSE
- Sonoma County Wine and Visitors Center – tasting and exhibit room, winery maps, retail shop, wine. 5000 Roberts Lake Rd. (exit Hwy. 101 at Golf Course Dr.), Rohnert Park, (707) 586-3795
- Rohnert Park Chamber of Commerce – 5000 Roberts Lake Road, Suite B, Rohnert Park, CA, 94928, (707) 584-1415
The train depot, circa 1904, located in Historic Railroad Square has been restored to mint condition and is now the home of the Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical society transformed the former ticket office/telegraph room into an interactive museum of children’s activities and railroading exhibits, with an operational diorama of the depot area complete with model trains and tracks. Memorabilia, photos and other exhibits will also be on display. The depot is located at 9 Fourth Street and is open seven days a week.
The arts are also an important part of Santa Rosa life. The city has several live theatre groups. The Santa Rosa Symphony is known as one of the finest of its size, and the Luther Burbank Center has a regular lineup of entertainers, dancers, and other cultural events.
Natural beauty is no stranger to Santa Rosa; the city has six acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents in more than 40 parks and recreation areas. Probably the best-known park in the city is the Luther Burbank Gardens, the former home of the famed horticulturist.
Just south of Santa Rosa is Rohnert Park the first planned community in the U.S. Features include ten parks, four pools and a sports complex that are all open to community residents.
Opened five years ago is the handsome Sonoma County Wine and Visitors Center, a 13,000-square-foot facility owned and operated by the Sonoma County Wineries Association.
An exhibit room educates visitors about the county with a large electronic relief map and video presentations. An interactive kiosk allows one to plan and print out an itinerary that can include wineries, lodging, restaurants and activities. The Wine Center features a tasting room and a retail shop with more than 200 Sonoma County wines.
Another impressive structure in Rohnert Park is the Dorothy Spreckels Performing Arts Center, an architecturally dramatic showpiece that presents local, national and international performances. The $8 million center houses two theaters that were designed exclusively for dance, music and theatrical performances.
Rohnert Park is also the home of Sonoma State University, part of the 20-campus California State University system. Sonoma State has a growing reputation as one of the better small universities in the state due to its small class size and a tradition of high interaction between students and professors. Sonoma State offers bachelor’s degrees in 33 fields and master’s programs in 13 areas.
Rohnert Park was formerly the site of seed farms run by the Rohnert family. The farms were prime agricultural property and rivaled only by the gardens of Luther Burbank in importance.