Santa Rosa: Gay Friendly Heart of the Sonoma Wine Country

Author: , August 22nd, 2010

Gay Friendly Sonoma County Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Prince Memorial Greenway - Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa Public ArtEarlier this month, we spent two nights in one of Sonoma’s largest cities – Santa Rosa. In the heart of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa is easily accessible from San Francisco and all of Northern California – we made it there from the Sacramento area in just under two hours.

We visited four great places to stay in the area – we’ll cover these a little later in the article.

We visited two of Santa Rosa’s historic districts – Railroad Square, and Downtown.

These districts are adjacent to one another, separated by Highway 101 and Santa Rosa Plaza, a cute little mall that provides convenient pedestrian access between the two.


Cantina, Santa RosaWe’ll start with Downtown.  We snuck in lunch here in one of our favorite restaurants that we didn’t even know was still around.  Regular readers may remember us mentioning The Cantina – one of our old favorites from Walnut Creek, California.

“Our” old Cantina was converted to a new name and concept, “Maria Maria”, several years back, and I thought I’d never have another bowl of their delectable tortilla soup.

But the one in Santa Rosa is still there, and I was able to enjoy a bowl of the tortilla soup and a wonderfully cheesy quesadilla.  Highly recommended if you find yourself in Santa Rosa.

Santa Rosa Downtown MarketWhen we returned downtown later in the afternoon, we ran unexpectedly into the Santa Rosa Downtown Market – a farmer’s market plus that runs every Wednesday evening in the summertime (ending at the start of September).

There were fresh produce, arts and crafts, street food vendors, games for the kids, and much more, stretching three or four blocks through downtown.

Treehorn Books - Santa RosaWe also found a group of street preachers on their soap boxes loudly bellowing at the mostly disinterested crowd – captive audience and all that, I guess.

And we chanced across a fantastic little used bookstore – Treehorn Books – on Fourth Street in the heart of Downtown.

You’ll also find some really cool artwork here, from painted benches in Old Courthouse Square (and check out the architecture of the Courthouse itself) to statues and sculptures here and there.

If you’re at the corner of 3rd Street and Santa Rosa Ave., look up at the AT&T Building – there’s a really cool piece of art up there made of a bunch of little interlinked silver discs that flutter and flow in the wind.

Bench Art - Santa RosaAT&T Building

But the most predominant artworks are the statues scattered all around Santa Rosa of Charles Schultz’s beloved Peanuts characters.

Schultz made Santa Rosa his home, and if you’re traveling with kids or just feeling a bit of nostalgia, you’ll find the Charles M. Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa too.

Woodstock in Santa Rosa

Railroad Square

Crossing through the mall and under the freeway, you’ll find the Railroad Square district.  It’s tiny – only a couple blocks long and one block wide, but we found some of our favorite places in Santa Rosa here.

A'Roma - Santa RosaFirst of all, for breakfast or morning coffee (or even for a quick gelato snack in the afternoon) try A’Roma – a cute coffee shop on the district’s eastern edge with free wifi and a cool, funky atmosphere.

We loved the sign in the store – “We Are All Made Differently – Celebrate Diversity” and the drinks and food were pretty good too.

Also in the eating category, one place we really liked and one that we didn’t.

Syrah Restaurant - Santa RosaFirst, the good place.  Syrah is a cute little bistro in an old, converted warehouse covered in ivy.   The food was reasonably priced but very good, and for the hungry, there’s a five or seven course tasting menu with the option for wine pairings.

This place reminded us a bit of Quince in San Francisco before it moved to North Beach – cute, great gourmet food, and wonderful service.

Now for the not so good.  We’d walked past LaCoco’s Italian Restaurant earlier in the day, and it looked realy cute and Italian.  So we stopped in for dinner the first night, and boy were we surprised.

Prince Memorial Greenway - Santa RosaThe food was ok, not great, not bad, but the service was awful (except for the busser/waterboy, who was really on his toes).  Our server would disappear for lng stretches, and it took us 1/2 an hour from when we asked for the bill until it arrived at our table.  And we had to ask for it three times.  Our server seemed more interested in talking to the new table that had come in than in taking care of us.

There are also many cute little antique shops in this district.

Belvedere - Santa RosaFinally, we took a walk along the Prince Memorial Greenway (pictured at right and at the top of this article) – a creek restoration project that runs .6 miles from Santa Rosa City Hall to Railroad Square, and features picturesque bridges, pedestrian, and bike access to this beautiful creek.

Finally, Santa Rosa doesn’t have any gay or lesbian bars at this time, but someone suggested that we check out Belvedere (at left) – a bar/restaurant where many of the gay and lesbian folks in Santa Rosa are said to go to hang out.  It’s in a little seedier part of town, so if you go at night, we suggest driving.  It’s about four blocks north of Downtown.

As we mentioned earlier, we visited four gay friendly accommodations this trip:

Melita Station

5850 Melita Rd, Santa Rosa, CA, 95409, USA
Lodging Type: Bed & Breakfast
Hosts: Tim & Jackie
Phone: 1 707 538-7712

Melita Station - Santa Rosa, California

The closest property to downtown Santa Rosa that we visited this trip was Melita Station, a converted railroad station that dates back to at least 1887.  This is a charming bed and breakfast just a short way off of Highway 12, less than 10 minutes by car from downtown Santa Rosa.

Melita StationThe inn features 6 guest rooms, including a completely accessible, large suite on the inn’s ground floor.

There’s even a double room – a full bedroom and a smaller room with a daybed, perfect for families or friends traveling together.

The beds looked plush and comfortable, and the decor was warm and welcoming.

Your hosts, Tim and Jackie, are originally from the UK – their work brought them here, and they loved the area so much that they stayed to open their beautiful B&B.  We were greeted by Jackie upon arrival, and she was a welcoming, gracious host.

The property is surrounded by nature – it rests in a fork in the road, but the back patio is lush, quiet and filled with flowers.

While we were here, we saw hummingbirds and a beautiful crane as it flew by, and there were deer in the near vicinity.

Melita Station is also a green, eco-friendly property – the inn is solar powered, uses a ground well for water, and Jackie a trained chef, serves wonderful gourmet breakfasts each morning, using organic, locally sourced products wherever possible.

Melita Station is perfect for a romantic getaway, a base-station for exploring the Sonoma Valley, or for anyone coming to Santa Rosa for business and looking for a place to stay with more personality and warmth than your typical hotel.

Melita StationMelita Station

Vine Hill Inn

3949 Vine Hill Road, Sebastopol, CA, 95472, USA
Lodging Type: Bed & Breakfast
Hosts: Kathy Deichmann
Phone: 1 707 823-8832

Vine Hill Inn - Sebastopol, California

Vine Hill Inn - Sebastopol, CaliforniaWe also visited two properties in nearby Sebastopol – 10-15 minutes west of downtown Santa Rosa. The first of these is Vine Hill Inn, an old converted farmhouse adjacent to a gorgeous vineyard. The house sits on almost two acres, and has been completely renovated over the last twelve years by the owner, Kathy.

Originally built in 1893, the house has a delightfully twisty history: it survived the big quake in 1906, only to be sold by the bank for back taxes in the seventies for just $11,000. Suffice it to say, it’s now worth quite a bit more.

View from the Upstairs Bedroom - Vine Hill InnKathy is very gay friendly – her nephew and his partner run the inn for her when she’s away on vacation, and she loves having gay and lesbian guests.

Vine Hill Inn features four guest rooms, but the star of the bunch is the large upstairs room that overlooks the vineyard. The view (at right) is fantastic, the room has a romantic jacuzzi tub (but be forewarned, it’s not really big enough for two) and, like the other rooms, features a comfortable queen-sized bed.

There’s even a pool on the property, perfect for the summer months.

Tucked away on another part of the property, behind a screen of bushes, you’ll find goats, chickens, and even an old horse – Kathy takes in rescues from a local organization when she can.

Children are welcome, as are small pets – Jackie only allows one pet at a time, so call ahead to confirm.

Vine Hill Inn is the perfect romantic getaway in the wine country, close to Santa Rosa and the area’s major wineries.

Vine Hill Inn - Sebastopol, CaliforniaVine Hill Inn - Sebastopol, California

Sebastopol Inn

6751 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol, CA, 95472, USA
Lodging Type: Inn
Hosts: Ashok Mukherji
Phone: 1 707 829-2500

Sebastopol Inn - Sebastopol, California

Sebastopol Inn - Sebastopol, CaliforniaIn the heart of Sebastopol, just off Highway 12 at the historic Gravenstein Station, the Sebastopol Inn offers more of a traditional motel or small hotel set-up.

The property is new, built just ten years ago, and its position at the back of the center ensures peace and quiet.

The rooms here are large, and the suites are even bigger – all of the rooms we visited were comfortable, clean, and welcoming.

Sebastopol Inn - Sebastopol, CaliforniaEach of the suites features a kitchenette, so you can do some of your cooking “at home” while you’re here.  There’s also organic coffee provided.

There’s a heated pool on site, and a hiking and biking trail winds through wetlands behind the Sebastopol Inn.

The property is entirely non-smoking, and no pets are allowed.  The current owner, Ashok, took over the property in 2005, and welcomes the gay and lesbian community.

Just ten minutes from downtown Santa Rosa, the Sebastopol Inn is the perfect place to use as a base for exploration of the Sonoma Valley, and for business travelers visiting the Santa Rosa Area – the property offers wifi internet access in-room.

Sebastopol Inn - Sebastopol, CaliforniaSebastopol Inn - Sebastopol, California

Glenelly Inn & Cottages

5131 Warm Springs Rd, Glen Ellen, CA, 95442, USA
Lodging Type: Bed & Breakfast
Hosts: Kristi Hallamore Jeppesen
Phone: 1 707 996-6720

Glenelly Inn & Cottages - Glen Ellen, California

Glenelly Inn & Cottages - Glen Ellen, CaliforniaOur final property this trip is in Glen Ellen, about halfway between Santa Rosa and Napa, not far off of Highway 12.  Most of the 10 units here are in the two main “motel” style buildings, but the two standouts are the adorable, newer cottages (pictured above) that are nestled below the main building.

The main buildings were built circa 1910, but the cottages are much newer, and offer a more private, romantic getaway with lots of living space.  They also have a/c, something the main building don’t have, but you’ll rarely need it here in the cool wine-country climate.

Glenelly Inn & Cottages - Glen Ellen, CaliforniaThere’s a full breakfast server every morning in Glenelly’s dining room.

There’s also a large patio area (above left), shaded by a giant oak tree and table with umbrellas, perfect for relaxing with a good book or enjoying breakfast on a beautiful spring or summer morning.

The property is very quiet, and surrounded by lush green vegetation.

Glenelly is the farthest of the four from downtown Santa Rosa, but its proximity to the Napa/Sonoma County border makes it perfect for exploring both of these famous wine countries.

Glenelly Inn & Cottages - Glen Ellen, CaliforniaGlenelly Inn & Cottages - Glen Ellen, California

We’ll close this article with things that make you go hmmm… Santa Rosa edition.  We saw this sign during our travelers, and didn’t have the heart to illuminate the owners about the possible other meaning of “Back door guests are best”…

Back Door