Santa Rosa – North Bay’s happy place. Rural setting, gorgeous vistas, lakes, trails, organics, boutiques, music venues. Whatever you are into, Santa Rosa has it.
Located in the heart of the Sonoma wine country, Santa Rosa was voted as one of the “happiest cities in America” in 2013. And for good reason! It truly has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to do a wine or olive oil tasting, pick up fresh produce and other artisan goods at the year-round Farmer’s Market, shop in one of the many boutiques that line the downtown, or take in a little culture at one of the city’s many music and performance venues, you’ll find it in Santa Rosa.
For the kids, Santa Rosa also has plenty of “happy” places to go and things to do, including a number of museums and activity centers, like Snoopy’s Home Ice, an indoor ice skating rink that’s open all year, boating on Spring Lake or the quintessential of all country pursuits, the Sonoma County Fair. Held for two weeks each summer, the fair offers everything from carnival rides and games, to livestock shows, to my son’s absolute favorite thing of all: the derby dog dash!
Santa Rosa is divided into four quadrants: Northeast, Southeast, Northwest and Southwest. Southeast Santa Rosa falls south of 4th street and east of Highway 101. This is where Santa Rosa began and where General Vallejo’s mother-in-law Maria Carrillo built her home. The area around Maria Carillo’s home is now known as the Montgomery Village neighborhood because it surrounds the outdoor Montgomery Village Shopping Center. Here you can grab a bite at Sea Thai or Monti’s Rotisserie & Bar or stop in at the fabulous French bakery, Michelle Marie. I love to cook and often pop into Sur-la-Table for the best selection of cookware in the county. Montgomery Village homes, built in the late 1950s-60s, are charming and tend to be single-level, perfect for first time home-buyers and empty nesters.
Another well-known neighborhood in Southeast Santa Rosa is Bennett Valley. This area has homes in all price ranges. There are older single-level ranch style homes, newer contemporary homes and beautiful pastoral country properties complete with horse barns and vineyards. This is also where you’ll find beautiful Bennett Valley Golf Course, many wineries and the crown jewel of recreation known as the tri-parks of Spring Lake, Howarth and Annadel Parks. Hiking, boating, fishing, walking trails, pony rides and an old-fashioned carousel are just some of the attractions. My favorite of all these is the lagoon at Spring Hill Lake which offers the most idyllic playground for children complete with life guards, a snack shack and weekend entertainment. It’s what childhood memories are made of!
In Northeast Santa Rosa you’ll find pricier real estate starting with the McDonald neighborhood which offers homes of historical significance, some dating to the late 1800s. Pollyanna was actually filmed at the McDonald mansion which this area is named after. You’ll find Montecito Heights further up the hill offering homes of contemporary as well as traditional architecture.
Farther north you’ll find a community unto itself. Offering newer custom and semi-custom homes with stunning views this neighborhood is called Fountaingrove and surrounds Fountaingrove Country Club and boasts an average price point exceeding a million dollars. Fountaingrove is also prized for its great schools, close proximity to just about everything and larger lots. A bit further north, Shiloh and Mayacama – both gated communities, offer even more spectacular views at equally spectacular prices. Known as the toniest neighborhoods in Santa Rosa, homes in these two communities start at around $3M. Membership to the famed Mayacama golf course will set you back a cool $130,000, yet it is nothing if not quietly elegant in its Mediterranean ease.
All in all, Santa Rosa has much to offer. It’s perfect for those looking for a more rural setting, but with all the comforts of an urban area. It truly is a warm, relaxing, and happy place.
A Bit of History
Spanish and Mexican settlers began building homes in the Santa Rosa area in the 1820s. By the 1850s, a Wells Fargo post and general store were established in what is now downtown Santa Rosa. Grid street patterns and a public square were also developed, and remain largely intact today. In 1867, Sonoma County recognized Santa Rosa as an incorporated city, and in 1868 the State officially confirmed the incorporation, making it the third incorporated city in the county, following Petaluma and Healdsburg.