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One of the few towns in the valley with multiple attractions unrelated to food and wine, Sonoma has plenty to keep you busy for a couple of hours before you head out to the wineries. And you needn't leave town to taste wine: about three dozen tasting rooms do business on or near Sonoma Plaza.

The valley's cultural center, Sonoma, founded in 1835 when California was still part of Mexico, is built around tree-filled Sonoma Plaza. If you arrive from the south, on Broadway (Highway 12), you'll be retracing the last stretch of what long ago was California’s most important road—El Camino Real, or "the 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 Alcalá (1769) and ending at Mission San Francisco Solano (1823). This last mission still sits in the center of Sonoma.

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