Santa Rosa  is the largest city in Sonoma County, California, and fifth largest in the San Francisco Bay Area. The city functions as a great jumping point for those that want to visit the wine country in Napa Valley, or driving out to the beautiful coastal Highways and parks.
The skyline of downtown Santa Rosa, looking toward Mount Saint Helena
Santa Rosa's history is rich in culture and many different groups have called the area their home. Pomo, Miwok, and Wappo Indians originally populated the area followed by the Spanish in the early 1800s. The first deeded land was held as the Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa and was given to Senora Maria Ignacia Lopez de Carrillo by Spanish authorities.
In 1867, the county recognized Santa Rosa as an incorporated city and in 1868 the state officially confirmed the incorporation, making it officially the third incorporated city in Sonoma County, after Petaluma, incorporated in 1858, and Healdsburg, incorporated in 1867.
The city continued to grow when other early population centers declined or stagnated, but by 1900 it had been, or was being, overtaken by many other newer population centers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. According to a 1905 article in the Press Democrat newspaper reporting on the Battle of the Trains, the city had just over 10,000 people at the time.
The April 18, 1906 San Francisco Earthquake essentially destroyed the entire downtown, but the city's population did not greatly suffer. However, after that period the population growth of Santa Rosa, as with most of the area, was very slow.
In 1943, Alfred Hitchcock filmed his thriller, Shadow of Doubt in Santa Rosa. He would continue to use Santa Rosa, and later Bodega Bay in many of his films. Thanks to this, Santa Rosa became, and continues to be a major hub in the Bay Area for numerous movies.
Santa Rosa is 55 miles north of San Francisco, via Highway 101. Depending on traffic conditions, this drive is as brisk as an hour and as long as two hours. It is best to avoid the Highways during weekday rush hours, and on the weekend after sporting events. Beautiful and alternative routes exist on Highway 1, and through Sonoma Valley.
Golden Gate Transit offers bus service out of San Francisco, and around the Bay Area every day of the week. The buses are large and comfortable, but are subject to the same traffic delays despite having access to the carpool lanes up and down Highway 101.
Greyhound offers rides into Santa Rosa from around the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland, and the South Bay Area.
- Golden Gate Transit, +1 415 455-2000,  from Sonoma and Marin counties.
- Greyhound, +1 800 231-2222,  offers transit around the Bay Area.
You can also fly Horizon Air  to Charles M. Schulz Airport  from Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas.
Although none of the ferries in the San Francisco Bay extend as far as Santa Rosa, they can be used as a connection to the numerous bus services to the North Bay, while providing fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline.
- Golden Gate Ferries, +1 415 455-2000 . Serving Larkspur and Sausalito.
- Blue and Gold Fleet, +1 415 705-8200 . Serving Alameda, Angel Island, Oakland, Sausalito, Tiburon and Vallejo.
Hitchhiking in the North Bay is an accepted practice, but as always have your wits about you. Travelers will find more luck along the coastal highway, which are teaming with tourist, rather than near Highway 101. If you are looking to escape San Francisco, walking across the Golden Gate to Vista Point, where all traffic will be heading north bound after leaving the scenic spot. Ask nicely, and many of the friendly Bay Area residents will be happy to give you a ride north toward Sonoma County, and Santa Rosa.
Being largely suburban, a personal vehicle remains the most common method of getting around Santa Rosa and the surrounding area. There is, however, the Santa Rosa CityBus, but frequency, operating hours, and coverage leave much to be desired. Sonoma County Transit and Golden Gate Transit also provide service in Santa Rosa, but focus mainly on inter-city travel.
Bicycling in Santa Rosa is a reasonable option. Most destinations are reachable via not-too-busy roads, and notable car-free pathways exist from downtown to and beyond the western city limit. The primary off-street bicycle and pedestrian path system is the Prince Memorial Greenway, extending along the banks of Santa Rosa Creek from City Hall in the heart of downtown, out beyond the city to the west. On the western edge of downtown, near the Marriott Hotel in Railroad Square, this connects to the Joe Rodota Trail, a paved off-street path going to Sebastapol paralleling CA highway 12. Much of the city is relatively flat.
The downtown core is easily walkable, and if one were staying downtown they could conceivably while away a day on foot.
- Charles M. Schulz Museum, 2301 Hardies Lane, 579-4452, . Celebrating Mr. Schulz's world-famous creation: the Peanuts comic strip.
- 6th Street Playhouse, 52 West 6th Street, 523-4185, . A state-of-the-art professional theatre facility, home of the Santa Rosa Players and the Actors Theatre, located in downtown's historic Railroad Square District. The 2005/2006 season features eight shows: 4 musicals by the Santa Rosa Players and 4 contemporary plays by the Actors Theatre.
- Safari West, 3115 Porter Creek Road, 579-2551, 800-616-2695, . A 400 acre wildlife preserve that is home to over 400 mammals and birds.
- Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, located in downtown Santa Rosa, on the corner of Santa Rosa Avenue and Sonoma Avenue, (707) 524-5445, . The historic Burbank home property was given to the City of Santa Rosa by Burbank's widow, Elizabeth, upon her death in 1977. The Luther Burbank Home & Gardens Board and City staff cooperatively oversee and maintain the property. The site is open to the public and its programs are staffed by volunteers.
- Sonoma County Museum, 425 7th Street, Santa Rosa, tel:707-579-1500, . The Sonoma County Museum is in the former U.S. Post Office and federal building, completed in 1910, one of the oldest surviving federal buildings in the state and a premier example of federal architecture from the era. It is located in downtown Santa Rosa one block west of B Street, north of the downtown shopping mall, the Santa Rosa Plaza. It has a collection of works relating to the artist Cristo and has rotating displays on art, culture, and local history, including such displays as the works of Ansel Adams and the history of mapping the California Coast.
- Visit some nearby wineries. Santa Rosa sits in the center of the famous Sonoma Wine Country and has nearly 200 wineries to choose from.
- Play golf. With 16 golf courses in the county, you're bound to find one that suits your tastes.
- Ice Skate at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena . This well-known ice rink also known as "Snoopy's Home Ice" features Snoopy and the gang - and was once owned by none other than Charles M. Schulz himself. It is located just across Hardies Lane from the Schulz museum.
- Hike the county and state parks . A few minutes from downtown, two adjacent parks offer short hikes in varied terrain, featuring two lakes. Lots of dogs, ducks and geese to see. A nice way to get in a bit of exercise without too much effort. Parks include:
- Howarth Park (city) , Spring Lake Park (county) , and Annadel State Park , which are all adjacent to each other.
- Sugarloaf Ridge State Park .
- Santa Rosa Plaza, 1071 Santa Rosa Plaza, 544-7467. M-F 10AM-9PM, Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Anchored by Macy's, Mervyn's and Sears and featuring over 100 stores.
- Coddingtown, 733 Coddingtown Mall, 527-5377. M-F 10AM-9PM, Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. This over 40 year old mall features Macy's, JC Penny, Gottschalks, Old Navy and over 100 other stores. The 72 foot tall revolving sign in the parking lot was declared a historical landmark in 1993 by the City of Santa Rosa.
- Montgomery Village, Farmers Lane and Sonoma Avenue. This outdoor shopping center includes several streets of chain and local stores. It includes a mix of boutique and more pedestrian options, as well as several good restaurants.
Downtown Santa Rosa consists of two main shopping areas:
- The 'main' downtown, centered around 4th St. east of Santa Rosa Plaza mall, primarily from B St. to E St., with less-concentrated options within a several-block radius of that core. Bookstores, newsstands, a music (instrument) store, small specialty shops, jewelry stores, and a number of restaurants are on-offer.
- Railroad Square, centered around 4th St. west of Santa Rosa Plaza mall and the freeway, primarily between Davis and Wilson streets. This growing area includes a number of antique shops, art galleries, and shops focusing on wares from places such as Indonesia and Mexico. A large local outdoors outfitter is on 3rd St.
- Made Local Market Place. Experience the wonderful selection of products made in Sonoma County and the North Bay. The store features items from over 400 local artists, makers, producers and manufacturers. Whether you're looking for that perfect gift or something practical for yourself, look for Local at the Made Local Marketplace. 531 5th Street 707-583-7667
- Fourth Street Deli, 300 Mendocino Ave. Sandwiches and salads. Great place to grab lunch and then go eat it at the park across the street.
- El Patio, 901 4th St. Excellent and inexpensive Mexican food.
- Lepe's, 4323 Montgomery Dr. Delicious Mexican cuisine, fast-food style. Amazing, huge burritos. Much better than the above El Patio.
- Equus, 101 FountainGrove Parkway, . A popular restaurant for local Sonoma County residents, business professionals, and wine lovers alike.
- Shogun, 2350 Midway Drive, in Montgomery Village shopping center. Good sushi.
- Osake: Japanese; possibly the most attractive Japanese restaurant in the city, with among the best sushi. Patio Ct. near Montgomery Village.
- Thai Taste: Good, small Thai restaurant. Patio seating in nice weather. Near the Flamingo Hotel, Farmers Lane north of 4th St./Sonoma Hwy.
- La Vera: Excellent pizza. Patio seating in nice weather. Downtown, 4th St. between Santa Rosa Ave. and D St.
- Mary's Pizza Shack: Family-friendly Italian restaurant and Sonoma County tradition, . Features good-value lunch specials until 5pm. Two locations in Santa Rosa: 535 Summerfield Road (across from Howarth Park on Summerfield Rd. near Montgomery Dr.); and 3084 Marlow Road (Northwest Santa Rosa at Marlow Rd. and Piner Rd).
- Crèpe Escape: Pleasant and attractive Montgomery Village space serving tasty dinner (gallettes) and dessert crèpes, as well as good coffee. Free wireless Internet access.
- El Charro: Good Mexican food. In shopping center off Farmers Lane between Bennett Valley Rd. and Freeway 12.
- Oliver's Market: Local semi-gourmet grocery. In addition to standard supermarket options are at taqueria, very good freshly-made sushi, excellent desserts, very good cheese and wine selections, and a salad bar. Tables available to eat there, or take out. The Santa Rosa location is in Rincon Valley, on Montecito Dr. at Middle Rincon Rd.
- Third Street Aleworks: Popular brewpub with good food. Both bar- and restaurant-style seating available, plus patio seating in good weather and billiards upstairs. Frequently loud. Downtown, 3rd St. between Santa Rosa Ave. and D St.
- The Warm Puppy, 1667 West Steele Lane (inside the Redwood Empire Ice Arena), ☎ 707-546-7147, . This small cafe with a cozy alpine atmosphere was once the favorite hangout of Charles M. Schulz. The table he routinely sat at as part of his daily activities is perpetually reserved for his presence.
- La Gare, 208 Wilson Street (Just north of the intersection of 3rd St and Wilson), ☎ 707-528-4355, . French/Swiss cuisine. Local favorite. (38.436935,-122.720343)
- Ca’ Bianca Ristorante Italiano (Ca' Bianca), 835 2nd Street, ☎ (707) 542-5800, . Excellent Italian food. Restaurant is in a large converted Victorian house in what appears to be a residential neighborhood, and so can be easily missed. (38.440950,-122.708689)
- Yao Kiku, 2700 Yulupa Avenue Suite #23, ☎ (707) 578-8180, . Excellent Japanese food, sushi, and sashimi. Arguably the most authentic Japanese restaurant in the area, as the menu and specials often include items not typically seen in Japanese restaurants in America, such as ume-shiso maki and various natto dishes.
- Abyssinia, 913 4th Street Santa Rosa, CA, 95404, ☎ (707) 568-6455, . Fantastic Ethiopian/Eritrean food. They have great options for vegetarians and vegans.
- Russian River Brewing Company, .
- The 440 Club, The quintessential dive bar. Jackalope mounted on the wall, local music in the jukebox, and friendly service. Can't beat a Sierra Nevada draught for $2.
- Seven Ultralounge (Club Seven), 528 7th St, ☎ +1 (707) 528-4700, . Seven host a great 80s night on Wednesday, Gay Night on Thursday and Rock and Roll Sunday School on Sundays. The crowd can be rough outside on hip-hop nights.
- Hotel La Rose, 308 Wilson Street, 579-3200, 800-527-6738, . (Located in Railroad Square, Northwest of Highway 101 and Highway 12's intersection.) This historic stone building was built in 1907 and renovated in 1985. With 48 guest rooms, you'll find amenities like whirlpool tubs or balconies overlooking the rose garden courtyard. Rates range between $100 and $300.
- Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa, 170 Railroad Street,+1 707 284-1234, . Part of the Hyatt family of hotels, this Mediterranean styled hotel is located in historic Railroad Square and features amenities such as a on-site spa, sauna, bar, and free parking. Rates average $300.
- Fountain Grove Inn, 101 Fountain Grove Parkway, +1 707 578-6101, 800-222-6101, . 124 guest rooms decorated in elegant simplicity. Rates between $100 and $200.
- Best Western Garden Inn, 1500 Santa Rosa Avenue, +1 707 546-4031, Fax: +1 707 526-4903, .
- Comfort Inn, 2632 Cleveland Avenue. 
- Courtyard Santa Rosa, 175 Railroad Street, +1 707 573-9000, Fax: +1 707 573-0272, .
- Extended Stay America - North, 100 Fountain Grove Parkway, Ph: +1 707 541-0959, Fax: 707-541-0931, .
- Extended Stay America - South, 2600 Corby Avenue, Ph: +1 707 546-4808, Fax: 707-546-4860, 
- Flamingo Resort Hotel, 277 4th Street.
- Holiday Inn Express, 870 Hopper Avenue, +1 707 545-9000, .
- Motel 6 Santa Rosa North, 3145 Cleveland Avenue, +1 707 525-9010, Fax: +1 707 528-2761, .
- Motel 6 Santa Rosa South, 2760 Cleveland Avenue, +1 707 546-1500, Fax: +1 707 527-8070, .
- Ramada Limited, 866 Hopper Avenue.
- Days Inn Santa Rosa, CA, 3345 Santa Rosa Avenue, Hwy 101 and Todd Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95407 
- Travelodge - Downtown, 635 Healdsburg Avenue.
- Vintners Inn, 4350 Barnes Road.
- Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, 3555 Round Barn Blvd, +1 707 523-7555, .
- Vagabond Inn Santa Rosa, 2632 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95403,707-542-5544, . The Santa Rosa Vagabond Inn hotel is located in California Wine Country near Downtown Santa Rosa, Highway 101 and a short drive to San Francisco.
- The Sandman, 3421 Cleveland Avenue, ☎ (707) 293-2100, . A charmingly retro motor lodge, the Sandman's breezy atmosphere includes modern amenities, proximity to vineyards, and custom Californian design elements.
|Routes through Santa Rosa
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