The evolution of rural Sonoma ranchland into a world-class food and wine destination has brought ever more intense focus to Healdsburg and the Russian River Valley. But the once sleepy farm town of Petaluma has been quietly undergoing its own transformation—and it's one worth seeing.
Just 40 miles from San Francisco, the quaint town is just right for an escape that feels much farther from home. (You can even ditch the car and take the SMART train straight from the Larkspur ferry terminal.)
Guided by farm-to-table practices, community collaboration and ethical agriculture, Petaluma’s historic downtown corridor has welcomed a new crop of restaurants, bars, and shops that rival those of its better known neighbors to the north. A luxury boutique hotel (and the town’s first rooftop bar) is on the horizon, too. For now, though, Petaluma’s vibe is as laid-back and welcoming as it was when the town was considered the chicken and egg capital of the U.S.
Find out why the town is ready for its moment in the spotlight with our weekend guide to Petaluma.
Friday Evening in Petaluma: Stay at Hotel Petaluma
Plant-forward fare at Luma.
(Courtesy of @lumabar_eatery)
Check in at Hotel Petaluma.
A few years back, a full scale renovation transformed the historic Hotel Petaluma from aging dowager to sophisticated lady. On her ground floor, Spanish Colonial style meets Victorian opulence with powder blue velvet couches, exposed wooden beams, potted palms, and a statement fireplace. Comfortable guest rooms, each with leather headboards and white tiled baths, are laid out across the three upper floors. A collaboration with The Shuckery brings craft cocktails to the tiled lobby bar and baked oysters to the light-strung patio, while the midnight-walled, farmhouse chic Barber Cellars pours from their local wine portfolio in their attached tasting room Thursday through Sunday. // 205 Kentucky St. (Petaluma), hotelpetaluma.com
Have dinner at The Shuckery.
After more than a decade of working with local shellfish farmers, Jazmine Lalicker, one half of the traveling sister act The Oyster Girls, opened The Shuckery at the Hotel Petaluma. The restaurant and oyster bar’s menu revolves around certified sustainable seafood and local produce that lean towards the classic and comforting. Raw and baked oysters (the Bingo, with parmesan and garlic, is to die for) and gourmet conservas draw in the crowds, especially at happy hour (3pm to 6pm) when the uncooked bivalves are just two bucks a pop. But it would be a mistake to stop there; mains like bay scallops baked with rigatoni and cheese sauce, and mussels and manila clams with white wine and grilled bread, are as comforting in summer as they are in the winter months. If shellfish isn’t your thing, check out Lalicker’s new Luma (50 E. Washington St.), a plant-based riverfront bistro a few blocks away with meat sides that come from the unused cuts of local farmers and ranchers. // 100 Washington St. (Petaluma), theshuckeryca.com
Get drinks at Barber Lee Spirits.
Winemakers Lorraine and Michael Barber took to the world of spirit-making like ducks to a pond. In 2019, after a couple years of practice, they opened their first distillery, Barber Lee Spirits, a few doors down from Hotel Petaluma. Today they have close to a dozen styles, including heirloom corn bourbon and apple brandy made with locally farmed ingredients, a rarity in the spirits industry. Swing by the barrel room after dinner to get to know their award-winning creations in cocktail or sipping form. The tasting experience, which includes nips of three spirits and a cocktail, gives you both for the criminally low price of just $18. // 120 Washington St. (Petaluma), barberleespirits.com
Saturday Morning in Petaluma: Farm Tour + Wine Tasting
(Courtesy of @azarivineyard)
8:30am: Stellina Pronto
Swing by the little Italian bakery Stellina Pronto to brighten your morning with artisan espresso and sweet and savory pastries. Stock up on raspberry almond bars, croissants, pumpkin tartlets, and giant slices of focaccia to eat at one of their outdoor cafe tables or to accompany you through your day. // 23 Kentucky St. (Petaluma), stellinapronto.com
9:30am: Helen Putnam Regional Park
Work off the pastries with a low-key hike through Helen Putnam Regional Park. Though the open space is compact—you can do a full circuit to its two vista points in about an hour—it’s the quintessential Sonoma landscape with rolling hills, scrubby oak woodlands, and views that stretch to the mountains at the valley’s edge. // 411 Chileno Valley Rd. (Petaluma), parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov
11am: Achadinha Cheese Company
A few miles further towards the coast, Achadinha Cheese Company hosts tours of its family-owned ranch and creamery every Saturday at 11am ($40/person, reservations required). Matriarch Donna Pacheco takes visitors behind the scenes to see not just how the cheese and kefir gets made, but how they manage and protect their extensive herds of cows and goats. A tasting of their fresh and aged cheeses is included. // 750 Chileno Valley Rd. (Petaluma), achadinha.com
1pm: McEvoy Ranch + Azari Vineyards
Keep heading towards Tomales Bay towards McEvoy Ranch, a beautiful coastal foothill estate producing olive oil and wine. They offer tastings of both out on their broad patio or in private cabanas built on the shore of Morelli Pond. When you make a reservation, upgrade your flight with seasonal lunch offerings like tri tip wraps and grilled lemon rosemary chicken farro bowls, or a cheese and charcuterie plate. Pop into their shop on the way out to snag a few tubs of the farm’s olive oil-based beauty line, Ode. On your way back to town, make a stop at Azari Vineyards, a Mediterranean-inspired winery and estate, for tastes of pinot noir, shiraz, and riesling. // McEvoy Ranch, 5935 Red Hill Rd. (Petaluma), mcevoyranch.com; Azari Vineyards, 1399 Spring Hill Rd. (Petaluma), azarivineyards.com
Saturday Evening in Petaluma: Shop, Eat, Tiki
Channel your inner Bond girl with a Domino (rum, key lime, five-spice, pineapple, and cream) at Petaluma's only tiki bar.
(Courtesy of @kapu.bar)
4pm: Shop Local
Petaluma’s historic downtown corridor is packed with locally owned antique shops, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Stop by Yankee Girl Antiques (127 Kentucky St.) for vintage goodies from quilts to dinnerware. // Chunky jewels in rustic settings are the specialty of designer Robindira Unsworth(115 Petaluma Blvd N). At her flagship store, you’ll find rings and necklaces galore, along with a curated selection of boho chic clothing and accessories. // Stock up on candles and pretty home goods at Boho Bungalow(143 Kentucky St). // Green thumbs will find their next chlorophyll cutie (and a pot to match) at Flourish(5 4th St). // Sort through three centuries of eclectic antiques three floors deep at Sienna(110 Petaluma Blvd N). // At Estuary(120 Petaluma Blvd N.), you’ll find everything from clothing to bedding to gardening supplies consciously crafted with clean-lined designs and touchable softness.
8pm: Dinner Table Culture Provisions
Since opening just over a year ago, Table Culture Provisions has quickly risen through the ranks of the Bay’s best restaurants, earning a nod as one of the SF Chronicle’s top spots in 2022. But like Petaluma itself, the hyper-seasonal California restaurant somehow makes a thoughtfully designed multi-course tasting menu a laid-back affair. At dinner, look for exquisitely comforting dishes like truffle arancini with foraged mushrooms, manchego, and miso aioli; Liberty duck breast with date chutney, carrot soubise, and glazed maitakes; and rum baba with vanilla chantilly. For a taste without the full spread, stop by for TCP’s alfresco social hour (4pm to 6pm, Tuesday through Saturday) when snacks and mains are available a la carte. // 312 Petaluma Blvd. (Petaluma), tcprovision.com
10pm: Drinks, but make them tiki.
Kapu, Petaluma’s long-awaited tiki bar, made a splash when it finally dropped in late January. The place has been pretty much packed ever since (reservations are recommended), and with good reason: The ghostly pirate ship interior with its turn-of-the-century Chinatown accents and sugar-laced tropical cocktails are peak Polynesian kitsch. Suck down a classic Mai Tai or Suffering Bastard (bourbon, gin, lime, bitters, and ginger beer), or a house-derived concoction like the Sesame Chi Chi (vodka, coconut, pineapple, and toasted sesame syrup). Ohana-style rice and noodles, and bites like poke nachos, will keep you from drifting too far out to sea. // 132 Keller St. (Petaluma), kapubar.com
Sunday Morning in Petaluma: Explore the River
The Floathouse not only offers easy access to the river, it's also stocked with the largest assortment rental water toys around.
(Courtesy of @thefloathousepetaluma)
8:30am: Breakfast at Hallie’s Diner
Ask anyone where to find the most satisfying breakfast in town and they’ll point you straight to Hallie’s. The checkerboard-tiled, red vinyl-boothed diner serves up all the classic breakfast favorites, from corned beef hash and biscuits and gravy to cinnamon French toast and hot cakes. Even if it’s busy, chances are you’ll soon find a spot at the old-school counter. If not, they’ll make you your omelet to go. // 125 Keller St. (Petaluma), halliesdiner.com
10am: Get on the water at The Floathouse.
For years, Petaluma’s community lobbied for more access to the town’s namesake river, a task that required not just building docks for small watercraft, but dredging out the 13-mile waterway to make it fully navigable. So it was a pretty big deal when The Floathouse finally finished building the last of its boat racks and docks last spring. They now have the most diverse inventory of kayaks, rowboats, SUPs, paddle boats, and sailboats available for rent anywhere in the Bay Area. Reserve your preferred craft for up to 120 minutes on the water (walk-ups are first come, first served), or join a clinic or class like SUP yoga. // 152 Weller St. (Petaluma), thefloathousepetaluma.org
12pm: A Last Local Taste at Stockhome
For lunch, make one last visit to a Petaluma showstopper. Stockhome, a restaurant and boutique with a Swedish meets Mediterranean menu and Bib Gourmand props serves up a wide range of goodies, from pita wraps and salads to Scandinavian classics and "Swedish-style" pizzas. If you happen to be extending your stay into the week, the bite-sized, zero-waste cafe Lunchette (25 4th St.)—which is dedicated not just to using the best, ethically produced ingredients but to supporting family farms with an interest in converting their operations to embrace regenerative agriculture—is another great option. // 220 Western Ave. (Petaluma), stockhomerestaurant.com