Sunburst Calistoga: The Poor Man’s Solage

The Sunburst Calistoga Hotel

A couple of weeks ago we decided to spend an overnight in the Napa Valley. It happened to be the same time as the Napa Film Festival activities, and almost all the lodging in the Valley was booked. Since we travel so often to the wine country, and tend to spend most of the day visiting wineries and exploring the valley, we are always looking for budget lodging. If you are spending little time in your room, all you need is comfort, cleanliness, and safety.

room view sunburst calistoga

Our room at the Sunburst Calistoga

Our friends at the Stevenson Manor suggested we try the Sunburst Calistoga. They said it was their new sister property. We booked a room that was available and off we went to the Napa Valley. After a day’s worth of activities visiting wineries, we headed to Calistoga to find the Sunburst. Where is this place? Well, it is on the outskirts of the town on Lincoln Avenue. As soon as we saw it we realized that this place had previously been a huge eyesore. It looked like a slum, run down and unkempt. Now the place has been completely redone. Each room has been remodeled and decorated with very bright colors and light. The Sunburst Calistoga opened in August of 2013.

The interesting thing about the Sunburst Calistoga is that it is almost a stone’s throw away from the Solage Calistoga. The Sunburst is on Lincoln Avenue and just over the Napa River on the Silverado Trail is the Solage Calistoga. Room rates for the Solage will start about $600 whereas the typical Sunburst room will be $230 on weekends. I like giving the Sunburst the name “The Poor Man’s Solage.” Each room at the Sunburst Calistoga has a flat screen TV, a mini fridge, a single-cup coffee maker and free Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi sent a very strong signal to our room, which was about as far away as possible from the motel office. I liked that very much. The stay at the Sunburst includes a small continental breakfast in the Lobby.

view of motel rooms sunburst

Solage Calistoga is across the way

The rooms are comfortable and, of course since it is new, the entire room was immaculate. There are also a hot tub and swimming pools that receive waters from the famous geothermal wells of Calistoga. The other amenity that we very much appreciate, and one that is available at all Calistoga lodging, is the shuttle service to local restaurants and wineries. We called and within ten minutes the shuttle picked us up at the Sunburst Office and delivered us to Brannan’s restaurant. When we were done dining, we called and were returned safely to our abode.

pool at Sunburst Calistoga

Warm mineral pool

We found a couple of things we did not care for at Sunburst. Janelle thought it was a little too isolated and had a motel feel to it. Another weird thing was the atrocious warning sign at the pool entrance. Perhaps it is the new code that warrants such an extreme warning. It is so outrageous that I for one would not want to step into that pool. You need to see for yourself. Maybe the powers that be will take that sign down before you visit.

If you’re looking for budget lodging in Calistoga, give the Sunburst a look!

Where to stay in the Napa Valley

Napa Valley Lodging, best lodging in the Napa Valley

Napa Valley Lodge in Yountville

What a dilemma it is to find the proper lodging for anyone traveling to the Napa Valley for a first-time vacation. Sure, you can check Trip Advisor and the like for some recommendations but you cannot always rely on those for sound advice. We have been traveling to the Napa Valley for 40 years. I think we have stayed in just about every style of lodging from the town of Napa to the north end of the Valley in Calistoga. We have stayed in budget lodging, fine lodging, B&B’s, and we have even rented vacation homes. Take a look at our list of recommended Napa Valley lodging for each Napa Valley town and you’re sure to find something that fits your needs. If we have something listed, we have either stayed there or taken a quick inspection of the place.

Lodging tips for the Napa Valley [Read more...]

Wine Adventures in Yountville

Sometimes you just need a quick getaway to cure the doldrums of the winter months. And that is what we just did with a one-night getaway to Yountville in the Napa Valley. We booked a room at the Napa Valley Lodge for $149 at their special winter rate. The Lodge is very comfortable and within walking distance of the restaurants, tasting rooms, and lots of boutique shops. Although on this day it was grey and damp, it was a delight to drive along the Napa Valley floor and take in the beautiful scenery of the mountains and vineyards.

We arrived just in time for our 12:30 lunch restaurant at Redd Wood, the newest restaurant in town, owned by Richard Reddington of Redd Michelin fame in Yountville. The restaurant is located in the North Block Hotel, formerly the Hotel Piero. Redd Wood is a pizzeria with causal dining in a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere. The specialties, of course, are pizzas but there are many other menu items. There were four of us for lunch. Two shared a pizza and a salad and thought they were both just okay, nothing spectacular. Janelle and I shared a pear and wintergreens salad and a sandwich with rosemary foccacia, prosciutto cotto, and crucolo cheese. They were both excellent. The Sommelier was very cool, answering my questions about a few wine choices on his wine list, and recommended a Docellto/Barbera from Piedmonte in Italy that was very tasty, medium bodied, and perfect with our meals. The Wine list is good with a wine selection at $38 and above.

Redd Wood Pizzeria


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Napa Valley – What’s Happening in Downtown Napa, Visitor Center Battle Brews

On a Wednesday morning we are off to the Napa Valley for a quick overnight stay in Napa. Traveling mid-week gives us the option of booking a hotel or B&B at the last minute in hopes of getting a great price. We have been yearning to try the Oenotri Restaurant in Napa, and directly across from Oenotri is the Avia Hotel. A quick check of the travel websites and we find that we can get a room at the Avia on Kayak for $151. That’s a great price, so we book the room and head on out.

We spend most of the day in the Napa Valley visiting and touring the Somerston Ranch off Sage Canyon Road and then a quick trip to the Clif Family Winery’s new tasting room, Vino Velo. We check into the hotel around 4 pm and begin exploring downtown Napa. We stroll the Town Center and have a look around. Boy, this place is void of people. We did find something the might become the “Battle of Visitor Centers.” The Legendary Napa Valley folks pulled up shop at the Town Center last month and moved the Visitor Center to the posh and chic Riverfront Properties. This created quite a stir for the Town Center because it took away much-needed visitor foot traffic. Now the owners of the Town Center are fighting back. They are remodeling the old visitor center and will open soon, according to the owner who I talked to as she was closing the door. “We will be back and better than ever” she says with great conviction. Stay tuned for the battle.

At Riverfront Properties the newly opened Visitor Center for the Napa Valley


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Blackbird Inn, a Four Sisters B&B in Napa + Two Good Restaurants to Try

Although the town of Napa may not be as chic as Yountville, lodging in downtown Napa offers the wine country visitor many options for activities and choices of restaurants. There are enough things to do in the downtown area to keep visitors busy for several days.

We booked two nights at the Blackbird Inn, a Four Sisters B&B. The Blackbird Inn is located on First Street and Jefferson in Napa. The B&B happens to be directly across the street from the very cool Craftsman home of the Wine Spectator’s Napa office. We supposedly got a winter/Internet special rate, if you stay two nights you get one free. Our tab came to $280 with tax for our two-night stay. [Read more...]

Napa Valley on the Cheap — A Frugal Getaway

With the gloom of the economy casting a pall on just about everything these days, a trip to the Napa Valley just might be the perfect escape. Harvest is over but fermenting tanks are going strong and there is that delicious smell in the air of wine being made. The vines are turning various shades and Fall is a wonderful time to be in the Napa wine country.

There is some economic relief in sight in the Valley because as the harvest ends, many of Napa Valley’s finest lodging establishments begin their Fall and Winter rate specials. Our guess is that because of the economy there will be more specials and packages as lodging establishments and other businesses try to lure visitors to the area. Now is the time to plan a budget trip to the Napa Valley.

Here are some tips on how to save some cash visiting the Napa Valley.
[Read more...]

Eurospa & Inn – Calistoga

On our last visit to Calistoga, we booked the Best Western Stevenson Manor Inn with a coupon special of $79, good for during the week only. What a deal! But a strange thing happened on the way to Calistoga. We got a call from the Stevenson saying their remodeling project was behind schedule and our room would not be ready. Instead, they were shifting us to their sister inn, the Eurospa & Inn at the opposite end of Calistoga. They said the rooms were better and the room rates higher, but they would honor our rate at the Stevenson. So, we ended up at the Eurospa & Inn for one night at the room rate of $79.

eurospa

This is one of the older inns in Calistoga. The bungalow style rooms have all been renovated and have all the usual amenities including a potbelly gas stove and wireless Internet access. The rooms were comfortable and clean. The pool area is really nice and a great plus in the summer weather. But this is winter so the pool is not much of a factor in our stay. Who wants to swim or jump in the spa when the air temperature is 40 degrees?

We liked the fact that the Inn is within easy walking distance to town, but the Inn is situated in a very residential part of town and it seems a little out of place. We also did not like the fact that they do not have an inside area for the continental breakfast that is included. No one wants to eat outside when it is very cold, which means eating your breakfast in your room. We opted to skip the breakfast and head into town for our meal.

Eurospa & Inn

We have to say that the people that run the Eurospa are very honest and trustworthy. We left a very valuable and sentimental ring in our room at the Eurospa. We did not notice we were missing the ring until arriving home. We called the Eurospa about the ring and they told us they would search our room at first chance. The ring was found; it had apparently fallen off the nightstand and rolled under the bed. Thank you, Eurospa!

The Good: Easy walk to town, trustworthy staff.
The Bad: A little old and worn. The Stevenson is a better choice for us.

Chardonnay Lodge – Budget Motel in Napa

A few months back there was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle touting the Chardonnay Lodge as a recommended budget motel near downtown Napa. Most visitors to the Napa Valley like to bask themselves in luxury at an upscale B&B or inn. For folks like us who travel often to the Napa Valley, we look for bargain spots with comfortable accommodations. If you spend little time in your room, there may be no need for the lavish amenities.

chardonnay lodge Napa

We decided to try one night at the Chardonnay Lodge on a recent trip to the Napa Valley. We did find our room to be very clean and comfortable. The rooms have all been recently painted with warm colors and the owners are very friendly and accommodating. The cost for a midweek night in November was a mere $89. No doubt the Chardonnay is a bargain considering the lodging rates in the Napa Valley. If you are on a tight budget the Chardonnay might be a good choice. For us, it was not. There are 20 rooms at the Chardonnay spread out in a U shape and as near as we could tell, there were only two other rooms occupied that night. The motel is on a busy street and in a commercial part of town. It is possible to walk to downtown Napa from the Chardonnay Lodge. It is about a 20-minute walk, but on a cold dark night this is not a wise choice. We found ourselves a little too isolated here and prefer a spot where there is more action.

There are other budget possibilities in Napa and we have stayed at two, the El Bonita Motel in St. Helena and the Stevenson Motor Lodge in Calistoga. Both of these are better choices but you will have to pay slightly more. We also spotted a Travel Lodge in downtown Napa that looks good in terms of a budget price and central location.

The Good: Budget rates and very clean, friendly owners.
The Bad: Rooms small and two far from the mainstream of wine country.

Chablis Inn — Budget Lodging in Napa

We tried the Chablis Inn a couple of weeks ago before the summer season prices went into effect. We stayed for two nights during the week for an unbelievable $84 a night. The Chablis is clean, comfortable and well maintained. There is a small pool and hot tub, and the usual room amenities. Oh yes, they do have free Internet access, something the nearby Marriott charges at a rate of $10 per day.

The Chablis is sheltered from Highway 29 so you don’t get much traffic sounds at night. Directly across the street is a small shopping center called the Redwood Plaza. The plaza has a Starbucks and the fabulous Vallergas market. The Vallergas market has a great deli and gourmet items. You can pick up your picnic goodies there before heading out to the wineries.

Chablis Inn

These bargain prices begin to disappear as the travel season hits its peak months. During the peak season, weekday prices start at $100 and twice that for weekends. At that point, you might consider the El Bonita Motel in St. Helena, or the Chateau Hotel just a few blocks away from the Chablis Inn. Each of these hotels has an online reservation system. Use the greatness of the Internet to compare and find the best rate.

The Good: Winter rates during the week, comfortable and clean, convenient location.
The Bad: No luxuries here.

Marriott Napa Valley Hotel and Spa

We found a terrific winter special at the Marriott Napa Valley. We just got under the wire booking two nights for the last week in March. The special ran through the end of March. For $99 a night, mid-week, we had a very nice room that included a very generous buffet breakfast and an evening hour of wine and cheese.

Our room was recently remodeled and everything was very clean and comfortable. The buffet breakfast had just about anything you wanted for a regular breakfast from granola and yogurt to pancakes, eggs, and sausage. A cook was on hand to prepare omelets to order. We noticed guests taking full advantage of the buffet breakfast stacking their plates with food pyramids, not the kind recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Marriott Hotel Napa Valley

The wine hour was nice, a Chardonnay and Cabernet were served along with cheese and some fruit. The wine was just average and it was a label we did not recognized. We found out later it was from a bulk wine producer.

The Marriott is located about midway between downtown Napa and Yountville on Solano Avenue. For dining, we decided to hire a taxi. Our party was celebrating birthdays, and no one was too excited about being the designated driver. The first night we dined in Yountville and the round trip taxi drive amounted to $40, tip included. The second night we ventured off to downtown Napa and the cab ride was a little less.

There were two things that we didn’t like about our stay. When
you lodge at a hotel like the Marriott, you don’t get that cozy intimate feeling that you do in a small inn or B&B. It feels more like you are attending a convention. The other thing that always bugs us about any Marriott we have stayed in, Internet access in your room is not free. We had to pay $10 a day to browse the Web. Almost all lodging establishments these days offer free wireless access. Why not the Marriott?

The Good: The special room rate and buffet breakfast
The Bad: A convention type feeling, $10 a day for Internet service in your room.