The Real Riches of Wine Country: Visit Santa Rosa
On October 8th, 2017, the city of Santa Rosa, California transformed in a matter of hours. A firestorm ate its way through family homes, vintage wineries, and acres upon acres of treasured land. Not many stories of catastrophic fires have a happy ending, but I believe there are more than a few in this one. I am a Santa Rosan. I grew up amongst the rolling vineyards & vintage wineries dotting the hillsides of lush green. You were always arms length from what you needed there, and if Santa Rosa didn’t have it, “the city” (San Francisco) was just a quarter of a tank away. I am very fortunate to have called Santa Rosa my home.
Since leaving in 2011 to explore life beyond the vines, I still feel Sonoma County in my blood. The way I think, the preferences I have, it all floods back to that once sleepy town nestled between the hills. That’s why I have chosen to race my first full distance IRONMAN in the place where it all began. I do it to honor my roots and to share the story of this resilient community. Over the holidays (December 2018), I returned to Santa Rosa with a very full to-do list (aside from wrapping gifts which I am #1 biggest failure at, every year, without skipping a beat). Thanks to the thoughtful planning of Visit Santa Rosa and the generous spirit of some of the city’s best restaurants, hotels, and activities, I have a custom tour guide for all the athletes getting ready to take Santa Rosa by the tannins (that’s a little wine country joke for you).
Do yourself a flavor, and visit this city. Regardless if you are racing IRONMAN Santa Rosa on May 11th, 2019 (or the 70.3 on July 27th, 2019), Santa Rosa is Mecca for all things wine, beer, food, and outdoors. I’ll be hitting all my favorites in the Athlete Tour Guide: IRONMAN Santa Rosa below. Hope to see you out on the course. Cheers.
Athlete Tour Guide: IRONMAN Santa Rosa
(sponsored by Visit Santa Rosa)
Sonoma county is RIFE with excellent eateries, but here are a few suggestions of restaurants near to the IRONMAN Santa Rosa finish line & local hotels.
Dierk’s Parkside Café
Dierk’s Parkside Café has been a staple of Santa Rosan’s breakfasts since 2006. A family-owned cafe conveniently located across from the Astro Motel (see the race accommodations section below for more details), Dierk’s offers affordable, tasty breakfast & lunch options Monday through Friday (added brunch on Sat/Sun). Click here for the full menu. 404 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa 95404
Katie’s pick: COUNTRY BENEDICT a warm crispy baguette covered with scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms, spinach, oven-dried tomatoes, hash browns and Hollandaise sauce
2. The Spinster Sister’s
Bring a friend (or three) to this spot. The Spinster Sister’s serves their food family style and recommends ordering a few different plates for the table to share. The menu changes often, but sample menu’s can be found here. Voted one of the best restaurants in Sonoma County for both 2017 and 2018, The Spinster Sister’s might be a dining destination you don’t want to pass up. 401 S A St, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Katie’s pick: ROOT VEGETABLE LATKES apple butter, creme fraiche, chives
3. Gerard’s paella
There are nothing but delightful things to say about Gerard’s Paella, the food, and the owner himself. I spent an evening chatting with Gerard and being treated like Santa Rosa royalty. Gerard’s story is captivating. Ranging from his larger than life paella pans made by Italian bicycle manufacturers to his laundry list of famous connections (most recently rubbing elbows with Amy Poehler on set for her new film Wine Country), Gerard brings a lot to the table. Including some incredible food. If you are racing IM Santa Rosa, you can sample his paella at the finish line. 701 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Katie’s pick: ROSA PAELLA marinated chicken & chorizo bilbao, arugula, fennel, & red onion
enjoy these activities before or after your race. hey, your friends & family need stuff to do while you are on that bike too…
snoopy’s home ice
If you didn’t already know, the Peanuts comics were created in Santa Rosa! Illustrator Charles Schulz was (and still is) an incredibly important part of the community even after his death in 2000. Santa Rosa has its very own ice skating rink and museum dedicated to his memory (and the iconic Snoopy himself).
Check out the Snoopy’s Home Ice free skate times on Thursday between 12-2PM for a discounted rate on tickets and skate rentals. They are open all week long. 2019 marks their 50th year anniversary. Wow!
2. Santa Rosa Beer Tour
I know, I know, I know…you want to drink some Pliny at Russian River Brewery. Can you really say that you visited Santa Rosa if you don’t? Might I suggest bypassing that beer line by booking a beer tour with Getaway Adventures! The company offers a whole slew of outdoor adventures, but their Pints N’ Pedals tour will take you on a scenic, beautiful Sonoma county bike ride with pit stops at any or all of the following: Russian River, Hopmonk Tavern, 2 Tread, Third Street Aleworks, Woodfour, & Crooked Goat. Specialized Cross Trail bikes are provided, as well as helmets! Bottoms up.
3. Howarth Park & Spring Lake
IronPeople like fitness. But if you are looking for some activities that involve a little less biking & a little more relaxing, spend the afternoon at Howarth Park! Adjacent to Spring Lake, this park has picnic/BBQ areas, plenty of walking paths, play structures for the little ones, tennis courts, paddle boats, and even pony rides in the summer! PRO TIP: Stop by Oliver’s Market in Rincon Valley and pick up some gourmet lunch fixin’s to bring with. They carry everything from local craft beers, artisanal cheeses, full-service salad bar, and a deli that spans an entire wall!
Ever seen the movie The Dawn Wall? Or maybe you remember hearing about two crazy rock climbers who attempted to climb a part of Yosemite’s El Capitan that had never been done before. WELL…Kevin Jorgeson (one half of this crazy duo) is also a Santa Rosan! He lived and trained at Vertex, Santa Rosa’s beloved climbing and bouldering gym. I have fond memories of my older sister spending several hours each week chalkin’ up at Vertex. Over the holidays, I got to experience seeing my nieces climb for the very first time here. It is a special place. Bring the whole family, I certainly did! Hours, fees, and additional info available here.
5. Opt Outside: See Armstrong Redwoods
California has some wicked cool state parks, and Santa Rosa is just a stone’s throw away from quite a few. Wile away the hours beneath the redwood trees at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve in Guerneville, CA (Allow 30 minutes each way for this venture if leaving from Santa Rosa). Fun fact: The Parson Jones Tree is the tallest in this grove, measuring at 310ft! Katie, is that you? Just kidding. The oldest tree is dated to be 1400 years old. Due to the extensive fire damage in the Sonoma country area in 2017, visiting this redwood grove is even more special. These gentle giants have truly survived the test of time. Driving directions available here!
santa rosa is a place you can come to and really relax. check out these features on local hotels for next season or last minute bookings.
The Astro Motel
Located directly across the street from Dierk’s Cafe and less than a mile from the finish line at IRONMAN Santa Rosa, The Astro Motel is a quirky, affordable, convenient space for any athlete on a budget. The facility received a full makeover recently, with all rooms being stripped down literally to the studs and rebuilt. The owners and staff were in full support of me sharing this next part too: The Astro Motel used to be a location for prostitutes to take their John’s in the early days of Santa Rosa’s history. When the new management took over and advised the rebuild, they found sex toys hidden in the motel walls! These toys have actually been put back into the walls in some of the rooms for future owners to find should they also decide to renovate. In addition to a provocative history, the Astro boasts features of vintage & funky furniture and a lounge area that serves fresh coffee & pastries every morning. This is the only hotel in the area that actually has a full service BIKE SHOP on the premises as well.
**IRONMAN 101: marry a bike mechanic or stay at a hotel with one.
2. The Flamingo Resort & Spa
If you are looking for a larger hotel complex with a pool, a health club & spa, and a restaurant, the Flamingo Resort & Spa is waiting for your phone call. The Flamingo is an iconic space in Santa Rosa; a saving grace for many families who were displaced due to the fires of 2017. It has been serving Sonoma County for over 60 years and is a historic landmark of the city. Although the Flamingo has had a health club and spa as long as I can remember, it recently acquired space next door to open a brand new indoor cycling & yoga studio! Class are available Monday through Sunday, you can sign up for a class here. The hotel has not one but two pools, one reserved exclusively for lap swimming. I wonder if the original owners built all this with the hopes that Ironmen & Ironwomen would flock to it one day…