With its mild climate and coastal boarder, Sonoma County, California, might seem like the furthest thing from a winter wonderland one could possibly imagine. A walk through Santa Rosa's Walnut Court just before Christmas, however, will treat you to a holiday light display of Whoville proportions.
It's a festive ritual that has withstood the test of time: Driving around the neighborhood in search of the best light displays before Saint Nick comes slithering down the chimney. Seeing those LED reindeer twinkling on the roof simply never gets old.
There's hardly a community upholding the American tradition better than this cul-de-sac in the heart of California Wine Country. It may be known for its sunkissed vineyards and long, sandy beaches, but during the month of December, one neighborhood in Sonoma is transformed into the North Pole.
Why It's Called "Snowman Lane"
Walnut Court in Santa Rosa is certainly deserving of the nickname "Snowman Lane," considering its row of iconic Christmas lights is one of the merriest displays in the area. Think: mechanized productions put to music and bubble blowers.
It's safe to say the residents of Walnut Court take their holiday decorations seriously. Some of them even have websites dedicated to their annual exhibits. Others have gone solar. They adorn their homes with life-sized gingerbread houses, candy canes that would tower over small children, and creative cut-outs that deliver entire storylines. It's a must-see for the people of Sonoma County and any visitor with a hankering for some holiday spirit.
Santa Rosa is, of course, the birthplace of "Peanuts," so you'll find plenty of Charlie Brown- and Snoopy-themed displays along Snowman Lane, rest assured.
How to Get There
In the heart of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa is the largest city in the subregion of San Francisco Bay known as North Bay. Walnut Court is the residential neighborhood located just northeast of where Highways 12 and 101 intersect, on the edge of Doyle Park.
The festive cul-de-sac is a seven-minute drive from downtown Santa Rosa on Sonoma Avenue. The road itself is quite narrow, so many like to leave their cars on nearby Montgomery Drive and take the sites in on foot instead.
While you're in the area, you might as well continue your Christmas light tour in nearby Petaluma ("the City of Lights"), Rohnert Park (or "Weaver's Winter Wonderland"), and on Mitchell Drive, all known to host more grand displays.
When to Go
Those who will be making a trip this holiday season should keep in mind that this dead-end road is perhaps the most popular place to be in Santa Rosa after dark. The closer it gets to Christmas, the more packed it will become. Weekends are generally the busiest times, so try to plan your trip mid-week for a quieter, more exclusive experience.