At 1,600 square miles, and comprising a diverse landscape of sunny agricultural valleys, deep redwood forests, and windswept coastal headlands, Sonoma County is more than just one of the world's top wine-touring destinations. There's much here to please hikers and boaters, shoppers and art buyers, spa enthusiasts, and couples seeking a relaxed getaway. More than 400 wineries have tasting rooms open to the public, and the county is also home to first-rate craft breweries and artisan coffee roasters, plus a slew of superb restaurants.
The southern third of the county is just a 45-minute drive from San Francisco, making it an easy getaway from the Bay Area. To the east lies the renowned Napa and Calistoga Wine Country, and within Sonoma County you'll also find one of the West Coast's favorite gay vacation getaways, the Russian River Valley, which is centered on the town of Guerneville. See the Russian River Gay Hotels guide for lodgings in that part of the county.
In this article, you'll read about a sampling of outstanding hotels and inns located throughout the rest of Sonoma County, from the secluded coast to the bustling towns and cities of Healdsburg, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, and more. All of Sonoma County is hugely popular with GLBT visitors, for everything from quick wine-touring getaways to gay weddings and honeymoons.
In this alphabetical list, you'll find great accommodations in all price categories, ranging from homey inns to opulent boutique resorts.
Located roughly midway between the U.S. 101 corridor (where you'll find Healdsburg and Santa Rosa) and the Russian River's main town of Guerneville, the ultra-luxe Farmhouse Inn (7871 River Rd., Forestville, 707-887-3300) makes a perfect base for exploring either area. It's famous for having one of the finest restaurants in all of Sonoma County, as well for being an ultimate overnight hideout for romantics, newlyweds, and just about anybody seeking a special, memorable getaway. This gay-popular inn - set on six lovely green acres with herb and vegetable gardens that supply the restaurant - is all about pampering, and yet the vibe is both friendly and relaxed. The accommodations are divided among rooms in the main 1872 house, two gorgeous suites in a cottage, and several ultra-posh "barn" rooms set in a chic but rustic building behind the property.
Between this building and the main inn, you'll find one of Sonoma County's top boutique spas inside the carriage house - it's operated in partnership with renowned spa designers Peggy Francis and Loma Alexander - from which you can access a large swimming pool. Service includes absolutely spot-on, gracious service by a team of knowledgeable concierges and bellmen, evening wine and s'mores around the fire pit, a "bath bar" in the lobby where you can scoop up samples of handmade olive oil soaps and bath scrubs (the rooms are also outfitted with Sumbody bath products), and nightly turn-down with cookies and milk (along with delicious in-room snacks). Rooms also have either steam showers, cedar saunas, or whirlpool tubs, as well as incredibly soft and comfy feather bedding; the barn rooms are especially cushy, with indoor-outdoor fireplaces, vaulted ceilings, radiant-heat floors, and private outdoor decks. Rates also include an artfully presented, farm-to-table three-course breakfast in the restaurant. If all at all possible while you're here, or even if you aren't staying overnight, plan to have dinner at least once in the restaurant at the Farmhouse Inn - the exquisite wine country meals here are a work of art; just bear in mind that reservations are required. With room rates starting around $500 nightly and climbing to over $1,000, this is one of the higher-end hideaways in the state, but for a fantastic, intimate, special-occasion experience in Sonoma, it really can't be beat.
With its fabulous mid-century modern neon sign and endearingly retro, "Rat Pack" sensibility, the Flamingo Resort and Spa (2777 4th St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-8530) is a fun and comfy accommodation with a handy central location on the north side of downtown Santa Rosa. It's a short hop to the wineries of Kenwood and the Valley of the Moon but also a reasonably easy drive to just about any part of the county, from the Russian River to Petaluma to the Alexander Valley. With a terrific, welcoming staff and plenty of resort amenities, this is a nice option if you're looking for fun things to do - there are two huge swimming pools, five tennis courts, and a lounge, as well as the Terrace Grille Restaurant serving tasty food and also providing meals around the pool. Guests also enjoy access to a large, state-of-the-art spa and health club. Rooms at this resort, which has hosted such LGBT events as the Sonoma Gay Wine Weekend, open around the pool and are quite spacious. Book one of the superior, executive kings, or Flamingo suites, which have all been handsomely renovated.
Toward the northern-central end of the county, right off U.S. 101, the small town of Geyserville, with its tree-shaded streets and handful of inviting eateries and boutiques, offers a relaxing and unpretentious alternative to Healdsburg and Santa Rosa farther south. The town is also a perfect base for wine-touring in the surrounding Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys - it's just up the road, in fact, from one of the most entertaining and interesting venues in the area, Francis Ford Coppola Winery. At the north end of town, the family-owned Geyserville Inn (21714 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, 707-857-4343) offers attractive, contemporary rooms with reasonable rates.
General Manager Gary Sterman, who's active in the region's LGBT community and worked formerly with the outstanding San Francisco-based Joie de Vivre hotel brand, has invested a great deal of effort into revamping the rooms with a stylish, urbane design; most units have gas fireplaces and either patios or balconies, and from the large windows you're treated to sweeping views of vineyards and tree-shaded hillsides beyond them. Rooms, some of them pet-welcoming, all have irons and boards, refrigerators, bathrooms with marble accents, and plenty of other amenities you might not expect considering the reasonable rates. There's plenty of covered parking, and the grounds include a large solar-heated pool and spa. At the hotel's Geyserville Grille, which has a lovely outdoor deck with fine views of the countryside, contemporary American fare is served three meals daily, and there is also a brunch on weekends.
Step into a slice of Tuscany at the supremely inviting, adults-only Kenwood Inn and Spa (10400 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood, 707-833-1293), with its romantic cottages and balconies connected by a series of narrow pathways and outdoor staircases. Among the charms you'll find in the spacious rooms are fireplaces, comfy armchairs, large walk-in showers and deep Jacuzzi tubs, and top-flight bath amenities. An extensive breakfast is included, and grounds include a gracious pool and lanai, as well as an excellent full-service spa offering a full retinue of treatments, from anti-aging "Fire and Ice" facials to Swedish-style couples massages (best enjoyed on the fabulous terrace, along with a bottle of local sparkling wine). The restaurant is a true highlight of the Sonoma Valley, serving exquisitely prepared contemporary cuisine with a decidedly Mediterranean bent - don't pass up the expansive charcuterie plate, the black-truffle risotto with guanciale and wild mushrooms, or dessert, which includes a rotating selection of house-made gelatos and sorbettos. The location is ideal for exploring eastern Sonoma's Valley of the Moon wineries, including Kunde, St. Francis, and Deerfield Ranch, and it's fairly close to Napa as well.
The official host hotel of the increasingly popular Out in the Vineyard Gay Wine Weekend held in mid-June each year, the supremely inviting MacArthur Place (29 E. MacArthur St., Sonoma, 707-938-2929) is situated just a few blocks south of the famously picturesque Plaza in the atmospheric town of Sonoma. Although this 64-room hotel dates to the late 1990s, it's set around and designed to match the stately Victorian house that's still the property's centerpiece - it dates to the 1850s, making it one of the oldest homes in the county. Once on the hotel's property, with its serene gardens shaded by more than 100 different tree species and laced with pretty pathways, you'd never know you're in the center of town.
Not surprisingly, MacArthur Place has become a top destination for weddings, including quite a few same-sex ceremonies. Accommodations are gorgeously designed and include standard rooms, suites, and cottages, all of them generously proportioned and containing large walk-in showers, LED TVs with DVD players, and down comforters. Rates also include a morning breakfast buffet, an evening wine-and-cheese reception, use of the spa facilities, steam room, and fitness room, and parking. The Cabana Suites, with their outdoor rain showers and tented cabanas, are particularly swanky and romantic. The airy restaurant, Saddles Steakhouse, with its contemporary flair and outstanding food, ranks among the best places in the Valley for a carnivorous feast. In the full-service Garden Spa, you can relax with a Pumpkin Body Wrap, couples massages with champagne and roses, and Gentleman's Stone Crop Facial.