Vacation Inspiration: Russian River With Kids - 510 Families
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Vacation Inspiration: Russian River With Kids

Our guest writer today is Sarah Peabody, a San Francisco mom and owner of Lucky Bend Lookout, a family-friendly vacation rental in Guerneville, CA. She has been writing about things to do when visiting West Sonoma County on her blog Sonoma Family Adventures for the past 7 years.

Russian River
Monte Rio Beach | photo credit: Sarah Peabody

The Russian River Resort area in West Sonoma County is a fantastic location for a Bay Area family vacation. While only about two-hour drive from the Bay Area, it feels like you have traveled to a faraway land featuring fresh redwood-scented air, a flowing river, coastal beaches, and some of the best California wineries.

As a busy Mom who wants to ensure the whole family (including me!) has a good time while we are on a trip, I like to create an itinerary before I travel, so I can try my best to relax and be in the moment, not constantly doing more research to figure out our next move. Today I am sharing a super fun three-day Russian River itinerary that is great for families with babies, toddlers, and big kids.

P.S. This itinerary involves a lot of opportunities for drinking and eating. You might want to eliminate one of the stops so you don’t overdo it.

Day 1 – Head for Sebastopol

The road to Sonoma County
Depart from home about an hour before lunch so you can stop for a casual meal (and hard cider!) plus a grocery run in the Sebastopol area. We love Golden State Cider tap room at the Barlow, an outdoor market district in Sebastopol. You can order from several different restaurants in the immediate area and they deliver to you at your table. It’s the perfect arrangement for family members who have different culinary tastes! Another Sebastopol cider option is at the Horse & Plow tasting room. The gardens, corn hole, and chickens are a big hit with kids of all sizes!

Before you check-in
If you need to make a stop for groceries after lunch, Andy’s Produce is a great local grocery store on the way to Guerneville that is perfect for stocking up on local organic produce, meats, and delicious snacks.

By the time you are done food shopping, it will probably be nap time for the little ones. Fortunately, there is a beautiful wine country walk nearby that is perfect for a stroller nap or trip on the scooter for bigger kids. Park your car at the south end of the West County Regional Trail at the Park & Ride next to Paul Matthew Winery. Walk north on the West County Trail for 30 minutes to Russian River Vineyards which is a lovely stop for wine and food with plenty of room for kids to play and explore. You can keep going for another 30 minutes to downtown Forestville where the trail ends and stop for ice cream at Angela’s Organic Ice Cream.

Once you have finished your afternoon walk, you will be able to check into your Russian River vacation rental or hotel and settle in for the evening.

Lucky Bend Lookout rental house | photo credit: Sarah Peabody

Day 2 – Enjoy the River

Beaching it
After breakfast, it’s time to venture outdoors and enjoy the natural wonders of the Russian River area. Monte Rio Beach and Johnson’s Beach are the easiest to visit with kids because the beaches are large and have ample parking. While at the beach you can swim, rent kayaks or inner tubes, and just relax. Both beaches have a snack bar in the summertime so you don’t have to pack a lot of food with you.

Russian River with Kids
Monte Rio beach | photo: Whitney Moss | similar tubes

After a day at the beach an ice cream is mandatory, right? Nimble & Finn is the closest ice cream to Johnson’s Beach.

Car nap tip
If it is nap time after the beach, we recommend our old favorite snooze cruise on Highway 116. Just drive west about 20 minutes until you get to the ocean. Continue north on Hwy 1 and enjoy the scenery. You will pass by the Sonoma Coast State Beach Vista Trail. It’s worth a stop to take the very short walk to the viewpoint. Parents can easily take turns waiting in the car.

Too big for an afternoon nap? Bike rentals are available at Russian River Cycle Service in Forestville and it is just footsteps from the north end of the aforementioned West County Trail entrance. Downtown Graton is an ideal place to stop for lunch while on your bike ride.

For dinner, I like Main Street Bistro & Cabaret in downtown Guerneville. They have an extensive Italian and American menu so everyone in the family should be able to find something they like. The restaurant is large with plenty of tables, and a bit on the noisy side so you don’t have to worry about the kids disturbing other diners with their cute and oftentimes loud voices.

Pro tip: Follow Secret Pizza Truck on Instagram before your trip, just in case you can cross paths with this mobile wood-fired pizza treat.

Day 3 – Enter the forest

Slow your pace for this last day as you just might be exhausted from all the fun at the beach you had the day before. In the morning, one adult can go for a spa treatment. My local favorites are Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone and Boon Spa in Guerneville. The adult getting the spa treatment can take local car service Bill’s Taxi (707-869-2177) to their appointment while the rest of the family relaxes at your lodging and ventures out to pick up the relaxed adult after the spa treatment.

Into the woods
The afternoon will be a time for forest bathing. The Grove of the Old Trees in Occidental is a short drive from Osmosis Spa and has an easy one-mile loop among the ancient Redwoods. Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is very close to Boon Spa and has a 1.2-mile round-trip flat trail that meanders through the Redwood groves.

Russian River vacation activities
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve | photo credit: Sarah Peabody

For a late lunch, take a drive down the beautiful Coleman Valley Road from Occidental to Bodega Bay. Our favorite spot to eat is Spud Point Crab Company because they make an amazing clam chowder. Another option in the same area is Fisherman’s Cove which has more variety on their menu. Their chowder is almost as delicious as Spud Point, and they have a decadent lobster roll and oysters too.

Where to Stay: Lodging Options for the Russian River area

The Russian River area has been an established summer destination since around the turn of the century, so there is a huge variety of vacation homes to choose from. As a vacation homeowner in the area, I can’t help but share my own bias toward staying at my place, Lucky Bend Lookout. It’s a perfect-sized cabin for 1-2 families, located on the river with a private dock. We offer a lot of family-friendly amenities which makes it great for kids of all ages. Keep in mind that the river access is not fenced or gated and the house has stairs outside so it may not be the best option for a toddler that tends to wander away.

A couple more good places to stay, both with onsite restaurants, are Boho Manor in Monte Rio which is located on the river, and Rio Nido Lodge nestled in the redwoods, next door to a swimming pool and a short walk to the river.

Rio Nido Lodge in Russian River area
Rio Nido Lodge cabin | photo: Whitney Moss

Thanks so much to Sarah Peabody for assembling this itinerary! Check out her Russian River tips on Instagram.

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