Along the banks of Sonoma County's Russian River, the hamlet of Monte Rio (pop. 1,152) knows how to roll out the welcome mat with flair. Tourists flocked by train starting in the 1870s, then came by the thousands in the 1930s and ’40s to hear Big Bands play in the town's outdoor pavilions. Today, a historic 1950s-style neon sign arches overhead, proclaiming "Welcome to Monte Rio Vacation Wonderland."
That slogan still rings true for those who want to enjoy splashing or paddling on the river, taking in fabulous views, visiting nearby world-class wineries, enjoying local theater, biking along winding roads lined with redwoods, fishing, hiking or having picnics on a sandy river beach. Located on the north end of the 10-mile scenic stretch known as the Bohemian Highway, this little burg spreads out on both sides of the river. Catch a flick at the Monte Rio Movie Theater, housed in a colorful mural-decorated World War II-surplus Quonset hut, or visit the Monte Rio Amphitheater, an outdoor showcase for concerts, theater under the stars, and other events.
The area offers a variety of restaurants, while lodging options vary from quaint cottages on the river to luxury bed and breakfast inns, and historic small hotels. The Village Inn & Restaurant, built in 1906 as a private home, served as the site of several scenes in the Hollywood film Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. The Highland Dell Hotel, also built in 1906, hosts the local OktoberFest.