City Convenience, Small Town Charm
Sonoma County’s southernmost city, Petaluma is a great location for commuters who crave a gentler pace with rural character and urban chic. The scenic downtown lies to the west, shaped by meeting of the railroad with the northern navigable reaches of the Petaluma River. This junction of railhead and waterway once made Petaluma one of California’s richest cities, a distinction whose legacy survives in the architecture of the historic district. The quaint storefronts have attracted numerous film productions to Petaluma, most famously George Lucas’ American Graffiti, an homage to California life in the early sixties. Once famous as the “Egg Basket of the World,” the city and surroundings are better known these days for dairy products and industry, as well as a great place to raise a family.
Petaluma’s west side boasts the foot-friendly downtown filled with local shops, surrounded by quaint and classic neighborhoods which fade into rural properties at the fringes. Newer homes and city-style amenities are found mainly on the east side of the 101. In 2016, the SMART train will connect Petaluma and points north to San Rafael and eventually the Larkspur ferry landing. Three farmers’ markets–two seasonal and one year-round–cover the city and the week with options for finding fresh local produce.
While Petaluma normally enjoys mild weather, rain or shine there’s always something to do. Within the town or among the idyllic low hills nearby, locals and visitors can tour farms, taste wines, hunt antiques, and visit artisans. The Petaluma Arts Center, in the historic railroad station, hosts exhibits and events year-round. For a taste of California history, visit General Vallejo’s early-1800s rancho at Petaluma Adobe State Park. Shollenberger Park’s wetlands, an easy hike, are a great place to spot birds. To see animals up close, take the Saturday tour at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue.
Bustling but relatively placid by day, downtown Petaluma after dark is a thriving destination for food and nightlife. With excellent restaurants, brewpubs, historic music venues, live theater, and a thriving coffeehouse scene, it’s no wonder the weekend streets often fill with revelers.
SMART train – www.main.sonomamarintrain.org
Petaluma Arts Center – www.petalumaartscenter.org
Petaluma Adobe – www.petalumaadobe.com
Shollenberger Park – www.cityofpetaluma.net/parksnrec/parks-pages/shollenberger