Explore Santa Rosa: Family-Friendly Attractions & Luther Burbank’s Legacy

Exploring Santa Rosa, California, with the family in tow? You’re in for a treat! This vibrant city isn’t just a haven for wine enthusiasts; it’s packed with attractions that are perfect for visitors of all ages. From hands-on museums to sprawling parks, there’s no shortage of family-friendly fun here.

I’ve had the pleasure of discovering some of Santa Rosa’s best spots that cater to both the young and the young at heart. Whether you’re looking for a day filled with educational activities or just a place to let the kids burn off some energy, Santa Rosa’s got you covered. Let’s dive into what makes this city a must-visit destination for families.

Children’s Museum of Sonoma County

During my travels through Santa Rosa, I couldn’t skip the chance to visit the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, a place that’s been on my radar ever since I started planning this trip. The museum stands out as a beacon of creativity and learning, and I was keen to see it through the eyes of both a parent and an avid explorer of family-friendly locales.

Right from the get-go, the museum’s atmosphere is welcoming and bursting with energy. Its hands-on exhibits are designed to ignite curiosity and inspire learning in young minds, something I deeply appreciate. The Science and Imagination Gallery, in particular, caught our attention. It’s filled with interactive displays that encourage kids to think critically and creatively. My kids were especially fascinated by the building area where they could construct their own creations using real tools and materials. Watching them so engaged in learning and problem-solving was a highlight of our visit.

But it’s not just indoor experiences that make the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County a must-visit. The museum’s Mary’s Garden is a magical outdoor space that invites children to explore nature. This garden is more than just a pretty space; it’s an interactive environment where kids can learn about sustainability, native species, and the ecosystem. My family spent a significant amount of time here, marveling at the butterfly garden and getting our hands dirty in the vegetable patches.

Perhaps what’s most impressive about the museum is its commitment to inclusivity. They host sensory-friendly evenings designed for children with special needs, ensuring every child can enjoy the museum in a way that’s best for them. This dedication to accessibility is heartwarming and makes the Children’s Museum stand out even more as a vital part of Santa Rosa’s community.

Aside from the educational value, the museum also offers a fantastic way for families to bond. Whether it’s constructing a building together, exploring the intricacies of a water play area, or learning about different animals in Mary’s Garden, the experiences are designed to promote collaboration and communication among family members.

In all, my visit to the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County was a reminder of how important and fun learning can be. It’s easy to see why this place is beloved by both residents and visitors. Offering a blend of education, entertainment, and engagement, it stands as a testament to the community’s dedication to nurturing the next generation’s curiosity and creativity.

Safari West

When I first heard about Safari West, I was intrigued by the idea of an authentic safari experience nestled in the heart of Sonoma County. Situated on 400 acres of rolling hills near Santa Rosa, this wildlife preserve and African tent camp offers a unique, family-friendly adventure that’s miles apart from your typical weekend outing.

At the core of Safari West’s appeal is its remarkable collection of over 900 animals, representing more than 90 species of wildlife. It’s not every day you get to see giraffes, rhinos, and cheetahs up close, especially in California. During my visit, the excitement of boarding an open-air safari vehicle and journeying through the expansive grounds was palpable among both kids and adults. There’s something truly special about watching your child’s eyes widen with wonder as they spot a towering giraffe or a flamboyance of flamingos for the first time.

Number of Species Number of Animals
90+ 900+

Safari West doesn’t just excel in providing an immersive wildlife experience; it also educates its visitors about the importance of conservation and the roles these animals play in their natural habitats. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable, weaving fascinating tales and facts about the animals into the tour. This educational aspect transformed our visit into a learning adventure, illustrating the delicate balance of ecosystems and the necessity of preserving them.

In addition to the safari tours, Safari West also offers overnight stays in luxuriously appointed tents imported from Africa. Staying the night amidst the sounds of nature and waking up to the calls of exotic birds was an unforgettable experience that I highly recommend. It’s one thing to visit a zoo, but it’s wholly another to fall asleep and wake up in what feels like a slice of the Serengeti.

For families seeking an engaging activity in Santa Rosa, Safari West stands out as an exceptional choice. It’s not just the thrill of the safari that makes it memorable; it’s the opportunity to bond over shared experiences and newfound knowledge. Between the captivating wildlife encounters and the commitment to conservation, Safari West provides a profound backdrop for making lasting memories.

Charles M. Schulz Museum

When I first walked into the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, it felt like stepping into a nostalgic world where my childhood memories of reading “Peanuts” comics came to life. This museum, dedicated to the legendary cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, offers an immersive experience into the world of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the entire Peanuts gang.

The museum’s layout is designed to cater to fans of all ages. The moment you enter, you’re greeted by familiar sights—from iconic comic strips lining the walls to larger-than-life sculptures. It’s not just a walk down memory lane; it’s an educational journey through Schulz’s life and the impact his work has had on pop culture worldwide.

One of the highlights for me was the museum’s Rotating Exhibits. These exhibits change periodically, showcasing not just original comic strips but also Schulz’s personal artifacts, providing insights into his creative process. During my visit, I was fascinated by the sketches, showing the evolution of beloved characters over the decades.

Another unique aspect is the Animation Studio, where visitors get a behind-the-scenes look at how Schulz’s drawings were brought to animation. This interactive exhibit allows kids and adults alike to understand and appreciate the intricacy of animating a comic strip, making it a highly educational experience.

For families, the museum ensures engagement for the little ones as well. The Children’s Area is specially designed for kids to express their creativity through drawing and storytelling, inspired by Schulz’s work. Watching my kids sketch their version of Snoopy flying his doghouse was both heartwarming and amusing.

Outside, the Snoopy Labyrinth captures the whimsical spirit of Schulz’s imagination. Navigating through it, you can’t help but feel a sense of adventure, almost as if you’re part of a Peanuts comic strip adventure. This outdoor element adds a unique interactive experience to the museum visit.

Other notable areas include:

  • Schulz’s Studio Replica: Offering a glimpse into the cartoonist’s workspace.
  • Peanuts Tile Mural: A stunning piece made from thousands of comic strip images.
  • Snoopy’s Home Ice: An ice rink next door, adding to the day’s fun with a bit of skating.

Howarth Park

After spending a couple of days exploring the wildlife and comic art in Santa Rosa, I was on the lookout for something that’d be a hit with the whole family, especially when it came to outdoor activities. That’s when I stumbled upon Howarth Park, often referred to as the “jewel” of Santa Rosa. Nestled against the shores of Lake Ralphine, this park offers a myriad of activities that cater to both adults and kids, making it an ideal spot for family fun.

First off, the park’s natural beauty is nothing short of breathtaking. With lush greenery and serene lake views, it’s the perfect backdrop for a day out. What really caught my eye were the wide range of amenities and activities available. From paddle boats and kayaks for those looking to explore Lake Ralphine to a charming miniature train that winds its way through the park, there’s no shortage of things to do.

For the little adventurers, the Land of Imagination playground is a dream come true. It’s a sprawling, imaginative play area designed to spark the creativity and playfulness of children. Seeing the joy on the kids’ faces as they scamper around, I knew this place was special. Equally entertaining is the carousel, a vintage-inspired ride that adds a touch of whimsy to the park’s atmosphere.

Nature enthusiasts, like myself, will be delighted to know that Howarth Park also serves as a gateway to some remarkable trails. These paths delve into more of Santa Rosa’s scenic landscapes, offering peaceful hikes and the chance to spot local wildlife. My family and I decided to follow the East Ridge Trail, and the panoramic views of Santa Rosa we were rewarded with made every step worth it.

The park isn’t just about physical activities; it hosts several community events throughout the year. From outdoor movies under the stars to fishing derbies at the lake, these events are fantastic opportunities for families to bond and make lasting memories. I’ve marked my calendar for a few because they seem like the perfect way to experience the local culture and community spirit.

Luther Burbank Home and Gardens

After a day of fun at Howarth Park, my family’s adventure in Santa Rosa led us to a serene and educational spot: Luther Burbank Home and Gardens. This historical landmark is not just a feast for the eyes but a journey through the life and work of Luther Burbank, a renowned horticulturist whose plant breeding contributions are globally recognized.

Situated in the heart of Santa Rosa, this charming site offers a tranquil escape with its lush gardens, home, and greenhouse. It’s fascinating to walk through the gardens and see some of Burbank’s botanical achievements. Over 800 plant varieties were developed here, and the experience feels like walking through a living museum of horticultural history. The Shasta Daisy and Santa Rosa Plum are just a couple of his creations that continue to impact our world today.

The guided tour of Luther Burbank’s home gives a glimpse into the life of a man whose work with plants has left an indelible mark on agriculture and gardening. Volunteers and staff are incredibly knowledgeable, sharing stories and insights that bring this place to life. My kids were captivated by the simplicity and historical significance of it all. They especially loved the greenhouse, where Burbank conducted his experiments. It was like stepping back in time and seeing science and nature merge through Burbank’s innovative mind.

The gardens themselves are a diverse tapestry of plant life. Each area has its own theme and showcases Burbank’s experiments with plant breeding. Here are some highlights:

  • Edible Garden: Fruits and vegetables from Burbank’s experiments.
  • Medicinal Garden: Plants with healing properties Burbank studied.
  • Ornamental Garden: Beautiful flowers and decorative plants bred by Burbank.

Educational programs at Luther Burbank Home and Gardens are top-notch, making it a great learning experience for kids. From plant biology to the history of gardening, the programs offer a hands-on approach to learning that’s both fun and informative.

Events throughout the year, like plant sales and garden tours, provide an opportunity for visitors to engage with the legacy of Luther Burbank in a more intimate way. These events are perfect for families looking to dive deeper into the world of plants and learn gardening tips directly from experts.


Exploring the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens turned out to be a delightful adventure that was both calming and educational. It’s not every day you get to walk through such a mesmerizing array of plants and learn about the genius behind them. For me and my family, it was a unique opportunity to connect with nature while gaining insights into Luther Burbank’s incredible work. The guided tours were a highlight, offering a personal glimpse into the life of a man whose contributions have left a lasting impact on the world of horticulture. Whether you’re a gardening enthusiast or just looking for a peaceful day out with the kids, this spot in Santa Rosa is a must-visit. It’s a reminder of the simple joys that nature brings and the wonders of exploring new places together as a family.

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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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