Napa Valley is lush and beautiful, endlessly entertaining and is such a wonderful place to spend a few days. Napa Valley extends from the town of Napa itself to Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. The great thing about Napa is you can do this trip with or without kids! Its totally up to you. On our recent trip we opted for with kids.
Napa with Kids
Napa isn’t just for wine lovers and food enthusiasts, the kids can really enjoy a trip here too. There are several kid-friendly resorts in the area including Solage Calistoga, home of the uber hip and newly renovated SolBar restaurant where I indulged in the most delectable and addictive peach and arugula salad with a parmigiano mousse. Solage is a large resort where you and the kids can play at the kids pool, play bocce ball, rent bikes, walk the local hiking trails and even walk into the town of Calistoga. They are also part of the Mercedes Benz experience which is exceptionally helpful because Mercedes provides property vehicles that you can use while staying at the hotel. Vehicles include an SUV and two convertibles. You can also stay at Calistoga Ranch where activities include their golf course, hot air balloon excursions, horseback riding, cooking explorations and children’s activities. Nearby is the town of Calistoga, a lovely place to wander around and enjoy a little California history or stop by their their famed hot springs and the Old Faithful Geyser featuring the Geology Museum and a Goat Farm!
We stayed a little further down the road in St. Helena at the incredibly lush Meadowood Resort. This hotel is an athletic kids’ paradise featuring multiple tennis courts, biking and hiking trails, a 9 hole golf course, an official croquet lawn and a kids pool. We met a number of locals while staying there as this is also the local country club – which is nice because during the Summer the pool area is brimming with kids in the afternoons. There’s a club house grill on the property for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The kale chips and fried artichokes are delicious! There’s also a pool house grill for typical poolside fare. The only upscale dining on the property is The Restaurant, featuring New Napa Cuisine by 3 Star Michelin Chef Christopher Kostow. If you are visiting Napa for the true food and wine experience – book months in advance and be prepared for at least 3.5 hours of dining. Since we were on the “with kids” version of Napa we did not partake but the reviews are telling. Plus we peeked into the dining room and bar – its gorgeous! Go in for a drink if nothing else.
The resort itself is nestled into a tract in the woods that feels reminiscent of an old school family camp one might find in the Catskill Mountains. The rooms are really well-done. Built up the hillsides (with dozens of stairs) these modern cabins with all the best amenities are very private and feel like upscale tree houses. The bathrooms are divine. We recommend renting a car if staying here! We were told there was a car service that ran 24/7, and that we would not need a car. In actuality, there is an off-site car service that donates their drivers and cars to the property on the weekends as a marketing op for their services throughout the week. And there’s only a couple of drivers /cars on the property to get you around and they are scarcely available. We tried to catch a cab one morning to make a 7am breakfast – and being Napa – there’s no quick cab or Uber service.
Also when booking at an expensive resort one expects the concierge to have all the answers and to provide us with all the details. We booked golf and croquet over the phone but no one told us that this is a Country Club – so standard attire applies – collared shirts for golf, all whites for croquet. Luckily we packed them anyway. We asked about kids activities off property and were given a very short list. Luckily the locals at the kids pool had lots of suggestions like 1:30pm cooking demonstrations on the weekends and self-guided tours of Greystone, the home of the Culinary Institute of America just minutes from our hotel. We were also told to walk around the grounds of “The Castle” Castello di Amoroso where peacocks and other farm animals roam free. Of course, everyone says get in the car and drive South to the Jelly Belly Factory – the kids will love it and the drive is gorgeous. They are right. Arrive when they open at 9am to beta the lines and take the self-guided tour. Its only an hour from St Helena and is a fun morning excursion. Read my full Jelly Belly Factory review here.
Napa Without Kids
Planning to escape and spend some one-on-one time with your hubby or a group of friends? Napa has so much to offer us grown-ups! If you truly are there to spend time with each other there is no more romantic escape than Auberge du Soleil. Breakfast in the dining room has a magnificent view of the valley below and offers some of the best fare in the area. The hotel itself is a meandering gathering of bungalows built into the hillside. The pool and spa are gorgeous, the products in their gift shop and in the room are custom made for Auberge and the hotel also participates in the Mercedes Benz experience which means you can borrow a gorgeous car while you’re there. Bonus – you left your kids at home and guess what? You will not be bothered by anyone else’s kids because kids are not allowed at this property. This hotel is over the age of 16 only.
You’ve checked-in, unpacked, consumed the courtesy bottle of wine and put on your casual clothes, now where are you headed? Here’s a few of our suggestions:
Kuleto Estate – An incredibly romantic piece of property scaling the hillside with a Spanish style estate and winery this vineyard is the perfect place for a Sunset wine tasting. The rose from this vineyard us divine and moderately priced. Be sure to stop and say hi to the goats.
Quintessa Vinyard – I will be dreaming about the 2010 Cabernet for many nights to come. Worth every penny. Made from Cabernet grapes grown in Napa Valley and crushed through a unique gravity process to avoid the tanin of the seeds being released into the wine. The owners are Chilean and use a French wine making technique. The caves are home to a fountain the provides moisture and gathers energy from visitors to the vineyard. A spiritual and yet very technical facility unlike any other in Napa Valley – don’t miss this tour. *Note – kids are allowed on this tour. Its very technical and cool to visit.
Kelham Vineyards and Winery -By far the most distinct property we toured. Love the barn. Love the above ground rectangular pools. Love love the wine. A must see stop when you’re in Napa.
Hope & Grace Wines – The tasting room for this lovely little winery boasts old European charm mixed with contemporary comforts. A retail store with two seating areas for tastings, Hope & Grace is a charming and openly hospitable spot in the town of Yountville. Curl up fireside in an oversized leather chair and a glass of wine or join up to 12 friends at the wooden, farm style communal table.
Flats Napa Valley – Adorable store beautifully designed. Gorgeous Nepalese hand woven scarves, Florentine leather clutches and handbags plus elegant cotton cover-ups perfect for sipping wine poolside. Def stop in when visiting St Helena.
NINEBARK – Best rooftop deck ever! Casual summery bench seating under big umbrellas with a view of downtown Napa is the perfect setting for a signature cocktail or a taste of one of Napa’s premiere local wines. Get the fried chicken biscuit sandwich and the the oyster Po Boy! Delicious!
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch – It started with the Kentucky Breeze. Yes we’re in wine country but the chefs in Napa Valley also whip up incredible cocktails and the whiskey based, herb infused Kentucky Breeze set the tone for the Southern inspired meal to follow. Cheddar biscuits w honey butter, pimento cheese filled deviled eggs (could’ve eaten a dozen myself they were so good) a pan seared trout covered in fennel plus a side of jalapeño grits for good measure. Loved the low country / modern barn feel of this place with Queen Anne’s lace and wild grasses in milk bottles and milk crates on the long wooden tables. Spotted some locals chilling at the fireside bar out front. If the locals love it you know it’s good!
Redd Wood – Located in the North Block Hotel this hip but rustic pizza and pasta joint has a super cool atmosphere with tufted leather seating and magazine pages pinned to the wall. Totally imbibes the local chic of Yountville. Everything you eat here is delicious. Everything. From the local cheese platter, chopped salad and meatball apps to the two types of fried chicken wings lunch kicks off with a pow! The wings are spicy and juicy. Unlike any wings you’ve had before.
We shared the “cace de Pepe” spaghetti and buccatini. Both insanely delicious homemade pasta with simple but robust flavors. I will dream about the sauce on the buccatini for the rest of my life. The garlicky tomatoes and onions were so simple but flavorful. Don’t miss this when you’re in Napa!
LAURA NIX GERSON is the CEO of Nix|Gerson Media and the Founder of MomAngeles a site she launched because she was planning a lot of playdates and her friends kept asking her where to go and what to do. So it seemed easier just to put it all online in one place. In a past life Laura was a publicist, event marketer and web producer….oh wait, she still is. Laura has contributed to Modern Mom, CBS Local and Babble. Her greatest joy is story telling, sharing local finds and connecting people. Follow her @MomAngeles.