Upon choosing to attend Sonoma State University, the beautiful campus and stunning environment were definitely deciding factors. While we appreciate the natural beauty immediately around us every day, its worth taking a bit more time to seek out the special little places that make Sonoma Valley such a wonderful home. Maybe you’re a little bored and at a loss for where to go in this quiet corner of the bay area. Here is a list of must-do expeditions that will spark your appreciation for the world around you while also accommodating your college student budget.
1. Hunt For Hidden Street Art
The Central Bay Area is widely known for its expressive and artistic culture, and that reputation doesn’t stop upon heading a little further north. Street art is so prevalent and unique in the San Francisco area, and Sonoma County offers a reflection of that culture. Adorning its streets are many hidden gems, including both intricate murals and graffiti style designs. Some favorites we have spotted in the past are a mystical white eyeball on a brick wall and a wonderfully odd combo of broccoli, watermelon, and fried chicken on an electrical box in Santa Rosa. While some are simply anonymous or random pieces, others like Petaluma native Maxfield Bala’s “Welcome to Petaluma” mural and the creations along the Prince Memorial Greenway Trail carry beautiful meaning for our little county. A trip to Santa Rosa or Petaluma only takes about 15 minutes, and appreciating art is totally free, so this might be the perfect cheap adventure.
2. Go Star Gazing (Or Star Partying)
There’s nothing quicker or simpler than looking up at the sky, yet almost nothing is as impressive. Star gazing is an easy and cheap adventure in itself, but you can also make it into a wonderful night spent with friends. For those on a super strict budget, Sonoma State’s astronomy department holds free viewing nights at the campus observatory, usually with free cookies and hot chocolate. If you’re able to spend a bit more and don’t mind a bit of an educational experience, the Robert Ferguson Observatory holds Star Parties every month, with three large telescopes and admission totaling $15. You probably know your astrological sign, but when’s the last time you stopped to appreciate the stars?
3. Road Trip For The Instagram Feed
With its endless shades of green and infinite rolling hills, Sonoma County offers some of the most time-worthy road trips. While we love to see the cattle dotted fields along Petaluma Hill Road, a getaway to someplace new is always appreciated. Bodega Bay, a 40 minute drive from campus, is a favorite for Sonoma State students, offering an array of boutiques and restaurants studded along its rocky beaches. While there’s always a new view or photo-op to find in Bodega Bay, our favorite is Patrick’s Salt Water Taffy shop. This boutique that looks almost edible in itself could very well be the cutest thing ever. Plan to return from this cheap adventure with a refreshed peace of mind and way too much candy.
4. Search Out Strange Sculptures
Another tribute to the artistic ingenuity of the Bay Area, this extra cheap adventure is one for those with a bit of a quirky creative side. Sculptures are extremely valued in all of Sonoma County, including on Sonoma State’s campus, and you probably would have no trouble spotting a few. However, these specific attractions strike us as the most wonder-provoking pieces around. If you’re looking for more of a low-key trip, the artwork poking above the fences of the Reared In Steel studio in Petaluma can be viewed from the street as you pass by, with giant sculptures of winged-lions and many-headed snakes just visible for a peek. Though this studio is a working studio and not open to the public, whatever pieces that are on site at the time are an amazing spectacle from the outside. If you’re up for a longer, more interactive art experience, the houses along Florence Avenue in Sebastopol are home to a huge collection of unusual junk art that you can walk through and marvel at. After a tedious week of studying, take some time to let Sonoma County’s art inspire you.
5. Travel Back In Time (Sort Of)
The Historic Railroad Square in Downtown Santa Rosa carries so much personality, and walking down its old-time streets makes for an evening out of a romantic movie. Along its bustling sidewalks lie vintage clothing stores, artistic landmarks, antique shops, and an adorable hotel. Our favorite places to stop were Whistleshop Antiques for old post cards and albums and the Hotel La Rose for its grand pink-hued interior that is rumored to be haunted. For the most intimate experience, be sure to look through the bin of old photographs at the antique shop and flip through the pages of the sign-in book in the hotel’s lobby. Put on your favorite Free People knockoff dress, grab a polaroid camera, and embrace your urge to take a million more Instagram pictures under these glossy windows and fairy lights. Another less than 20 minute trip, this nostalgic night on the town is only a small drive and no extra charge away.
6. Appreciate The Earth
While this cheap adventure is hidden somewhere within each of the others, adoring our beautiful environment should make up a day in itself. Northern California is unbelievably photogenic, without a doubt, but this adventure calls for turned off cell phones and a disconnect from all things trivial. Goat Rock Beach is one of our favorite spots in Sonoma County, and this view of its rocky abstractions at sunset is worth the 40 minute drive itself. Another amazing spot is the Armstrong Redwoods Natural Reserve in Guerneville, which offers awe-inspiring sights of redwoods reaching the sky. Grab your roommate and some shoes you don’t mind getting dirty and get away from the world for a while.
What cheap adventures do you have planned for after midterms? Let us know what cool spots we missed in the comments!
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I am an Early Childhood Studies major at Sonoma State University, pursuing a career as an elementary school teacher. Growing up in a quiet, secluded town in Central California has made me very excited about Northern California culture and college life.