The Napa Valley, which seems to get more gorgeous every year, isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you think of a trip with your kids. But it should be, especially if you live in the Bay Area and are looking for a stay that will please everyone. It’s easy to get to but feels remote in the best way. I just spent four days and three nights with my eight-year-old daughter in Napa — both in the county (Calistoga, to be exact) and in the city of Napa itself. It was the perfect antidote to our Bay Area rut, the largely shaped by the pandemic. Napa Valley offers endless outdoor activities, kid-friendly wineries, popular restaurants, and creative shopping, all with Covid safety and laid-back fun in mind.
A four-day Napa Valley itinerary with kids
There are plenty of ways to spend a few days slicing and dicing in the Valley with kids in tow. My daughter loves swimming and shopping – and she loves oysters – so we arranged our trip around these types of activities. We make our way to Calistoga at the northern tip of Napa Valley, known for its geyser-fed hot springs. And there’s no more perfect place to take water than Indian Springs Calistoga. With an Olympic-size mineral pool fed by on-site geysers whose steam is visible from several parts of the property, this makes an ideal winter destination. Our first morning there it was 28 degrees outside and the pool (which of course varies in temperature) was 101 degrees. It’s no surprise where we spent most of our day.
Accommodation ranges from two bedroom cottages with kitchens to large double rooms. Sam’s Social Club Restaurant does a good job with homemade pasta, daily seafood specials, and the requisite pizzas and burgers. Kids can feed the chickens, play croquet and badminton, and warm up by the fire pits after being lured out of the pool.
We grabbed bikes (free for guests) and rode into town — just two blocks from Main Street — and grabbed some provisions for a picnic later in the day. We visited three of the area’s most kid-friendly wineries: Castello di Amorosa, whose castle was built specifically for families, has goats, pigs, and non-alcoholic grape juice for the kids while you sample the extensive wine list (surprisingly, not only Napa Cab, but some really nice ones). Pinots from the Anderson Valley and Sonoma Coast. Take home some chocolates and extra virgin olive oil from Morning Dew Ranch.
We had our picnic at Pope Valley Winery, a groovy gem of a place off the beaten track where you can spend an afternoon exploring the grounds. Don’t miss the Sangiovese sparkling wine or the excellent still version of this Italian grape, vinified in a pleasantly understated style. Then we played Bocce, the game that seems to be the retro trend in the valley.
In the afternoon we returned to Indian Springs for a warming bath and then had a delicious meal at Picobar, a new hot spot at Solage by chef Gustavo Rios. Read the full review here.
Before heading back to Napa Town, we had a high-carb breakfast of churros and hot chocolate (well, one of us did). We were looking for some warm winter clothing for kids and found some good deals at both Cupcake and Lemondrops, two downtown stores within walking distance from pretty much anywhere in Napa. We then took the Hightail to the Hog Island Oyster Co. at the Oxbow Public Market to get there before the line got too long.
We checked into our hotel, the lovely, understated River Terrace Inn, located across the bridge from downtown and right on the Napa River. It’s a moderately priced boutique hotel with focused and personalized service and a mellow vibe — and it’s walking distance to everything in Napa Town. Bathrooms have deep soaking tubs — a rarity these days — and our large king room had a pullout couch and small deck overlooking the river.
The hotel’s Alba restaurant bridges the gap between adult and child tastes with dishes ranging from smoked hamachi crudo to tomato soup with Fiscalini cheddar cheese sticks. The River Terrace Inn is ideally located for a weekend getaway without breaking the bank.
After an expert mom-daughter pedicure at Orchid Nail Spa, in a mall on Trancas Street, we feast on Gott’s Roadside, the best fast food around. More than just a great burger joint (which it is), Gott’s has “Impossible” chicken nuggets, an addictive Vietnamese chicken salad, and poke tacos to die for. This is a one stop shop for everyone in your party, right down to Pliny the Elder beer and organic milkshakes. (You know who you are.)
After a final swing through Oxbow to take home some cookies, we headed back to Berkeley – and an hour, on our noses – happy, relaxed, recharged and replete.