Sonoma is sweeping up the distinctions as a destination.

In February the National Trust for Historic Preservation singled out the birthplace of the Bear Flag Republic, with its mission, old barracks and original adobes, as one of a Dozen Distinctive Destinations. The honor roll also interestingly includes Sonoma’s northern neighbor Eureka for its frequently photographed Carson Mansion, majestic forests and Victorian seaport.

In selecting Sonoma, the Trust noted that “Though only a short drive from San Francisco, Sonoma feels worlds away, with its laid back charm and small town atmosphere.”

And just last month, Forbes.com’s John Guiffo singled out Sonoma and as one of “America’s Prettiest Towns.” The completely subjective list was compiled based on recommendations from Frommer’s, the British Rough Guides and, inexplicably, “Midwestern Living” magazine.

Looking for places that offer “not only aesthetic bounty,” but memorable activities and destinations nearby, Guiffro (who it should be noted, lives in Queens), said there is “something about Sonoma that makes it stand out from its neighbors” in Wine Country.

“A world away from Napa’s glitz and glamour, it’s the sort of place where local farmers mingle with vacationing San Franciscans at the tasting bars of the area’s many famous wineries. In town, historic Spanish-style adobe buildings and other 19th-century structures mix with an arty, laid-back California vibe to make Sonoma an attractive place to spend time,” Giuffro writes, based on the assessment of Nick Edwards of the Rough Guides.

Edwards did allow that Sonoma has ” little bit of sprawl, but it feels more authentic here.”
None of this is news to Sonomans, whether they live in the town itself or the county that shares its name. But it is a reminder that people all over the world are Sonoma dreaming.  And if you live here, you don’t have to dream. Just get in the car and go.

Guiffo also plucked out little Ferndale, a slice of Victorian gingerbread in the redwoods, as another one of America’s prettiest towns.