It’s common for those of us who live in the Valley to find refuge from the summer heat with weekend getaways to places like San Francisco or Monterey Bay. While those are tried and true destinations for those looking for a fun escape, there is one city that boasts a unique history along with a rich variety of food and entertainment options that is often overlooked — Petaluma.
Located 37 miles north of San Francisco, Petaluma is home to a vibrant nightlife, upscale eating options, beautiful views of nature, and a historic downtown center populated by some of the only buildings to survive the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. And for travelers with a little more time on their hands, Petaluma is a prime launching point to explore surrounding areas like Bodega Bay or the Mendocino National Forest.
The Shuckery100 Washington Street
So you’re out of the Valley and looking for something different to eat. While there are plenty of seafood options in the 209, there aren’t many that boast the freshness that can be found at The Shuckery – Petaluma’s only oyster bar located at the historic Hotel Petaluma. Stroll in and choose from a variety of oysters farmed in places like Washington, British Colombia, Mexico, and the Atlantic. If oysters aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy locally sourced fish tacos, rock cod, and steamed mussels or you can switch it up with cauliflower hot wings.
Helen Putnam Regional Park 411 Chileno Valley Road
After filling up on seafood you may be in the mood to either rest and relax or stretch your legs and move around a little. You can accomplish either one of those activities and enjoy the beautiful Sonoma County weather at the Helen Putnam Regional Park. This sprawling, 216-acre park boasts six miles of trails for hikers, bicyclists, and even horseback riders across grassy hillsides and oak woodlands. There is also a fishing pond, playground, and picnic area for visitors to enjoy. Located less than 10 minutes away from downtown, this is the perfect place to plan the next leg of your Petaluma adventure.
Barber Lee Spirits120 Washington Street
Breweries have been all the rage from the 707 to the 209 for more than a decade, so instead of picking up a couple of crowlers filled with IPA why not visit a distillery and sample some spirits? If that sounds like fun then Barber Lee Spirits deserves a spot on your itinerary. A family-run distillery that makes use of heirloom corn, malted grain, and organic herbs, Barber Lee has six spirits on the menu to choose from, but their award-winning Single Malt Rye and Absinthe Blanche are the ones to crow home about. Walk in, sample all six, order a cocktail made with your favorite, and then buy a few bottles to take home.
Risibisi154 Petaluma Blvd North
You may have trouble pronouncing the name, but you won’t have a problem finding a delicious meal at this Italian restaurant that’s ideal for anyone looking for a romantic night with their significant other. Choose low-lit seating inside or outdoor seating along the Petaluma River and enjoy upscale fare like mushroom risotto, tagliata con rucola, or gnocchi wild boar. Pair your meal with an imported Italian wine or a high end cocktail, but make sure you leave room for the flourless chocolate cake when it’s time for desert. If all that isn’t enough to convince you that Risibisi’s is a must, keep in mind that it’s the only restaurant in Sonoma County to be awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand twelve years running.
Petaluma Pie Company 125 Petaluma Blvd North
Don’t wave goodbye to the North Bay and head back home to the Valley without first stopping by this farm to table pie shop that uses local, organic ingredients to make a plethora of baked treats. Satisfy your sweet tooth with an apricot cherry crumble pie or a butterscotch banana cream pie. Or you can opt for a meal instead of a treat and choose a savory pie, like the Jamaican beef patty or the Italian butter bean pie. If you find something that blows your mind you can talk to the workers and see which pies are available to ship to your house.
93 miles from Stockton
119 miles from Modesto
157 miles from Merced
Other Places to visit:
Lagunitas Brewing Company Taproom
The Block Food Park & Beer Garden
The Phoenix Theater
Buffalo Billiards Pool Hall