The final $1000 Vacation I’ve created will put you in wine country. Sonoma, California and its vineyards are the second most-visited attractions in the state. I was inspired by Kate from Centsational Girl and her recommendations for a wine country day trip and decided to create an extended budget version based on some of her suggestions.
Just north of San Francisco, this is normally a very pricey area but by visiting in the off-season you’ll have a chance to take a trip here for under $1000. Make sure you either bring your car or rent one because you’ll be traveling all over wine country for this trip.
You’ll stay 4 nights at the Sonoma Valley Inn. The Sonoma Valley Inn is a Best Western hotel located in the heart of downtown Sonoma. I chose the hotel because it offers some extra beauty for your stay. Your room features a fireplace with two queen beds at a special introductory price. It includes private patio or balcony overlooking the gardens, continental breakfast, and mini-fridge for $99/nt or $443.66 total.
Day 1: You’ll stop at your first winery of the trip, Cline Cellars. The tasting room here is in an 1850s farm house. They hold complimentary wine tastings daily from 10 AM to 6 PM. You can try 5 of their signature wines for free and it’s just $1 each for 3 additional reserve tastings (you can waive that fee if you buy a bottle you like). Public tours of the winery are conducted daily at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm and are FREE. ($6)
Day 2: Switching things up, you’ll be heading to CornerStone in Sonoma. While CornerStone has a winery on-site, we suggest stopping by to check out the CornerStone Sonoma Gardens. The gardens were featured in 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die and resemble an outdoor art museum. Admission to the Gardens is free and they are open from 10 AM to 4 PM. You can also visit independent shops and galleries while at CornerStone so get here early to see it all. (FREE)
Day 3: Your second winery of the trip will bring you to Nicholson Ranch. Call ahead and reserve an intimate wine tasting and tour for $20/person. A typical tour might include an introduction to the tasting room, a potential tasting of the newest batch of wine, a viewing of the fountain and a history lesson, and visits to the vineyard, fermenting facilities, and caves. You’ll taste two more wines during the tour and yet another when you return back to the tasting room. ($40)
Day 4: Here’s a chance to enjoy the beautiful California countryside. Jack London Historic State Park was once land purchased and developed by author Jack London. Now the grounds exist to honor him. A 3/4 mile walk will take you to a dam, lake, and bathhouse built by London. Other hikes lead up through fir and oak woodlands to views of the Valley of the Moon. Another trail leads to Jack London’s grave and to “Wolf House,” London’s dream house, which was destroyed by fire in 1913. The park is currently open from 10 AM to 5 PM but hurry, due to state budget cuts the park is likely to be closing in the future so don’t miss it. Admission is $8/vehicle. ($8)
Day 5: Your final winery of the trip will be Domaine Carneros. Domaine Carneros is an 18th century French inspired chateau just south of Napa. For this trip, enjoy a wine tasting with a cheese plate. You’ll enjoy the Sparkling Wine Sampler, Red Wine Sampler, and the Sparkling Cheese Plate during your afternoon. ($48)
Breakfast and lunch are up to you on this trip with a $20 budget each day per person ($200 of your budget). Since your hotel offers continental breakfast feel free to use all $20 on lunch or eat cheap and pocket the difference. I’ve scouted out the city for some dinner ideas. All the prices below are estimates but do include a guess at tax and tip when applicable.
Day 1: After a beautiful day at Cline Cellars, head back to Sonoma and stop by The Girl and the Fig. This is one of the top dining spots in town. Most nights they offer a 3-course plat du jour for $34 that you can pair with a $10 wine flight. This restaurant embodies the Sonoma spirit and no matter what you choose, you’re in good hands. Splurge a little and spend $110 here.
Day 2: On your way back from CornerStone Gardens you can stop back at Angelo’s Wine Country Deli. They offer some free samples of jerky but the sandwiches are the standouts here. The restaurant smokes their own sandwich meat so they’re very tasty. The deli is only open till 5 so make sure to leave the gardens early to make it here in time. Get two sandwiches, some potato salad, and drinks for around $25.
Day 3: After spending the day Nicholson Ranch, head back to Sonoma and the Sunflower Caffe Espresso & Wine Bar. I first saw the caffe on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and realized this place was so much more than a dive. Both the lamb burger and the smoked duck breast are standouts. Two plates and two glasses of wine will cost around $50.
Day 4: Locals love the Breakaway Café for a casual dining spot. They have simple food and are known for their breakfast but dinner here hits the spot. Their burgers and BLTs get rave reviews and they offer a wide selection of dinner platters. You’ll spend around $40 here.
Day 5: Small World Restaurant is a Greek/Middle Eastern style restaurant right in the heart of Napa. It’s a tiny little place with gyros, falafel, and more. Budget around $25 for 2 meals and drinks.
View $1000 Sonoma Trip in a larger map
What a close one! We barely made it under $1000 but we did it proving even wine country is possible on a budget. For more ways to save money, take advantage of your mini-fridge in the room and buy some cold cuts and make sandwiches to eat during the day. Don’t cut back on the wine though, you’re in wine country!
Hopefully after 3 quality $1000 vacations you’re starting to believe anywhere might be possible on a budget. If you’d like to suggest a city for us to conquer, leave a message in the comments and we’ll give it a shot!