Sonoma, Calif. — Indian American families looking for a unique yet close-to-home getaway should take a look at Sonoma Train Town.
Never heard of it? I hadn’t, either, until my 9-year-old came back from a day-camp field trip last summer raving about it. Thanks go to Junior for turning us on to this amiable, affordable destination — which is close enough to visit on a day trip from the San Francisco Bay Area, but even more fun on a quick overnight outing.
The wine country town of Sonoma is just one hour north of San Francisco.
Although not as famous as nearby Napa Valley and its well-traveled towns of Calistoga and Yountville, Sonoma has a world-class wine industry, a well-developed farm-to-table food scene and even its own annual film festival.
Train Town, located one mile south of Sonoma Plaza, features a quarter-scale steam train that guides travelers on a whimsical 20-minute journey through tunnels and across streams and waterfalls.
Set amid a tree-shaded park, Train Town is just one-fifth the size of Disneyland, so you can experience everything on a three-hour visit, including the petting zoo and the gift shop. The park has a Ferris wheel, carousel, roller coaster and three other rides.
There is a snack bar, but it’s of the hot dogs/cotton candy variety and outside food is not permitted, so if your tastes run to healthier fare, pack a picnic (Whole Foods is just a mile away) and eat it at a picnic table in Sonoma Plaza, a mile north.
We made our trip to Sonoma Train Town an overnighter, and so that gave us a chance to take our time and relax in the 24-hour outdoor hot tub at the El Pueblo Inn, a lushly landscaped retreat.
The three-star El Pueblo Inn was recently renovated and its soundproofed rooms (from approximately $159) all look out over a garden and feature a refrigerator, iron and ironing board, safe, coffee maker, free wi-fi and cable TV. The hotel has a solar-heated pool and exercise room, and bicycles are available for rent ($30 for 24 hours). Rates also include local wine tastings and a very substantial continental breakfast that featured bacon quiche, fresh local pastries, yogurt, cereals and fresh fruit.
This pint-sized amusement park is a refreshing change from the noise and crowds of Six Flags, and I highly recommend it.
If you go:
Sonoma Train Town
20264 Broadway, Sonoma, Calif. 95476.
Seasonal hours: Open June 1-Labor Day from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; Sept. 1-May 1 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri., Sat., Sun., and holidays.
Admission is free; train rides are $6.25 per person (all ages) and rides are $2.75 apiece (or 6 for $12.75). Free parking.
El Pueblo Inn
896 West Napa St., Sonoma, Calif. 95476
Double rooms from approximately $159.