The perfect small town, Petaluma has managed to retain its old-school rural charm ― squint down Petaluma Boulevard, and it could be 1900 ― while adding the best from the modern world: stylish boutiques, great restaurants, and a few flower-child echoes from the '60s.
The town turns 150 this year, and it has a lot to celebrate; it's Northern California's finest from every era. Take a self-guided tour of a neighborhood where historic mansions sit next to Craftsman beauties.
From San Francisco, take U.S. 101 north to the E. Washington St. exit. Head west on Washington, then make a left on Petaluma Blvd. to reach downtown. You can pick up a walking-tour map at the very helpful visitor center in the Historic Depot Building (210 Lakeville St./State 116; visitpetaluma.com or 877/273-8258).
Central Market An open, exposed-brick bistro emphasizing organic foods. It's all delish, but for a taste of the area, we especially love the simple romaine salad with chopped egg and buttermilk-blue cheese dressing ― all local, of course. INFO: $$; 42 Petaluma Blvd. N.; 707/778-9900.
Della Fattoria After a recent visit, Sunset food editor Margo True said, "How can bread be that good?" Start with a sandwich at an outdoor table and finish with the strawberry chiffon cake. Thank us later. INFO: $; closed Mon; 141 Petaluma Blvd. N.; 707/763-0161.