Your Travel Guide to a Perfect Weekend in Calistoga

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  • by WC STAFF
  • on JULY 25, 2016
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Napa Valley’s northernmost town is also its most chill. Little Calistoga, pinched between the narrow northern end of Napa Valley’s two mountain ranges is a relaxed oasis of historic wineries, cozy restaurants, world-famous spas, and breathtaking natural sights. Hunker down in this Wine Country town for a long weekend of relaxed fun with our 72-hour guide to the perfect weekend in Calistoga.

Day 1: The Great Outdoors

Image Source: Yelp

Breakfast: Eat breakfast at one of Café Sarafornia’s sidewalk tables for a sunny start to your day. You can’t go wrong with eggs at this classic American diner, including the omelettes, huevos rancheros, or a simple sunny-side up.

Insider tip: If you’re going wine tasting later, order a side of the irresistible Caggiano Country Ham to help “soak up the tannins,” as the locals say.

Hiking: Take a hike in Bothe Napa Valley State Park before the day heats up. The park boasts over 2,000 acres of wilderness, criss-crossed by scenic hiking trails. Ritchey Canyon on the Fern Trail is a shady, quiet place to stop for a picnic lunch.

Insider tip: Feeling hot? Bring your swimsuit and take a dip in the park’s outdoor swimming pool.

Palisades-Deli-Cafe
Image Source: Palisades Deli Cafe, Yelp

Lunch: Grab sustenance for your picnic in Bothe Napa Valley State Park at the Palisades Deli Café. Classic American lunch items like soups and salads are served, but their Mexican dishes are to die for. Tacos, burritos, posole: you can’t go wrong.

Insider tip: Order a bunch of tacos to go—they have fish, shrimp, chicken, beef, and carnitas—and share them on the trail.

Storybook-Mountain-Vineyards
Image Source: Storybook Mountain Vineyards, Yelp

Wine tasting: Keep the outdoor theme going with a wine tasting at Storybook Mountain Vineyards, where you’ll explore the organic vineyards on a walking tour, then taste their estate wines (they’re renowned for mountainside Zinfandel) in a private, seated tasting.

Insider tip: Grab a bottle of the Zin Gris if there’s still some left. It’s a rare dry Rosé made from Zinfandel, and it’s delicious!

Dinner: Dine under the stars at Sam’s Social Club. The outdoor patio at this newly opened restaurant, named for California’s first millionaire, Samuel Brannan, offers a bucolic spot to dine at the foot of Mt. Lincoln. Located next to Indian Springs Resort and within walking distance to the rest of downtown Calistoga, it’s a convenient place to base your evening.

Insider tip: A cheeseburger isn’t just a cheeseburger at Sam’s Social Club. The house-made bun, garlic aioli, aged cheddar, and top-notch beef make it a burger to remember.

Sleep: After a long day of outdoor activities, you’ll want somewhere comfortable to crash. Luckily, Calistoga is home to many comfortable inns and hotels within walking distance of restaurants and activities. The Craftsman Inn is an upscale bed and breakfast lodged in a craftsman house, built in 1910. For luxury amenities try The Bergson, a boutique inn designed for magical romantic weekends. Brannan Cottage Inn has been winning awards and rave reviews since its renovation and re-opening in 2015; for history coupled with top-notch service, look no further. Hotel d’Amici combines wine and lodging with a comfort-focused lodge in downtown Calistoga owned by the Pestoni family, and special wine experiences at the family’s Rutherford Grove Winery a few miles away.

Day 2: All About the Wine

Breakfast: Eat a hearty breakfast at your hotel, you’ll need it for the day to come.

Insider tip: The Bergson serves a complimentary continental breakfast in the tranquil hotel courtyard.

Amici-Cellars
Image Source: Amici Cellars, Yelp

Wine tasting: There’s no shortage of places to taste wine around Calistoga. Amici Cellars was founded by four friends bonded by a love of wine, and their Napa Valley Cabernets and Sauvignon Blancs, plus their Sonoma-sourced Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, are well-crafted and well-balanced. Dutch Henry is where the Chafen family makes beautiful Cabernet Sauvignons, and the tasting experiences include cave tours and picnics by the bocce ball courts. Castello di Amorosa is an authentic medieval Italian castle with real dungeons and lush Napa Valley wines: a great stop for families or history buffs.

Insider tip: Bennett Lane Winery offers proposal packages for anyone looking to pop the question, so call the winery for more details if there’s a wedding in your future.

Lunch: Combine two great pleasures with lunch and wine tasting at Tamber Bey Vineyards. This remote horse ranch boasts a beautiful ranch-style tasting room where the welcoming staff pour bold, structured wines. Sign up for the Vineyard Series tasting, which is followed by a picnic lunch on the beautiful grounds.

Insider tip: Request to upgrade to the Signature Series tasting for just $10 more: it’s definitely worth it. Dijon Chardonnay clones, grown in some of the best vineyards in Napa Valley, as well as Cabernet from Oakville, await.

Dinner: After a restorative nap (you’ll need one at this point), work up an appetite by walking to dinner in downtown Calistoga. Bosko’s Trattoria is in the heart of downtown, and serves classic Italian fare that’s perfect for pairing with robust Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignons.

Insider tip: The Crispy Polenta Stack is a scrumptious starter for everyone at the table, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike: skillet-fried polenta layered with tomato sauce, basil, olives, ricotta salata is sure to please.

Wine Bar: Solbar—Solage’s Michelin-rated restaurant—has a bar that is the perfect place to wind down your night with a glass of Napa Valley’s best. Be sure to arrive by sunset for an incomparable view.

Insider tip: Try the Butterscotch Rum Pudding, a savory/sweet delight with amaretto cookies and creme fraiche.

Day 3: Calistoga History

Johnnys-Restaurant-&-Bar
Image Source: Johnny’s Restaurant & Bar, Yelp

Breakfast: Celebrate Calistoga’s history with the town’s newest restaurant, Johnny’s Restaurant & Bar. Johnny’s is named after Johnny Ghisolfo, four-time mayor of Calistoga and founder of the Original Johnny’s Restaurant in 1930. Located on Lincoln Street, this Calistoga classic serves an artful blend of American, Mexican, and Italian dishes in an open space that’s divided into an upscale dining room and a more casual bar.

Insider tip: Order the Huevos Motulenos for a crispy, satisfying start to the day.

Geysers and Goats: The Old Faithful Geyser is one of three “faithful” geysers in the U.S., erupting every 5-55 minutes up to heights of 80 feet, depending on the time of year. But there’s much more to do in this park, including interacting with the four-horned sheep, llamas, and famous Tennessee Fainting Goats. Gardens, bocce ball, a gift shop, a geology museum, and picnic areas round out the affair, making this a lovely place to spend a few hours with the family.

Insider tip: The park stays open until 8 p.m. during the summer (May through August), so plan a picnic dinner and watch the geyser erupt against the sunset.

Lunch: Stop by the quaint Calistoga Kitchen for a peaceful lunch at this French-inspired restaurant housed in a craftsman-style home. The outdoor patio is situated to allow you to watch the neighborhood pass by while enjoying the simple joy of a well-made sandwich.

Insider tip: The duck soup is unforgettable, bringing many guests back each time they visit Calistoga. Give it a try.

Mountain-View-Hotel-&-Spa
Image Source: Mountain View Hotel & Spa, Yelp

Take a dip: In the mud baths, that is. Book an appointment for one of Calistoga’s famed mud bath experiences at the Mountain View Hotel & Spa to experience luxury and history in one go. The hotel was founded by Johnny Ghisolfo (of Johnny’s!) in 1920, and while it has undergone many additions, renovations, and new owners, the historic charm remains.

Insider tip: Opt for the Lavender Mudtini version of a mud bath, with relaxing lavender oil added.

Dinner: Dine on the spacious patio at the Calistoga Inn, located next to the Napa River. At the back of the patio is a beer garden served by the on-site Napa Valley Brewing Company: there’s hardly a better place to spend a warm summer evening. The basil pesto pizza and smoked baby back pork ribs are both local favorites.

Insider tip: Stay after dinner Wednesday through Sunday nights for live music on the patio.

Calistoga manages to pack world-class wine tasting, diverse and delicious dining, exquisite spas, and amazing outdoor experiences into a small area that still feels like the resort town it was founded as over a century years ago.