Sonoma vs Napa: Wine Country Showdown

A trip to wine country sounds relaxing, almost like a scene out of a movie. If you’re thinking of heading to northern California for your wine country adventure, you may think that Sonoma wine country and Napa county are the same. It’s probably just a flip of the coin to decide which one to visit, right? Wrong! There are many differences when you look at Sonoma vs Napa. We’re going to sort them out to help you make the best choice and check out some fun family-friendly activities.


As you try to decide which wine country destination is right for you, let’s break down the details when you’re talking about Sonoma.


The Sonoma Valley is located from the city of Sonoma to Santa Rosa. In the north, you’ll find the Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley. If you travel to the west of Highway 101, there is the Russian River Valley.

Types of Wine

Because Sonoma is a large area, many different types of grapes are grown there. This means many different kinds of great wine. In Sonoma, you can find Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir,  and Sauvignon Blanc among other varieties.

Winery Locations

Sonoma County is home to more than 425 wineries. If you drive along Highway 29 you’ll find plenty as well as in the backroads of Sonoma.

Expect crowds at many of the large wineries in Sonoma. If you want fewer people, you may want to try some of the wineries located along the backroads. There are tasting room fees, but they are less expensive than the ones you’ll find in Napa Valley.

Restaurants & Lodging

You’ll find plenty of restaurants and lodging in Sonoma County. From economical to high-end, there’s something for every budget when it comes to eating and finding a place to stay.

Family Fun

Sonoma County is not just about wineries. There are plenty of things for the kids to do as well as family-friendly activities. 

Howarth Park in Santa Rosa is packed with fun for the entire family. This 138-acre community park is home to a lake for fishing and boating as well as tennis courts, picnic areas, and a miniature train ride. There’s also a carousel, animal farm, and pony rides for the kids.

Another family destination in Sonoma County is the Safari West Wildlife Preserve & African Tent Camp in Santa Rosa. Here you can go on your own safari and see a variety of animals like giraffes, rhinos, and zebras are just to name a few. 

If you’re looking for an indoor activity, head over to Cal Skate in Rohnert Park. Lace-up your roller skates and get moving. Cal Skate offers lessons for the littles as well as theme nights and other fun activities.

Sonoma vs Napa: Bottom Line on Sonoma County

When you’re looking at Sonoma vs Napa, Sonoma County is more laid back and offers more small wineries than you’ll find in Napa. Sonoma covers a lot of space, so you’ll find many different kinds of wineries. The trip as a whole is also generally less expensive.

Napa Valley

Now that you have an idea at what Sonoma has to offer, let’s take a look at what’s happening in Napa.


From north to south, the Napa Valley runs for 30 miles. In the south, you’ll find the city of Napa and in the North, there is the town of Calistoga.  

Types of Wine

Because it’s geographically smaller than Sonoma, you’ll find fewer varieties of wine. But, there is still plenty to choose from. In Napa, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most popular varieties.

Winery Locations

Since Napa is smaller than Sonoma, the wineries are going to be closer to each other. Some people find this convenient, others find it annoying because it can get crowded. If you drive along Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail, you’ll find many wineries where you can stop. Call ahead before you go because many tasting rooms in Napa require reservations.

Restaurants and Lodging

The Napa Valley is home to many upscale restaurants. If luxury dining is on your to-do list during your wine country visit, then Napa Valley is the place to be. Because of this, expect to pay more for your dining experience than you would in Sonoma County. When it comes to places to stay, you’ll find plenty of quality choices in the Napa Valley.

Family Fun

There are family-friendly activities in the Napa Valley, but not as much as you’ll find in Sonoma County. 

You can take the kids to Connolly Ranch. This is a working farm where kids can see animals and take part in special programs to teach kids about nature.

If your child loves art, a visit to the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art should be on your list. Here they can not only see pieces of art but also get their hands dirty with hands-on projects.

For an outdoor adventure, try the Historical Kayak Tour. This tour is good for the entire family because you can explore the waterways of the Napa Valley. Plus, it’s a great way to enjoy California’s awesome weather!

Sonoma vs Napa: Napa Valley in a Nutshell

When you’re comparing Sonoma vs Napa, you should know that Napa is a bit more luxurious than Sonoma. Napa is generally more expensive when it comes to dining, lodging, and tastings. Also if you like to picnic, Napa usually has more restrictions.

If you can’t decide which place to visit, you can see both if you have enough time. If not, it’s best to stick to one so that you get the most out of your trip. Either wine country destination is a good choice for a fun trip with the family. Cheers!

Also, check out this episode of Travel Talk with Kim Stare Wallace to improve your wine knowledge. Also, if you are looking for the perfect wine opener, check this out.

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