Living where wine country meets beer city, there are so many amazing things to see and do that it’s easy—even for locals—to overlook some of our hidden gem attractions. From preserving our history and heritage to sparking our sense of imagination and wonder—whether it’s an in-person visit or on a virtual tour—you’ll want to explore the treasures within these Sonoma County museums.
Museum of Sonoma County
Established in 1985, the Museum of Sonoma County (Sonoma County Museum) presents 12-15 rotating art and history exhibitions per year and welcomes over 20,000 visitors annually through general admission, tours, school programs, public programs, and special events. Its 7th Street campus is comprised of the historic 1910 Santa Rosa Post Office, a contemporary art gallery, and a sculpture garden.
The museum also maintains a permanent collection of over 18,000 objects that document the North Bay’s rich history and celebrates local artists. It includes extensive collections of historic paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints, costumes, textiles, ceramics, glass, industrial tools, machinery, wood sculpture, furniture, objects, documents, and graphics relative to the local communities, commerce, technologies, and lifestyles.
Notable collections include Tom Golden’s Christo and Jeanne-Claude collection, which includes 125 drawings, sculptures, collages, and photographs by world-famous conceptual artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Marguerite Wildenhain ceramics, Carroll Barnes sculptures, 19th century California landscapes by artists such as Thomas Hill, Frederick Farina Schafer, and Frederick Butman, objects and artifacts related to the utopian community of Fountaingrove, Thomas Lake Harris, and Kanaye Nagasawa, along with the works of Song Wong Bourbeau (1909- 1996), a third-generation Santa Rosan, known for her tireless dedication as a community activist and philanthropist. Over two hundred photographs and artifacts make up an extensive collection, representing the rich and significant history and culture of Santa Rosa’s Chinatown and Chinese community.
Luther Burbank Home and Gardens
In 1875, horticulturist Luther Burbank referred to his adopted hometown of Santa Rosa as “the chosen spot of all this earth.”
Over the course of his 55-year residency in Sonoma County as a botanist and pioneer in agricultural science, Burbank developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants. He is credited with introducing more than 250 new varieties of fruit. For his work Burbank garnered worldwide fame and notoriety becoming friends with celebrities of the period such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Helen Keller, William Jennings Bryant, the King and Queen of Belgium, and Jack London.
Burbank’s legacy is on display at the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, a City of Santa Rosa designated 4-acre park which previously served as an outdoor laboratory where he carried out his horticultural experiments. On docent-led tours visitors can learn about his fascinating life by visiting the museum, his greenhouse, and the home where he lived. The greenhouse, designed by Burbank himself in 1889, contains a replica of his office as well as numerous exhibits. Visitors can also wander through the peaceful gardens and admire the beauty Burbank studied and to which he dedicated his life.
As a nonprofit organization, Luther Burbank Home and Gardens counts on contributions to help continue their efforts and support their mission to preserve the home and gardens of Luther Burbank and share the living legacy of his life, ideals, and contributions to the field of horticulture.
Children’s Museum of Sonoma County (CMOSC)
In 2005, a group of Sonoma County mothers inaugurated plans for a children’s museum, addressing the need for a local place for parents, grandparents, and teachers to provide children enriched, learning experiences. Now, 15 years later the CMOSC campus includes over 7,000 square feet of existing interior space, coupled with 36,000 square feet of outdoor exhibits. All exhibits are devoted to science, art, or nature, with a specific emphasis in Mary’s Garden on environmental sustainability, water conservation, and renewable energies.
Welcoming a whopping 150,000 children and families each year, CMOSC provides hands-on, interactive exhibits and activities in a safe environment that are custom designed for children aged ten years old and younger. Rooted in current early childhood research, CMOSC has become a destination and valuable family resource for Sonoma County and across the region.
There’s no shortage of exhibits to explore at CMOSC—look for everything from a hidden fairy world and crocodile dental clinic to a puppet theater and science lab. From painting with shaving cream and jamming on a drum set made of recyclable materials to playing inside a real helicopter, CMOSC is where it’s at for educational fun.
Pacific Coast Air Museum (PCAM)
Founded in 1989, the Pacific Coast Air Museum is a unique collection of authentic, well-cared-for aircraft, with a dedicated base of aviation experts who give back to the Sonoma County community through education, preservation, and honoring the service of veterans.
PCAM highlights aviation history through the acquisition, restoration, and display of historic aircraft. The museum boasts a varied collection of over 30 American military, propeller, and jet aircraft.
Exhibits documenting Sonoma County aviation history are housed in an original 1940s era fabrication shop, along with an aviation reference library. Other displays include a varied collection of about two dozen military aircraft from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, including an A-4 Skyhawk, a Lockheed D-21 drone, an F-16 Fighting Falcon, an F-105 Thunderchief, an F-106A Delta Dart, and a UH-1 Iroquois (“Huey”) helicopter. It also has a kit-built Bede BD-5, the world’s lightest jet aircraft, and a hand-built replica of civilian aviation’s most famous historic aerobatic airplane, a Pitts Special S1.
PCAM offers classes on aviation history and principles of flight, conducts an aviation summer school and merit badge in aviation program, and has an aviation Master Storyteller for storytime.
An annual 2-day weekend air show in August, Wings over Wine Country, draws over 20,000 visitors for events featuring military jet demo teams, skydiving, hang-gliding, biplane aerobatics, and tours of all the museum’s airplanes, including an A-26 Invader attack bomber, the only aircraft to see combat in WW II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Due to shifting Covid-19 restrictions, please call or check these websites for current operating hours or tour options.