Garden retreat outside of San Francisco.
Best known as the backdrop for the film American Graffiti, the farm town of Petaluma is also notably filled with Victorian architecture and gardens. The best way to get from one point to another is by car, but plenty of walking is sure to be on any itinerary, whether you’re stepping into historic homes, stopping to smell the roses (literally), or wandering through olive orchards.
Garden Valley Ranch
What began as a cattle ranch in the 1880's is now home to more than 10,000 rose bushes and a renovated cottage (the original was damaged in a fire in the 1980's). Just north of San Francisco, Garden Valley Ranch is one of the few places in the country that sells chemical-free, cut garden roses, meaning they are grown outdoors without cover. Self-guided tours of the field and other gardens cost a nominal fee, and are shown by appointment only. There is also a retail nursery, which carries bare-root and potted roses in 400-plus varieties, as well as fertilizers, soil, and literature.
McEvoy Ranch, Petaluma
After retirement, Nan McEvoy purchased a former dairy farm spanning 550 acres in Petaluma, which she decided to use to produce Tuscan olive oil. With the help of Maurizio Castelli, one of Italy's foremost experts on the subject, McEvoy has turned her 1,000 seedlings imported from Tuscany into a booming business. The olives are certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and are milled, blended, and bottled at the ranch with the help of a state-of-the-art Rapanelli frantoio (an olive oil mill). The ranch produces a traditional blend that combines six Italian varietals, two small-batch oils, and a line of body care. Public tours and events are held April through October.
Central Market, Petaluma
Chef and owner Tony Najiola's downtown Petaluma restaurant serves locally sourced New American cuisine inside an open dining room. Large windows and high ceilings let in plenty of light, while wood floors, exposed brick walls, and hanging kitchen utensils add to the natural, farm-to-table theme. Chef Najiola and his staff can be seen behind the fresh oyster bar, where they prepare items from the seasonal menus, often using the wood-burning oven. Dishes include pan-roasted organic chicken breast over pumpkin hummus and red pizza with house-made chorizo, shaved fennel, and dry jack. The wine list changes to match the seasonal menu.
The 17-room Metro Hotel has a quirky French twist: a Victorian house-turned-inn with hardwood floors, white comforters, cheery blue doors, and a lush courtyard graced by Parisian café tables.