California’s Napa Valley is striving these days to bring in households, intending to amuse visitors of all ages with hiking, biking, camps and more. Even some vineyards are entering into the video game.
Historically, vineyard goes to rank high up on the eye-roll list for kids. But California’s Napa Valley is trying hard nowadays to attract families, aiming to captivate visitors of all ages with hiking, cycling, camps and non-snooty farm-to-table experiences. Even some vineyards are entering the game, offering lawn games and grape juice tastings.
According to Lindsey Gallagher, the president for Visit Napa Valley, the effort seems to be working. In a 2018 study, almost 20 percent of visitors to Napa Valley had kids 18 years or under in their travel celebration, compared to around 12 percent in 2016.
Here’s a few of our highlights worth sharing:
On the Move
We began the trip at Skyline Wilderness Park, trekking through wildflower and chaparral-speckled woodland where clusters of butterflies and hummingbirds made frequent cameos. Then, we zipped over to Clif Family Winery of Clif Bar fame, which was of no interest to Brette until I discussed their food truck. Over chive-dusted bruschetta and arancini balls, I had three sips (I was driving) of a perky Viognier that raised the carbs to divine heights.
If hiking brings your household together, other choices include the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, where you can stroll through towering redwoods and then cool off in the park’s pool, and the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, where the evergreen forests lead to the top of Mt. Saint Helena.
Calistoga is famous for geothermal hot springs and I was thrilled when the no-frills Dr. Wilkinson Hot Springs Resort green-lit Brette to join me for a treatment. We showered in summer-camp like stalls, hopped into concrete mud tubs secret component: nutrient-rich volcanic ash and completed with a 30-minute massage. Minimum age for mud treatments, which begin at $105, is 13 years old.
Wine Country by Bike
One morning, Dave Brazell of Adventures in Cycling crafted a child-centric white wine tasting itinerary that consisted of a picnic lunch. Rather of driving to tasting spaces, we cycled through scenic back-country roads, past the Old Faithful geyser and yes, there is also one here, where we paused to dip our fingers in steaming puddles.
Sterling Vineyards was fun, particularly the aerial cable car trip that transports visitors to the hill tasting room. Our favorite was wisteria-draped Bennett Lane, where I sampled juicy cabernets while Brette learned to identify arrangement. During the cellar trip, simply enough technical verbiage was dispensed “bung hole” was a favorite term in addition to cool connections in between wine making and mathematics. Outside, kids can also select blackberries and play corn hole.
Tamber Bay and Raymond Vineyards are among the other child-friendly wineries in Napa, as is Castello di Amorosa, which– modeled after a middle ages castle– has a drawbridge, a dungeon cell and secret passages. Activities you can anticipate at these sites include playing horseshoes and interacting with stock.
Ride Through the Vines
Another way to experience the incredible landscape is by horseback. We signed on with Napa Valley Trail Rides for a 30-minute mosey through the rolling vineyards of Shadybrook Estate at Rapp Ranch (where there is likewise a tasting space). Our guides were hipster cowgirls and Brette got to check out the stables after the flight.
If you ‘d rather bike, the Napa Valley Vine Trail now uses 12 car-free miles, from downtown Napa to Yountville.
It’s essential to teach kids the origins of food. And, Napa, with its celebration of local purveyors (highlighted on almost every menu) is the best setting to do so.
Breakfast all day excites every kid. Gillwoods Cafe in St. Helena provides classics like whipped cream-topped French toast, strawberry pancakes and hearty omelets.
Gott’s Roadside, likewise in St. Helena, is filled with households for a factor, as its hamburgers, tacos, sandwiches and milk shakes make for an ideal lunch or dinner. In downtown Napa, the craftsmen food hall Oxbow Public Market is a crowd pleaser for pizza, barbecue, charcuterie and baked items.
Brette declared Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, which runs an organic farm, animals cattle ranches and vineyards, as “the very best restaurant ever.” The food was remarkable, however the storytelling and passion for farming is what resonated. With each meal– caramelized beets, garlic confit-kissed burrata, burgers– our 20-something server discussed how soil, environment and seaside air (plus minimal corporate intervention) impacted taste. Even the wine tasted better with the back story: As Brette used her newfound sensory abilities, I swigged my method from bubbly and Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Noir.
And an advised last stop for all– as it’s essential to end on a sweet note– is Calistoga Creamery, which serves salted caramel ice cream in a superb cinnamon waffle cone.
Enjoyable Family Lodging
Tucked within a canyon under a canopy of ancient pine and oak trees, our cedar-shingled room at Calistoga Ranch, felt like a luxe treehouse. Besides the pool, hands-on farm experiences make this home a paradise for the pint-sized. Children can gather eggs from the chicken coop, pluck veggies from the garden, gather honey from bee hives and take in a performance from resident goats, Olive and Pepper. They will dance for food. It’s paradise for parents too who can take part in wine tastings, winemaker dinners and a variety of walkings on residential or commercial property. (Rooms begin at $695.).
The Vista Collina, a 145-room hotel about ten minutes from downtown Napa, uses a condensed Napa experience on its premises, with a pool, 9 on-site tasting spaces, a cooking center offering Mommy and Me teas and cooking classes, and an upscale market with regional products and prepared foods. With a 16,000-square-foot yard offers turning activities like barbecues, green markets, live music and video games corn hole, giant Jenga, ring toss to inhabit the kids while moms and dads sample white wine. Select sensible rooms come with cooking areas and rates start at $309 a night.
Another option is The Westin Verasa Napa in downtown Napa, where families can kayak on the neighboring Napa River and numerous dining establishments and parks are strolling distance. Suites starting around $359 a night.