Farm Tours, a Historic Rancho and More Fun for the Family in Petaluma
Petaluma, located just north of San Francisco and surrounded by fertile farmlands, is one of the oldest cities in California. Well-preserved 19th century buildings lend Petaluma an inviting historic charm, while the river meandering through the city brings a sense of serenity to its landscape. Many visitors are content to simply stroll around town amid year-round sunshine, but families with kids who want a little more action are in for a treat, too. Petaluma promises many great things to do for children of all ages that parents will find equally entertaining. Here are five of them.
Learn About Rancho Life
Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park (3325 Adobe Rd., Petaluma, CA) has as its centerpiece one of the best-preserved rancho buildings from the early- to mid-19th century, a time when California was a Mexican province. The expansive adobe brick and redwood building was the home of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, one of most powerful figures in California during that era. Take a guided or self-guided tour to see what life was like on Rancho Petaluma. The park is open seven days a week, year-round. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children 6 to 16.
Fun on the Farm
Several of the many farms in the countryside around Petaluma invite visitors to take a tour, meet animals and learn all about local agriculture. Tara Firma Farms (3796 I St. Ext, Petaluma, CA) offers free tours on weekends at noon and at other times by reservation (for a fee). The 300-acre farm produces organic fruit, eggs, cheese and vegetables as well as pasture-raised beef, pork, chicken and more. Tours focus on sustainable farming.
At the Achadinha Cheese Company Ranch (750 Chileno Valley Rd., Petaluma, CA), tours of the whole ranch are available for $20 per adult and $5 to $10 for children. Reservations are required. Find out how cheese is made and try a range of samples while touring the milking parlor, cheese plant, aging rooms and more. You will also see some of the hundreds of goats, cows, pigs, sheep, horses and chickens raised on the ranch.
In summer, take a tour of Lavender Bee Farm (764 Chapman Ln., Petaluma, CA), where fields of over 5,000 lavender plants attract millions of bees. Call in advance to book a tour, and discover how the farm produces award-winning lavender blossom honey, essential oils, culinary lavender, beeswax cosmetics and more.
Play at the Park
The mostly flat hiking and biking trails at Shollenberger Park (1400 Cader Ln., Petaluma, CA) are ideal for family fun. A 2-mile loop winds around a lagoon and the Petaluma River. There's an observation deck overlooking wetlands where you will spot many birds and other wildlife. The park also features a fishing pier. Helen Putnam Regional Park (411 Chileno Valley Rd., Petaluma, CA) has a landscape of grassy hills, oak groves and high ridge tops overlooking the city and countryside. The park's 6 miles of trails vary in difficulty, so choose one that best suits your family. It also offers picnic sites, a large fishing pond and a playground. Both parks are open year-round, free of charge, and the pleasant Northern California climate means you can enjoy outdoor fun during every season.
Take to the River
If you're visiting Petaluma with children aged 8 and older, consider a kayaking tour with Clavey Paddlesports (409 Petaluma Blvd., South Petaluma, CA). Kids can ride with a parent in a tandem kayak while paddling along wildlife-rich waterways. Tours can take you to historic Lairds Landing in Tomales Bay, part of the Point Reyes National Seashore; to the serene waters of Petaluma Marsh; or to the mouth of Tomales Bay, where tidal waters harbor oyster beds, leopard sharks, bat rays, sea stars and seals.
Tour a Real Sticker Factory
If your little ones love to play with stickers, don't miss the chance to take them on a tour of a working sticker factory. Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory (3810 Cypress Dr., Petaluma, CA) offers guided tours Monday through Thursday. Admission is $7 for visitors 12 and older and $5 for children aged 3 to 11. Reservations are required. Your guide will take you right on to the factory floor, where you will see thousands of stickers and labels being printed, die-cut and perforated. You'll hear about the history of stickers and some fun facts, and stop at work stations to see printing, finishing, packaging, hot foil stamping, embossing and more. The kids will get free stickers at each stop, and at the end of the tour, do a sticker art project.
A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.