Sebastopol, California is an officially declared Nuclear Free Zone. Situated in the hills north of San Francisco, the city has apple orchards, wineries, and an eclectic downtown with some great off-beat shopping. Arts-focused and independent, Sebastopol struggles with the same issues other California cities cope with, yet they try to always veer toward slow growth, green policies, and care for the quality of their citizens as top priorities.
The annual festivals, Apple Blossom Festival and Gravenstein Apple Fair are several of the biggest events in the region, but you can enjoy passing through any time of year and tasting pesticide-free, organic produce (check your labels!)
As strangers passing through Sebastopol, a travel companion and I were feeling the hospitality was less than stellar at several chain stores we stopped at to buy supplies. But that's no surprise. Sebastopol is more about independent mom & pop shops than big box. Once you cozy up to Sebastopol, you realize that it's like any other place where people go to work, to school, and carve out lives for themselves.
That said, there is an undercurrent or a vibe -- which feels like the 60s generation landed in this neck of the Sonoma County woods and decided to establish roots.
One example is the summer music festival, Peacetown. It's all about peaceful living, loving, and it's absolutely free. The acts are by no means a Woodstock redux. While performers have included Barry "The Fish" Melton, co-founder and original lead guitarist of Country Joe and the Fish (famous for a counter-culture song & performance at Woodstock in 1969,) countless famous musicians have graced the small stages of local distilleries, restaurants and bars. Performing for appreciative audiences that gather in this slightly out-of-the-way music haven, you'll find more than a fair share of bluegrass, swing, jazz and even country.
Like the secretive Bohemian Grove in Monte Rio some 16 miles distance, Sebastopol feels like a secret spot harboring the shared talents of the rich & famous of the music world.
Part of Sonoma County, an incredible area north of San Francisco, neighboring city Santa Rosa provides a larger selection of hotels and the Charles Schulz Museum with an outstanding collection of the prolific cartoonist's works. It's population veers towards 200,000 while Sebastopol, about 10 minutes down the road, has less than 10,000 people at recent count.
Sonoma Wine Country also awaits, providing an amazing selection of world
class wines to sample and purchase. Sebastopol is very much a part of that
scene with many gourmet restaurants popping up, inspired by the local wines,
champagnes and produce.