I Didn’t Realize That Sonoma County was Hella Gay
Want to know what all the gays are up to in San Francisco’s neighboring wine country? Did you know that Sonoma County is home to one of the highest per capita populations of LGBTQIA+ peoples in the country? I sure didn’t! Debatably, it lacks that community feel for a queer millennial like myself, but a retired gay, or few on holiday can surely find some fun out here in the sun.
If you’re gay and in need of a queer friendly stay, without using up your air miles, look no further. It’s no Castro, but you can absolutely find your people lounging around in the vineyards, or partying it up in the redwoods.
Summer is just around the corner, and us queers must pre-plan to get into the right events for those hot gay days together.
Just an hour and half drive from SF is Guerneville, a quaint little town along the Russian River. Historically known amongst the queers as “Gay Guerneville,” they have their own gay bar, and two openly gay resorts. There’s the Rainbow Cattle Company, “Sonoma County’s Gay Playground,” a saloon that’s been around since 1979. The R3 Hotel, Restaurant and Bar, known as the premier LGBTQIA+ entertainment resort in Lower Russian River. And The Woods, a Russian River gay hotel, offering a “Clothing Optional” pool.
As a Sonoma County native, I was shook when I found out there are actually designated queer spaces nearby. Count me in!
In the summer you can spend a weekend at the R3 Hotel, Restaurant and Bar with women, and all LGBTQIA+ people partying in town for the Russian River’s Women’s Weekend in May. Although the name suggests it’s for women only, they clearly state on their website that it’s an inclusive event “for all LGBTQIA+ femmes and women, including but not limited to trans women, trans men, non-binary, and gender-queer folks.”
Looking for something more relaxed? You’ll have to check out the Gay Wine Weekend in July, “3 Days of LGBTQ+ Celebration in Sonoma Wine Country.” Hosted by Out In The Vineyard, they’ll provide “a celebration on an estate vineyard, VIP receptions, wine excursions, a drag queen brunch, a wine auction, and a pool party.” Can’t make it? All good, Out In The Vineyard puts on other festivities, as well as offering their services to assist LGBTQ+ travelers in wine country.
As far as main events go, a third one to take note of is the Sonoma County Pride in June. What they lack in size they make up for in cuteness. If you’re itching for a more mellowed out Pride this year, or you just happen to plan your getaway that weekend, you can make your way to Santa Rosa for their pride parade and festival. I volunteered last year and it was quite enjoyable to wander around, check out local vendors, and watch the live performances.
The last place worth mentioning is Brew Coffee and Beer House in Santa Rosa, a cozy cafe with outdoor seating in a queer friendly safe space. Maybe on your way out to Guerneville, or while you’re in town for Pride, it’s a welcoming spot to grab a drink and a bite to eat.