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Exploring Unique American Cities: Healdsburg, California

Updated on March 31, 2014

One of America's Best Small Towns to Visit

Smithsonian Magazine published America's Best Small Town's to visit in 2014 and Healdsburg, California is number 2 on the list. Smithsonian calls Healdsburg a "farm-to-table nirvana" and rightly so. Go to: http://www.smithsonian.com/travel/20-best-small-towns-to-visit-in-2014-180950173/?no-ist for the full list.

Whether you are visiting the San Francisco Bay Area or live here, a day trip or weekend visit to Healdsburg, California is like taking a European getaway without the need for a passport (unless you’re coming from outside the States). Healdsburg is located in the heart of Sonoma County’s wine country at the cross roads of three major wine producing regions: Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valley. If you’re a wine connoisseur you might consider staying longer as there are over 300 wineries in Sonoma County alone and not to mention even more if you wander over to that other wine producing area called Napa, which we will explore in another article.

From the heart of San Francisco to the Downtown Plaza in Healdsburg, the drive is less than 70 miles north on Highway 101 through Marin County and into Sonoma County (just avoid the commute hours so you won’t get stuck in traffic). Once you arrive in Healdsburg head towards the Plaza and follow any of signs indicating where parking is available. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes because the best way to explore Healdsburg is on foot (just as if you were in Europe).

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The Downtown Plaza

The Downtown Plaza not only has a European ambiance but it has also preserved what a downtown was like before strip malls and big box stores that now dominate American cities. As you stroll around the Plaza you will encounter upscale boutiques, art galleries, a real bookstore, a variety of restaurants and cafes for every taste bud, and even some wine tasting rooms for the ultimate taste bud experience.

My visit to Healdsburg took me to the Center Street Café for an old fashion American hamburger with French fries lunch. The Café has a friendly staff, good food, and sidewalk seating for people watching opportunities. After lunch I continued my stroll around the Plaza that led me to Copperfield’s Bookstore to browse the books and listen to the local gossip.

The Plaza offers a charming place to sit and relax with the locals and just take it easy, no need to rush anywhere, just bask in life’s little pleasures.

Besides the Downtown Plaza, Healdsburg is situated along the Russian River and a few blocks from downtown is the Veteran’s Memorial Beach under the old bridge. Swimming and canoeing are favorite activities along with picnicking under the shade of the many oak trees.

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Francis Ford Coppola Winery

As I mentioned at the beginning, there are numerous wineries in the area and one worthy of a visit is the Francis Ford Coppola Winery just a short 10 minute drive from downtown Healdsburg. The Coppola Winery definitely exudes the European atmosphere of the Tuscan countryside.

The Coppola Winery is called a “Day Resort” by the staff and it truly feels like it. Families are welcomed to make a day of it with so much to offer. There is a huge swimming pool with “cabines,” which includes a shower and towel service. There is a poolside bar serving Coppola’s wines. There is an excellent restaurant and the winery has memorabilia on display from the many Coppola movies. Oh yes, you can even take a wine tour! A side-trip to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery will not be a disappointment.

Healdsburg and the surrounding area offers something of interest and enjoyment for everyone’s taste: great food, wines, shopping, swimming, and relaxing. Exploring Healdsburg, California is an enjoyable experience you won’t soon forget.

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Francis Ford Coppola Winery

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