Wine Country Family Fun at Cornerstone Sonoma

July 16, 2016

Cornerstone Sonoma

One of our must-visit Wine Country family destinations is Cornerstone Sonoma. It's a fun, family-friendly place where you can explore, play, and take in the beauty of their six acres of gardens and art installations. Of course this being Sonoma you can shop, dine, and wine taste here, too. We always make a point of visiting whenever we head up to the Wine Country. It's constantly changing, and there's always something new to see. Best of all, admission to the gardens is free!

You'll find Cornerstone just outside the town of Sonoma, across from the Gloria Ferrer winery on Highway 121, so it's easy to get to. Look for the long white picket fence and Big Blue Chair on your right as you head towards Sonoma, and you'll know you're there.

Every time we go to Cornerstone, my kids have a fantastic time exploring the nine different innovative garden installations, each with a different theme and each designed by a world-famous landscape architect. Gardens include plants, trees, natural materials, water features (often with resident fish and frogs), and architectural elements. You can even download their app and take a self-guided tour! In addition, you'll find five Sunset gardens that highlight food production, cut flowers, bee habitats, the Sunset plant line, and composting.

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Wandering through the gardens can be a magical experience for both children and adults, and many of the installations include some sort of hands-on interactive feature, like big recycled rope balls to roll around, and a place to write your wish on a mylar strip and add it to those of other visitors in a trellis-like "Wishing Room" structure.

Visiting Cornerstone is kind of like going to an outdoor museum, but one where you can both run and touch the art. Keep in mind that while there’s a lot for kids to do here, many of the gardens weren’t designed specifically with children in mind, so they definitely need to be supervised.

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For serious play, head to the dedicated Sonoma Children’s Garden with its bright green arbor, grapevine trellises, sandbox, colorful bird houses, play houses, and—my daughter's favorite—kid-size Adirondack chairs.

Kids will also find boxes of recycled building materials to play with, which will keep them occupied for a bit while mom and dad relax. Also in the center of the gardens is an installation comprising dozens of colorful daisy whirligigs that blow in the wind, which kids usually run to as soon as they see them.

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Make a day of it at Cornerstone and bring your lunch for a picnic in the Gardens—picnic tables are available near the barn structure in the middle of the garden area (unless they're setting up for a wedding or special event, of course). Cornerstone also has an on-site restaurant, Park 121, which has an extensive outdoor seating area and offers cuisine featuring locally sourced ingredients. Park 121 is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.

This summer, starting Saturday, July 16, 2016 and running through October 9, Cornerstone will be firing up the Sunset Test Kitchen grill and serving up sausages and homemade chips on weekends from 11 am to 4 pm. If that's not enough, the Sweet Scoops ice cream cart will be on hand on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 pm through September 18.

At Cornerstone you can sample some of the Wine Country's offerings at the tasting rooms for Keating Wines, Meadowcroft Wines, and Poseidon Vineyard & Obsidian Ridge Winery. Shops to browse include Artefact Design & Salvage and A New Leaf Gallery, which is the source of much of the sculpture that you'll run across at cornerstone. Don't miss the photo op in the Big Blue Chair at the entrance to Cornerstone, and take the time out to play a game of bocce ball in the court adjacent to the Keating Winery tasting room.

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Cornerstone offers a variety of special events throughout the year, including Tomatomania (April), The Traveling Spectacular! (summer dates) the annual Lighting of the Snowmen Festival (early December), and a holiday circus performance (late November and December). Check the Cornerstone event calendar for complete details.

If You Go

Cornerstone Sonoma is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm; the Gardens close at 4 pm. Admission to the Gardens at Cornerstone is free. This is the best deal in town, considering that you can spend the whole afternoon there. If you're there on a nice weekend day, you can also watch the planes take off and land at the Sonoma Valley Airport next door. Clean restrooms and drinking fountains are available.

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Cornerstone is located at 23570 Arnold Drive in Sonoma. To get there, take Highway 101 to Highway 37 east, then turn on to Highway 121 (Arnold Drive) at Sears Point. Follow 121 north; Cornerstone will be on your right after Sonoma Valley Airport.

Find out more about Cornerstone's gardens, shops, wineries, dining, and special events at www.cornerstonesonoma.com or call them at (707) 933-3010.

As an alternate place to pick up lunch, consider going to our favorite Wine Country provisioner, Angelo's Wine Country Deli. It's just up the street on Highway 121. They create delicious sandwiches, as well as what may possibly be the world's best beef jerkey. They also make all their own smoked sausages, turkey, bacon, hams, fish, and more. It's definitely worth a stop.