Sonoma, California

Best Places to Retire in California


The city of Sonoma (population 9,300) is located 46 miles northeast of San Francisco, and 12 miles west of Napa (population 73,000). It is in the heart of the California wine country. This historic community dates to its establishment as Mission San Francisco de Solano in 1823.

Driving north from San Francisco, you reach the Sonoma Valley in about 45 minutes. The Valley (population 36,000) is well known for its many scenic vineyards, and outstanding wines and wineries. There are also many small farms, historical sites and attractions. You will find great restaurants, numerous small shops, galleries, boutiques, and spas, and many bed & breakfast inns that range from plain and simple fare to elegant and luxurious accommodations.

Historic Sonoma, which is the economic hub, is located in the southeastern part of the county. Sonoma Plaza, which is at the heart of the city, is an 8 1/2-acre site that was laid out for troop maneuvers in 1835. It is also the site of an aborted Indian uprising, duels, and the Bear Flag Revolt. A monument marks the place where the homemade Bear Flag was raised in 1846 as a symbol of the California Republic. Today the tree-lined plaza is a city park with grassy areas, pathways, shade trees, a rose garden, small pond, picnic areas, and a playground. It hosts a number of summer festivals, including arts events, music, wine, and food. A part of the original Franciscan Mission is located across from the plaza, and among the historic buildings are the Sonoma Hotel (1872), the Toscano Hotel (1850s) and Sonoma City Hall (1908).

It is a friendly, small town with outstanding cultural and recreational opportunities. The local economy revolves around agriculture, tourism, and its public services. Sonoma’s events calendar reflects the appealing lifestyle of the area. There are many summer festivals, including an ox roast, the Fourth of July festivities and parade, Salute to The Arts, and the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival at harvest time. There is music at the plaza’s open-air amphitheater and at the Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays. Local artists offer an “Open Studios” event for two weekends, and many wineries feature local art works.

Theater groups perform at the old Sebastiani Theatre, at Andrews Hall and the Backstage Theatre at Sonoma Community College. Several of the wineries in the Valley produce contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare in an outdoors setting. The 150-member Sonoma Valley Chorale performs in the spring and summer months, and again a Christmas time.

Arts & Culture

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts (Santa Rosa) presents a mixture of quality, quantity and diversity in its programming. Its main stage events and exhibits represent “the highest quality in Northern California.” It sponsors over 100 performances a year, including children’s works.

Sonoma Valley chorale, featuring 150 voices, has been performing for over 30 years. 

The Community Arts Directory is an online listing of Sonoma Valley artists and art organizations. The directory is provided by the city’s Cultural and Fine Arts Commission.

The Wine Country Film Festival features eight film nights in Napa and eight nights in Sonoma Valley. It is in an open-air venue with wine tasting, film screenings, food, live entertainment, and more.

Sebastiani Theatre in Sonoma is a venue for live theater productions. (707) 996-2020.


Sonoma has two golf courses and a number of fine private and semi-private courses in the area. The Sonoma courses include: Sonoma Golf Club (707) 996-0300, and Los Arroyos, which is a 9-hole short course and 9-hole pitch and putt layout. (707) 938-8835 There are several bike touring businesses in the Valley that offer day-trips into the beautiful wine country. Of course, if you live there, you will do this on your own! Jack London State Historic Park ( and Sugarloaf State Park ( offer trails for riding. You can either rent your ride or bring your own. (707) 996-8566.

Infineon Raceway, formerly known as Sears Point, is a world-class racing facility with a road course and a drag strip. It hosts major events featuring NASCAR, the Indy Racing League, NHRA Drag Racing Series, and motorcycle racing. 

Annadel State Park, on the edge of Santa Rosa, is a rugged wilderness with hills, streams, meadows and forests. It features over 40 miles of trails for hikers and horseback riding. A great variety of wildflowers can be seen in the April and May time period. There is also great black bass and bluegill fishing in Lake Ilsanjo.


Sonoma State University, which is dedicated to the liberal arts and sciences, is a part of the state university system. It is located in Rohnert Park in the beautiful wine country of Sonoma County on a 274-acre campus and enrolls nearly 8,000 students. 

Napa Valley College (about 12 miles away) offers a wide variety of community education courses, including not-for-credit classes and workshops.

Senior Programs

The Sonoma Index-Tribune newspaper runs a variety of “Senior Happenings” in each issue. There are also bridge and bingo clubs that meet throughout the Valley. Local travel agencies offer trips, excursions and special programs designed for seniors.

Vintage House Senior Center offers services, classes, activities, and special events. Included are programs such as driver’s license testing, health and wellness testing, legal help, counseling on services for the aging, foreign language programs, exercise programs, crafts, card games, dinner events, travel opportunities, and more. (707)-996-0311


Sonoma Valley Hospital is a general medical and surgical hospital with 24-hour emergency service. It has 40 beds and more than 90 physicians on staff. 


Charles M. Schultz – Sonoma County Airport (Santa Rosa) is located six miles north west of Santa Rosa and about 28 miles from Sonoma. It has two 5,000-foot runways.

San Francisco International Airport is 57 miles south of Sonoma. 

Oakland International Airport is 60 miles south of Sonoma. 


The average high temperature for January is 58 degrees and the average low is 37 degrees. Averages for July are a high of 90 degrees and low of 52 degrees. There are an estimated 10 days in January with some precipitation, and during July there is typically no precipitation.


Sonoma Index-Tribune – 

Property Taxes

Sonoma County Assessor’s Office –

State Taxes 

Chamber of Commerce 

State Aging Agency


Napa – 12 miles
Santa Rosa – 21 miles
Rohnert Park – 23 miles
San Francisco – 46 miles
Oakland – 50 miles

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