Salute the Republic of California (all 25 days of it) under the bear flag in Sonoma
Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma. (Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)
Why: Sonoma, just 45 miles north of San Francisco, has a bustling central plaza, the last Franciscan missions and a unique revolutionary history.
What: Sonoma and its mission were born just as Mexico was wrestling control of the Californias away from Spain in the 1820s. But in June, 1846, about 20 English-speaking men staged the Bear Flag Revolt, arrested Mexican general Mariano Vallejo and declared Sonoma to be part of a new California republic — all without firing a shot.
This attempt at independence lasted less than a month, but it showed Mexico’s vulnerability. And it was time enough for somebody to design a flag featuring a grizzly bear that, unfortunately, looked a lot like a pig. By 1848, the U.S. had taken control of Alta California, including Sonoma, by prevailing in the Mexican War.
Now Sonoma County is at the heart of Northern California wine country, with more than 425 wineries. Within and between its many19th century buildings, downtown Sonoma (population: about 11,000) is filled with bistros, tasting rooms and shops. In the plaza stands a statue of a heroic-looking man waving a Bear Flag.
The Sonoma State Historic Park includes several buildings around town, among them the Mexican troops’ barracks and the Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma, founded 1823. Walk the grounds and you’ll find a commemorative display, added in 1999, listing names of the baptized native "neophytes" buried in its cemetery — more than 800 of them. (At most California mission cemeteries, the neophytes go unnamed.)
Where: Sonoma Plaza, 410 miles northwest of downtown L.A.
How much: Free. At least until you start tasting wine.
Info: Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau
Black Friday 2016, South Coast Plaza MacKerricher State Park, Fort Bragg. (Paul Boorstin) (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times) (Richard Derk / Los Angeles Times) (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times) There’s a roof over this patio now. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times) (Irene Lechowitzky) Paradise Cove, Malibu. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times) The Racetrack, Death Valley. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)