On that day, Charlie Brown’s faithful dog, Snoopy, donned a flying helmet, goggles, and silk scarf, and climbed aboard his Sopwith Camel biplane—although it may have looked to us like his doghouse. That auspicious day marked the beginning of Snoopy’s career as a World War I flying ace and his dogged pursuit of the accursed German ace.
With the war won, Snoopy turned to barnstorming and, after flying the Atlantic solo, was known as “the Lone Beagle.” Snoopy also founded and was chief pilot of “Ace Airlines.” His illustrious career culminated as an astronaut and the first beagle on the moon.
Today, pilots can honor the celebrated canine aviator with a visit to his home airport and a museum dedicated to his longtime friend, Charles Schulz.
Charles M. Schulz Airport is named for the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip—the wonderful world of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, and the world’s most accomplished aviator, Snoopy. Schulz, a general aviation pilot, lived and worked in nearby Santa Rosa, the main town of Sonoma Valley, a region famous for its vineyards and wineries, Michelin-star restaurants, boutique hotels, luxury resorts, and spas. The airport is seven miles northwest of Santa Rosa and 55 miles from San Francisco. Napa Valley, also famous for wine, is the next valley to the east. A fat wallet is not absolutely necessary for a visit, but it wouldn’t hurt.
I’m certain that Snoopy settled here because of its reputation as a premier viticulture region. He was famous for serving up sumptuous Thanksgiving banquets from his doghouse kitchen, and I’m sure that included fine wine...or maybe just root beer.
Pilots might want to consult the Sonoma County Vintners website to plan tastings at wineries that interest them. The group represents more than 200 wineries, which produce dozens of varieties. You can find one who specializes in that style of Chardonnay you like, or that rich, full-bodied Cabernet. There are at least 20 wineries in the immediate vicinity of the airport.
Pacific Coast Air Museum
But first, before you sip and spit, make a visit to the Pacific Coast Air Museum on the airport grounds. This nonprofit museum promotes aviation history through the restoration and display of historic aircraft. It exhibits more than 30 military aircraft, including an A–4 Skyhawk, F–15 Eagle, F–16 Fighting Falcon, F–105 Thunderchief, F–106 Delta Dart, F–4 Phantom, and a UH–1 Iroquois (“Huey”) helicopter. Wander through the World War II hangar that was used in the filming of the madcap 1963 Hollywood movie, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Unfortunately, the museum doesn’t have Snoopy’s Sopwith Camel.
Snoopy and that round-headed kid
After the serious business of warplanes, head to Santa Rosa and the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center. There, visitors can view many of the original “Peanuts” artwork, an exhibit of foreign language editions, plus Schulz’s art studio with his chair and drawing table. Among the permanent exhibits is artwork of Snoopy’s doghouse by Christo, wrapped, of course. Christo created “Wrapped Snoopy House,” a life-sized doghouse wrapped in tarpaulin, polyethylene, and ropes, and presented it to Jean Schulz for permanent display at the museum. That comic strip appeared in 1978. The Peanuts Tile Mural is a 17-foot by 22-foot installation by Japanese artist Yoshiteru Otari comprised of 3,588 comic strip images on ceramic tiles.
Honor the celebrated canine aviator with a visit to his home airport and a museum dedicated to his longtime friend, Charles Schulz.Revolving exhibitions include “The Pen Is Mighty: The Lettering of Charles M. Shulz” through July 9, 2023. Schulz did all the handwriting in his comic strips himself. The “Kite Flying Foilbles” exhibition takes visitors kite flying with the Peanuts gang; it is on display through September 17, 2023.
The museum is open daily, except Tuesdays, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.