48 Hours With Bryce Dow-Williamson

If you live in Santa Rosa and haven’t had visitors yet, just wait; you will. We here at OutThereSR have taken it upon ourselves to collect some favorite activities of people who actually live here. We asked them what they would choose to do if given 48 hours in Santa Rosa. In our 48 Hours Series, we’re sharing what we found, so the next time your favorite uncle in Nebraska needs a getaway, you’ll be ready. Pro tip: this article is going to be full of links since it’s chock full of places to check out. Hover over the name of anything that sounds interesting and click away!

Just when we think we’ve seen it all in Santa Rosa, we sit down and talk with someone like Bryce Dow-Williamson. Bryce is the Marketing Director for Second Octave Entertainment and the solar-powered SOMO Concerts at SOMO Village. He also volunteers with Chimera Arts and Maker Space and The Arlene Francis Center for Spirit, Art and Politics in Santa Rosa. And yeah yeah, he’s doing wonderful things for Santa Rosa’s community and art scene and all that…but my favorite thing about Bryce is his open, friendly nature and the fact that he’s a downright cutie patootie. Just kidding; it’s the friendly nature thing. Okay cutie. Friendly. Cutie. Bah! Moving on.

As someone who regularly brings talent and entertainment to Sonoma County I thought Bryce would be a fun person to pal around with, so I asked him what spending 48 hours in his world might look like. No, I was not flirting…but yes, I was doing you all a favor, because check out all of the ideas he had for the perfect weekend! You are welcome:


Every time a friend visits me in Sonoma County I’m excited to play tour guide because it lets me experience our beautiful small-town city through fresh eyes. I like giving guests a full sensory overload of taste, nature and art.

I like to have an extra bicycle for guests. If they’re into it, Santa Rosa is a reasonably safe and accessible 1 gear ride from Fulton to Howarth Park and Annadel. We have so many great breakfast spots but I would take my friend to Criminal Bakery, where they have amazing rotating seasonal breakfast and lunch with local coffee from Melody, brewed in small batches. I’d have to take them to Juilliard Park to see Bud Snow’s mandala mural and the famous Church of One Tree.

48 hours in Santa Rosa Bryce Dow-Williamson

We’d bike down Sonoma Avenue down to Summerfield and access Annadel through Parktrail Drive so we can get right into the trees. I like to go up through the oaks, look over the entirety of Santa Rosa, and point out some landmarks, like the old Rosenburg’s Department Store. If we’re driving instead, I like to go around the back of Annadel to enter off Channel Drive. That puts you close to a number of ponds and views of the valley and fungi, if the season is right.

After all that exercise it would be necessary to recharge and just be still. If my friends are lucky enough to be in town on a Tuesday, then it’s possible to get beer and brats at 3rd Street Ale Works for $2.50 each and catch a $5 movie right next door at the 3rd Street Cinema.

48 hours in Santa Rosa Bryce Dow-Williamson

While we’re close, I’d stop by Treehorn Books to walk between their comforting walls of literature and see what new used books they have. You can always tell a lot about a person by where they first go in a bookstore (don’t tell anybody but I go to the comic book section). It’s the kind of place that would have a store cat. If we were in need of another meal I like to visit the Thai House on 4th, where they have a beautiful wooden carved room and I can satisfy my deep need for Tom Kha Gai. Such indulgence could only be bookended by one of the dangerously brilliant award-winning cupcakes at Sift before wandering home to a fire, good scotch and old stories.


On the second day of our Santa Rosa adventures I’d have to show off a breakfast featuring the great produce that we have readily available through The West End Farmer’s Market and Community Market, then pair it with damned good meat from Sonoma County Meat Company. To work off them greasy calories and get the blood going we’d bike off again to the Santa Rosa Memorial Park Cemetery and Crematory to have a lovely little stroll through the oaks, graves and mausoleums. During September they do Lamplight Tours, which are fund-raising events, present dramatic vignettes from the lives of the famous and not-so-famous people buried in the Rural Cemetery including Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

48 hours in Santa Rosa Bryce Dow-Williamson

Close by is another favorite Santa Rosa stop, Mombo’s Pizza, who have won the North Bay Bohemian’s Best of Award every year since 2002 and now have my favorite local beer, Death & Taxes from Moonlight Brewing, a dark lager that is as dependable as its name. Right across the street is a local treasure dear to my heart and anyone else who loves the highest highs and lowest lows (sonically speaking), The Last Record Store. Not only does this upstanding business have the catalogue and knowledge that any enthusiast would hope for, they also feature live music from legends and hometown heroes.

The Last Record Store

Apart from all the great nature, music, food, drink and indulgence our little Charlie Brown-ed town has to offer I’ve found some inspiring theatrical work by The Imaginists, who are always up to something that blows my mind and opens my heart, and 6th Street Playhouse, who present with precision everything from My Fair Lady to Rocky Horror Show and The Railroad Square Music Festival After Party. In the summer, theater enthusiasts can catch sunset and a show with Shakespeare in the Cannery, at the site of the former California Packing Company’s Plant No. 5 on 3rd Street, complete with solar-powered stage lighting and a set that incorporates the remaining cannery walls into its creative design.

48 hours in Santa Rosa Bryce Dow-Williamson

The last stop for our tour in the city of roses would be in our Historic Railroad Square. There’s a charming little English pub called the Toad in The Hole which has tasty cornish pasty’s, crisp ciders and my favorite aforementioned Death & Taxes. They host cozy little shows that feature intimate evenings with local treasures like John Courage, Ashley Allred and Girls + Boys.

toadCan we just stop for a moment to say…perfect weekend?! With the cool breezes of autumn blowing, and all of the great ideas we’ve gotten from our local experts, I for one cannot wait to get out there! As always, we’d love to hear what your favorite spots in Santa Rosa are in the comments!

Movie star sightings
on McDonald Avenue

By guest blogger Maja Woods

Have you ever wandered along McDonald Avenue in Santa Rosa and asked yourself, “Where have I seen that house before?”

Well…here’s where.

First, for those who haven’t ventured down this bucolic strip of Santa Rosa’s residential history, you really have to. Lined with stately homes and large, beautiful trees, it is a sight worth seeing. Which is probably why it caught the eyes of so many Hollywood producers. Here are just a few of the movies filmed along one three block stretch of McD Ave.


Much of Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, written by Thornton Wilder, was filmed at this turn of the century Victorian. Hitchcock didn't typically film interiors on location. But the movie was made during World War II, and many materials, such as wood, were being rationed. So, Hollywood had to do without its elaborate sets. Hitchcock ended up spending three weeks in Santa Rosa. He grew so fond of the area that he later returned to Sonoma County to shoot The Birds in Bodega Bay. He also grew very fond of Shadow of a Doubt, and in later interviews he referred to it as his favorite of all the films he made.


While Hitchcock was filming Shadow of a Doubt, he would go next door to the home of Judge Donald Geary. The two would sit out on the porch, drink cocktails and discuss the day's events. Years later, this same porch, as well as a bedroom in the house, would be part of the setting for Wes Craven's Scream.


Way back in 1960, Walt Disney's classic film Pollyanna was filmed at one of Santa Rosa’s most iconic residences. The McDonald Mansion (a.k.a. Mableton Mansion) is Santa Rosa's most prominent historic home. The 14,000-square-foot house was built in the late 1870s by Col. Mark Lindsay McDonald, owner of Santa Rosa's water company, builder of the Santa Rosa Street Railway, and one of the town's most eminent early citizens. He had it built in a style to evoke the plantations along the Mississippi. The National Register of Historic Places, in which the mansion is recorded, lists the style as Stick-Eastlake, a type of Victorian architecture. Back in McDonald's day, many notable visitors came to the house, including Mark Twain, and railroad magnates Leland Stanford and Charles Crocker.

There are no tour buses (yet) rolling down McDonald Ave. or flocks of paparazzi. But if you’re any kind of a film buff, a stroll through this stretch of town might feel like a trip down movie memory lane.


An Egret Rookery Heron Santa Rosa

If someone mentions bird watching to you, median strips in the middle of a busy street surrounded by condo and apartment complexes probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

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But a section of large eucalyptus trees located on the median of West 9th, between Link Lane and Stony Point Road might be the best location for easy birdwatching.

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This site is known as a rookery, or a collection of nests, and is the designated location of where Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret and Black-Crowned Night Herons roost and raise their young. Great Blue Herons will also visit on their migratory path.

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Located conveniently close to the several creeks that flow though Santa Rosa, this site has been used since the late 1990s. Outside of the rookery, herons and egrets can be found on the edges of our creeks and often in the marshy drainage ditches lining the roads. They feed on fish, insects, frogs, snakes, salamanders, aquatic insects, and occasionally, small rodents.

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West 9th isn’t a direct path of travel for me, but I regularly make sure to go out of my way to drive by and take a glimpse of the congregation of birds. The rookery trees are surrounded by orange fencing and traffic poles, so it is not hard to miss. Nor is the ground that is permeated white from thousands of birds leaving their mark for the past 15 or so years.

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I like to park down the street and walk over, watching the great white egrets soar in and land on the bendy branches, like acrobats, to feed their young. The graceful flying might evoke a feeling of peace, but the loud and obnoxious squabbling and squawking gives a feeling of chaos.

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If you look up in the trees, you will see dozens of nests, made from clusters of twigs. Sadly, sometimes you’ll also spot a deceased fledgling, high up in the tree, having gotten caught in the branches on a departing flight, a reminder of how little control we have over nature.

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Visiting the rookery is an excellent way to observe these birds, but make sure not to disturb them. The site is protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Thanks to Donna Jones at DonnaJonesPhotography.com for all the beautiful photos.

48 Hours In SR With Paul Malone (and me)

If you live in Santa Rosa and haven’t had visitors yet, just wait; you will. We here at OutThereSR have taken it upon ourselves to collect some favorite activities of people who actually live here. We asked them what they would choose to do if given 48 hours in Santa Rosa. In our 48 Hours Series, we're sharing what we found, so the next time your favorite uncle in Nebraska needs a getaway, you’ll be ready. Pro tip: this article is going to be full of links since it’s chock full of places to check out. Hover over the name of anything that sounds interesting and click away!

As I’ve been asking people how they’d entertain guests for 48 hours in Santa Rosa, I’ve loved hearing how quickly their ideas come to them, and I of course wanted to play along. I consulted with Paul Malone, Santa Rosa’s finest driveway winemaker and the person I happen to call my sweetheart, and we came up with our Santa Rosa two-day tourist guide within about four seconds.

Day 1

48 hours in santa rosaFirst of all, if these visitors of ours arrived in summer, we’d check with the City of Santa Rosa to find out if they’d be giving any tours of the underground creek tunnels, because this activity is awesome and full of information about Santa Rosa’s creek system. Plus, the graffiti is really cool. creek tunnel. 48 hours in santa rosaAfter that, we’d head over to the SOFA neighborhood (South A) for some art gallery perusal. Not every art space is open all the time, but it’s amazing to see the variety of work being created in this one tiny little neighborhood.

Over on Cleveland Ave is Vintner’s Square, a fun little stop for doing some wine tasting with a group because they’ve got a lot of other things going on, too. vintners-square signage. 48 hours in santa rosaThere’s an organic juice bar for the DD, a cigar shop, and a pizza place, because I am of the strong opinion that it never hurts to have some pizza at any given point in the day. Plus there’s Fogbelt Brewing Company for our beer nerd friends, and if we’re lucky they’ll be hosting one of their hilarious comedy shows, always featuring both local comedians and those from afar. lococos-cucina-rustica 48 hours in santa rosaWe’d make a point to eat dinner at Lococo’s in Railroad Square because we’re suckers for a red and white checked tablecloth and classic garlicky Italian food.

Day 2

Paul loves a hike so on Day 2 we’d amble our way up Taylor Mountain, which is a bit of a haul for me because, frankly, I’m quite lazy, but the stellar views of Santa Rosa and beyond are incredible and so worth it.

taylor mountain 48 hours in santa rosa

As an additional reward for the climb, I would insist we treat our guests to some no-frills soft-serve ice cream at Foster’s Freeze on 4th Street, because it reminds me of being a kid, when everything was no-frills. Across 4th Street from Foster’s is the Proctor Terrace/McDonald neighborhood, where we’d take our guests walking (on a flat surface this time!).

foster's freeze sign 48 hours in santa rosa

In the spring the cherry and plum blossoms are gorgeous, and in the fall the yellow ginkgo leaves covering the streets make us feel like we’re in Oz. The McDonald Mansion was lovingly restored several years ago and is a wonder to look at. I’ve always been fond of pretending I’m a very rich and fancy lady so this place suits that fantasy pretty well. McDonald Mansion copy 48 hours in santa rosaMcDonald Ave itself is nice and wide for strolling, with beautiful old homes to admire on either side.

Since we were already feeling very quaint and old-world, we’d then catch happy hour at The Villa, because it sort of feels like being in a black and white movie, filled with everyone’s favorite grandparents. They have a pretty extensive Happy Hour menu, but my vote would be to head over to Rosso’s pizzeria for dinner, where their wood-fired pizzas are to die for. rosso pizzeria 48 hours in santa rosaThey’re topped with anything from your traditional sauce and cheese, to salmon with capers and arugula, to their ‘Goomba’, which has spaghetti and meatballs on it. Yes, you read that right: spaghetti and meatballs on a pizza! So yeah, we like to take our nearest and dearest there.

What are your go-to Santa Rosa stops when company comes to town? Check back soon for more ideas for things to do with 48 hours in Santa Rosa, and in the meantime, share some of your go-to activities in the comments!