Santa Rosa, California is located about 40 miles north of San Francisco, and even today, with its modest population of 115,000, might be described as a sleepy little town.

Charles 'Sparky' Schulz, was living in suburban Minnesota when he started drawing the 'Peanuts' comics in 1950. He moved to Northern California in 1958 with his wife and five children, and, then to Santa Rosa in the late 60's.

Portrayed as a quiet and reserved man who just wanted to draw his comic strip, Schulz allegedly fought with bouts of depression, phobias, and self-doubt. Charlie Brown is known to be an extension of Schulz himself, and it seems that the laid-back feeling of Santa Rosa worked well for the cartoonist, as he lived and worked here for the rest of his life.

The first evidence of Charles M. Schulz we found was in the old town section of Santa Rosa -- Historic Railroad Square.

Amid the steady rain that morning, we found a cute bronze statue of Charlie Brown and Snoopy standing in a park-like setting among the old train depot, and brick buildings, now converted into boutiques and restaurants.

 
Small traffic signs directed us to the museum -- it's a cute, low-tech way to get visitors from one popular destination to the newest one that surprisingly, made it exciting to find the museum. With about 15 signs pointing the way over the mile route, we drove the weaving path through roads that varied from quaint and cute, to agricultural, to tough looking and rather seedy.

And suddenly there it was. Sitting right next to a school, near the street, across from a residential neighborhood -- the new Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center. Which, If not for the bright yellow and black signs out front, you might mistake for a church or community center -- or not notice at all. [roll over the picture below and above]

 

Just opened in August 2002, the museum has been added to the same grounds as the existing Redwood Empire Ice Rink and Snoopy's Gallery and Gift Shop -- both of which were commissioned and financed by Schulz. And both which we decided to explore first. Built in 1981, the gift shop is rather non-descript on the outside.

Inside, it felt big and expansive -- helped by the cathedral ceiling, skylight, and ramped walkway to the gallery on the second floor. The interiors are fun for the most part with a few large-scale props, but overall, it is showing its age.

Murals made of large pieces of carpet line the walls, and the gallery upstairs of movie posters and Peanuts artifacts seemed to stop at around 1980.

Again, maybe my expectations were too high, but I was hoping to see a big, impressive store with just tons of Peanuts merchandise. And while it claims to have the 'largest selection of Snoopy merchandise in the world' we found much more Peanuts stuff at Knott's Berry Farm. So go figure.

Megan found a Snoopy plush that she liked, and so we walked the short distance to the Redwood Empire Ice Arena - Snoopy's Home Ice.


Check out some Peanuts gifts and merchandise on our Recommendations page -- powered by Amazon

 

Schulz, an avid hockey player, wanted to have a place where he and his friends could skate. Built in 1969 and designed with a Swiss Chalet style, the rink is a very active place with figure skaters, hockey players, and teams bustling in and out.

There's a little short order cafe here called The Warm Puppy.

We thought about trying some ice-skating, but the rink schedule didn't quite work with our plans.

The entrance to the museum is about 100 yards from the ice rink.

So off we went.

 
   
 
 
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