Our family has been taking vacations to Guerneville since before our kids were born. But as urban parents, we find the escape to nature even more essential now that we have kids. Whenever we travel to the Russian River, everyone comes back with a more relaxed and positive attitude. Every trip up to the river has at least one day where we do some variation on this itinerary below. It is designed to entertain both the kids and the grown-ups and makes for an action packed day that still gives the kids some time to refuel and rest between activities.
9:00am: Biscuits at Big Bottom Market
The biscuits here are crazy good! I feel a distinct urge to dash into the restaurant and down a fresh biscuit every time I walk by Big Bottom Market.
- Kids: Our kids typically go for a Butter + Jam biscuit or the Fruit, Yogurt, Granola Bowl with Straus organic greek yogurt (a Sonoma county local favorite) with seasonal fruit compote and house-made granola with a touch of agave syrup. Honestly, I am quite happy to help the kids finish up any leftovers and occasionally disappointed when they actually eat everything!
- Parents: Mom and Dad often sip rich cappuccinos and share the Sea Biscuit; a biscuit with smoked salmon, créme fraiche, pickled onions and capers.
- Bonus: For those in the know, you can gourmet grab bag lunches for later in the day.
10:30am: Treasure Hunt at Armstrong Redwoods
The Japanese have named the practice of taking a restful visit to a forest to soak in the experience, shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. Its no wonder, the majestic trees create a serene place to wander with your family.
- Kids: Stop in at the visitor’s center just outside the park to score a free treasure map to help coax the kids along the Pioneer Nature Trail. See if they can spot the dinosaur and the troll along the nearly flat 1.7 mile path.
- Parents: For older kids and parents, the moderate 2.3 mile loop along the Pioneer trail to the Pool Ridge Trail and back to the picnic area is a refreshing after breakfast stroll.
- Bonus: If you get your Big Bottom Market biscuits and cappuccino to go, the picnic area is really lovely place to eat breakfast.
12:00pm: Champagne Tasting at Korbel
While wine tasting probably isn’t your kid’s favorite thing, that doesn’t mean mom and dad have to miss out. This is one of our family’s favorite wine tasting hacks; the Kobel Delicatessen has chilled champagne and glassware that you can enjoy outside in the garden patio.
- Kids: There are plenty of options for the kids here including a surprisingly kid-friendly Artisan Charcuterie Plate.
- Parents: On the summer menu they usually have a Muffuletta sandwich that I personally thing is by far the best sandwich in town.
- Bonus: They also have a boxed lunch if you want to take your picnic (and bottle of shilled champagne) to the beach.
1:30pm: Floating the River at Sunset Beach
We recently expanded this adventure into a complete guide to floating the Russian River.
While Johnson’s Beach is the most renown beach on the Russian River it is also extremely crowded. Fortunately Sunset Beach turns out to be way more kid friendly with a perfect horseshoe shaped bay with shallow very calm water.
- Kids: Young kids will enjoy splashing in the bay while the older kids will enjoy the rope swing up river just a bit from the main beach area. Be sure to have a grownup check for underwater safety hazards as the river conditions are always changing.
- Parents: If you have a larger group with at least two cars we highly recommend taking the older kids on a float down the river. It is best to take a car up to Mother’s Beach for a short float trip or up to Steelhead Beach for a several hour float back down river to meet up with the little kids at Sunset Beach.
- Bonus: While inflatable swans definitely capture the zeitgeist, kid friendly inflatable tubes with mesh bottoms can be procured at Kings Sport and Tackle for relatively cheap.
5:45pm Dinner & Music at Main Street Station
The wide ranging menu means you will defintely find something for everyone in your group. Main Street Station has the best pizza options in town.
- Kids: This is a nice large venue with couches, crayons for coloring, and friendly staff. What really makes this the best place for kids is nightly live music starting around 6-6:30. Many of the local artists love see the kids dancing and enjoying the tunes.
- Parents: If you arrive at 5:45 you should have just enough time to order a happy hour cocktail without having to wait too long until the live music at 6ish.
- Bonus: Main Street Station will sell their raw pizza dough if those of you staying at local vacation rentals want to try your hand at homemade grilled pizzas.
7:00pm: Dessert at Guerneville Bank Club
Ice cream, pie, wine, photo booth, oh my! What is not to love about this place!?!
- Kids: The children and the kids at heart will swoon over the Nimble and Finn’s ultra gourmet ice cream. Truly a local treasure sourcing local produce and organic dairy from Straus Creamery.
- Parents: The bank club also has wonderful selection of pies from Chile Pies Baking Company in San Francisco. We highly recommend splitting a slice of green chile apple pie with cheddar cheese crust a la mode with Maple Bourbon Bacon Brittle ice cream on top. Whoa.
- Bonus: Take your ice cream cones for a short stroll across the historic Guerneville Pedestrian Bridge to catch the last rays of sunset over the Russian River.
Did you try this itinerary out? Did you have a variation that was fun? Help everyone out by leaving us a note in the comments section. Thanks!