If you’re looking for ideas on places to stay in Sonoma, I’m hesitant to recommend Glen Ellen. It’s that nice and worth keeping as one of the best kept secrets.
After our trip, we are more grateful this town was saved from the fires.
After driving through these country roads for the first time twelve years ago, it still never gets old. There are so many towns to discover in Sonoma County it’s no wonder it never does get old. We have traveled here 3 or 4 times a year for the past 5 years and each time we return we fall in love with Sonoma all over again.
These are the 7 reasons why we really like Glen Ellen.
1) Everything is within walking distance.
The Jack London Lodge is a great hotel because if you like to walk in the morning to grab a cup of coffee, you can do that here. Choose between the Glen Ellen Market, the hotel breakfast or the French Patisserie. With so many choices, you can pick a different spot every morning.
When we got inquiries from guests for our vacation home, we were often asked if the home was within walking distance to grab coffee or eat. If you know Sonoma, it’s pretty rare to find anything within walking distance unless you’re staying at one of the hotels on the main plazas like Healdsburg or Sonoma but in Glen Ellen, you can. What’s different is that it gets dark, really dark. It’s like walking back to your campsite in the woods where you can appreciate the smell of the pines except here it’s after a nice dinner, in your nice clothes.
2) Have a nightcap without having to drive back to your hotel.
If you like to hang out late at night and walk back to your hotel from the Jack London Saloon, this is also the place.
We got in pretty late and we had to check-in at the saloon. It looked like it had been there for at least 50 years when actually it had been there for about a hundred. As I walked into the bar still wondering if this is where we check in, I was asked by some patrons hanging out in front if I was there to get hammered which I could only think to answer back that maybe I was.
The bar had a mix of people hanging out on a Thursday night. It was a place I didn’t plan to return so I grabbed my key and walked out the door. However, Saturday night was a different story.
3) You can let your hair down.
The Jack London Saloon is pretty amazing. On Saturday night, the place was packed. What makes this saloon amazing is not because of the way the decor was done or even that it was in a historic saloon. This place has stories to tell!
From the windows and through the door that opened and closed, we saw people with sweaters hanging off shoulders, white pants, shiny watches and fancy purses. Maybe they meandered into the bar from Umbria Glen Ellen, the restaurant next door. It was like the Sonoma connoisseurs of California wine mingled with the Thursday night crowd I ran into while checking in and everyone seemed to be getting hammered together.
I guess it was true that celebrities were known to hang out there too.
4) You don’t need a Whole Foods here.
Glen Ellen Market is one of the best markets in Sonoma County to shop for snacks, a picnic or a BBQ in your vacation home. This market has a great deli, cheese bar, amazing butcher shop and just the right amount of intimate atmosphere you look for in the country to not only make you feel you’re in the country but to actually find ready made foods or those special ingredients for a BBQ. This isn’t the typical local corner grocer where you have to compromise on snacks.
5) Go back in time.
Jack London State Park is that break you need to learn about the history of Sonoma. It’s great if you need a little exercise to hike up the hill but it’s also about a 5 min drive from town too. If you’ve visited Jack London’s home, the author of many books including The Call of the Wild and The Valley of the Moon, you’ll be transformed into a different era with just enough charm in the house to transmit you to far away places.
6) Forget the drive, dine-in.
The restaurants in Glen Ellen are amazing. They’re quaint and remind me of the charm you’d find in Geyserville except you don’t have to drive that far north. It’s just a short walk. If you like finding great restaurants in the woods with great wine and dishes you can smell fresh garlic and seafood from the grill as you walk in, this is your kind of place. There’s only about 10 tables max in these kind of places but nonetheless check to make reservations.
7) Fine dining is found everywhere - even for breakfast.
You will find a true French Patissier - Les Pascals run by a French couple who met in France and have perfected the business of an incredible French bakery.
We found their quiche Lorraine fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth quality. My sister commented on how she hadn’t had quiche like that in a very long time. If you like fluffy quiche, this is the place. Their croissants had no complaints either.
What grabbed my eye were the baguettes toasted with ham and cheese from a table I passed by to stand in line.
Is there some kind of qualification to own a place to eat around here?
Glen Ellen adds more reasons to visit Sonoma. There’s nothing pretentious about it. If you love nature, phenomenal food, morning walks along the creek, the smell of pine trees after dinner and the ability to let your hair down, Glen Ellen hits the spot.
Just please keep this to yourselves.