Petaluma is a unique and charming small town in northern California that has a lot to offer visitors. There are local vineyards, cafes, and restaurants, as well as charming boutiques and galleries. If you’re looking for a small-town, charming experience, Petaluma is the perfect place to visit.
Here are 20 incredible things to do in Petaluma, California!
Incredible Things to do in Petaluma
1. Stroll through the historic downtown
Downtown Petaluma is a charming mix of antique stores, local boutiques, and delicious cafes and restaurants. It was first settled in the mid-1800s making Petaluma one of California’s oldest cities.
As you explore this charming town, start your day with a cup of coffee from one of the many independent coffee shops like Avid or Petaluma Coffee and Tea Co. While drinking your coffee, you could follow this self-guided tour of 38 historical sites in Petaluma.
Fun fact: In downtown Petaluma, there are two streets that run parallel but never meet. This is due to the fact that they were laid out by two different surveyors who had different ideas of what the town should look like!
2. Take a Self-Guided Tour of the Victorian Homes
With its history, there are 37 buildings that are listed on Petaluma’s Historic Resource Inventory. Follow this map to see if you can find 16 homes, a church, and an office in Petaluma.
As you find these beautiful, historic homes, please be respectful of the current tenants in the homes and observe from the sidewalk as the homes are private.
3. Visit the Petaluma Arts Center
The Petaluma Arts Center opened in 1998 and now is a great place to see some of the area’s artwork. The center is home to a number of galleries, which feature a variety of local and regional artists.
The Petaluma Arts Center is also home to a number of events, which are held throughout the year. If you’re looking for something to do in Petaluma, be sure to check out the Petaluma Arts Center.
- Petaluma Arts Center | Address: 230 Lakeville St, Petaluma, CA 94952
4. Visit the Riverfront Art Gallery
The Riverfront Art Gallery was opened in the fall of 2007 and is a great place to see some of the local artwork in Petaluma. The mission of the Riverfront Art Gallery is to display the original artwork of local and regional artists.
If you’re looking for a unique and one-of-a-kind gift, be sure to check out the Riverfront Art Gallery featuring many artists.
- Riverfront Art Gallery | Address: 132 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952
5. Visit the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum was first laid down in 1904 as a library and now houses many exhibits from the 1850s. The exhibits are well-curated and provide a lot of information about the area’s past.
One noteworthy aspect of the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is its largest free-standing stained-glass dome. When you first walk in, you’ll stand in awe with your neck arched, looking up!
- Petaluma Historical Library and Museum | Address: 20 4th St, Petaluma, CA 94952
6. Go to the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park
The Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park is a great place to learn about the agricultural history of California. This was the primary residence of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo who was one of the most powerful men in the mid-1800s.
With a visit here, you’ll be able to visit the largest privately owned adobe-style home in the Mexican era of California. You’ll get a feel for the Mexican celebrations (Fandango) at the end of the slaughtering season (matanza).
- Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park | Address: 3325 Adobe Rd, Petaluma, CA 94954
Fun fact: Petaluma is home to the Petaluma Adobe, the largest adobe structure in the United States.
7. See the Wildlife Exhibits at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue
Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue is a great place to see some of the area’s wildlife. The rescue is home to a number of animals, including tigers, lions, and bears.
The Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue was founded by women in 1981 who wanted to provide education on the habitats, diets, and behavior of the animals.
If you’re interested in learning more about the area’s wildlife, be sure to check out Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. Public tours are only held on Saturdays, so plan ahead before you go!
- Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue | Address: 403 Mecham Rd. Petaluma, CA 94952
8. Shop the Antique Stores
If you’re looking for something unique to buy, be sure to check out the antique stores in Petaluma. Each one is filled with one-of-a-kind items that will appeal to collectors or anybody interested in finding something unusual.
One of my favorite antique shops is the Vintage Bank Antiques, which actually used to be a bank. Towards the back, you’ll find all the amazing glassware in the large vault.
- Vintage Bank Antiques | Address: 101 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952
9. Check out the Petaluma Premium Outlets
If newer things are what you’re looking for, then check out the Petaluma Village Premium Outlets, which are a great place to shop for clothes, accessories, and home goods. The outlets are home to a number of well-known brands, including Nike, Gap, and Adidas.
If you’re looking for a good deal, head out to the Petaluma Village Premium Outlets.
- Petaluma Premium Outlets | Address: 2200 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952
10. Take a walk through Shollenberger Park
Shollenberger Park is a great place to take a walk or go for a run. The park is home to a number of trails, which wind through the hillsides and offer stunning views of Petaluma. The park is also home to a number of wildlife, including geese, ducks, and turtles, also known as the Petaluma Wetlands.
The park was first purchased in the 1970s and used as a dumping site for mud during river dredging and has now turned into a recreation area for locals. If you’re looking for a place to take a walk or go for a run, Shollenberger Park is the perfect spot.
- Shollenberger Park | Address: 1400 Cader Lane, Petaluma, CA, 94954
11. Explore the Petaluma Wetlands
The Petaluma Wetlands are a great place to see some of the area’s wildlife. The wetlands are home to a variety of birds, including herons, egrets, and ducks and are an important ecological area, as they serve as a habitat for a variety of wildlife. The wetlands are also an important source of water for the area.
The Petaluma wetlands are also a great place to go for a walk or run, as there are a number of trails that wind through the area. You can start your hobby in bird-watching or start your own journal of habitats in the wetlands.
If you’re looking for a short walk, try the Ellis Creek Pond Loop!
- Petaluma Wetlands | Address: 1400 Cader Lane, Petaluma, CA, 94954
12. Visit the Helen Putnam Regional Park
The Helen Putnam Regional Park is a great place to go for a walk or a picnic. The park is home to a number of trails, which wind through the hills and offer stunning views of the surrounding area.
A few of the trails to check out in Helen Putnam Park are The Ridge Trail, the Panorama trail where you can see the countryside of Sonoma County, and the Filaree, Pomo, Savannah, and South Loop trails.
There is also a picnic area so you can have a lunch picnic at the park as well! If you’re looking for a place to enjoy the outdoors, be sure to check out the Helen Putnam Regional Park.
- Helen Putnam Regional Park | Address: 411 Chileno Valley Rd, Petaluma, CA 94952
13. View a Performance at Cinnabar Theater
The Cinnabar Theater, located in Petaluma, California, is a cultural and entertainment center dedicated to the art of live entertainment. It has hosted many events throughout the year. You’ll find a variety of shows from musicals to comedies here.
The theater is also training young artists through their shows, so you’ll be supporting the local community when you purchase a ticket for a show at the Cinnabar Theater. Check the showings before you go!
- Cinnabar Theater | Address: 3333 Petaluma Blvd North, Petaluma, CA 94952
Fun Fact: Petaluma is home to the world’s largest collection of vintage motion picture cameras. The Museum of Historic Cameras is a must-see for any film buff.
14. Paddle the Petaluma River
Petaluma River is a great place to go for a leisure paddleboarding experience! The river is calm and has a number of scenic areas. The marsh is home to a variety of birds, which makes it a great place for birdwatching.
On your trip, you’ll also be able to see farmland, marshes, and some industrial landscape too. If you’re looking for a way to spend a day on the water no matter which season it is, be sure to check out Petaluma River.
- Petaluma River Paddle Boarding | Address: 1075 Lakeville St, Petaluma, CA 94952
15. Swing by Wrist Wrestling Capital and Statue
Petaluma is known as the Wrist Wrestling Capital of the World, and for good reason. The city is home to a statue of two wrist wrestlers, which was erected in 1987.
In 1955 when Petaluma’s egg industry was declining, a journalist heard a visitor boasting about never losing an arm-wrestling competition. The journalist came up with the idea to have this visitor, Jack Homel, a trainer for the Detroit Tigers baseball team, arm wrestle against Sonoma County’s strongest rancher, Oliver Kulberg.
When the event took place, it was a painful 3 minutes of struggling when the table broke and the competition was declared a tie. Since then, it’s been a tradition to hold annual arm-wrestling competitions in Petaluma. Read the full story here.
If you’re in Petaluma and looking for a photo op, be sure to check out the Wrist Wrestling Capital and Statue.
- Wrist Wrestling Statue | Address: E Washington St, Petaluma, CA 94952
16. Visit the Petaluma Wildlife Museum
The Petaluma Wildlife Museum is a great place to learn about the area’s wildlife. When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by teenage docents (young volunteers who know a lot about wildlife or their specific area of expertise) who will take you through a tour, mostly on Saturdays.
If you’re interested in learning more about the area’s wildlife and supporting the youth in Petaluma, be sure to check out the Petaluma Wildlife Museum. No reservations are necessary!
- Petaluma Wildlife Museum | Address: 201 Fair St, Petaluma, CA 94952
17. Forage at Green String Farm
Green String Farm is a beautiful farm in Petaluma where you can shop organically and locally. The farm is home to a variety of fruits and vegetables, all of which are grown on the farm.
Green String Farm is all about aiding the natural process of plant growth and is free from pesticides and chemicals. If you’re interested in learning more about organic farming, be sure to check out Green String Farm.
- Green String Farm | Address: 3571 Old Adobe Rd, Petaluma, CA 94954
- Hours: Thursday to Sunday, 10 am-5 pm
18. Visit a Creamery
Petaluma is home to a number of creameries, which offer some of the best cheese ice cream in the area. Whether you’re looking for a classic vanilla ice cream or something more exotic, you’ll find a variety of flavors to choose from, like those at Lala’s Creamery.
Petaluma is also home to a variety of cheese shops, which offer a variety of cheeses from around the world. If you’re a fan of cheese, you’ll definitely want to check out these shops.
The best creamery in Petaluma is undoubtedly the Petaluma Creamery, which offers a variety of delicious cheese, all of which are made with fresh, local ingredients. Whether it be cheese or ice cream, be sure to visit the Petaluma Creamery or any other creameries during your stay in Petaluma.
- Petaluma Creamery | Address: 711 Western Ave., Petaluma CA, 94952
19. Go Olive Oil Tasting at McEvoy Ranch
McEvoy Ranch is a beautiful family-owned farm in Petaluma that offers tours and tastings of its olive oils. The ranch produces a variety of olive oils, all of which are delicious and high-quality from their Tuscan olive trees.
If you’re a fan of olive oil, be sure to check out McEvoy Ranch for a tasting. McEvoy Ranch may also have other events during time you are visiting. Check their calendar to see if anything speaks to you! The ranch also has tours of their beautiful farm. If you would like either a private or public tour, check their website for booking!
- McEvoy Ranch | Address: 5935 Red Hill Rd, Petaluma, CA 94952
20. Go Wine Tasting at Sonoma Portworks
If you’re a fan of wine, you’ll definitely want to check out Sonoma Portworks. This winery offers tastings of its delicious wines, all of which are made with local ingredients. Sonoma Portworks actually first started out by marrying wine and dark chocolate, then expanding to single ports and dessert wines.
When you book a tasting with Sonoma Portworks, you’ll also get background on how they make their ports. If this sounds like an experience you’d want to have, book a 45-minute tasting here!
- Sonoma Portworks | Address: 613 2nd St, Petaluma, CA 94952
Map of Things to do in Petaluma, California
The History of Petaluma
Petaluma is a historic California city that was founded in 1859. In the late 1800s, a number of settlers from various parts of America arrived in Petaluma. These new arrivals were drawn to the area because of its fertile soil and good climate.
Petaluma became known as “the egg basket” for inventing the famous chicken egg incubator to allow the eggs to hatch without the mother chicken nearby, producing 10 million eggs a year in 1915.
The city’s chicken industry began to decline in the mid-1900s but then became famous for arm-wrestling shortly after.
Today, Petaluma is a thriving community with a strong sense of history. Its quaint downtown area is home to a number of shops, restaurants, and art galleries.
If you’re looking for a place to explore California’s history, be sure to check out Petaluma.
When is the Best Time to Visit Petaluma, California
The best time to visit Petaluma is during the spring or fall. The weather is mild during these seasons and there are a number of events and activities taking place in the city. The summer months can be a great time to visit as well, but the temperatures will rise to about 83°F with foggy mornings.
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, visit Petaluma during the winter. However, be aware that the weather can be cold and rainy during this time with temperatures as low as 37°F or highs of 57•F.
No matter when you visit Petaluma, you’re sure to have a great time. This charming California city has something for everyone!
How to Pack for Petaluma, California
When packing for Petaluma, be sure to pack weather-appropriate clothing. The city experiences all four seasons, so check the forecast before packing.
When visiting during the summer, pack light clothing and sunscreen. I would highly recommend shorts and tank tops or t-shirts to cool off during the heat of the day.
If you’re visiting during the winter, be sure to pack a coat. There may be days with rain, so you’ll want to make sure to have an umbrella before heading out.
No matter when you visit, be sure to pack comfortable shoes. You’ll want to explore all that this charming California city has to offer!
Where to Stay in Petaluma, California
There are a number of great places to stay in Petaluma. If you’re looking for a historic, boutique-style stay, the Hotel Petaluma is a great option with accomodating and friendly staff. The hotel is centrally located in downtown Petaluma.
Another great, and beautiful option is staying In the Sheraton Sonoma Wine Country Petaluma, which is also near downtown and offers beautiful views. There is also a pool and spa for a luxurious experience.
Where to Eat in Petaluma, California
Petaluma is home to a number of great restaurants. If you’re looking for a casual dining option, check out the Petaluma Pie Company. The restaurant is known for its delicious pies and friendly staff, though the seating will be outside. You could also check out The Block, which is an outdoor area filled with food trucks and fun music.
For an amazing diner and breakfast experience, check out Hallie’s Diner with fresh-squeezed orange juice and cornmeal pancakes. For dinner, check out Cucina Paradiso for their bruschettata, calamari, or spaghetti! If you’re in the mood for pizza, head on over to Central Market!
For dessert, check out Lala’s Creamery right in the downtown area. The ice cream is delicious with many flavors to choose from! You can also check out Wicked Slush, which is all about Italian ice and mixing delicious flavors.
No matter what your budget or dining preferences, you’re sure to find a great restaurant in Petaluma.
Safety in Petaluma, California
Petaluma is a safe city to visit. However, as with any city, it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions when traveling.
Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when visiting Petaluma:
- Be aware of your surroundings and trust your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
- Avoid walking alone at night. If you must walk alone, be sure to stay in well-lit areas and avoid shortcuts.
- Keep your belongings close to you and keep a close eye on them. Pickpockets are known to operate in busy areas, such as markets and public transportation hubs. You’ll also want to make sure nothing is visible in your car.
- Ask local business owners for directions rather than strangers on the street.
Final Thoughts on Things to do in Petaluma
Petaluma is a great place to visit for a weekend getaway or longer vacation. With its unique culture and abundance of things to do, you’re sure to have a memorable time in this California city.
Have you been to Petaluma? What did you enjoy the most?
Other travel-related posts you might be interested in:
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- 17 Fun Things to do in Santa Rosa, California
- 18 Spectacular Things to do in Cayucos, California
- 17 Charming Things to do in Cambria, California
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My Favorite Travel Tips + Resources
Here is a quick glance at all my go-to travel tips and resources that I use to plan every trip! For more information, check out my travel resources page.
- Booking flights: I use Google Flights to check all routes and find the best flights. Then I compare them with Expedia (for reward points) and Skyscanner (for the lowest prices) before I book.
- Accommodations: I love budget-friendly rentals or booking at a hotel where I can earn points. For hotels, I go through Booking.com or book directly with Marriott (for points + rewards). When I travel internationally, I’ll book through Hostelworld for very budget-friendly stays. For vacation rentals, I usually look through Airbnb, but you could also use Vrbo. Expedia also has some great bundles for hotels, flights, and car rentals altogether.
- Transportation: For travel in the United States, I love renting through Expedia with Enterprise or Thrifty. They have been consistent and provide the best customer service. For international travel, I’ll book through Rome2Rio or Eurail for trains or bus fares.
- Travel Credit Card: I book all my travel (flights, hotels, car rentals) through my favorite travel credit card. I also use this card for everything on my trip including dining, excursions, and souvenirs. Apart from earning 5x more points towards free travel, there are amazing benefits: no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement (so I can book worry-free), fraud protection, emergency assistance – it’s really a great deal! Check it out here!
- Vaccines and Medications: Check the CDC website for updates on necessary vaccines to enter a country, including updates on Covid-19 and recommended places to visit. I recommend getting all the vaccines you need before you go!
- Tours + Experiences: I absolutely love my tours! Everything from eerie walking ghost tours to food tours, I’ll usually book something every trip either through Viator or GetYourGuide. I also love LastMinute.com for very affordable tickets to theaters and other experiences in Europe.
- What to Pack: I almost always travel by backpack. For products I like, check out my packing guide page for all the things I take with me on different trips.