Even though Petaluma is less than an hour north of San Francisco, a visit there transports you far from modern urban life. Farming is the name of the game; Petaluma was once known as the Egg Capital of the world. Today, cows, olive groves, organic farms, and vineyards join the hens in Petaluma’s agriculture economy.
Petaluma isn’t just a farm community, however. You’ll find world class restaurants (often with locally sourced ingredients), adorable cafes, a little-known wine region, and a slew of unique boutique stores. Petaluma’s gorgeous Victorian homes and classic architecture provided the setting for American Graffiti, Peggy Sue Got Married, Pleasantville, and Mumford.
Despite all Petaluma has going for it, most tourists whiz past it on their way to the nearby Sonoma and Napa wineries. The sweet little town has bargain prices compared to Napa and Sonoma, and has plenty to keep you occupied for a day or two. When you’re ready to venture out, Petaluma is ideally located to explore Sonoma and Napa, as well as the Marin County coastline.
A half hour’s drive from Petaluma is Point Reyes Station, a tiny town on the edge of the Point Reyes Peninsula national park. Spend an afternoon exploring the shops and organic food restaurants, and be sure to try some of the area’s famed oysters. If you’re the outdoors type, the peninsula has a ton of hiking trails. My favorite takes you through an elk preserve perpetually shrouded in fog.
Traveling the opposite direction, it’s a quick drive to Sonoma and Napa. If you want to branch out from the popular wine choices, Petaluma has its own wine alliance. Most of the restaurants in town serve wine from the Petaluma Gap region, whose unique climate lends its wine a distinct taste. You don’t often seen Gap wine elsewhere, so be sure to give it a try.
For more information about everything to see, taste and do in Petaluma, log onto the excellent Visit Petaluma website at www.visitpetaluma.com.