Location, Location, Location!

Petaluma’s perfect locus location makes it a triple-treat travel and tourist destination:

1. Perfect for a visit focused totally on the enjoyments available solely in old river town Petaluma on the river.

2. A base for explorations of the world famous Napa and Sonoma wine regions.

3. Totally carless travel via SMART train, bicycle, and on foot.

How Petaluma became the ‘it’ town of Sonoma County
Meg McConahey / The Press Democrat

On a warm late summer Saturday night, downtown Petaluma is buzzing like a European paseo, where it seems like half the town is out and about. There are hipster brew pub crawlers, well-dressed couples out for a dinner and young parents pushing strollers in search of ice cream.

A long line of Baby Boomers is snaking down “The Boulevard” outside The Mystic, waiting to hear The Zombies play their 1964 hit, “She’s Not There,” while across the street and along the Petaluma River nearly all of the 350 seats in Brewster’s Beer Garden are taken up by revelers straining to talk over live music. Many are making a stop after hitting the Lagunitas Beer Circus at the Fairgrounds, still wearing crazy wigs and costumes.

Petaluma, long considered a homespun farm town and pit stop for travelers bound for the coast or the wineries to the north, is waking up. The onetime drive-by Chicken Capital is now emerging as a destination for nightlife, weekend festivals and tourists who come to dine, stroll shops of curated bespoke goods, taste wine or visit a thriving brew pub scene.

read full article here



1. Masonic Building | Clock Tower | WCTU Water Fountain Corner of Western Ave. & Petaluma Blvd. N.
Constructed at the height of Petaluma’s river-centered prosperity in 1882, the building features cast-iron façades designed in the Italianate style. The original clock atop the building was built in Connecticut, shipped around the Horn of Africa, and up Petaluma Creek. Get refreshed at the fountain placed by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union at the height of their campaign against the bars and pubs in this frontier town.
2. Balshaw Bridge Water St. & Western Ave.
Built in 1989 to connect the downtown district with the shops and restaurants east of the river, the Balshaw Bridge is a testament to Petaluma’s forward-thinking city government. The name honors former city councilmember and dedicated river advocate John Balshaw.
3. Steiger Building 132 Petaluma Blvd. N.
The site of the city’s first general store, folklore recounts that it was also the site of Petaluma’s first Independence Day celebration in 1852. And what a celebration it was! It reputedly lasted three days.
4. Sienna Building 119 Petaluma Blvd.
It was a proud moment for the city when a 1950s plywood and stucco slipcover was removed in 2006 revealing the ornate iron-front, circa 1885. This location was the site of the town’s first blacksmith shop owned by Zartman and Fritsch, a company that went on to become buggy- makers famed throughout the west.
5. California Flour Mills 148 Petaluma Blvd. N.
At the time this flourmill was built in 1878, Petaluma was a major manufacturing center producing silk, shoes, buggies, beer, flour and other items. One of several mills in town, grain was shipped here from as far away as South America.
6. Wickersham Building 170 Petaluma Blvd. N.
Built in 1910, this building – and Wickersham Park at 4th and G Streets – honors Isaac Wickersham, a 19th century railroad financier, banker, and entrepreneur. At one time, it housed a silent movie house featuring an electric piano, and reputedly, Petaluma’s first telephone.
7. Chicken Pharmacy 170 Petaluma Blvd. N.
When your chickens are under the weather, where do you go to help them feel better? The chicken pharmacy, of course. Petaluma had the world’s first and only. The storefront that is now a part of Seared Restaurant dispensed 50,000 pills and doses daily during its heyday in the 1920s.
8. Historical Mural 170 Corner of Washington & Petaluma Blvd.
It’s Petaluma’s history condensed. Painted by local artist Steve Della Maggiora, the mural depicts the development of Petaluma from the days of Mariano Vallejo to the early 20th century.
9. Soberanes Bronze Statue Corner of Washington St. & Petaluma Blvd.
Newspaper columnist and “Peopleologist” Bill Soberanes was a true Petaluma character and the founder of Petaluma- ma’s World Wrist Wrestling Championship. Installed in September 1988, this sculpture celebrates his contribution to bringing international attention to Petaluma for almost 50 years.
10. Sonoma County Bank Building 199 Petaluma Blvd. N.
Built in 1926, this Roman Renaissance Revival building is clad in terracotta to simulate masonry. It has housed many businesses; its current use is as an event venue and community hub.
11. Penry Park | Byce’s Incubator 226 Kentucky St.
The top of the park is the perfect vantage point to imagine what the town might have looked like 150 years ago. Across from the park at 228 Petaluma Blvd. N. was the location of Lyman Byce’s Petaluma Incubator, a company that would have a lasting impact on the city. Byce perfected the first practical chicken incubator in 1879 which allowed egg production to be “industrialized” leading to a boom in chicken farms and Petaluma’s title as the “World’s Egg Basket.”
12. Hillside Hospital 223 Kentucky St.
This address was once the location of the hospital built in 1880. Nearby, is the site of the old Baptist Church where a bell was rung during the Civil War to celebrate each Union victory. Unlike Santa Rosa, Petaluma’s neighbor to the north which was rebel territory, Petaluma strongly supported Lincoln and the Union.
13. Hotel Petaluma 205 Kentucky St.
Designed by San Francisco architect Frederick Whitton, the elegant 5-story, Mediterranean-style hotel was built in the early 1920s. It has recently undergone a complete renovation to restore it to the glamour of a bygone era. In the evening, settle into a comfy couch before a roaring fire and enjoy a libation from the lobby bar.
14. Volpi’s Restaurant 124 Washington St.
Originally an Italian market with a small tavern in the back, little has changed since Prohibition. Step back in time for a cold one and enjoy the accordion collection and yellowed dollar bills stuck to the ceiling in the former speakeasy. If those walls could talk..|
15. Hill Opera House | Phoenix Theater 201 Washington St.
The one-time Hill Opera House was built in 1904 and served as the city’s opera house, theater, and vaudeville palace. It has found new life as the Phoenix Theater, a music venue and teen center.
16. The Herold Building Corner of Washington and Kentucky St.
Built in 1899, its corner cupola is a favorite architectural detail. It’s one of many buildings on Kentucky Street that owes its existence to the chicken. The flourishing poultry industry spurred a building boom here between 1905 and 1915.
17. Old Opera House 149 Kentucky St.
Built in 1870 to replace the Music Hall on Main Street (now Petaluma Boulevard N.) as the city’s cultural center, the location now features an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants.
18. Putnam Plaza Park 129 Petaluma Blvd. N.
Always a focal point for the city, this location was the site of the American Hotel built in 1852. Next door was the Wells Fargo office where the arrival of the stagecoach down the dust-filled streets was a momentous event. The mini-park was dedicated as Putnam Plaza in 1987 in honor of Mayor Helen Putnam (1965-79).
19. Odd Fellows Hall 107-113 Petaluma Blvd. N.
The hall is one of the city’s oldest buildings, built between 1871-1878. It replaced the Petaluma House, a hotel built at the location in 1852, that was constructed with the provision that no Chinese labor could be used.
20. Linch Building 10 Western Ave.
Designed by architect Brainerd Jones, the “man who built Petaluma,” it was completed in 1910 as Baldwin’s Bakery and Restaurant and was the first steel-framed building north of San Francisco. The building is unique from others of the same period due to its vertical design.
21. Iron Front Row Western Ave. between Kentucky St. & Petaluma Blvd.
This is one of the largest blocks of iron-fronts located west of the Mississippi River. Thought to provide protection against fire, the facades were composed of multiple parts, cast separately at one of San Francisco’s many ironworks. Covering brick construction with an iron-front offered an affordable way to create elaborate detailing.
22. Prince Building 24 Western Ave.
The building features a glazed-brick exterior with terra- cotta trim and housed a pharmacy from the time of its construction in 1915 until 1983.
23. Coca-Cola sign on the Mutual Relief Building 25 Western Ave.
The south wall displays a restored classic 1920-era Coca-Cola sign featuring a uniquely Petaluma chicken and egg motif.
24. American Graffiti Filming Location Adjacent to 23 Petaluma Blvd. N.
Many of the iconic movie’s most memorable scenes where filmed in Petaluma in 1972. Once the site of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, today the lot it is best known as the “tie the chain to the cop’s axle” stunt location. A brochure with a full list of American Graffiti’s Petaluma filming locations is available at the Visitor Center, 210 Lakeville St.
25. Post Office Building 22-34 Petaluma Blvd. N.
Once again, the talents of architect Brainerd Jones, who by some estimates designed 75 percent of the buildings within the downtown area, are apparent. The Post Office Building was built in 1926, combining neoclassical elements with Gothic Revival-style detailing. The site was originally the location of the Pioneer Hotel, favored by the women of the era because they could step directly from the ships on the river onto the hotel’s walkway.
26. McNear’s Mystic Theatre 15-23 Petaluma Blvd. N.
The building to the north was built in 1886 and housed a National Guard armory on its upper floors. The Mystic Theatre built in 1911, featured silent movies accompanied by organ music. The McNear family was a mercantile dynasty, starting with John A. McNear, who came to Petaluma in 1856 and moved from real estate to the grain business, to flour milling, to shipping, banking and railroads. His son George continued the family tradition with a feed mill empire to serve the emerging egg industry. McNear Park and Cypress Hill Cemetery are two McNear family legacies.
27. Tomasini Rex Ace Hardware and Country Store 313 B St.
In 1917, this was the site of McNally’s Blacksmith shop. Note the blacksmith tools imprinted in sidewalk in front.
28. The Great Petaluma Mill 6 Petaluma Blvd. N.
The Mill complex is actually four different buildings. In the 1850s, the oldest section was used as a meat ware- house for the hunters who came to Petaluma. The stone walls of the building were 1.5 feet thick. Owners of the mill included business tycoons Isaac Wickersham and G.P. McNear who added more warehouses in the 1920s.
29. Water Street Trestle West side of the Petaluma River
The trains that once ran along this spur track from Petaluma to Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Forestville made this one of the busiest railroads in America. At its peak, the railroad hauled 10,000 carloads of produce and products and a quarter of a million passengers each year.
30. Petaluma River Turning Basin Weller St. south of E. Washington St.
Created in 1921, Petaluma’s second turning basin was created to provide boats with enough room to turn around and head south toward the San Francisco Bay.
31. Petaluma Yacht Club 10 C St.
Yacht Club members can dock and be within steps of excellent restaurants, dining, entertainment and shopping.
32. Historic D Street Drawbridge | Petaluma River
D St. east of Weller St.
Installed in 1933, the drawbridge was designed by the company of Joseph Strauss, famous for designing the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a Bascule bridge, which is movable with a counterweight that continually balances the span. This is the second bridge in this location since 1883.
33. Boulevard Cinemas 200 C St.
The cornerstone of Petaluma’s Theatre District, the multiplex is the result of seven teenage girls who in the early 2000s, rallied community support around their vision of a movie theater in downtown. The 7 stars in front of the theater honors their lasting contribution to the city.
34. Theatre Square Fountain 2nd and C Streets
At the center of Theatre Square is the Faces of Petaluma Fountain, featuring sculptures created by children and adults as an artistic link between Petaluma’s past and future. Completed in 2007, the dining, shopping and entertainment district was the first multi-building addition to the downtown area since John McNear built the Mystic Theater in 1911
35. 4th Street Post Office 120 4th St.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Spanish Revival-style downtown post office was built in 1933 to replace the original Brainerd Jones designed post office (see #25) which is still standing on Petaluma Blvd.
36. Petaluma Historical Library & Museum 20 4th St.
Built with funding from a Carnegie Foundation grant, the neoclassical-style building was designed by Brainerd Jones and opened in 1906. It served as the Petaluma Library until 1976 and became the city’s historical museum in 1978. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit the Museum Thursday through Sunday and enjoy the permanent collection rich in local history. Or enjoy a free guided walking tour led by a costumed docent on most Saturdays, May through October. Tours meet on the museum steps at 10:30 a.m.

Petaluma Visitors Program
210 Lakeville St • Petaluma California 94952 • (707) 769-0429

Replete with charming, back-in-time, small river town atmosphere
Petaluma is a multi-dimensional travel destination: to be experienced all by itself, or used as a base/hub, from which to explore the many pleasures of Sonoma County.

Just 45 minutes from San Francisco, this is a travel delight and cornucopia of possible adventures — you’ll find:
– old-time river town fun           – history                      – great dining          – wildlife habitats
– entertainment                        – natural beauty          – state parks           – bountiful wine regions
+ your personal discoveries

And all without a car!

Our Experience – The Great Carless Sonoma Weekend
We traveled by SMART train and on foot. You can easily add biking to the options/mix.
Join us (below) on our jam-packed, carless weekend – discover what you can see and do in 3 days!



Location, Location, Location! Petaluma’s perfect locus location makes it a triple-treat travel and tourist destination: 1. Perfect for a visit focused totally on the enjoyments available solely in old river town Petaluma on the river. 2. A base for explorations of the world famous Napa...


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...


Day 2

Petaluma + Santa Rosa RR Square  8:30 am breakfast in Hampton Inn Petaluma Once the dying facility of the Silk Mill, the dining room with 14’ ceiling and long windows define an old elegance in a new setting. Many breakfast choices: yogurt, fresh fruit, juices, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal (hot and cold), make your own waffle station, sweet rolls, bagels, bread for toasting, coffee/tea. We take our leisure with the breakfast but have much to see and tight schedule, so do not linger. 10:30 am walking tour Petaluma Historical Museum Free Petaluma History Tour starts at Petaluma’s Historical Library & Museum....


Day 3

Petaluma + return home 9 am breakfast Hampton Inn Petaluma Another challenge! So many choices…which way to go? Fruit and yogurt, yes. Waffle? Rarely have, might be good to try… but we haven’t had oatmeal in a long time, so we go there, drizzle a little Maple syrup on top, and some raisins. Healthy day start. With steaming coffee! 10:30 am facial & massage Life in Balance and Luma Esthetics In need of some pampering we head to the Burdell Building, you guessed it, another historic structure directly across from the Petaluma Train Station. Built in 1895 as a creamery, cold storage, and electrical power plant by...



Thanks to all who helped create this fine experience Fun of Travel  Joseph Cillo Publisher & Editor in Chief     Mary Buttaro Creative & Photo Editor Petaluma Visitors Program  Colleen Rustad Marketing and Events Coordinator                                ...



SMART Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) is a passenger rail service and bicycle-pedestrian pathway in Sonoma and Marin counties. The initial 43 mile rail corridor includes 10 stations, from Sonoma County Airport to Downtown San Rafael. Future extensions include: Larkspur (late-2019);...



Petaluma is a happening place! (Some even go so far as to call it the west coast New Orleans.) Events and celebrations, in-town and along the riverfront, happen every month: parades festivals fairs / faires music pianos art boating food film                                ...