Christmas shopping should not be a chore.
It’s always a good idea in life to create memories you want to remember. And being stressed out and scampering about in a mall, fixated on getting a product and not noticing anything else around you, is not the kind of Christmastime memory I want to create for myself. (I have enough of those already, thank you.) So, for several holiday seasons now, I’ve shopped by the motto that the journey is as important as the present.
So, here is my list of some of the best places in Sonoma County to not only get the perfect gift, but to have the perfect day shopping.
Sonoma County Wineries
You live in Wine Country—give them a gift of wine. Not only is it a perfect present, but ah, wineries are such nice places in which to shop. Plus many of them are located in beautiful scenic spots, so getting there sure beats trying to drive around Santa Rosa Ave. Plus, you can’t relax next to a cozy fire or take in a sweeping view at Macy’s.
Try this: Once you’ve selected your wine, make a “video gift card” to go along with it. Take a short video of someone at the tasting room--or perhaps even the winemaker--telling you about the particular wine you chose. (Honestly, the video feature on your digital camera is good enough—don’t make this hard on yourself.) While you’re at it, take a short video of yourself telling the intended gift recipient why you chose this.
And, as you leave, make sure to get a few nice shots of the winery and the surrounding area. Then, just put it up on YouTube and send a link. It’s always nice to get a gift that has some history and a story behind it.
So, you have friends who aren’t into wine? That’s ok. Many local wineries have absolutely wonderful gift shops with all sorts of nifty things.
And, you don’t have to worry about parking and standing in line. Some of the best include:
- Sebastiani Winery , 389 Fourth St. East, Sonoma 95476; (707) 933-3249
- Chateau St. Jean , 8555 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood 95452; (707) 833-4134
- Ferrari-Carano Winery , 8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg; (707) 433-6700.in Dry Creek Valley
Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square
With its old, stone buildings and unique, little shops, Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square can feel like an Old World merchant street. And when you throw in a horse drawn carriage and crisp winter air, you can pretend you’re in old London for an afternoon of holiday shopping. There are several stylish, high-end stores, but also, many of the shops are eclectic, fun and quirky.
- Free Horse and Carriage Rides
Free horse and carriage rides during the holiday season have been a Railroad Square tradition for almost a quarter of a century. The rides take place every Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 4pm, starting the weekend after Thanksgiving and continuing through the weekend before Christmas. The carriages depart from the train depot in Depot Park.
- Saturday December 6, 2008 : Holiday Open House and Festivities
An annual “thank you” from the merchants in Railroad Square with refreshments, music, special sales, free carriage rides, and more.
Healdsburg Plaza has grown into the upscale shopping epicenter of Sonoma County. Small boutiques carry everything from designer clothing to handcrafted furnishings. Plus art galleries, antique shops and winery tasting rooms provide an abundance of gift options.
- Friday November 28, 2008 : Holiday Party. A Downtown Healdsburg Celebration
This celebration in and around Healdsburg Plaza will have plenty of refreshments, holiday cheer and entertainment including jazz, a brass quintet, horse-drawn carriage rides and much more. It is also a perfect time and place to get a jump on Christmas shopping at scores of unique shops. The event is from 5-9 pm. For more information call (707) 433-6935
- Saturday December 13, 2008 : 1st Annual Healdsburg Wine Country Christmas Party
Downtown Merchants invite you to bring your gift list and your appetite to this town celebration. Entertainment and great food throughout downtown. 2 pm - 6 pm. For more information call (707) 433-6935
Sonoma Town Square
This is the largest and most historic Town Square in all of California. Not only are there plenty of shops surrounding the plaza, but the area is full of historical landmarks and nearby wineries, making for a full day’s worth of shopping and adventures. Plus, if it’s not too cold or wet outside, there are play structures in the square so that families can give their kids a play break between shopping.
There are many events planned through the town of Sonoma during the holiday season. Check out the website for a complete listing.
Some of the highlights include:
- Saturday November 29 : Fourth Annual Lighting of the Snowmen at Cornerstone Gardends
Join one of the newest Sonoma traditions and watch as about 350 electric snowmen are lit up at dusk for this fun and offbeat celebration. All shops, galleries and winery tasting rooms will remain open until 6pm. 23588 Highway 121 Sonoma, CA (707) 933-1300
While you’re at Cornerstone, make sure to get a glimpse of Blue Tree created by Claude Cormier, which is a Sonoma Valley landmark.
- Saturday December 6 2008 : Blessing Of The Olives
A beautiful, traditional ceremony at the Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma. Music and refreshments. Free. 10 a.m. Corner of East Spain Street and First Street East (707) 996-1090
- Fridays and Saturdays in December, 2008:
Stroll, Sip and Shop around the plaza. Many merchants in the area offer free refreshments and specials. Also, Caroling and Music: Area music and chorale groups provide entertainment around the Plaza. You can join in: Meet at Sunflower Café, 421 First Street West 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.