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Wildlife and wine at Santa Rosa Beach, California

Situated just 55 miles north of San Francisco, the sleepy Sonoma town of Santa Rosa has a little something for everyone, from starry-eyed honeymooners to suntanned surfers, to vacationing families driving minivans filled with rambunctious kids.

Santa Rosa is the warm heart of California Wine Country, and the town that is home to around 170,000 residents has more than some of the finest wine in the world. Culture hounds will find plenty to satisfy in the way of a first-class art district, fascinating museums, architectural marvels and a vibrant local theater scene. There's even a safari park for when visitors feel like having a really wild day. Whether you're coming for a much-needed getaway or a business conference, this picturesque part of California fits the bill.

Things to do in Santa Rosa

One of the beautiful things about visiting California is that you can do absolutely nothing and still have a memorable day. If you'd like to pack a bit more adventure into your visit to Sonoma County, here are a few must-sees to put on your itinerary:

Charles M. Schulz Museum

Any fan of the old “Peanuts” cartoon strip will have a splendid time exploring the work of America's most-beloved cartoonist. Anyone unfamiliar with the antics of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and Linus will consider the characters new friends after a tour of the museum. Find the Charles M. Schulz Museumat 2301 Hardies Lane in northern Santa Rosa.

Ride in a hot air balloon

Adventuresome types can board the basket of a brightly-colored hot air balloon and enjoy a thrilling soar above the lush vineyards of California wine country. On a clear morning, you may catch a glimpse of the shining Pacific Ocean. Balloon-ride companies operate out of the Santa Rosa airport as well as launch locations in the nearby towns of Healdsburg, Windsor, Yountville, Calistoga and Napa.

Take an African safari in Santa Rosa

Yes, you read that right. Sonoma County is home to a lovely wild animal sanctuary that offers three-hour guided tours over winding roads in an authentic African savannah setting. View gazelle, zebra, cape buffalo, wildebeests, oryx and other exotic beasts in a natural environment. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Safari West is located at 3115 Porter Creek Road.

How to get there

Major airports near Santa Rosa include San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Oakland International Airport (OAK), each a little less than 70 miles away. American, Delta, United and other domestic airlines fly into and out of Charles M. Schultz-Sonoma County Airport (STS) at 2200 Airport Boulevard in Santa Rosa.

To drive to Santa Rosa from San Francisco, make your way across the Golden Gate Bridge and head north on CA Hwy 101. In average traffic, the trip to Santa Rosa should take less than an hour.

Where to stay in Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa hotels provide perfect coastal lodging opportunities with a variety of moderately priced hotels. Gulf Place Community by Wyndham Vacation Rentals offers both apartments and hotel rooms suited to your needs.

Best time to visit

Bear in mind that North California coastal towns like Santa Rosa tend to be foggier and a bit chillier than their counterparts in Southern California.

If you want to be in wine country for the annual harvest known as The Crush, time your visit sometime between mid-September and the end of October.

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