Sonoma’s quintessential wine country town
DATING FROM 1857, the centerpiece and defining feature of Healdsburg is its beloved historic plaza designed by Harmon Heald. Complete with copper-topped gazebo and shaded by towering redwoods and date palms, the plaza is grand in scale but has an intimate, accessible feel. Possibly the liveliest plaza in Sonoma wine country, it was recently voted one of “America’s Most Beautiful Town Squares” and Healdsburg was ranked among the best small towns to visit in 2014.
The plaza plays host to numerous events including the Antique Fair in May and the popular Beer and Sausage Festival in September. The highly regarded Healdsburg Jazz Festival held in early June takes place in various venues and locations around the town. Throughout the summer months, on Tuesday evenings, the plaza transforms into an outdoor community living room where locals and visitors gather for a free concert series.
From the plaza it’s a leisurely stroll to the many wine tasting rooms, artisan bakeries, coffee spots, cheese shops, art galleries, bookshops and boutiques offering clothing, house wares and inspired one-ofa-kind gifts. Or venture a few blocks off Center Street to see scores of colorful, wellpreserved historic homes, many in use as B&BS. Surrounded by vineyards, and located just 70 miles north of San Francisco off Highway 101, Healdsburg is the ideal home base from which to explore the world-renowned wine appellations of Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley. Wine, of course, is a main focus of the town, with more than 35 tasting rooms and wineries within walking distance of its center.
Dining options are plentiful, from casual cafés to elite restaurants creating sublime seasonal fare incorporating the bounty of locally sourced ingredients and showcasing regional wines. Although most famous for its wine, Healdsburg also has a lively craft beer scene and inspired cidermaking.
Beyond the city center, the Russian River and peaceful stands of ancient redwoods are the focal point for hiking and canoeing, and the mostly flat back roads that wind through the vineyard valleys make the area a world-class bicycling destination.
Sophisticated, yet rustic, Healdsburg, with its agrarian roots, delivers small town charm and a wine country lifestyle that’s both laid-back and luxurious.
SUNSET IN A HEALDSBURG VINEYARD, above; Healdsburg’s plaza, below.