Petaluma was founded in 1848, as a crossroads and marketplace for southern Sonoma and northern Marin counties. Agriculture is and always was central to the town's identity. In the early part of the 1900s, Petaluma was known as the "Egg Basket of the World" due to the large number of chicken farms nearby. Although electronic industries, especially telecom, have started displacing Petaluma's numerous cattle, chicken, and sheep ranches, much of Petaluma still maintains the feel of the old cow-town.
There are a few ways to enter the city. However, the two most common ways are from the freeway or the backroads.
HWY 101: The main way to arrive Petaluma is via Highway 101 North or South. HWY 116 W merges with HWY 101 N at the second exit in town. There are four main exits off the freeway: Petaluma Blvd So., Lakeville/116, Washington St. and Petaluma Blvd. No. HWY 1: Offers another way in to Petaluma. From the coastal Highway take the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road which eventually turns into D Street and leads you directly into downtown Petaluma. Old Redwood Highway & Stoney Point Road: Alternative backroads between Santa Rosa and Petaluma. All are popular cycling routes for athletes and commuters, so SHARE THE ROAD!
While a car is the fastest and easiest way to travel in and out of the city, there is also a bus service. Golden Gate Transit provides intercounty bus service (Sonoma, Marin, & San Francisco counties). Sonoma County Transit provides service within Sonoma County only. Amtrak also provides connecting bus service.
One of the more enjoyable ways to enter and exit the city is by bicycle. For cycle enthusiasts there are numerous backroads and alternative routes to enjoy.
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, or SMART, connects Petaluma with Sonoma County Airport, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Novato, and San Rafael. Extensions are planned to the ferry landing in Larkspur, by the end of 2019, and to Windsor, by 2022. However, the train is primarily for commuters, so the mid-day and weekend schedules are very limited.
It's easiest to get around by car if traveling from one end of the city to another. Downtown parking can sometimes be unavailable on the street, and the downtown area is often impassable on weekends due to events. Should you happen to find parking, strictly adhere to the time limits posted. Tickets are given. There are parking garages downtown and ample parking in them. Many places are accessible by foot downtown, but unless you are adventurous, plan to drive from downtown to the outlet shopping area. For those averse to walking or driving, Petaluma Transit provides intercity transport during limited hours. Cycling is another very pleasant option around town.
Petaluma has a beautiful, historic downtown area which has appeared in several films depicting mid-20th-Century life.
- 1 Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, 3325 Adobe Rd, ☏ . Daily 10AM-5PM. Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park was the main residence of Rancho Petaluma, the agricultural empire that General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, one of the most powerful men in the Mexican Province of California from 1834 to 1846. $3 for adults, $2 for children between 6 and 16. Children under 5 are free..
- Petaluma Trolley Museum, 110 Baylis Street, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Open two Saturdays per month; check website for dates and call or email for hours.. Focuses on the history of the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Electric Railroad, an electric trolley. The museum houses many artifacts and displays.
- Petaluma Arts Center (230 Lakeville Street), ☏ . W-Sa 10:30AM-4:30PM, Su 1-4:30PM. A 4,500 square foot facility located in the historic Railroad Depot Freight Building, next door to the Petaluma Visitors Center. $5 general admission; $4 senior/student/teacher/military.
- 2 Petaluma Historical Library and Museum, 20 Fourth Street, ☏ . Th-Su 10AM-4PM. Neoclassical library with regional exhibits about the 1850s (Petaluma poultry, dairy, and Miwok Indian history), plus cultural events, guided tours, and a gift shop. Free.
- 3 Petaluma Wildlife & Natural History Museum, 201 Fair St, ☏ . First and third Saturdays of the month, 11AM- 3PM. The largest student-run museum in the United States, its mission is "to inspire the next generation through practical environmental education and conservation." $5; children 5 years and younger are free.
- David Yearsley River Heritage Center. Su 10AM-1PM. A popular location for boating, you can watch, or - thanks to the Friends of the Petaluma River - you can participate in the free "Boating at the Barn" program - you can check out a rowboat, canoe, kayak, or possibly even the sailboat, after a short safety demonstration.
- Sonoma Horse Park, 7600 Lakeville Hwy, ☏ . Check website for show information. A world-class horse show facility on the banks of the Petaluma River. The 75-acre facility has seventeen arenas and is the ideal showcase for equestrian sports. It hosts seven show jumping competitions annually, each attracting top competitors from all over North America.
- 1 Shollenberger Park, 1400 Cader Ln. Sunrise-sunset daily. The park offers a 2.2 mile, flat walking loop with ponds, next to the Petaluma river, with views of a variety of waterfowl (mostly migratory). A must for birders.
- 2 Helen Putnam Regional Park, 411 Chileno Valley Road, ☏ . A regional park southwest of downtown Petaluma, covering 216 acres. Quiet, with some nice views; lots of trails. The ooped trail system lets hikers create walks of varying length and difficulty, making the park a great choice for beginning hikers looking for a bit of a challenge. Trails are also open to cyclists and horseback riders.
- Lan Mart Building, 35 Petaluma Blvd N. An eclectic mix of antique shops and boutique businesses in a charming, historic building.
- Petaluma Creamery Store, 711 Western Ave, ☏ . Mon-Fri 7AM-6PM; Sat-Sun 8AM-6PM. You can get a copy of coffee here, or some great ice cream, but the real attraction is the variety of local cheeses and butter for sale.
- Petaluma Seed Bank, 110 Petaluma Blvd. North, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Mar 16-Oct 30: F Su M 9AM-5PM, Tu-Th 9AM-6PM; Sa closed; Nov 1-Mar 15: Su M 9AM-5PM, Tu-Th 9AM - 6PM, F 9AM-4PM; Sa closed. A place to buy heirloom, non-hybridized seeds - more than 1,000, plus gardening supplies and other items.
- Petaluma Village Premium Outlets (Off Highway 101.). Find impressive savings at top outlets from Coach, Banana Republic, Off 5th Saks Fifth Avenue, and more.
- Vintage Bank Antiques, 101 Petaluma Blvd N, ☏ . M-F 10:30AM-5:00PM; Sa Su 10:30AM-5:30PM. A cornerstone of Petaluma's antique district, with 30 dealers presenting 2,000+ quality paintings, elegant furniture and 60+ cases of choice antique objects.
Downtown Petaluma is filled with inexpensive yet tasty eateries of many sorts. Thai lovers will want to try all FIVE Thai restaurants within a one-mile stretch along the Boulevard. Numerous small, upscale bistros abound.
Vegetarians will have no problem here. Equally, vegans and people on gluten-free diets shouldn't have any real trouble. Petaluma simply has very good restaurants and used to locally be referred to as "the restaurant capital of California."
- Aqus Cafe. Offering sandwiches, soups & breakfast fare, plus a range of live music, it describes itself as a "community living room attracting a wide diversity of people engaging in vibrant conversations, sharing interests and building relationships".
- Chunky's Taqueria & Grill, 701 Sonoma Mountain Pkwy, ☏ . Daily 10AM-9PM. A go-to spot for inexpensive and fast Mexican food.
- Della Fattoria Downtown Café, 143 Petaluma Blvd N, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 8AM-3PM; Thu-Sat 5:30-9PM. Reservations are taken for dinner only; brunch on weekends is 8AM-3PM. Lots of things come from their bakery next door, at #141, which is open 6AM-4PM daily.
- Mi Pueblo. For a delicious, reasonably priced meal, absolutely try the Mexican seafood - the camarones fajitas, fish tacos, and tamales are fantastic. Seven in Sonoma and Marin counties, two of which are in Petaluma.
- Old Chicago Pizza, 41 Petaluma Boulevard North. M–Th 11:30AM–10:30PM, F Sa 11:30AM–11:30PM. With some of the thickest-crust pizza you'll see.
- Petaluma Pie Company, 125 Petaluma Blvd N, ☏ . A bakery cafe that offers sweet and savory pies, salad, coffee, tea and more; take out or eat-in (outdoor seating).
- Real Doner, 307 F St, ☏ . Wed-Mon 11AM-9PM; closed Tue. Unexpectedly good Turkish fare. A relaxed and deli-style with an outdoor patio. The doners, dolmas, and mezes (appetizer plate) are sublime.
- Sarah's Eats and Sweets, 1410 S McDowell Blvd, ☏ . Mon-Fri 8AM-3PM. Specialty deli and bakery serving a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, and baked goods.
- Tea Room Cafe, 316 Western Ave, ☏ . M-F 7AM-3PM; Sa Su 8AM-2PM. Has a light, seasonal menu featuring tons of salads and sandwiches as well as many fine brunch items; limited outdoor seating.
- 1 Volpi's Ristorante & Bar, 124 E Washington St, ☏ . W-F 11AM-2PM; W Th Su 4:30-9PM; F-Sa 4:30-9:30PM. A generations-old Italian restaurant serving full seven-course family-style meals and the best eggplant Parmesan.
- Fru-ta, 279 N Mcdowell Blvd, Suite A, ☏ . Daily 10AM-9PM. Ice cream, sorbets, paletas (fruit bars or ice cream bars), esquimal, smoothies, milkshakes, aqua frescas, and a number of specialty items
- Lala's Creamery, 134 Petaluma Blvd N, ☏ . Sun-Thu noon-9:30PM; Fri-Sat noon-10PM. Organic, local ingredients for 20+ ice creams and sorbets; includes vegan options.
- Wicked Slush Petalum, 122 American Alley, Suite B, ☏ . Sun-Thu 11AM-10PM: Fri-Sat 11AM-11PM. The third location of a Healdsburg-based dessert phenomena, you can get a full (East Coast style) slush (aka Italian ice), or soft-serve ice cream, or a half-and-half.
- Lagunitas Brewing Company, 1280 N McDowell Blvd, ☏ . W-F 11:30AM-9PM, Sa Su 11:30AM-8PM. A taproom offering snacks, a retail store & regular live music, and, of course, a variety of beers, some not sold elsewhere, from of a top-rated US craft brewery.
- Brewsters Beer Garden + Restaurant, 229 Water Street North, ☏ . Tu-Th 11:30AM-9PM, F 11:30AM-midnight, Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-9PM, closed M. Laid-back, open-air beer garden featuring modern BBQ, local craft beers, fire pits, and live music. A bocce court and a kids area adds to the fun, and there is plenty of space for friendly pets.
- Dempsey's Restaurant & Brewery, 50 E Washington St, ☏ . Laid-back brewpub offering river views plus house-brewed beers & hearty tavern fare.
- The Hideaway, 128 Kentucky St (at 4th Street), ☏ .
- McNear's, Petaluma Blvd. Serves good American-style food and drinks with a fun atmosphere.
- Mystic Theater, 23 Petaluma Blvd N, ☏ . Next door to McNear's, a renovated 1911 vaudeville theater now offering live music from bands all over the world, plus a bar and adjacent eatery.
- Whisper Sisters, 190 Kentucky St, ☏ . The speciality here is cocktails.The food menu changes frequently, and is very limited, but it works well with the drinks.
- Willowbrook Ale House, 3600 Petaluma Blvd N,, ☏ . For some pool (billiards), drinks, and karaoke (on Friday and Saturday nights).