For most of the country, Charlie Brown and gang are top of mind a couple times a year—right about now, and right about soon: on Halloween and Christmas, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas bring families together around the TV for some good ole fashioned fun, just like they have for generations.

This fall, the animated, 3-D feature film The Peanuts Movie will undoubtedly have the same effect on the big screen. Timed to coincide with the 65th anniversary year of the first “Peanuts” comic strip and the 50th anniversary year of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the lead up to the film’s release is pumping up interest in the “Peanuts” franchise—a reality Santa Rosa is familiar with all year long.

Home to “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz for four decades starting in 1958, the city embraced the man and his work, and still does. In fact, so beloved are Schulz and his enduring comic strip characters, they are quite literally featured all over town, dotted among redwood trees, local businesses, and favorite hangouts, and providing another unique and characteristic aspect to Santa Rosa’s upscale lifestyle.

Peanuts on Parade

In 2005, a Santa Rosa-sponsored art project called “Peanuts on Parade” called on local artists to decorate four-foot-tall “Peanuts” characters, starting with Charlie Brown. It was Woodstock’s turn the next year, followed by Snoopy. Lucy joined the gang in 2010.

All told, the project spawned 200 statues. Many of the sculptures were auctioned off, but more than 70 statues statues remain and can be seen all over town:

  • Charlie Brown and Linus are immortalized in bronze, peering over a stone wall so as to get a peek at those coming and going at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport.
  • Inside the airport are paintings of Snoopy, fiberglass likenesses of the characters, and even an information area that resembles Lucy’s Information Booth.
  • At the Coddingtown Mall, where Schulz reportedly spent a good deal of time reading, Charlie Brown and Snoopy watch over a kids’ play area just outside Whole Foods.
  • Numerous statues are scattered throughout Downtown Santa Rosa’s Historic Railroad Square, including an official bronze of Charlie Brown and Snoopy and another of Charlie Brown dressed as a train conductor, taking tickets.
  • “Peanuts” characters also hold court at the Kaiser Permanente medical building—Woodstock reading to birds in front, and gathered with Snoopy, Charlie Brown and Lucy near a seating area behind.
  • Charlie Brown even provides a warm welcome to visitors of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

The book, “It’s Your Town, Charlie Brown” commemorates the original statues. Want to visit them all? The Press Democrat has a map marking all of the locations and you can also download a PDF with addresses and photos of the viewable statues, courtesy of Charles M. Schulz Museum.

Redwood Empire Ice Arena

Schulz’s love of ice skating, particularly hockey, inspired the building of Santa Rosa’s Redwood Empire Ice Arena, known as Snoopy’s Home Ice. Now in its fifth decade, the ice rink is a place to recreationally skate, hone hockey skills, and witness an array of “Peanuts”-themed items.

It’s also home to the Warm Puppy Café, where Schulz was seen eating breakfast and lunch almost daily at his now-permanently-reserved front table, and Snoopy’s Gallery & Gift Shop. Need a plush toy, an adult Pig Pen shirt, a six-piece figurine set by Lenox or a Snoopy and Charlie Brown waffle maker? You’ll find it here.

Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center

Opened posthumously in 2002 across the street from the ice arena, the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually to see the largest collection of original “Peanuts” artwork in the world, with approximately 7,000 original cartoons. The museum houses a combination of Schulz’s work with permanent and changing exhibitions as well as artists’ representations of Peanuts strips and work inspired by the characters. Among the must-see’s:

  • A re-creation of Schulz’ studio
  • A 100-seat theater that shows animated Peanuts specials and documentaries
  • A 3.5-ton wooden sculpture of the evolution of Snoopy drawings
  • A “Peanuts” Tile Mural that includes 3,588 tiles formed into a comic strip—an original creation of Japanese artist Yoshiteru Otani, who reportedly first inspired Schulz to create the museum after he and his wife saw the artist’s mural at a Snoopy Town theme park in Japan.

This is just a taste of Sonoma County’s “Peanuts” fun. To really make a day (or two) of it, get a two-day itinerary on the Sonoma County website that takes you to some of the most beloved “Peanuts” statues and venues, along with places significant to Schulz.

Need another reason to visit? As Schulz himself said, “What’s the good of living if you don’t try a few things?”


Featured photo by Wally Gobetz via flickr