Forget a dozen roses. Give your love a botanical garden. Specifically, one hidden away on the western slope of Sonoma Valley’s Mayacamas Mountains, Quarryhill Botanical Garden has one of the Bay Area’s best displays of Asian flora—and it’s a brilliant place for a quiet picnic. You’re allowed to bring in food and drinks; just pack it all out and don’t make a mess. The 25 acres of gardens wind up into the hillside via a variety of trails and among flowering shrubs, exotic shade trees, tranquil ponds, and even two waterfalls.
Grab a map from the visitor center and pay the entry fee ($12/person), then stroll the 2 miles of winding gravel paths, getting up close to rare and endangered species from Asia. The entire garden has been grown from seeds collected from the wilds of China, Tibet, and other parts of the Himalayas. A katsura tree (#19 on the park map) gives off a cotton-candy scent on warm days. You’ll also find the beautiful Dawn Redwood, giving shade to picnic tables by the upper pond. Thought to be extinct, these redwoods were found in a remote part of China. The map indicates several picnic tables quietly set among the space, including one near a charming bridge leading to a gazebo that gets bathed in afternoon sunlight. But they’re all pretty good!
For the best view, walk up to the Himalayan prayer flags on the eastern edge of the park, where a bench makes an ideal perch for looking out across Sonoma Valley and its acres of vineyards as the prayer flags rustle in the wind.
Wine Down Bonus: You’ll be very close to several wineries coming and going from Quarryhill on Sonoma Highway. A few we like: Muscardini Cellars and Imagery Estate Winery (serving a special wine on Valentine’s Day weekend—February 16 & 17.