24 Hours in Petaluma

When you only have 24 hours, Petaluma is a great mini vacation destination for those in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you haven’t explored this hip, historic town, consider putting it on your bucket list for a quick getaway. We left our East Bay home at noon one day and returned at 2 the next; my clients barely missed me. I’ll list our adventures during our 24 hours in Petaluma in the form of recommendations because, well, I recommend it all.

Check into the Metro Hotel, a funky, Parisian-circus-themed hotel on South Petaluma Boulevard, just a 5-minute walk from downtown. We stayed in one of the four Airstreams on the hotel's property. I’ve never been in an Airstream before and happily discovered “Bambi” is as shiny and cute on the inside as it is on the outside.

Eat lunch next door at Quinua Cocina, a friendly place serving authentic Peruvian cuisine, another first experience for me. We asked our waiter about almost everything on the menu and he was so sweet and proud to tell all. We chose delicious Fried Sweet Plantains, Ceviche de Pescado, and Arroz Chaufa, but I suspect everything on the menu is stellar. After eating here, you will never see corn the same way again.

Next, walk around downtown Petaluma to enjoy its iron-front historic buildings. Petaluma is one of the few California towns that survived the 1906 earthquake with only minor damage. One of my favorite stores is the Petaluma Seed Bank, cleverly named because it’s housed in the beautiful old Sonoma County Bank building. When we told the guy working there that we were interested in the building, he got excited and took us behind the counter to see the antique gated elevator. After checking to make sure there weren’t other customers around, he took us downstairs to see the original bank safe with its intricately crafted door. The personal small-town-feel of it all was pretty novel.

My favorite gift-type store in town is Field Works, which is like a clever brick and mortar Etsy store. For antique shops, Chelsea Antiques is awesome. Even if you don’t care for antiques, it’s worth looking around the artistically curated selection of goods.

Downtown Petaluma also has a growing choice of places to enjoy tastings of wine, beer, vodka, and even port. We only hit one spot this trip—Barber Cellars located in the historic Petaluma Hotel—but it was entirely satisfying, and, again, friendly. (I am beginning to understand that friendly is the norm for Petaluma.) Barber Cellars is owned by husband and wife winemakers; the husband (in my photo) was hosting that day. One of their unique creations is Dolcezza Zinfandel Chocolate Sauce which was the grand finale of the tasting. Yum! If you’re visiting on a Thursday, live music starts at 6pm. Lastly, while you’re there, be sure to check out the renovated bathrooms in the Petaluma Hotel.  

If Petaluma is also a foodie’s destination with organic-if-at-all-possible dining options. For dinner, we picked Risibisi, which means "rice and peas." While the dishes are Italian, the ingredients are sourced locally from authentic places like Little Organic Farm and Sebastopol Berry Farm. To complete the all-around feeling of health and wellbeing for the day, we had dairy-free ice-cream at Lala's Creamery. I loved this place. One of the arty pieces on the wall showed a picture of a cow with the line, "Live like someone left the gate open."

For the next day, I’d like to say we rented a kayak at Clavey Paddlesports for the Petaluma River, but we didn’t get up early enough for that. We did go for a bike ride on a bright yellow tandem bike, offered free-of-charge for those staying at Hotel Metro. A tandem bike is one of those things that’s better in your imagination than it is for real, but nevertheless, it’s a fun way to explore the neighborhood’s Victorian houses and to bike downtown for brunch or lunch. We ate at Wild Goat Bistro

Hopefully, you can match the photo in my slider with its mention in my post. The cute bartender was our waiter at Risibisi, in case that’s not clear and you really want to know. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or, better yet, call the Petaluma Visitors Center. Enjoy!