If your only experience of Santa Rosa is from Hiway 101, you probably think of it as a series of big box stores, auto malls, shopping centers and traffic, traffic, traffic. Right now 101 is extra ugly, undergoing expansion from 2 to 3 lanes. And it's our big freeway!
Those interested in exiting 101 for a food adventure must travel somewhat difficult routes. Plan in advance! Sit down with a map. You'll soon notice that most major streets change name (at least once and sometimes 2 or 3 times). Also streets start and stop - this is sometimes caused by 101, but it could be a creek, school or developmental glitch. The numbered streets won't help orientation because except for 3rd and 4th, most are chopped into bits and scattered about town. Finally, the 101 construction has changed or closed freeway exits and underpasses, making it harder to get across town. For tips on closures: http://santarosatraffic.com/
On the Westside the big east-west streets are Sebastopol Road (home of many great Asian and Latino markets and eateries including taco trucks), Hwy 12, West 3rd Street (Imwalles produce), College Avenue (G&G Market), Guerneville Road (Zazu), Piner Road and River Road. The big north-south streets are Dutton Avenue, Stony Point Road, Fulton Road.
On the Eastside the big east-west streets are Hwy 12, 3rd St./Montgomery Drive, 4th Street, College Avenue and Steele Lane/Lewis Road. The big north-south streets are Santa Rosa Avenue which becomes Mendocino Avenue at 4th Street and Brookwood-North-Chanate. Also on the Eastside are two valleys - Rincon (Oliver's Market) and Bennet (Whole Foods Market).
Street numbers in Santa Rosa were distributed from the 4th Street and Mendocino Ave/Santa Rosa Avenue intersection. Each mile from that center is 1000. And the numbering system extends west into Sebastopol and east to Sonoma.
It's all very confusing...but worth exploring. Parking is seldom a problem as lots sprawl around most shopping and eating centers. Downtown is metered, so bring change.
Other locals & visitors please give comments & directions.