Day 1

San Rafael via SMART to discover Petaluma
Why the SMART train? To enjoy a carless adventure in a town renowned for its many facets: riverfront and nature activities, intriguing antique and vintage clothing shops, nightlife, historical and movie sites, food and libations. We’re hunting for experience treasure!

10:45 am pick up eat-on-the-train provisions
Many options, all within a block of SMART train station: Extreme Pizza, Sol Food, Whistlestop Active Aging Center, House of Bagels, Lotus Cuisine of India. Or we can eat from the SMART train concession. We opt for Extreme Pizza to-go special.

SMART train San Rafael t0 Petaluma
11:29 am leave San Rafael station noon arrive Petaluma station
Our leisurely train ride along picturesque hills starts. We bring lunch aboard, buy additional chips/drinks at the train’s onboard concession, settle in at one of the comfortable train tables, we look around at the many day trippers on this ride. The two cars on this train run are clean, roomy, welcoming, with accommodations for bikes and people with disabilities. Train heads north very silently, no ‘clickety clack’ to be heard as we skirt the edges of towns. New vistas are revealed – natural beauty, peeks into home backyards, light and mighty industrial areas. Cattle grazing on undulating hills dotted with oak, rolling vistas as we RR leisurely into this old-time river town. Comfortable ride, peaceful scenery, different views. Very pleasant way to travel.

19 miles / 31 km  / 31 minutes 

noon Arrive Petaluma. Burdell building is the first historical structure we see — directly across from the train station.

12:05 pm visit Petaluma Arts Center
Located literally right next to the SMART station – how can we resist! Besides, we are early for hotel check-in. The 1914-era train depot currently houses the Petaluma Visitors Center. Friendly staff answers our questions and add to our agenda. Small but significant, the PAC hosts art exhibits, classes, workshops, concerts, and other community events. “Walls”, the current show, displays a wide variety of theme interpretation.

short walk to hotel
1:30 pm check into Hampton Inn Petaluma hotel
Short walk to Petaluma’s old Silk Mill reimagined as the Hampton Inn — a beautiful brick Georgian Colonial building on Lakeville Street with a history dating back to 1892. (The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.) 14-foot high ceilings and brick façade were retained in the redesign resulting in an open feel to the spaces. Check in, drop off luggage, out we go – off to our next adventure.

afternoon stroll and sightseeing
Crossing the river, we head toward the two main streets to get a feel for the town. We see river kayakers, a thriving nature scene with many water birds, evidence of an industrial agricultural past. We are hardly 3 blocks from the SMART station when we see a number of fantastic giant metal structures rearing up in a fenced yard. Closed to the public, this is the home of Reared In Steel, which makes large metal sculpture sculptures for Burning Man and others. We see goat Rhino vehicle, crow, bison, hydra-headed monster, face. Not to be missed.

2 pm peer at Petaluma Trolley Living History Railway Museum
Right next door but closed today. We peer through chain link fences at old Petaluma trolleys, which you can walk through when the museum is open. Will be interesting to spend time here on future visits.

3 pm stop by Brewsters Beer Garden + Restaurant
A right turn leads us to Brewsters Beer Garden, an open outdoor/indoor family restaurant/pub/entertainment venue with a young vibe. Featuring 30 revolving craft beers, heat lamps, firepit, bocce, and kids’ playground, the dog, Duke. A band is setting up and “happy hour” patrons are enjoying the full bar. The succulent Texas Style Brisket was smoked overnight in the on-site smoker. It is served with delicious house-made pickles and a soft roll. New taste treat to us are the BBQ dry rubbed carrots with buttermilk aioli. Although casual, cloth napkins are provided by attentive wait staff. Thoroughly enjoyable hour!

4:30 pm tour Military Antiques & Museum
If you are a military buff, then this is for you. Everything here from uniforms to weapons. It shows the many faces of war, honors those who have a right to be remembered and displays the human side of war through letters.The Museum consists of two parts: a 2,000 square foot museum, and an adjoining 4,000 square foot retail space (largest military retail shop in the country!). We see some of the most amazing weapons wielded by men. Stunning armory and unique swords are on display along with extraordinary weapons you have to see to believe. So much to explore, we lose of track of time.

6 pm dinner The Shuckery in Hotel Petaluma
We continue to walk through downtown amidst imposing architecture surprising for a small country town. On tomorrow’s history walk we’ll get details about these beautiful structures. Years ago, we met sisters Jazmine & Aluxa Lalicker doing pop-up Oyster Bar events in the wine country. They now have a permanent location, the Shuckery in the Hotel Petaluma, a seafood restaurant whose signature dishes include oysters on the half shell, salmon two ways, Baja-style tacos, barbecued oysters. We stop in, reconnect with the gals and sample 3 exquisite half shell oysters from North American waters.

Entering Hotel Petaluma is a step back in time to its glory days. It’s history dates back to the 19th century (when Petaluma was the largest poultry and egg industry in the country) when it housed business executives and was a social center where lavish dinners and formal receptions were held. Refurbished to reveal its classic beauty, the hotel’s spacious lobby has original tile flooring and imposing wood-mantled fireplace, an antique baby grand piano (guests are welcome to play). The room preserves a luxury feel of yesteryear, invites relaxation – elegant yet contemporary.

On-site businesses serve guests: Hi-Side Barber Shop; Barber Cellars Tasting Room – serves guests complimentary wine and cheese Friday evenings 5-6pm; and hotel lobby cocktail lounge, Bar 855, run by the Shuckery. We sample two small plates – trout avocado mousse with frisée/arugula salad greens dressed with house made champagne vinaigrette. Light, creamy, dreamy texture and flavor! We also share a special tostada – shrimp ceviche, summer veggies with avocado puree. Presentations are clean and fresh served on a small white plate. Sommelier, a young French woman, suggests a white wine for us to pair with the food. What a treat!

8 pm entertainment Mystic Theatre
Described by many as the North Bay’s Premier Music Venue. Built in 1911 to host live Vaudeville entertainment, renovated in 1992 to accommodate live music performances for up to 500 guests, it is today the centerpiece of downtown nightlife, bringing a combination of national and local talent into the heart of California’s wine country, attracting tourists and Petaluma natives alike. We have a memorable evening with a large intention to return!

short walk back to hotel




stay Hampton Inn Petaluma
Back at the Inn, our mini-suite features two HD televisions, modern furnishings, exposed brick walls, window shades with a map of the city and historical photos of the surrounding urban area. Weary and content, we tuck in for a night of deep sleep.


Day 1 photos
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