So you had a kid….
That is absolutely no reason to shun wine country. In fact, quite the opposite – Sonoma is incredibly family friendly, and we were thrilled to explore it!
Let me give you a little back story: In 2011, my not-yet-husband and I flew to San Francisco. A brief pause at the Courthouse changed marital status, and we spent the next 3 days on honeymoon in Sonoma, enjoying great meals, lovely wine, fog and solitude, before anyone else even knew we had married.
Five years later, our daughter Avi was just about to turn 2. We wanted one last “free flight under 2” hurrah, and decided to celebrate our anniversary where it all began – with our little tiny in tow. It was a little last minute – just before Christmas, we booked our flights and a room at the Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa, in Santa Rosa – right off the 101, centered in Sonoma Valley.
Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa
We picked the resort for a few reasons: large, family friendly and budget conscious, the resort offers lots of space for a running toddler. Most importantly for us, it’s very well located in the center of Sonoma Valley, near the 101 and the Sonoma Highway. Santa Rosa itself is full of possibilities: the huge farmers market convenes each weekend, and there are plenty of dining and shopping options both for special occasions and everyday needs; the hotel itself is adjacent to a CVS pharmacy and a Safeway grocery store, while coffee shops, cafes and boutiques lie just blocks away. The best part for our adventuring style: it’s only 30 minutes in any direction to access a variety of vineyards and appellations, astonishing redwood forests, world class restaurants, quaint villages, coastal adventures and meandering drives.
Our flight to SFO was long and strangely delayed; we arrived in the early afternoon, and after a quick lunch with friends in the Financial District, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and meandered our way up the Sonoma Valley. Pulling off the 101 into Santa Rosa well after dark, I was concerned- how would we find The Flamingo Resort and Conference Center?
I needn’t have worried: the spinning fuchsia beacon was visible from a mile away.
Designed by famed LA modern architect George Vernon Russell to complement the sister casino in Las Vegas, the vertical turning Flamingo sign is familiar to all. The original Santa Rosa Flamingo opened its doors to much fanfare in 1957, quickly becoming a favored destination for Hollywood glitterati and local society. We weren’t quite so posh, but we absolutely appreciated the warm welcome we received.
The spacious lobby features lovely plush seating under an enormous crystal chandelier, perfect for the starlet greeting her entourage – or the mom enjoying her morning coffee. Ballrooms and meeting centers radiate off the lobby, and a short hallway leads to the Terrace Grill and Flamingo Lounge, which features live entertainment all weekend (the salsa music spilling from the room during our visit was fantastic!) Vintage photographs of the glitterati that used to grace the hotel are hung along the hallway, including a super picture of a bikini-clad Jayne Mansfield sucking in her tummy at the pool steps.
The hotel rooms are built in wings that radiate around a lovely pool and beautifully manicured lawn, which must be glorious all summer long. My imagination already has me lounging on a shaded chaise with a good book and a cool drink while my daughter and husband splash in the pool. The pool isn’t heated, so we didn’t dive in during our January visit, but we did enjoy the hot tub, sheltered in a pavilion at the north side of the grounds. There is also a gym and spa adjacent to the hotel, with yoga studio, lap swimming and a cycling center. Hotel guests can access the gym with a day rate; the spa offers a complete menu of beautification and relaxation services at a variety of prices.
We stayed in one of the main floor pool view king suites, featuring a spacious living room with a large couch and writing desk, a TV on a large dresser, as well as a mini fridge. It had tons of space for our little toddler to run around in, as well as the travel crib that the hotel provided. The compact bathroom had been recently updated with Kohler faucets and fixtures, and also held a small coffee maker on the expansive countertop; Avi loved her bathtime, and we loved the water pressure!
The bedroom featured a heavenly plush king-size bed, a closet and a TV, and plenty of space for our luggage without tripping over anything. The main floor king suites all seem to have 2 exits – one off the living area, and one at the back/bath hall, allowing you to step out quietly even if you’ve got the crib in the living room. Most importantly: the monitor reached the hot tub! If you have similar concerns, you may want to request a room flanking the pool area, as the wings of rooms extend away from the central pool.
Continental breakfast is offered in the Terrace Grill, and offers a number of great options: soul-satisfying oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins, loads of fresh fruit, bagels and muffins and hard boiled eggs offer good fuel for your daily adventures. There is also full breakfast menu available. My only complaint about the breakfast was that the coffee was mediocre, but we discovered Acre Coffee just a few blocks away and caffeined up there on our way out of town.
The Terrace Grill Lunch and Dinner menus are quite varied, and always offer vegetarian and vegan options such as butternut squash ravioli and heaping green salads. We didn’t dine in, but did pop in on Saturday night to enjoy some dancing in the adjacent Flamingo Lounge. The late night entertainment is 21+, so you’ll need to arrange a sitter or a monitor. Having seen the giant adirondack chair emblazoned with Ehret Wine on the poolside green, I was curious and ordered a glass, much to my delight: the cabernet is incredibly supple, rich and deep and easy to enjoy without food – though probably stupendous with a steak!
Another pleasant surprise: the Flamingo is dedicated to reducing its environmental footprint without sacrificing the comfort of guests. Energy efficient upgrades include low-e windows, dramatically reducing energy usage needs, and water-sense rated plumbing fixtures – small moves that provide greater comfort to guests as well as reducing material waste and energy usage.
All these amenities – it’s a wonder we left the hotel at all! Sonoma is such an incredible area, offering adventures tailored to every age and interest – stay tuned for more on what to do in wine country!
Know Before You Go
- The Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa, 2777 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95405
- Directions: for some reason, google maps thinks you should take the back way in – I plugged the address in on 2 phones and my home computer, and each time, it wiggled us up a residential back road. If you’re coming in from the south on Farmer’s Lane, trust your gut and just cross 4th Street in to the parking lot.
- Cribs Available? Yes
- Dining available? Yes.
- Babysitters onsite? No. You will need to call a local nanny service to book a sitter that can come to the hotel.