Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Looking Back: Sonoma, CA with kids - Visiting a Family-Friendly Winery

When my husband and I were looking into visiting Sonoma with the kids in tow we were happy to discover that family-friendly wineries do exist! While we knew that the kids wouldn't be able to taste, of course, we figured the educational value of visiting a winery would be good enough....aaaand there'd be wine for mom and dad to enjoy at the end as well!

Our visit to Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma, CA did not disappoint. The property is breathtaking, just what a winery in Sonoma Valley is pictured in your head to look like. With mountains in the distance and beautiful vineyards of purple and green grapes rolling among the hills it looked just like a picture postcard.

We purchased tickets for the Biodynamic Tram Tour, which was $20 for my husband and I and $5 for each of our kids. The 45-minute tour brought us to see the vineyards up close, where the guide explained to us the importance of biodynamics in the vineyard.

Close up of vineyards

From there we visited the fermentation facility and entered the barrel caves, where the wine is stored in a naturally climate-controlled environment. I appreciated the responsibility Benziger Family Winery took in regards to their winery's impact on the environment. It was great for the kids to learn about and see first-hand as well.

After the tour we were brought to the tasting room and got to try some wines. My husband and I picked up a bottle for home as well as some picnic goodies and had a wonderful lunch on the deck. The kids enjoyed some play time on the playground after lunch as well.

Our lovely picnic lunch

Our visit to the Benziger Family Winery was the perfect end to our California vacation. The employees of the winery proudly educated the visitors on their approach to a biodynamic, sustainable, and organic winery. If you will be looking to visit wineries in Sonoma with children, let Benziger Family Winery be at the top of your list!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Looking Back: Muir Woods and Sonoma, CA with kids

We spent our final days on our trip to northern California relaxing in Sonoma. My husband had taken a cab back to the airport to pick up our rental car while the kids and I packed up and got ready. We soon left the city by the bay behind and crossed over the foggy Golden Gate Bridge, which was shrouded in clouds!

The foggy Golden Gate

Our first stop was about 16 miles north of San Francisco at the Muir Woods National Monument. Here you will find some of the tallest trees in the world--the coastal redwood trees. While we knew these weren't the absolutely biggest, those are much farther north, we were still excited to see the tallest trees we had seen yet! We started winding up mountain roads, not realizing how high and winding these roads would be! We pulled into the Muir Woods National Monument and saw that the tiny lot in front of the entrance was already full. We drove along the road until we saw a spot to park alongside, as everyone was doing at this point. The monument cost $7 for my husband and I, with the kids free. The monument has a fully stocked vistor's center with many souvenir items available for purchase. Rangers are available daily for walks and talks, although we chose to visit it on our own.

It was absolutely breathtaking once you enter. The redwood bark that falls off the trees made a soft little carpet on the floor as you walked through it. It is a very peaceful and serene feeling to be among them.

Looking up at the redwoods, Miss A posing, the kids and I inside a redwood

My husband and I enjoyed the overall serenity of the woods, the hushed quiet while standing among the tallest living things on Earth. The kids, however, kids were most impressed when they came across a slug!

After Muir Woods we drove north for about an hour and reached our hotel, the Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa. It was a beautiful property, complete with swimming pool and hot tub, which the kids were most excited about. It was in the 90s when we arrived, which was about a 30 degree difference from our last few days in San Francisco. While I got our room ready, my husband took the kids to the pool. I ended up joining them, where we spent the rest of the afternoon. We then got cleaned up and headed into the town. I was actually surprised at how small Sonoma is. With being so well-known I imagined it would be much more built up, but it felt just like a small town, which was nice. We stopped off at Whole Foods and got some picnic items and went to the park right behind the city hall. It was shaded with plenty of picnic space and playground equipment. We spent the evening here and once it was dark headed back to the hotel.

The hotel did a great job in the evening with creating a cozy atmosphere. We went in to the bar and got a drink for ourselves and a fountain soda for the kids and returned to a seating area under a grapefruit tree. The staff lit tiki torches around the property and we all just relaxed until it was time to turn it.

Up next: Day One in Sonoma was done and now we were off to a family-friendly winery!