My Favorite things to do in Sonoma Valley’s Healdsburg
Healdsburg, in Sonoma Valley, is where three major wine-producing regions come together: Alexander Valley, the Russian River, and Dry Creek. Healdsburg has that small-town feel with a touch of history. If you’re looking for a fun day trip or weekend away from San Francisco, I highly recommend heading out to Healdsburg.
My top to do’s: Wine tasting and a paddle down the Russian River in an inflatable canoe.
We go up to Healdsburg for two reasons: to drink wine and to chill out outdoors in nature, away from everyday stress and responsibilities.
My favorite thing to do now is the Russian River Paddle Trip, with dog (and more on this). Wine tasting in Sonoma is a no brainer, except for too many choices. I narrow it down by choosing one near our favorite activity.
Healdsburg Russian River Paddle & Wine Tasting
We start with a float down the Russian River in an inflatable canoe, family dog included. Second, wine tasting at one of the more peaceful intimate little wineries nearby in Healdsburg. (Skip down for details.)
A day trip like this appeals to my California eco-nature because it’s low tech and easy on the environment. And it’s gotta be good for your health: heart healthy pinot noir – check; fresh air and relaxation – check.
The paddle takes us along the most secluded section of the Russian River, starting in Healdsburg, in Sonoma County. A stop at swimming holes along the way is perfect for playing on rope swings, or keeping an eye out for owls, egrets, heron, osprey, kingfisher and ducks.
This is an easy adventure, with no previous experience or skill required. We’re feeling kind of lazy anyway, so the pace is perfect.
For wine tasting on this day trip, we’ve chosen Gracianna Winery, also in Healdsburg, set in the rolling hills right above the Russian River on the Miracle Mile. This small award-winning Russian River Valley “fruit-first” craftsman’s winery is owned and operated by a friendly Sonoma family, the Amadors.
After enjoying the flights in the tasting room, you can head to a shaded area in the back of the vineyard for a picnic or simply to relax.
We usually bring our dog with us, which, in Sonoma, isn’t as limiting as you might think. Many wineries allow dogs in certain areas. And this paddle down the Russian River allows dog in your canoe. You can bring a snack and a bottle of wine and take it easy as you roll down the river, feet up over the tubes.
Plan Your Own Canoe & Wine Tasting Trip
1. Russian River Canoe Trip
Generally runs May through September. You’ll launch from the base of Memorial Beach Dam, near the Russian River Adventure office in Healdsburg, CA.
A return shuttle will meet you at Wohler Bridge. Park free at the facility. (The details page will take you to a map.)
Here’s what you get:
- Prices from $45, last checked, but you can get up to $20 off with this deal (when available).
- You can book a half or full day (no dogs allowed on the half day, so plan ahead).
- Inflatable Canoe, paddles, life jackets.
- Dry bag to keep personal articles dry.
- Return shuttle from Wohler Bridge back to the parking lot.
2. Pack a Picnic Lunch
Here are a few spots to grab a bite. And they all have dog-friendly areas.
Summer’s Market & Deli
A locally recommended market & deli with lots of the usual options.
Address: 557 Powell Ave., Healdsburg, California
Nice deli counter and also make great pannini sandwiches.
Address: 124 Matheson St., Healdsburg, California
Costeaux French Bakery
One of my favorite stops. They make scrumptious sandwiches you can take with you, or go for a fresh-baked baguette and cheese.
And if you go in the morning you can grab breakfast and coffee while you wait.
Address: 417 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, California
3. Fix for Fido’s Hangover
After a day on the river, pups sometimes need a little pick-me-up (no I did not say hair of the dog).
Check out these locations for nearby for dog bathing, grooming, and pet supplies:
Healdsburg Dog House
Address: 212 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, California
707-431-1044 | healdsburgdoghouse.com
Debbie’s Pet Boutique
Address: 431 Center St., Healdsburg, California
707-395-4410 | debbiespetboutique.com
4. Head over to Gracianna Winery
We like Gracianna for intimate wine tasting in a relaxed tasting room overlooking the Mercedes Riverblock Estate vineyard on the Russian River.
Wines typically include pinot noir, zinfandel, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and sparkling wine. Pets and kids welcome.
Address: 6914 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, California.
Book here in advance
5. Staying over?
If you’re still browsing places to stay, see the closest Sonoma Valley hotels price comparisons & reviews (TripAdvisor).