Healdsburg Golf Club carves through Wine Country, loping over undulating terrain marked by mature fir trees and views of Dry Creek Valley. Before taking the course, limber up on the all-weather driving range, with 18 stalls spread over three tiers that allow golfers to smack 300-yard drives or attempt to sink a two-story practice putt. The nine-hole course wraps well-manicured fairways around doglegs and surrounds greens with an entourage of bunkers and rolling mounds. Though suited for beginners, the course is a test for players of abilities, challenging golfers to hit a variety of shots, from long drives down par 5s to bicycle kicks past the goalkeeper on the eighth green. Golfers can relax after their rounds with a relaxing meal at the club?s bar and outdoor patio. The elevated patio overlooks the course as it fades into a sea of trees, misty mountains lining the horizon, and a wormhole leading to a secret nine-hole course on the moon.
Course at a Glance
More than 2 miles above the Russian River, a skydiver jumps from a plane, quickly accelerating to racecar speeds of 120 mph before a canopy opens above and glides the diver to earth amid views of neighboring clear waters, sprawling vineyards, and the San Francisco skyline. Located in the heart of wine country, NorCal Skydiving's professional staffers make it their mission to pass on these thrills to each customer regardless of skill level or ability to fly his or her own plane. During tandem jumps, experienced instructors and novice divers conjoin and jump together from a plane 13,000 feet in the air. Once students are hooked, instructors can coach them on advanced techniques, such as canopy flight, and then help them become licensed skydivers. Additionally, NorCal Skydiving's staff regularly parajumps into the U.S. Parachute Association to work as safety and training advisors.
Typically, baseballs fly out of AT&T Park to splash into the water. This Thanksgiving, it will be runners who dart from a starting line outside the stadium to trot along the waterfront. From there, these racers—some dressed as turkeys, sleeping uncles, or other iconic Thanksgiving images—wind into the SoMa district before bending into the heart of the city and finishing at City Hall. Proceeds from the race benefit the San Francisco and Marin Food Bank, an organization dedicated to ending hunger in the community. The race organizers have completely committed to the giving nature of Thanksgiving, not just with the race's date and charitable cause but also with its route. The course is designed to showcase the work being done to help those experiencing hunger, as well as "create a visual representation of the real care being delivered by the community," as the race site states.
River's Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips' owner Lollie Mercer likes to joke about being in the business of curing nature-deficiency disorder. It's certainly true that sunlight and exercise provide the body with a whole host of benefits, and Lollie's customers get plenty of those riding the rapids of the Russian River. She and her staff outfit guests with one of six types of boats, which include styles that range from the classic canoe to double kayaks. Self-guided groups embark on three- to six-hour trips where they navigate Class I and II rapids. When the water calms, they can view the abundant wildlife along the river's banks, including osprey, eagles, otters, and turtles. Eventually, groups land at River's Edge Beach, where Lollie and her crew collect gear and guests reunite with their less-awesome land-based vehicles.
Sonoma Helicopter's fleet of choppers hardly ever stops spinning as they lead training, photography, and tour flights throughout the Sonoma Valley and wine country year round. Their thorough training program pairs classroom and flight sessions to produce pilots capable of taming wild helicopters, and the mountain-flying school further specializes chopper jockeys. Aside from aerial surveys that delve into animal populations, power-line patrols, and crop pollinations, the staff also takes to the air to give guests a bird's-eye view of Sonoma.
Sapphire Hill Vineyards has been a small, boutique winery ever since it first opened in 1989, and that is just the way that the staff likes it. Owners Lisa and Chris Mulcahy are content with keeping their production limited and manageable, which gives their team more freedom to experiment with new varietals and slightly different wine-making techniques, occasionally making as few as 24 cases of a particular wine just to see what it tastes like. Even when experimenting though, every wine is intended to be a pure representation of the character of Sonoma fruit. This is evident in the winery's current releases, such as a Russian River Valley chardonnay that is aged in used oak for 16 months, lending a rounded toastiness to the grapes' crisp citrus notes, as well as in the Dry Creek zinfandel?harvested from 70-year-old vines?which balances its dark berry flavors with a peppery streak and fine tannic backbone.