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!
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.
Here’s my quick list of what’s happening where at the SIFF
Heritage Center at Maysonnave House
Murphy’s Irish Pub
Sonoma Woman’s Club
Sonoma Community Center
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art
Burgers & Vine
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
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.
As a Passholder you’ll spend a lot of time here relaxing, mingling, and enjoying great refreshments.
With a Cinema Soiree Pass or Patron Pass you’ll spend even more time here at events and parties.
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
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.
476 First Street East
You’ll see many films at the Sebastiani Theatre—a Sonoma crown jewel landmark since 1933 and a prime venue for films at SIFF.
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
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.
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
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.
You’ll find the accessible interior entrance ramp down the left side of the building on Spain Street.
TIP: Get there early. The bar area wasn’t crowded when we arrived, but the band area was.
Great accessible restrooms—two brand new and spacious unisex facilities!
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.
Tables and chairs were set up in the auditorium with my pick of accessible seating.
The sidewalk to the left of the building takes you to a ramp and directly into the 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.
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.
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.
Room 110 has a small built-in ramp and folding chairs that can be moved as needed.
There’s an accessible unisex restroom right off the Rotary Kitchen, and restrooms between Room 110 and Andrews Hall, both with accessible facilities.
Sonoma 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.
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 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.
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.
The restrooms are artworks themselves—decorated in gold and grey tile with undulating sinks made of cast concrete—all accessible.
Since Burlingame Hall is three blocks from the Sebastiani Theatre, I recommend driving there.
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.
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.
17560 Greger Street
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.
The unisex restroom is up to standard, but does do double duty for some storage.
After the film everyone was treated to a glass of wine and the accessible back patio was the perfect place to enjoy it.
401 Grove Street
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.
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.
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!
What a beautiful beer garden! Picnic tables are spaced so that it’s easy to navigate in a wheelchair or scooter.
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.
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
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.
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!!!