As spring approaches, we begin to think about a beautiful and peaceful wine country getaway. But if you choose the Napa area for your getaway, then things may not be as serene as you would like. The city of Napa now has a whole influx of new hotels and restaurants drawing tourists to the downtown area. Tyler Florence and Iron Chef Miyamoto have new restaurants packing in the crowds. Yountville is busy with its six Michelin-rated restaurants, fashionable shops, hotels and tasting rooms. Traffic squeezes as you approach St. Helena on Highway 29 and getting through St. Helena can be like a nightmare morning commute to work. But there is a quiet place in the Napa Valley much unchanged over time. That place is the historic town of Calistoga, at the very northern end of the Valley. It is here where you can find delightful things to do at a much slower pace.
Just north of Calistoga are several wineries and vineyards to explore. Most of them are on Tubbs Lane, including the historic Chateau Montelena. Close by Montelena are Summers Winery, Envy Winery, Bennett Lane, and Vincent Arroyo Winery. Over on Highway 29 above the Silverado Trail is Zahtila Vineyards. All these wineries make delicious wines and will provide travelers with a fun day of wine tasting. Although they may have many visitors on the weekends, these tasting rooms are not nearly as packed as those to the south on Highway 29 or on the Silverado Trail.
Most of the restaurants in Calistoga are cozy and laid back. Four restaurants are owned by the same group and include Brannan’s (best bar and “Branhattan”), Borolo, Flat Iron, and Checkers. Over at the Mount View Hotel is the relatively-new Jole Restaurant and Bar. The All Seasons Bistro (our favorite) has an amazing wine list and delicious fare. The Calistoga Inn Restaurant is not only historic but very much a local’s hangout. Go there for an old-fashioned comfortable dinner. If you really want to go upscale, then try the Solage on the Silverado Trail. You can get there by turning on Brannan Street by the Stevenson Manor Inn and then a right turn on the Silverado Trail.
The big attractions are the lodging establishments that have a hot springs pool or mud bath, or both. Check our lodging page to view our list of recommended places to stay. The Calistoga natural hot springs are said to have healing and medicinal effects on the body. Mud baths are not for everyone, but many say that the mud bath brings relaxation and rejuvenation to the body. It is worth a try at least once.
If you are touring the wineries on Tubbs Lane, be sure to take enough time to catch the California Old Faithful Geyser. It will cost you $10 to enter but it is a great natural wonder and one very much under the radar of tourists.
Take a casual stroll down Lincoln Avenue. There are loads of interesting shops and the street almost looks the same as it did in 1960. The Calistoga Depot is fun, as is browsing the books at Cooperfield’s bookstore. If you want coffee, the Calistoga Rostery is the place to be.
If you have extra time, take Highway 128 north to Knight’s Valley. The beauty here is awesome with great views of Mount St. Helena. For more information on Calistoga, check the Calistoga Visitor Center’s Web pages.