Nino Padova

Petaluma Stand Up Paddle (photography by Michael Woolsey)

Not long ago, downtown Petaluma’s main draws were its funky stuck-in-time saloons and quirky parades (read: Butter and Egg Days). Those are still hits, but now a new wave of young farmers and butchers are refreshing Petaluma’s old iron-front buildings with sleek new storefronts that pay tribute to its historic country charm, while outdoorsy pioneers are taking to the river in an entirely new way. Writer Jenna Scatena leads the way.

Do the country breakfast thing

The best new brunch spot  in the area, Wishbone serves hearty country breakfasts, like dense sourdough pancakes and sticky bacon cinnamon rolls, sourcing many ingredients—even the milk—from local farms and ranches, including their own. Homemade breads and jams arrive at the wooden tables, but the rustic appeal is balanced by delicate drinks, like muddled blackberry mimosas.

Stand up to the river

The folks at Petaluma Stand Up Paddle help you see downtown from a different perspective than the crowded sidewalks: gliding across the glassy waters of the Petaluma River. Rent by the hour or the day, or, for a real challenge, try a guided yoga lesson on your board. Group eco paddles bring you up close to the river’s wildlife, including swooping egrets. From $20.

Worship at the alter of pork belly

Last year, two local women recognized a gap in Petaluma’s farm-to-table scene and opened Thistle Meats, a butchery that sources from a dozen nearby ranches. Shiny glass cases are stocked with grass-fed beef, pork belly, rabbit, goat, and small-batch sausages made in the back. Don’t overlook the housemade terrine or the sandwich of the day—think bánh mì or meatloaf melt.

Stock up on garden supplies

 If you’ve ever wondered where many of the Bay Area’s most avid gardeners get their seeds, peek inside the Petaluma Seed Bank store. Housed in the century-old Sonoma County National Bank building, the space is filled with specialty gardening tools and 1,700 varieties of heirloom seeds—from obscure herbs and hard-to-find vege­table varietals to seasonal West Coast bulbs for home gardens. Never heard of Dwarf Siberian kale and Atomic Red carrot? This is your chance to plant them.

Gawk at the coffee art

When Petalumans need a pick-me-up, they head to Acre Coffee, downtown’s nerve center on weekend mornings. Order the famed dark chocolate mocha, made with Guittard chocolate, then pull up a chair at the communal table to listen in on local chatter. The shelves are stocked with goodies such as housemade granola and direct-sourced coffee beans.

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