Napa and Sonoma: Places to Explore

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Sonoma

One of the few towns in the valley with many attractions not related to food and wine, Sonoma has plenty to keep you busy for a couple of hours before you head out to tour the wineries. You needn't leave town to taste wine. There are more than a dozen and a half tasting rooms within steps of the plaza, some of which pour wines from more than one winery. The "Sonoma Plaza WineWalk" brochure, available at the visitor center on the plaza's eastern side, has a map pointing the way.

The valley's cultural center, Sonoma is the oldest town in the Wine Country. Founded in 1835, when California was still part of Mexico, it is built around a large, tree-filled plaza. If you arrive from the south, on wide Broadway (Highway 12), you'll be retracing the last stretch of what was once California's most important road—El Camino Real, or "royal road," the only overland route through the state. During California's Spanish and Mexican periods, it ran past all of the state's 21 missions: beginning at San Diego de Alcala (1769) and ending at Mission San Francisco Solano (1823). This last mission still sits in the center of Sonoma.

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