One of my husband’s childhood friends got married a few weeks ago in Boonville, California, so the whole family made the short trip to Mendocino County for a weekend getaway.
We found Mendocino County to be a great road trip for little ones. The drive from the San Francisco Bay Area is reasonable (about 2-3 hours, depending on where in the county you are headed). And the pace of life is slow and easy, so you won’t find yourselves rushed in an effort to see a million things.
Here are a few tips if a Mendocino road trip is in your future travel plans.
What To Do
The county is best known for its wine scene, as it is just north of Sonoma. But beer has really taken off in the last couple of years, and the microbrewery options are amazing. Since we are more beer people, this is where our trips to the area have always focused. Can’t miss beer stops include the Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville (beer only, no food, but take the amazing brewery tour!), North Coast Brewing Company in Ft. Bragg (restaurant/pub included), Ukiah Brewing Company in Ukiah (restaurant/pub included), and Mendocino Brewing Company in Ukiah (beer only, minimal food). And, you should also really make a pit stop on your way to the area at Bear Republic Brewing Company in Healdsburg (in north Sonoma County). Their tasting room is also a pub and restaurant so you can feed the kiddos while mom and dad try all the delicious beers.
One of the last times we visited Mendocino County several years ago, I was 33 weeks pregnant, so I seem to have a knack for timing these trips improperly with all the good beer around. But I’m happy to report that we loaded up on many good bottles that we are storing for after Baby #2 is born.
Once the kids get tired of mom and dad’s beer tasting, there are lots of outdoor activities in the area as well. This tourist site offers a great summary of the offerings.
We also hoped to take a ride on the historic Skunk Train while we were in the area, but the train recently suffered a devastating tunnel cave-in a few weeks back. We are hoping it gets repaired soon so we can add this to the itinerary for the next trip.
Where to Stay
The county is fairly sleepy and quiet, and there aren’t a lot of luxury accommodations. But there are lots of great smaller and unique places, so embrace the local spirit!
The wedding we attended was held at the Boonville Hotel, which is really the only place to stay aside from a few small B&B’s, in the Anderson Valley area. The hotel itself felt authentic and had delicious food and friendly service, but it was fairly pricey (most rooms were $200+). We happened to be there during a 100+ degree heat wave, and the rooms were not air conditioned, so we were pretty uncomfortable. Not a place I’d recommend in the summer if you are pregnant!
On our last trip to Mendocino County, we stayed in Hopland along Highway 101, in a charming historic Victorian Hotel called the Hopland Inn. Rooms are pretty basic and feel like a blast from the past, but that made it all the more charming to us. They do have AC and WiFi, so you aren’t totally off the grid.
For less rustic (e.g. chain) accommodations, your best bet is in the bigger cities of Ukiah (along Highway 101) or Ft. Bragg (along the coast). Or you can even stay in Cloverdale in the north corner of Sonoma County.
Have you been to Mendocino County? Leave your tips in the comments.