Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa is a veritable confluence of all things California: wine country, farmland, redwoods, rivers, lakes, foothills and even the ocean, which is not too far away. Just 55 miles north of San Francisco, you'll find almost as many cultural activities, dining choices and educational opportunities here as in the City.

In 2012, the Green Music Center opened and immediately established itself as a distinguished venue, attracting top performers and artists in addition to the 30-plus existing performing arts centers in Santa Rosa. From microbreweries to maker fairs, Santa Rosa is an artisan's center for the conventional as well as the eclectic.

More than 70 community and neighborhood parks offer activities from boating and amusement rides to sports courts and a fly-casting pond. The city is currently undergoing a park upgrade project to provide more accessibility.

Other opportunities of note include the Sonoma Serengeti, or Safari West. A safari experience amid herds of wildlife is aimed at enhancing conservation and environmental education. If you prefer more domesticated critters, visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum and see the chronology and development of Snoopy and all his Peanuts friends.

Higher learning is also a priority here, where you'll find the Santa Rosa campus of the University of San Francisco, the highly-respected Santa Rosa Junior College and the Empire College, School of Law.