Napa and Sonoma: Places to Explore

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Healdsburg

Just when it seems that the buzz about Healdsburg couldn't get any bigger, there's another article published in a glossy food or wine magazine about properties such as the swingin' Spoonbar or the posh Hotel Les Mars. But you don't have to be a tycoon to enjoy Healdsburg. For every ritzy restaurant there's a great bakery serving reasonably priced sandwiches, and luxe lodgings are matched by modest bed-and-breakfasts.

Healdsburg is ideally located at the confluence of the Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, and Alexander Valley AVAs, but you could easily spend a day or more exploring downtown. Around its old-fashioned plaza you'll find fashionable boutiques, art galleries, spas, hip tasting rooms, and some of the best restaurants in the Wine Country.

Walking downtown, you realize that locals haven't been pushed aside to make way for tourists. This isn't by accident. For example, free summer concerts used to be held in Healdsburg Plaza on Sunday, but when they became so popular that locals stopped coming, the city moved the performances to Tuesday. The concerts are quite fine, by the way—you might hear anything from bluegrass to military marches. Set amid the plaza's fragrant trees and flowers, the scene is as pretty as a Norman Rockwell painting.

The countryside around Healdsburg is the sort you dream about when you're planning a Wine Country vacation, with orderly rows of vines alternating with beautifully overgrown hills. Set alongside relatively untrafficked roads, country stores and roadside farm stands offer just-plucked fruits and vine-ripened tomatoes. The wineries here are barely visible, since they're tucked behind groves of eucalyptus or hidden high on fog-shrouded hills.

Elsewhere in Northern Sonoma County

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