Healdsburg is a city of 12,000 people (2019) in Sonoma County in the Bay Area of California. It's lovely, quaint town that used to be an agricultural outpost. The three main areas of interest are the town plaza, around which you'll find boutiques, restaurants, and lodging; the Russian River; and the wineries along Westside Road and Dry Creek Road. The Healdsburg/Alexander Valley area is famous for its Zins, though you can't go wrong with goodies like sparkling wine from J Winery, Pinot Noir from Porter Creek, and the famous Petite Sirah at Foppiano's.
The best way to get to Healdsburg is to drive. Located about one hour and 15 minutes north of San Francisco, it's an easy get-away into the wine country. Take 101 north over the Golden Gate Bridge; there are three different exits into Healdsburg.
If you don't want to drive, some San Francisco companies specialize in wine country limo rides and buses, but you're likely not to have much time to just walk around Healdsburg if you go this way.
If you want to reduce your driving, you can fly to Charles M. Schulz Airport directly from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Phoenix, or (seasonably) Minneapolis or Las Vegas, then rent a car at the airport. From the airport, it's about a 20-minute drive to Healdsburg.
If you're into wine tasting, you can drive or bike to various wineries, most of which are located on either Dry Creek Road or Westside Road. There are also bike and touring companies that offer various ways to visit the wine country, from limo rides to gourmet, speed-racing bike trips.
If you're just visiting the area, you can easily park on or near the Healdsburg Plaza and walk to most places in downtown Healdsburg.
- Hand Fan Museum, 309 Healdsburg Avenue, ☏ , [email protected]. W-Sa 11AM-4PM. Small yet captivating, an artistic showcase just across from the Plaza.
- Healdsburg Museum, 221 Matheson St (Two blocks east of the plaza), ☏ , [email protected]. W-Su 9AM-4PM. Exhibits, both ongoing and changing, on the history of Healdsburg and Sonoma County. Free.
- Healdsburg Prune Packers baseball, 515 Piper St. There's nothing like summer baseball! Team members are from colleges across California and the U.S. Many past team members have made it to professional baseball.
- Raven Performing Arts Theater, 115 North St, ☏ . The Raven Players, the resident theater company in Healdsburg, presents both family-friend fare and challenging stage plays.
In a category between "See" and "Buy" are the numerous art galleries around or within a block of the Healdsburg Plaza:
- Healdsburg Center for the Arts, 130 Plaza St, ☏ , [email protected]. Su M Th 11AM-5PM, F Sa 11AM-6PM. Run by a non-profit, this location has been holding events and exhibitions since 2002.
- Paul Mahder Gallery, 222 Healdsburg Ave. W-M 10AM-6PM. By far the largest art gallery in Healdsburg, with works by artists from around the world
- Upstairs Art Gallery, 306 Center St (Inside Levin & Co. Bookstore, on the mezzanine level), ☏ , [email protected]. Daily 11AM-6PM. A partnership of 16 Sonoma County artists, offering a wide variety of art, jewelry and artisan crafts.
Eat, drink, look - these are the classic Healdsburg options:
- Wine tasting - Three wine appellations (growing regions) converge in Healdsburg: Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, and the Russian River Valley. The scenery is beautiful and the vibe is laid back. If you know nothing about wine, people will remain friendly and in many cases go out of their way to educate you ... if you want. A fair amount of the wineries in the region are boutiques and produce small quantities of a given vintage; many times you can meet the actual winemaker or the winery owner. More conveniently (and conventionally), there are numerous wine tasting rooms in the center of Healdsburg, clustering around the Healdsburg Plaza.
- Eat gourmet food - As much as Healdsburg is a "wine town", it is just as much a foodie town. Madrona Manor, Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar, and celebrity chef Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen are just a few of the top restaurants in town. There is a wonderful farmers' market on Saturday mornings (May through November) and Wednesday afternoons (June through October), as well as some incredible bakeries.
- Stroll along the Healdsburg Plaza. Surrounded by boutique stores, two bookstores, coffee shops, wine tasting venues, and lots of restaurants, the Plaza offers an excellent way to spend an afternoon; nearby streets have more attractions.
There are more active options, of course:
- Bike Healdsburg - a party bike, ☏ . The party bike seats up to 13 passengers at a time, and just about everyone must pedal in order to move it. As of August 2019, four tours are offered: morning exercise; history and architecture; beer/bar crawls; and wine & nibbles
- Healdsburg Golf Course at Tayman Park, ☏ . A short distance east of downtown is a hilly, 9-hole golf course with a covered driving range. While using an electric cart isn't mandatory, it's highly recommended.
- The Ranch at Lake Sonoma, ☏ , [email protected]. Horse riding options - a number of tours.
- River's Edge Kayak and Canoe, 13840 Healdsburg Av, ☏ . The Russian River has a few very small twists and turns, but otherwise a half-day canoe ride is a pleasant chance to check out the wine country from a different angle. Canoe-goers may need to get out and push (due to shallow water), so water-friendly shoes (for the rocky river bottom) are a good idea. it is best to go during the summertime when the city of healdsburg constructs an annual reacreation dam. There are banks at which to stop and enjoy a picnic and sun as well, so a swimsuit, a snack and some sunscreen may enhance one's trip.
- Wine Country Bikes, 61 Front St, ☏ , [email protected]. Take a casual ride to in the Dry Creek or Russian River Valleys or challenge yourself with an epic adventure in the surrounding hills. Tours run about six hours.
- Wine Country Walking Tours, 1083 Vine St., Suite 182, ☏ . Fine wine and foodie walking tours - select from one of three tours (two, three, or four hours) $59 to $249.
Finally, do be respectful of locals. Many if not most residents have been born and raised in the town. Thus, they have seen its transformation in the past few decades from a quiet village to a yuppie destination full of tourists. Do not block the sidewalks, do not double park, do not honk your horn, and please do not jaywalk.
Most of the unique stores are located on or near the Healdsburg Plaza. You'll find an array of clothing, books, handbags and paperies.
- Gourmet food: There are several fancy food shops on the plaza including Oakville Grocery and the cooperative next door to the Healdsburg Inn.
- Books: There are two independent book stores in Healdsburg, both on the main plaza, Copperfield's (on the south side) and Levin & Co. (on the east side). Levin & Co. has a broad selection of first editions, as well as more recent books, plus an artist's co-op gallery (Upstairs Art Gallery; see above).
- Barndiva, 231 Center Street, ☏ . Brunch F-Su 11AM-2:30PM; dinner W-Su from 5:30PM. "Modern country cuisine". Michelin-starred (need more be said?) Dinner entrees $42-52.
- Bravas Bar de Tapas, 420 Center Street, ☏ . Su-Th 11:30AM-9PM, F Sa 11:30AM-10PM. "Traditional Spanish and modern tapas-style dining", both indoor and out (the backyard patio is wonderful on cooler summer days); top-rated.
- Costeaux French Bakery, 417 Healdsburg Ave, ☏ . Where the locals go for wine country lunches, award winning breads, desserts, pastries and cakes. Family owned and operated for decades.
- Downtown Bakery, 308A Center St, ☏ , fax: . M-F 6AM-5:30PM, Sa 7AM-5:30PM, Su 7AM-4PM. Only accepts cash and check only, no credit or debit cards. Good place to stop by in the morning to get something for breakfast and a cup of coffee. Cafe menu/brunch is served Friday through Monday (over the weekend) from 8AM til 2PM. $1-20.
- El Sombrero, Center Street (across from Oakville Grocery). Slightly off-the-plaza but one of the best taquerias in northern California. Pray that the Taqueria survives the onslaught of money from the Bay Area, because you won't want to miss their huge burritos, amazing carnitas tacos and soccer games on the TV 24/7.
- Flying Goat Coffee, 324 Center St. Where the locals go for coffee, chai, pastries and, of course, gossip. Packed on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but the coffee and atmosphere are worth the wait.
- Guiso Latin Fusion, 117 North St, ☏ . This is one of those restaurants that you're reluctant to mention to friends, because you'd rather keep it a secret. It's only open for dinner, and it's the smallest dine-in restaurant in Healdsburg, possibly in all of Sonoma County. Its mix of Caribbean and Salvadorian cuisines provides lots of flavor. Not to be missed: their version of (small pieces of) corn on the cob.
- Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Bar, 116 Matheson St. Daily noon-9PM. Unusual ice cream flavors, great pie - what's not to like? Not inexpensive, but ice cream toppings are free.
- Oakville Grocerty, 124 W Matheson St (opposite the SE corner of the Plaza), ☏ . Su-Th 7AM-5PM; F Sa 7AM-6PM. Sandwiches, salads, wines, and other picnic-friendly foods, plus meals that can be eaten on-premises (outdoor dining area)
- Valette, 344 Center St, ☏ . An example of higher-end Wine Country dining, Valette hits all the right notes: local products, creative dishes, excellent service, a great wine list, a friendly atmosphere. Try the "Trust Us" five-course meal if you're interested in trying a variety of dishes.
- Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar, 403 Healdsburg Ave, ☏ . Su-Th 11:30AM-9:30PM, F Sa 11:30AM-10PM. Hip without being over the top, and the variety of the menu is great; plenty of small items to taste. The restaurant is often bustling, but you can still enjoy a conversation.
There are a couple of watering holes in Healdsburg proper, but the best drinks often come close to where the vines are. Here are just a few of the dozens of excellent wineries in the area.
- Amphora Winery, 4791 Dry Creek Rd Building 6, ☏ . Wine marker Rick Hutchinson.
- Arista Winery, 7015 Westside Rd, ☏ . Arista Winery was founded by the McWilliams family in 2002 with a mission to create the most elegant expression of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. In addition to the wines, they offer a breathtaking setting of Japanese water gardens, mountain and vineyard vistas, combined with an inviting tasting room.
- Foppiano Vineyards, 12707 Old Redwood Hwy, ☏ . Daily 10AM-4:30PM. One of the oldest wineries in the area, Foppiano is famous for its Petit Sirah. You can see the ribbons and awards throughout the slightly older tasting room. If you're friendly and unpretentious, you may even get a pour or two of the reserve bottles.
- Landmark Vineyards at Hop Kiln Estate, 6050 Westside Rd, ☏ . Daily 10AM-5PM. Hop Kiln just celebrated its 100-year anniversary, and a trip to this winery shows you why it's still in business despite the glut of California wines on the market. Set on stunning, and organic, grounds, Hop Kiln has excellent Zins, yummy "Big Reds" and a lovely pond perfect for a picnic. Great stop for those tasting on velo.
- J Vineyards and Winery, 11447 Old Redwood Hwy, ☏ . J features wine/food pairings (for a fee) that illustrate the strengths of the wines and the power of thoughtful food/wine matches. Wine club members and staff are useful resources for other spots to visit nearby. The tasting room art is also worth the stop -- it's a metaphor (just ask) that stands on its own as striking.
- Mill Creek Winery, 1401 Westside Rd, ☏ . 10AM - 5PM. The Mill Creek tasting room is modeled after an old water wheel lumber mill similar to those found in the area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Wine tasting of mostly estate wines is available every day of the week.
- Porter Creek Vineyards, 8735 Westside Rd, ☏ . Daily 10:30AM-4:30PM.
- Roadhouse Winery, 250 Center St, ☏ . Daily noon-6PM. Two guys, a pool table, some barrels & a passion for Pinot Noir - at a downtown Healdsburg tasting room. $29-49.
- Best Western Dry Creek Inn, 198 Dry Creek Rd, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . A $4-million renovation completed in late 2019 has expanded and improved this hotel, previously of fairly poor quality with old, dated rooms.
- Camellia Inn, 211 North St, ☏ , toll-free: . Another owner-operated inn just off the Healdsburg Plaza, the Camellia Inn offers beautiful grounds, a small pool and a very cozy living room. Beds are extremely comfortable, and the rooms are quite quiet.
- Grape Leaf Inn, 539 Johnson St, ☏ . An absolutely charming B&B in an early 1900s Queen Anne, all elegance with very little unnecessary frou-frou. The best part about the inn, other than the easy walk to the Plaza, is the speakeasy hidden behind one of the inn's bookcases. Evening tastings in the speakeasy include some of the owners' favorite vintages. The inn is often booked solid in the summer.
- Hotel Trio, 110 Dry Creek Road, ☏ , [email protected]. A Residence Inn by Marriott, opened in late 2018
- The Ruse, 891 Grove St, ☏ . Inn and resort with 12 rooms and suites and a private cottage. $350-670.
- Wildhaven Sonoma, 2411 Alexander Valley Road, ☏ . Glampground that opened in the summer of 2020, with the Russian River just steps from its 30 safari-style canvas tents.
From Healdsburg, you can easily take trips to the ocean, to other river communities like Guerneville, or over to Calistoga or other Napa Valley towns. Just 30-45 minutes in just about any direction takes you to another stunningly beautiful part of Northern California.
Day trips include:
- Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve in Guerneville. This is a great place to hike off the calories from eating and drinking.
- Geyserville, farther north, if you want to take a short country drive.
- Bodega Bay, along the ocean, for beachcombing and checking out seals.
|Routes through Healdsburg|
|Eureka ← Geyserville ←||N S||→ Windsor → Santa Rosa|