2015 Sonoma International Film Festival

The 18th Annual Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) is right around the corner, March 25-29, 2015. This is a magical time here, when independent filmmakers and their films bring us Hollywood excitement and glamour. We call it Sonomawood, and it’s all accessible!

Jeanne at Sonomawood!

Jeanne at Sonomawood!

incredibleACCESSIBLE was invited to the 2014 Festival to check out accessibility, and I’m happy to report that the Festival offers a wonderful accessible experience to everyone!

Here’s a look at the Festival venues. I have TIPS throughout that will make your visit as smooth as possible. Venues are listed geographically, starting on or near the historic Sonoma Plaza. Many are within walking/rolling distance of one another, with the Sebastiani Theater the starting point. I will alert you when the distance to travel might be better to drive. Parking TIPS are at the end of this post.

The Heritage Center at Maysonnave House
291 First Street East
Filmmaker and VIP Passholder pass pick-up


First stop for Filmmakers or VIP Passholders will be the historic Maysonnave House built in 1910 and restored in 2008. With the restoration came accessibility.

Maysonnave House

Maysonnave House

Here’s my quick list of what’s happening where at the SIFF

Pass Pickup:

Heritage Center at Maysonnave House
Box Office

Film Venues:

Sebastiani Theatre
Murphy’s Irish Pub
Vintage House
Sonoma Woman’s Club
Sonoma Community Center
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art
Burlingame Hall
La Luz

Party Venues:

Backlot Tent
Burgers & Vine


Media Pass Desk

Media Pass Desk

The Maysonnave House is a cottage, but had ample clearance for me to move about and pick up my Media Pass with my cinema buddy Pat Senner.

Follow the accessibility signs from the front of the House to the ramp in back.Maysonnave House entry ramp

Follow the accessibility signs from the front of the House to the ramp in back.

Spacious accessible restroomSpacious accessible restroom

This over 100-year-old home has no room for accessible restrooms, but a new free-standing accessible unisex restroom borders the garden.


Accessible parkingAccessible parking

The Maysonnave House is two blocks north of the Sebastiani Theatre. There is one accessible parking space behind the house but street parking is generally good.

Backlot Tent and Box Office (adjacent to Sonoma City Hall and across the street from Sebastiani Theatre)
#1 The Plaza
Box Office: regular pass pick-up, rush tickets
Backlot Tent: Passholder parties and relaxation

Box Office

Box Office

If you’re picking up a regular pass head straight to the Box Office, adjacent to the Backlot Tent, on the northeast side of Sonoma City Hall right in the heart of the Sonoma Plaza.

Back Lot TentBacklot Tent

The Backlot Tent is where the action is!

Backlot Tent patronsBacklot Tent patrons

Relaxing at the Backlot TentRelaxing at the Backlot Tent

Great hor d'oeuvres!Great hors d’oeuvres!

With friends at the BacklotWith friends at the Backlot

As a Passholder you’ll spend a lot of time here relaxing, mingling, and enjoying great refreshments.

Libations abound!Libations abound!

Live music!Live music!

Exotic performances!Exotic performances!

Mexican dance troupeMexican dance troupe

With a Cinema Soiree Pass or Patron Pass you’ll spend even more time here at events and parties.

Party navigation TIPParty navigation TIP

TIP: Get to the parties early and make a sweep through the food tables to get to a place where you won’t have to compete with the crowd too much. There is limited seating so you may want to bring your own.

City Hall accessible portableCity Hall accessible portable

Visitor's Bureau accessible facilities

Visitor’s Bureau accessible facilities

There are two options for restrooms in The Plaza and close to the Backlot Tent.  On the west side of City Hall are portables that include an accessible one–never locked.  (opposite side of City Hall than where the Backlot Tent is located)

On the east side of City Hall and visible from the Backlot Tent, is the Sonoma Valley Visitor’s Bureau with accessible restrooms in back.  These restrooms will remain unlocked until the Backlot Tent parties wind down and the last movie at the Sebastiani Theatre lets out each night.

The Backlot Tent will have parties Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings until 10:00 p.m. The Plaza will be welcomingly populated and lively, and these restrooms in the Plaza will safe and available.

Sonoma Valley Visitor’s Bureau
453 First Street East

Sonoma Valley Visitors' Bureau

Sonoma Valley Visitors’ Bureau

Between the Backlot Tent and the Sebastiani Theatre is our Visitors’ Bureau—built in 1913 as a Carnegie Library and restored in 1997—it’s all accessible.  This is what you’ll see across the street from the Sebastiani Theatre.  The elevator to the Visitor’s Bureau and the accessible restroom are in the back of the building.

Sebastiani Theatre
476 First Street East
Film Venue


Somoma landmark Sebastiani Theatre

Somoma landmark Sebastiani Theatre

You’ll see many films at the Sebastiani Theatre—a Sonoma crown jewel landmark since 1933 and a prime venue for films at SIFF.

Sebastiani box officeSebastiani box office

A gently sloping ramp leads to the front entrance past the original box office and knowing gaze of mannequin Trixie.

Accessible entranceAccessible entrance

The double doors open for a wide entrance across the roomy, flat threshold.

Sebastiani Theatre accessible seatingSebastiani Theatre accessible seating

My friend, Lisa, who had a knee walker, was able to use the accessible seating on the right side at the back of the theatre.

Great screen view!

Great screen view!

I sat in the accessible seating on the left side at the back of the theatre with a great view to the screen. Accessible seating in the front row too—not a bad seat in the house!

TIP: Restrooms are the one accessibility challenge in this historic building. The stalls are not accessible as there are not any grab bars and the stalls are standard size.  Plan ahead!

See the above description of the accessible restrooms in the back of the Visitor’s Bureau and the West side of City Hall.  There is a crosswalk in the middle of the block leading from the Sebastiani Theatre to the Visitor’s Bureau, so they are somewhat convenient.  The other option for an accessible restroom after a film at the Sebastiani Theatre would be to visit one of the nearby restaurants.

Murphy’s Irish Pub
464 First Street East
Film Venue

Alley to Murphy's Irish PubAlley to Murphy’s Irish Pub

Murphy's Irish PubMurphy’s Irish Pub

The smallest film venue at SIFF is a very short walk/roll from the Sebastiani Theatre. Turn right after leaving the Sebastiani and make an immediate right into the little alley to find Murphy’s Irish Pub.

Murphy's accessible entranceMurphy’s accessible entrance

What a welcome sight! Murphy’s has made a little 3” curb accessible with a bit of gently graded concrete.

Dining at Murphy'sDinner and a movie

TIP: Arrive early! Murphy’s is a small venue, but the only place where you can order food from a pub menu and enjoy your meal while watching a film. It fills up fast so get there first and take the table at the entrance.

Murphy's accessible commodeMurphy’s accessible facilities

Murphy's accessible facilitiesMurphy’s accessible facilities

The restrooms are next to the theatre. Staff are kindly on alert to help open the heavy doors.

Burgers and Vine
400 First Street East
Special Event Venue

Burgers & VineBurgers & Vine

Burgers & Vine front stepsBurgers & Vine front steps

A half block north of the Sebastiani Theatre on the corner of First Street East and Spain you’ll find Burgers and Vine—the setting for one of the SIFF late parties. The front entrance has steps but look to your left.

Left side of B&V buildingLeft side of B&V building

B&V accessible entranceB&V accessible entrance

B&V spacious  interior rampB&V spacious interior ramp

You’ll find the accessible interior entrance ramp down the left side of the building on Spain Street.

B&V bar areaB&V bar area

B&V band areaB&V band area

TIP: Get there early. The bar area wasn’t crowded when we arrived, but the band area was.

Restroom entrancesRestroom entrances

Accessible and brand new!Accessible and brand new!

Great accessible restrooms—two brand new and spacious unisex facilities!

Historic cobblestones!Historic cobblestones!

A little bumpy but navigableA little bumpy but navigable

Cobblestone Alert! Between the Sebastiani Theatre and Burgers & Vine is a 60-foot section of historic cobblestones. It’s bumpy but navigable—just tackle it slow.

Vintage House
264 First Street East
Film Venue

Vintage House fountainVintage House fountain

Plenty of accessible tables and chairsPlenty of accessible tables and chairs

Tables and chairs were set up in the auditorium with my pick of accessible seating.

Lisa and BertLisa and Bert

I spotted Lisa again with her knee scooter and her husband Bert enjoying a fine glass of wine.

Accessible buffetAccessible buffet

The complimentary buffet was easily accessible.


Accessible Restrooms


Vintage House accessible parking

Vintage House accessible parking

Vintage House is only two blocks from the Plaza and Sebastiani Theatre, but offers three accessible parking spaces. Driving would make sense if you’re coming from or heading to a destination farther from the Plaza.

Sonoma Woman’s Club
574 First Street East
Film Venue

Sonoma Woman's ClubSonoma Woman’s Club

A block south of the Sebastiani Theatre on First Street East is the Sonoma Woman’s Club. Built in 1916, the Club has accessibility features.

Steps with handrailSteps with handrail

The front entry steps have a handrail for those able to climb stairs.

Ramp on leftSidewalk leading to ramp

Entry at top of rampRamp

The sidewalk to the left of the building takes you to a ramp and directly into the theatre space.

Theatre space

Theatre space

The Sonoma Woman’s Club is a new venue for SIFF so we made a field trip to check it out. The auditorium will be transformed into a theatre with movable folding chairs—accessibility will be flexible and easy.

TIP: Arrive before the film begins. The accessible entrance is close to the front seating and you won’t want to disturb others after the show has begun.

Lobby restroomLobby restroom

Lobby restroomLobby restroom

The Unisex restroom is adjacent to the lobby. The small stall has a grab bar in front of the toilet, but not enough room to bring a walker, scooter, or wheelchair into the toilet room and close the door. That could be a problem in a Unisex restroom! The door to the restroom lobby/lavatory does not have a lock. But SIFF has a solution. Volunteers will be instructed to watch for people with mobility devices and will stand guard at the door to ensure privacy. There is another Unisex restroom upstairs.

TIP: If you need to use the restroom at the Woman’s Club and you can’t manage without your mobility device, ask a volunteer to watch over the entrance to the Unisex restroom.

Andrews Hall at the Sonoma Community Center
Room 110 at the Sonoma Community Center
276 East Napa Street
Film Venues

Sonoma Community Center Marquee

Sonoma Community Center Marquee

Going back towards the Plaza from the Woman’s Club, turn right on East Napa and walk/roll two blocks to the Sonoma Community Center, site of two film venues: Andrews Hall and Room 110.

Accessible entranceAccessible entrance

The accessible entrance to both Andrews Hall and Room 110 is up a slight ramp into the vestibule for the Auditorium. Originally built in 1915 as the Sonoma Grammar School, the building is now fully accessible.

Ample open space next to theatre seatingAmple open space next to theatre seating

In Andrews Hall It was easy to pull up next to my friends, Pat and Leslie, as there was ample space at the end of each row.

Ramp into Room 110Ramp into Room 110

Flexible seating in Room 110Flexible seating in Room 110

Room 110 has a small built-in ramp and folding chairs that can be moved as needed.

Rotary KitchenRotary Kitchen

A buffet was set up in the Rotary Kitchen with accessible entrances and easy-to-reach serving tables.

Restrooms off Rotary KitchenRestrooms off Rotary Kitchen

Between Room 110 and Andrews HallBetween Room 110 and Andrews Hall

Accessible facilitiesAccessible facilities

Accessible facilitiesAccessible facilities

There’s an accessible unisex restroom right off the Rotary Kitchen, and restrooms between Room 110 and Andrews Hall, both with accessible facilities.

Accessible parkingAccessible parking

The adjacent parking lot has three accessible spaces. Though only two blocks from the Sebastiani Theatre you may want to drive here if you’re on your way to farther destination.

Sonoma Valley Museum of Art
551 Broadway
Film Venue

Sonoma Valley Museum of ArtSonoma Valley Museum of Art

The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, founded in 1998, is entirely accessible. Located on Broadway, the main street into Sonoma, the SVMA is one and a half blocks from the Sebastiani Theatre.

SVMA spacious entranceSVMA spacious entrance

Front desk and wheelchair at the readyFront desk and wheelchair at the ready

The flat and wide entrance takes you to the front desk and galleries. The Museum provides a manual wheelchair for those who may need it.

Current SVMA exhibitsCurrent SVMA exhibits

Current SVMA exhibits run through May 16, so filmgoers will have the benefit of walking/rolling the gallery to see “Unconventional and Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar, 1950-2000” and“Shaker Stories: From the Collection of Benjamin H. Rose III”—two exhibits that fascinatingly illuminate American creative genius.

Shaker furniture and implementsShaker furniture and implements

Renowned Shaker "ladder back" chairsRenowned Shaker “ladder back” chairs

"Houses" quilt at SVMA“Houses” quilt at SVMA

We recently toured these interesting exhibits, which offer ample space between displays. There are are two benches where you can rest and contemplate the art.

Accessible lavatoriesAccessible lavatories

Accessible facilitiesAccessible facilities

The restrooms are artworks themselves—decorated in gold and grey tile with undulating sinks made of cast concrete—all accessible.

Street parking at SVMAStreet parking at SVMA

The SVMA does not have a dedicated parking lot, so street parking is the only choice. You’ll probably want to walk/roll from the Plaza.

Burlingame Hall (social hall at the First Congregational Church of Sonoma)
252 West Spain
Film Venue

Burlingame HallBurlingame Hall

Burlingame HallBurlingame Hall

Since Burlingame Hall is three blocks from the Sebastiani Theatre, I recommend driving there.

Accessible parking at Burlingame HallAccessible parking at Burlingame Hall

Additional accessible parking at First Congregational ChurchAdditional accessible parking at First Congregational Church

Burlingame Hall has two accessible parking spaces at the crosswalk by the entrance. Two more accessible spaces are bit farther away by the church entrance—a short walk/roll to Burlingame Hall on a ramp.

Accessible theatre seatingAccessible theatre seating

Seating is accessible as are the entrance and restrooms.

First Congregational ChurchFirst Congregational Church

The First Congregational Church was built in 1879 on Broadway at Patten St, and was moved to it’s current West Spain Street location in 1960. Originally intended to become the Pioneer Memorial Chapel, it is today one of the oldest buildings in Sonoma.

La Luz
17560 Greger Street
Film Venue

La LuzLa Luz

You’ll definitely want to drive to La Luz, a good 10 minutes east of the Plaza in Boyes Hot Springs. Here I’m greeted by my friend Vicki.

TIP: Arrive early! La Luz has limited space for parking, one of which is accessible. If taken, there’s parking on the street.

La Luz entranceLa Luz entrance

The entrance has a flat threshold and friendly volunteers to hand out ballots.

La Luz theatre seatingLa Luz theatre seating

Movable chairs made it easy to create accessible seating in this former church building.

Accessible restroomAccessible restroom

Accessible restroomAccessible restroom

The unisex restroom is up to standard, but does do double duty for some storage.


Relaxing on the patio at La LuzRelaxing on the patio at La Luz

Accessible back patioAccessible back patio

After the film everyone was treated to a glass of wine and the accessible back patio was the perfect place to enjoy it.

Rossi’s 1906
401 Grove Street
Event Venue

Welcome to Rossi's 1906!Welcome to Rossi’s 1906!

You’re in for a treat if you attend the Saturday night after-party at Rossi’s 1906! Yes, the historic building dates back to 1906, and it has recently undergone a transformation after years of being Sonoma’s fabled Little Switzerland. A cow and a flat threshold greet us as we enter the bar. This is a new venue for SIFF so we made a special field trip to check it out.

Parking at Rossi's 1906

Parking at Rossi’s 1906

This is a definite drive-to place at one and a half miles from the Plaza. There are two accessible parking spaces in front of the bar and two dirt parking lots to the left of the building and across the street. And please respect the residential no parking signs.

TIP: You may want to consider taking a taxi. Though not far from The Plaza, Rossi’s is on a dark country road in El Verano, a neighborhood west of Sonoma proper. Enjoy the ample food and drink at Rossi’s, and be mindful that our diligent police department will be paying attention.

Sonoma has two taxi services, Vern’s Taxi 707-938-8885 and Sonoma Taxi 707-889-1266

Rossi's 1906 Dance HallRossi’s 1906 Dance Hall

There’s a dedicated dance floor surrounded by tables. Accessibility is great but anticipate a crowd and arrive early to secure a table you’ll like.

Accessible restroomAccessible restroom next to bandstand

Accessible selfie!Accessible selfie!

The unisex restroom is convenient to the dance floor. It’s a bit rustic but up to standard. Chip has mutinied and refuses to follow me into restrooms and take photos anymore, so this is my first restroom selfie!

Ramp to Beer GardenRamp to Beer Garden

I took the ramp from the restaurant/dance hall to the beer garden.

Beer Garden at Rossi's 1906Beer Garden at Rossi’s 1906

Relaxing in beer garden at Rossi's 1906Relaxing in beer garden at Rossi’s 1906

What a beautiful beer garden! Picnic tables are spaced so that it’s easy to navigate in a wheelchair or scooter.

Magic at Rossi's 1906!

Magic at Rossi’s 1906!

We had intended to take some photos and leave, but the barbecue and beer enticed us, and before we knew it the sun had set, the beer garden lights came on, and the space became magical. No doubt the SIFF after-party will be a magical event too.


Six TIPS to Enhance Your SIFF Experience

1. Bring the right equipment

2. Rent the right equipment

3. Locate the accessible parking

4. Arrive early

5. Locate the accessible restrooms on the Plaza -portables and Visitor’s Bureau

6. Take a taxi to Rossi’s (Your electric travel scooters and manual wheelchairs will fit into the trunk.)

TIP #1: Bring the right equipment. The Festival is very “walkable,” especially around the Plaza, but if you’re struggling with a cane when you really need a walker, or struggling with a walker when you really need a scooter, you will get too tired to enjoy the Festival. I’m only 60 and I use a scooter. I am not embarrassed. You shouldn’t be either. Bring the right equipment and let’s go have some fun!

TIP #2: Rent the right equipment. If you need to rent an electric scooter or other mobility equipment to enjoy your weekend I highly recommend Piner’s Medical in Napa– a short 25-minute drive from Sonoma. The Pride Go-Go that is available for rent breaks apart into five pieces and takes only one minute to disassemble and put into the trunk of any car.

I took this video of Jeff, the manager at Piner’s. In one minute he shows how to break down the scooter and load it in his little Nissan Leaf.

TIP #3: Know the accessible parking options.  Below are photos of the accessible parking spots on the Plaza and the public lot off First Street East.

Street parking: There are 5 accessible parking spaces on the 4 sides of the Plaza, 4 with a no parking zone for ramp accessible, and 1 parallel space.

There are 5 van accessible parking spaces in the free parking lot on 1st Street East just north of the Plaza behind the Sonoma Barracks.

Both are great places to park all day, and with the proper mobility device, be able to walk/roll to all of the venues on and around the Plaza.

TIP #4:  Arrive at your venue early! They are all accessible, but it will simply be easier to get situated before the crowd arrives.

TIP #5: Locate the accessible restrooms on The Plaza per the above description. These will be your best options from the Backlot Tent and the Sebastiani Theatre.

TIP #6: Take a taxi to Rossi’s 1906 for all the reasons described above.

TIP: Accessible Parking on the Plaza

Plaza accessible parking

First Street East

Plaza northwest corner accessible parking placeCorner of First Street West and Spain

Plaza accessible parking placeSpain Street

There are five accessible parking spaces on the four sides of the Plaza. Four have a no parking zone for ramp accessibility, and one space is parallel parking.

Parallel accessible parking placeNapa Street

Plaza accessible parking placeFirst Street West

1st Street East parking lot accessible spaces1st Street East parking lot accessible spaces

There are five van accessible parking spaces in the free parking lot on First Street East, just north of the Plaza behind the Sonoma Barracks.

All of these places are great for all-day parking, and with the proper mobility device, you can walk/roll to all of the venues on and around the Plaza.

TIP: Arrive at your venue early! They are all accessible, but it will simply be easier to get situated before the crowd arrives.

Spring in Sonoma!

Spring in Sonoma!

Have a wonderful time at the Sonoma International Film Festival! Spring is in the air—the perfect time to enjoy films, walk/roll our historic Plaza, enjoy our food and wine, and make new friends. Welcome to Sonoma!!!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Sharon brooks Reply

    This is excellent, thanks.One addition: for those of us in scooters or chairs who cannot to a car seat taxis are out
    As none are wheelchair sccessible.
    In fact except for the very infrequent sonoma county buses, with no service on Sunday’s, there is zero wheelchair
    Accessibility options in sonoma or the springs.
    Have lived here eight years in a chair…

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