Top Summer Family Fun in Santa Rosa: Markets & Arts Festivals

Summer in Santa Rosa, California, is like stepping into a vibrant painting where the sun kisses your skin, and every corner promises adventure. It’s where my family and I find our summer bliss, amidst the laughter and endless activities tailored for families. From the lush parks that beckon for picnics to the cool museums that intrigue young minds, there’s no shortage of fun.

Exploring Santa Rosa during these sun-drenched months reveals a tapestry of experiences that bind us closer. Whether it’s chasing the thrill in amusement parks or slowing down in serene gardens, each activity we dive into is a memory in the making. Join me as I share the top family activities in Santa Rosa that have become our summer staples, ensuring our vacation is nothing short of magical.

Exploring Lush Parks for Picnics

One of my absolute favorite ways to spend a sunny afternoon in Santa Rosa is by exploring its lush parks, basket in hand, ready for a picnic. There’s something magical about laying out a blanket on the soft grass, surrounded by nature, that brings my family and me closer together. It’s the simplicity of these moments that often turns into our most cherished memories.

Santa Rosa is blessed with an abundance of parks that are perfect for family picnics. Howarth Park, for example, is not just a park; it’s a wonderland for kids and adults alike. With its serene lake, playgrounds, and a small train that meanders through the park, it’s a place where my family can easily spend the whole day. We pack sandwiches, fruits, and cold drinks, and find a shaded spot under one of the many tall trees. After we eat, the kids usually run off to play, leaving me with some peaceful moments to soak in the beauty of the place.

Annadel State Park offers a different vibe for our picnic outings. It’s more about the adventure, with hiking trails that offer stunning views of wildflowers and the lake. Here, our picnics usually cap off an energetic morning of exploring. I always make sure to bring along some trail snacks and plenty of water. Finding a spot by the lake, we cool off and relax, recounting our favorite parts of the hike. It’s these outdoor activities that I look forward to every summer.

For families looking for a more structured picnic experience, Spring Lake Regional Park is the spot. With designated picnic areas, plenty of BBQ pits, and even a water park, it’s a place where you can have a traditional picnic but with lots of added fun. My kids can’t get enough of the swimming lagoon, and I have to admit, I enjoy it just as much.

Each of these parks offers something unique, but they all share the ability to host memorable family picnics. Whether it’s the adventure and exploration in Annadel State Park, the enchanting atmosphere of Howarth Park, or the fun-filled activities in Spring Lake Regional Park, there’s a perfect picnic spot for every family in Santa Rosa. And while the food and the setting play a big part, it’s really the laughter, the shared stories, and the quality time together that make these picnics so special.

Unleashing Thrills at Amusement Parks

After spending a peaceful day picnicking in some of Santa Rosa’s most picturesque parks, I’m always ready to dial up the excitement. That’s when I head to the local amusement parks, where thrills and laughter fill the air, creating an electrifying atmosphere perfect for family fun.

The top pick has to be Sonoma Traintown. Located a short drive away, this hidden gem offers an extraordinary adventure for families looking to add a dash of adrenaline to their summer. I can still remember the first time we boarded the miniature steam train, a 20-minute ride that takes you through tunnels, over bridges, and around a scenic replica of an 1870s mining town. The kids’ eyes lit up with every chug of the train, making it worth every moment.

But it’s not just about train rides at Traintown. The park also boasts:

  • Carnival rides: From the vintage Ferris wheel to a thrilling carousel.
  • Petting zoo: Where kiddos can get up close with goats, chickens, and rabbits.
  • Miniature golf: A fun challenge for the whole family.

The excitement doesn’t stop there. Another local favorite is the Scandia Family Fun Center, where competitive spirits can shine. It’s home to:

  • Go-Karts: Race around the track and feel the wind in your hair.
  • Laser Tag: Team up and navigate the maze to emerge victorious.
  • Bumper Boats: A splash-tastic way to cool down on those hot summer days.

Both locations offer a variety of attractions that cater to all ages, ensuring that everyone in the family has a memorable experience. Plus, they’ve got snack bars with treats that appeal to kids and adults alike, from ice cream to nachos, making it easy to refuel between activities.

I’ve found that devoting a day to exploring these amusement parks not only adds a thrill to our Santa Rosa vacation but also strengthens our family bond. Watching my kids conquer fears on the roller coasters or strategize in laser tag provides moments of pride and joy that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Discovering Hidden Gems in Cool Museums

After an adrenaline-filled day at the amusement parks, I found that Santa Rosa also offers a quieter, yet equally fascinating, adventure through its myriad of cool museums. Each museum feels like a hidden gem, offering a deep dive into unique aspects of culture, history, and science.

One of my first stops was the Charles M. Schulz Museum. Dedicated to the renowned creator of the Peanuts comic strip, this museum is a treasure trove for fans and a delightful discovery for the uninitiated. Walking through the exhibits, I was struck by the profound impact that Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the gang have had on popular culture. It’s not just a museum; it’s a celebration of creativity and the enduring power of storytelling.

Next on my list was the Pacific Coast Air Museum. As an aviation enthusiast, I was in my element. The museum boasts an impressive collection of aircraft, from historic warbirds to modern jets. What’s more, many of the planes are still in flying condition, and the museum frequently hosts air shows and “Climb Aboard” days. It was thrilling to get up close and personal with these majestic machines.

For families looking to blend education with entertainment, the Sonoma County Museum is a must-visit. It’s a place where art, history, and environmental exhibits converge, providing a comprehensive overview of the region’s rich heritage. The museum regularly updates its exhibitions, meaning there’s always something new to discover on repeat visits.

Museum Name Highlights
Charles M. Schulz Museum – Peanuts comic strips
– Snoopy’s Home Ice rink
Pacific Coast Air Museum – Historic and modern aircraft
– Air shows
Sonoma County Museum – Art exhibitions
– Historical displays

Each museum visit offered me a new perspective on Santa Rosa, highlighting the city’s diverse attractions beyond its natural beauty and amusement parks. It was an enlightening shift from the fast-paced excitement of rollercoasters and go-karts to the introspective calm of galleries and exhibits. Walking through these museums, I felt a sense of discovery, unearthing stories and facts that added depth to my understanding of the area.

Embracing Serenity in Botanical Gardens

After diving into the rich history and creativity found in Santa Rosa’s museums, I was eager to connect with nature and find a peaceful retreat. What better way to do this than by visiting some of the city’s enchanting botanical gardens? These green havens provide a perfect balance to the bustling city life and the high-energy amusement parks.

Luther Burbank Home & Gardens stood out as my first stop. This historical site pays homage to Luther Burbank, a horticultural pioneer who introduced over 800 varieties of plants, including fruits, flowers, grains, and grasses. Walking through the gardens, I was mesmerized by the vibrant colors and the sheer diversity of the plant life. Burbank’s experiments with plant crossbreeding have left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire gardeners and scientists alike.

Next on my itinerary was the Sonoma Horticultural Nursery. Nestled within a tranquil woodland setting, this nursery is renowned for its collection of azaleas and rhododendrons. Exploring its winding paths felt like stepping into a fairy tale, with each turn unveiling a new splash of color and texture. What truly captivated me, however, was the serene atmosphere. Listening to the gentle rustle of leaves and the distant chirping of birds, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of peace and connection to nature.

Here are a few highlights that make these gardens special:

  • Diversity of Plants: From the exotic to the familiar, the variety is astounding.
  • Historical Significance: Learning about Luther Burbank and his contributions was a highlight.
  • Natural Beauty: The gardens are a feast for the eyes, with every nook and cranny offering a new delight.
  • Tranquility: These spaces provide a soothing escape, where one can relax and recharge.

Engaging with Santa Rosa’s botanical gardens was not just about admiring the beauty of the plants; it was an immersive experience that allowed me to appreciate the intricate relationship between nature and human creativity. Walking through these gardens, I felt a sense of calm wash over me, a stark contrast to the adrenaline-filled activities from earlier in the day. It’s incredible how these serene spaces coexist so harmoniously within the vibrant tapestry of the city, offering visitors a unique opportunity to slow down and savor the moment.

Soaking Up the Sun at Outdoor Markets

Summer in Santa Rosa isn’t just about the parks and museums; it’s also about immersing yourself in the vibrant local culture, particularly by visiting the numerous outdoor markets. One of the highlights of my family’s summer outings is exploring these markets, where the air is filled with a mix of fresh produce, artisan crafts, and live music.

One market that stands out is the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market. It’s more than just a place to buy groceries; it’s an experience. With stalls brimming with fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables, it’s a fantastic spot to teach kids about healthy eating and where our food comes from. Plus, the market often features live cooking demonstrations, providing both entertainment and educational value.

Another must-visit is the West End Farmers Market. This particular spot feels like a festival, with its vibrant atmosphere and eclectic mix of vendors. Here, you can find everything from handcrafted jewelry to homemade jams and freshly baked bread. The colorful displays and friendly vendors create a welcoming environment for families. It’s also a great place to pick up unique souvenirs that capture the essence of Santa Rosa’s local scene.

For those who appreciate the arts, the SOFA Arts District’s Street Fair is a dream come true. Taking place in one of Santa Rosa’s most creative neighborhoods, this fair showcases the work of local artists, ranging from paintings and sculptures to live performances. Wandering through the stalls, you’re bound to find a piece that captures your heart, all while supporting the local art community.

What truly makes these markets special is their ability to bring the community together. Both locals and visitors gather, sharing stories and laughs, making them a perfect setting for families looking to immerse themselves in the local culture. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for children to learn about the importance of community and how markets play a vital role in local economies.

Visiting these outdoor markets in Santa Rosa has become a cherished summer tradition for my family. Not only do we get to enjoy the beautiful weather and discover new favorites, but we also partake in the lively spirit that defines Santa Rosa’s community. Each market visit offers a fresh perspective on what makes this city truly unique, ensuring our outings are always memorable.


So there you have it. Diving into Santa Rosa’s summer means immersing yourself in the heart of its vibrant markets and arts scene. It’s about more than just finding the freshest produce or the most unique handmade goods. It’s about creating memories with your family that’ll last a lifetime. Whether you’re exploring the lively stalls of the farmers markets or soaking up the creativity at the SOFA Arts District’s Street Fair, you’re not just experiencing the best of what Santa Rosa has to offer. You’re becoming a part of a community that celebrates togetherness, creativity, and the simple joys of summer. So grab your family and head out to discover all the fun and festivities. Trust me, you won’t want to miss a moment.

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Ben Rutstein is the publisher of this website, he started traveling to northern California in 2014, and the Santa Rosa is one of his favorite places to visit, from that time onwards he has explored everything from visiting cafes to yoga in parks, local hikes.

He is known to drop everything at a moments notice for a visit to a winery or a visit to a park.

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