You can plan your Russian River day trip or weekend getaway in a jiffy using the resources below.
Why Should You Go? Will You Like the Russian River?
- The Russian River is popular with wine and food lovers - and in contrast to wine-obsessed Napa, there are almost as many farm stands as tasting rooms along the Russian River appellation's backroads.
- Nature lovers enjoy the outdoors along the Russian River, especially the redwood forest - and the Pacific Ocean isn't far away.
- Bicylists flock to the Russian River for nice, mostly-flat rides - but most of the roads have little or no shoulder and mixing with automobile traffic can be tough.
- About.com's gay travel writer says: "Apart from Palm Springs, there's really no vacation community on the West Coast with a stronger gay and lesbian following than the Russian River."
Best Time to Go to the Russian RiverSummer has its appeal on the Russian River, when it's hot enough to get out and enjoy a day of water play, but Russian River weather is best in spring and fall - and it's less crowded then, too.
Don't MissIf you've only got a day, you can't go wrong with a walk in Armstrong Redwoods State Park (just north of Guerneville). It's less crowded than Muir Woods but just as beautiful, located in a similar forest of 300-foot-tall coastal redwoods. You'll find hiking trails for visitors of all abilities. You can also take a guided horseback trail ride if you like.
5 More Great Things to Do at the Russian River
- Go for a Rambling Drive: Our favorite route follows CA Hwy 116 through the redwood forest, along the Russian River toward the ocean, then north along CA Hwy 1 through Bodega Bay and back inland. Lots of small side roads offer infinite variation, but try to take in Graton, where the main street looks like it came out of a movie set, home to a nice art gallery, antique shops and two terrific restaurants, Underwood's and the Willow Wood Market. Even smaller Freestone boasts one of the best bread bakeries anywhere, Osmosis Spa and little else - and is a popular destination despite its size. Take care to share the road respectfully with bicyclists, some of whom (it's sad to say) may not reciprocate.
- Water Play on the Russian River: Kayaking, canoeing and swimming are popular in summer. Bring your own canoe or kayak, rent one or take a guided tour from Burke's Canoe trips, King's Sport or Russian River Outfitters.
- Go Wine Tasting: For the most part, Russian River wineries are less pretentious than their counterparts further inland. The Russian River wine appellation covers a lot of territory and it's easy to just keep rambling up toward Healdsburg if you connect with Westside Road on the north side of the Russian River, but instead of wearing yourself out, getaway to Healdsburg on another trip. Pick up a map of the Russian River Wine Road at local businesses or on their website. We especially like sparkling wine maker Korbel for their great tour, historic property and beautiful gardens.
- Bicycling: Pick up a copy of Sonoma County Bike Trails to plan your route, or stop in a local bike shop for advice.
- Charles Schulz Museum: It's in Santa Rosa, not on the Russian River, but it's on the way and an easy stop coming or going. A visit with good ol' Charlie Brown and his creator is a must for fans of the Peanuts comic strip, but better-suited to reading adults than small children.
Annual Events You Should Know About
- Rusian River Rodeo: June in Duncan Mills
- Sonoma County Pride: June in Guerneville
- Civil War Days: July in Duncan Mills
- Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival: September
Best BitesNew places to eat are springing up all over the Russian River Valley, gradually improving the general level of cuisine in the area. Some of our favorites include the Applewood Inn near Guerneville, Underwood's and Willow Wood Market in Graton. Boon in downtown Guerneville offers some great food at very reasonable prices and serves a yummy Sunday brunch.
Where to StayGuerneville is the most central place to stay if you want to enjoy the Russian River area. We stayed at the West Sonoma Inn & Spa - see what we thought about it.
For help getting the best possible deal, read about how to find a good place to stay, cheap or just go straight to Tripadvisor's hotel review and price comparisons for Guerneville You can also compare prices on places to stay near Guerneville at Kayak.com.