Perfect Day – Brad Calkins

Marcy Gordon on Aug 1, 2019

Brad Calkins, the Executive Director of Visit Santa Rosa, is in-the-know when it comes to where to go and what to do in Santa Rosa and Northern Sonoma County. Here are his suggestions for the Perfect Day.


Eggs with potatoes and tomatoes at Dierk's Parkside Cafe

My wife and I love Dierks’s Parkside Café.  It’s only open for breakfast and lunch and our friends are blown away by the time they leave.  When you first walk in you think simple diner with friendly staff.  What you are not expecting is everything made from scratch and sourced locally including the important breakfast staple of eggs. My favorite is the home-made corned beef hash and my wife loves the omelet.


Tree lined path through the soaring redwoods in Armstrong Woods

I love going for a walk-through Armstrong Woods.  You end up getting a sore neck looking up at the tall redwoods.  It is so peaceful and quiet.  My wife and I also stop by Korbel’s gourmet deli on the way pick up a sandwich for a picnic and make a day of it.  The insider tip is, support the park and pay the extra $10 to drive in.  Well worth getting inside to the quieter areas where there are more trails instead of parking in the first lot for free and walking in.  Plus there are some amazing picnic benches surrounded by your choice of redwoods, streams, and nature.


Stunning ocean views of the beach above the rocks at Bodega Head

If you love nature, grab a book and head out to Bodega Head.  It is a whole different experience to feel the wind, hear the waves, and relax reading a good book. Even if its hot in Santa Rosa, bring a jacket as the wind feels great but can make it a little cooler.


Bunches of red and white radishes at the Certified Organic Farmers Market

Since cooking is a hobby, I love the farmer’s markets in Sonoma County.  During the peak growing season, you can go to one in Sonoma County every day of the week except Monday.  In Santa Rosa, I have two favorites that I visit on Saturdays and it really depends on what my plans are and where I am.  I either stop by the Community Farmers Market at the Farmer’s Lane Plaza or the Original Certified Farmers Market at the Luther Burbank Center.  A local’s hint, don’t eat before you go and if you are a dog lover, ask the meat vendors about their special mix for dogs, although I don’t recommend keeping this in your carry-on very long.

My favorite food trucks are along Sebastopol Avenue in Santa Rosa.  Great Mexican food options and what truck I go to depends upon my mood as many of them have different specialties.  If you haven’t been, the one with the longest line is always a good indication.   I’ll head over for lunch sometimes but it’s more fun to head over late in the evening.  Some of them are even open past midnight on weekends.

A tall frosty glass of the famous Pliny the Elder Brew at Russian River Brewing Company

Downtown Santa Rosa is the place to be because you have so many options to choose from.  For breweries, you can hit the famous Russian River Brewing, you can go to Third Street Aleworks which has been there for over 20+ years and they have a great homemade root beer on tap for those under 21 or who don’t drink. You can also visit newer breweries like 3 Disciples which just opened in February.  Plus, there are numerous tap rooms to choose from like Belly Left Coast, Beer Barron or you can stop by Wilibee’s and purchase a wide selection of both local and famous craft beers to go.


Man and woman at table enjoying wine and dinner at John Ash and Company at Vintners Inn

For a romantic spot we love the outdoor seating at John Ash & Company at Vintners Inn.  It is truly the seasonal wine country experience and the views of the vineyards make it special.  Of course, my favorite part is having a cocktail while I take the time to pick a wine from their list. 


Map depicting the many trails around Howarth Park and Spring Lake Park

I’m a trail runner and the best spot in all the county is Annadel-Trione State Park.  The park also connects to Howarth Park and Spring Lake, so the options are limitless.  For trail running and hiking the parks offer everything from the technical climb to the easy hike for families.  There are also trails in the parks for equestrians and mountain bike riders.

Brad’s Insider Tip — Spend the night in Santa Rosa, it’s the hub for everything. 

Posted by Marcy Gordon

Marcy Gordon is a freelance wine and travel writer. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including Wine Enthusiast, San Francisco Chronicle, Sonoma Magazine, The California Travel Guide, and Forbes Travel Guide. In 2017 she was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. She is the co-host of the award winning Wine Road Podcast.

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