John’s note: The Local’s Take is a series where I interview some of my favorite travel bloggers and turn the tables, asking them to share their hometowns with us. After all, what better way is there to learn about a destination than from a travel writer who calls it home? So join along and learn how to make the most of a visit to Petaluma, California with Annette of Bucket List Journey.
Name: Annette White
Hometown: Petaluma, CA
Website: Bucket List Journey
About: Bucket List Journey is a travel, gastronomy and new experience blog that attracts readers from all walks of life; from the newbie nomad to the experienced foodie to the bucket list enthusiast and everywhere in between. The one thing most have in common is that they all aspire to live an unconventional life and step out of their box. Basically, they kick ass. Or want to.
Annette, the writer behind the site, is a new experience aficionado, travel & adventure junkie, bucket listologist, and food snob on an unconventional quest to see, do & eat…everything.
Tell us about Petaluma: Petaluma is located in the Northern California wine country, just 32 miles north of San Francisco. It is a small city which features a historic downtown, wine country cuisine, the Petaluma River and Victorian lined streets. Though the population is under 60,000, the town is consistently bustling with an eclectic group of people. It is hard to walk through town without knowing half of the friendly faces.
What can visitors do to make the most out of a visit there? To get most of your visit here, start with a stroll in historic downtown and talk to the locals. They are a wealth of information about the town and its surrounding cities.
What is Petaluma best known for? At one time Petaluma was known for being the chicken capital of the world, but now many people recognize the town because it is where American Graffiti and Peggy Sue Got Married were filmed. Also, it is where the world arm-wrestling championships were held from 1952 to 2003.
What are the can’t-miss sites? St. Vincent’s De Paul Church, Historic Downtown, Helen Putnam Park, Tara Firma Farms and the factory outlets.
What’s a unique experience that can only be had in Petaluma? Petaluma is home to McEvoy Ranch, which is well-known for producing some of the finest olive oil in the area. You are able to go to this ranch, take a public tour and learn just how they make this delicacy.
When is the best time to visit? November is the most beautiful time to visit. The leaves on the vineyards are starting to change colors and foliage from the trees are dropping throughout town. There are piles of leaves all over the streets just begging to be jumped in.
Are there any unique festivals or celebrations? The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest is held annually in Petaluma at the Sonoma-Marin Fair. People travel from all over to bring their ugly mutts to compete in this contest and I definitely do not envy the judges. It is stiff completion; these dogs are not pretty.
What is the best restaurant/food experience? Downtown is overloaded with fabulous places to dine, but since my husband and I own a restaurant in the city, I have to say that ours is the best experience . Our restaurant, Sugo Trattoria, is the newest dining hotspot in downtown Petaluma and sets the standard for modern Italian comfort food; where Old World meets new. Taking its cue from the traditional Italian Trattoria, the menu offers a seasonal approach to Italian food, utilizing local ingredients and wine country sensibilities. The wine list offers a quaint selection of local & Italian wines sold by the glass or bottle. The ambiance has an urban feel with sleek wine country interiors, mellow lounge music and a casual atmosphere. Did that sound too much like a marketing pitch
Where is the best place to grab a pint/cocktail/glass of wine? There is a trendy and quaint wine bar, La Dolce Vita, which is the perfect place for a relaxed glass of vino. The owner, Sahar, has traveled extensively throughout Italy, is extremely knowledgeable about the wines she carries and dishes up some tasty snacks. You can find me there at least once a week, when I am in town. If you are looking for a pint, than you must go to Lagunitas Taproom. This brewery is where they are serving a selection of their own tasty brews. You can’t go wrong with the IPA or Little Sumpin’ Ale. I recently had my first experience throwing back brews there and enjoyed every minute.
Are there any unique or interesting neighborhoods? Most visitors will take a drive down historic “D” Street, because it is lined with the most grand and gorgeous Victorians. It is also the place you must take your children trick or treating on Halloween or to see the lights during the holidays.
What’s the best way to get around? You can walk just about anywhere if you are hanging out in the downtown area, but a car is best for the outskirts. There is generally no problems with parking or a fee.
Are there any good day trips from your town? If so, where/what are they? We are so fortunate to be centrally located to…everything. Petaluma is 25 minutes from lounging on the beach in Bodega Bay, 30 minutes from fabulous dining in Sonoma, 40 minutes from wine tasting in Napa Valley, 45 from an evening out in San Francisco and just 3 1/2 hours to play in the snow in Lake Tahoe.
One of my favorite day trips, though there are several, is out to Point Reyes to pick up a pastry at Bovine Bakery, take a stunning hike along Bear Valley Trail, lay on the beach at Limantour, go shopping at Toby’s Feed Barn and then dine at Osteria Stellina. Perfect.
How much time should a visitor plan on spending in Petaluma in order to get a good feel for the place? It would make the perfect weekend getaway, if you were just staying in town. Give yourself some extra time if you plan on touring the Sonoma and Napa Valley wineries.
Where is the most iconic view/vista? There is a very steep, bursting-a-lung, hike at Helen Putnam Park. If you make it to the top, you will be rewarded with the most spectacular view of the countryside and the city. There is a bench right at the top which is the perfect place to contemplate life or just catch your breath.
How long have you lived in Petaluma? I have lived in Petaluma for a total of 28 years. I moved here from Buffalo, New York when I was 7. I did move away as an adult to spend quite a few years in Arizona, but moved back to Petaluma four years ago. Right now, this is a perfect home-base to return to from all of my travels.
What is the best aspect of living in Petaluma? The best part of my hometown is being so centrally located to all my favorite things; wineries, the beach, trendy restaurants and a big city.
What is the worst aspect of living in Petaluma? You will always catch me saying “if it was just 10 degrees warmer here…” Because we are near the beach, the fog rolls in and stays for a little too long, for my liking, in the mornings.
Thanks again to Annette for her participation in the The Local’s Take. If you’re a travel writer and are interested in participating in a future edition of The Local’s Take, get in touch!
(downtown Petaluma photo credit: downtown petaluma)