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10 Things to Do in Sebastopol, CA

Rich in agricultural history, Sebastopol, CA offers beautiful vineyards, eclectic shops and great restaurants.

By Jason Zasky on October 20, 2016

Sebastopol CA
Sebastopol / Courtesy of star5112 under a CC 4.0 license.

Located an hour north of San Francisco in the heart of western Sonoma County, the small town of Sebastopol is sometimes described as “sophisticated rural.” Once best-known for its apple industry, vineyards have long since replaced most of the orchards, and tourists come from far and wide to tour the local wineries. Equally popular are the antique shops, farm-to-table restaurants and art exhibits, which combine to make Sebastopol a uniquely compelling destination.

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1. Florence Avenue’s Street Art

For many, the first thing that comes to mind about Sebastopol is the “junk art,” which is found (primarily) along a three-block stretch of Florence Avenue, where the front yards of homes are decorated with sculptures made from recycled trash. The metal sculptures are the creation of Sebastopol couple Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent, who have populated the town with over 300 distinctive works of art.

2. Sebastopol Center for the Arts

There’s always something happening at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, whether it’s a concert, an exhibit showcasing the visual or performing arts, or the annual Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival. One of the Center’s newer events is the annual Street Printing Festival, held each July, where one-of-a-kind prints are created with a four-ton steamroller.

3. Vineyards and Wineries

Of course, the tasting rooms of Sebastopol wineries are one of the town’s most consistently popular attractions. Connoisseurs advise allowing three days to visit all of the possible stops, which include Ektimo Vineyards, Graton Ridge Cellars, Merry Edwards Winery, Lynmar Estate and Dutton Estate Winery.

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4. The Barlow Center

One can also taste wines at the Barlow Center, a 220,000-square-foot culinary and arts center where visitors can likewise sample the artisan gin, vodka, and whiskey of the Spirit Works Distillery, as well as the craft beers of the Woodfour Brewing Company. The Barlow Center, described by its developer as “a food, art, and wine mecca,” is also popular for its unique shops, which include the Mad Mod Shop and Tamarind Clothing.

5. Zazu Kitchen & Farm

One of the critically-acclaimed restaurants found at the Barlow Center is Zazu Kitchen & Farm. Owned and operated by chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart, Zazu draws rave reviews for its food—and for the fact that all of its meat and produce comes from three Sonoma County farms. 

6. Gravenstein Apple Fair

As for annual events, for more than four decades the town has paid tribute to its agricultural history via the Gravenstein Apple Fair (“the sweetest little fair in Sonoma County”), which showcases live music and locally-produced cider, beer, wine and food. Naturally, the event always includes an apple pie contest, and plenty of heirloom Gravenstein apples.

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7. Apple Blossom Festival

Moreover, for more than 70 years, the town has also hosted an annual Apple Blossom Festival, which features dozens of exhibitors selling food, crafts, jewelry, clothing and furniture, as well as a parade and art show.

8. Luther Burbank Experiment Farm

In yet another nod to the town’s rich agricultural past, visitors can take a tour of Luther Burbank’s Experiment Farm, a living museum (featuring barn, cottage and living specimens of Luther Burbank’s work) that celebrates the site where the famed horticulturalist once experimented with and created hundreds of new varieties of fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains and flowers.

9. West County Museum

The town also celebrates local history at the West County Museum, which is housed in an early twentieth-century railroad depot that was restored in 1993. Exhibits are changed twice a year; in the past the museum has highlighted the local apple industry, apple festivals and fairs, and movies filmed in Sonoma County.

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10. Laguna de Santa Rosa Wetlands Preserve

Last but not least, it’s a mere seven-minute walk from downtown Sebastopol to the Laguna de Santa Rosa Wetlands Preserve, the county’s largest freshwater wetlands complex, which features a network of creeks, perennial marshes and riparian forests. Explore the area by hiking the 2-mile Laguna Wetlands Preserve trail or biking the 1.8-mile multi-use trail.

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