Visitors to the Napa Valley often wonder what town in the Valley they should choose as a base while planning a wine vacation. “What town is the most fun?” we are often asked. Fun meaning good places to lodge, many choices for dining, boutique shopping, and of course wineries and tasting rooms to visit. The four major towns from south to north are Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Janelle and I have stayed in each town many times over our years of adventures in the Napa Valley. Each town has something unique and delightful to offer. But if we had to make a choice as to which one was our favorite town, we would have to go with Calistoga.
I don’t think Calistoga has changed much since I was a young boy. My parents would vacation in Clear Lake and we would always stop in Calistoga for a snack on the way to our Lake County camping spot. On our first trip together Janelle and I stayed at Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort, which today looks exactly the same as it did some 40 years ago. A trip down Lincoln Avenue in Calistoga is a trip down Napa Valley’s memory lane.
Calistoga has always been, and we hope will always be, a laid-back town. The pace in Calistoga is less hectic and the shops and eateries a little more down-to-earth. It is definitely a quaint environment. We visit each December for Pauper’s Night at the Calistoga Inn. The natives come in droves and sing and party to Christmas cheer. It is an experience you won’t get in any other town in the Napa Valley. Unfortunately, the Calistoga Inn had a fire a couple of months ago and will not re-open for several months. I’m afraid there will not be a Pauper’s Night at the Inn this December.
There are several great dining spots ranging from the Michelin-rated Solbar on Silverado Trail in Calistoga to the fun and very casual Hydro Grill. We love to hit Brannan’s for a cocktail or a glass of wine. They have the most beautiful bar we’ve seen in the Napa Valley. Afterward, we stroll across the street for a quiet and relaxing dinner at All Season’s Bistro. We were pleasantly surprised on a recent visit to find out that Calistoga has added a nightly shuttle service for after-dinner rides back to your local hotel. Call
707-963-4229 for hours of operation.
We put together this two-minute video to give folks a quick guide to the town of Calistoga and our winery suggestions. We recommend a stay in Calistoga and we’re sure you’ll enjoy it at any time of the year!