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Wander Calistoga Valley: Local Travel Guide

Wander Calistoga Valley: Local Travel Guide

The Gomes Guide profile pictureThe Gomes GuideJun 5, 2024

Wander Calistoga Valley is a high-finished contemporary home with stunning surrounding natural beauty. Located in the Mayacamas Mountains between the renowned Sonoma and Napa valleys, the five-bedroom retreat with a pool, outdoor kitchen, and tennis court is beautifully tailored to the site and complemented by the unifying landscape design of Terremoto/Alain Peauroi.

Here are thoughtfully handpicked recommendations by The Gomes Guide for your stay in this special Napa Valley town where relaxation meets adventure in the most enchanting way.

Planning Your Trip

How many days should you plan to visit Calistoga? A 2-5 days is the ideal amount of time to truly experience the Calistoga area. If you live in the Bay Area, a long three-day weekend is perfect. If you are visiting other areas of the Napa Valley, be sure to spend an entire day devoted to Calistoga.

Best time of year to visit? If you enjoy the sun and warm/hot weather, visit anytime between May-October. This will also be the most crowded season, so if you prefer to visit during the quieter months, November-April is a great time to visit plus the weather is typically mild and pleasant. Be sure to reference the “Events and Festivals” section below for a list of fabulous events that happen in Calistoga throughout the year.

Best way to get to Calistoga? Having a car is the best way to get to around, and around the area. While there are rideshare (and limo!) services in the Calistoga area, its best to have your own car. The drive from the SF Bay Area is approx. 1.5 hours. If you plan to fly, the closest airport to fly in/out of is the Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa. Alternatively, you could fly in/out of Oakland International Airport or San Francisco International Airport, and then drive north to Calistoga.

Don’t Forget to Pack - Casual, comfortable clothes (ex. sundresses, shorts, casual button down shirts), sandals, tennis shoes, hiking shoes, layers for cool evenings, sunglasses and a good hat.

Is Calistoga kid-friendly? Like most of Napa Valley, Calistoga is kid-friendly but is truly a great adults-only getaway for couples or a group of close friends.

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Best Spots to Enjoy Mineral Pools, Mud Baths & Massages

Looking for the best spots in Calistoga to enjoy mineral pools, mud baths, massages and more? Look no further than the above three locations on the best places to stay! Yes, Indian SpringsSolage and Dr. Wilkinson’s are the top spots in town to enjoy these pools, baths and services.

Best Outdoor Activities

Biking - Calistoga is a fantastic place for biking, offering beautiful routes through vineyards, rolling hills, and charming downtown streets. Here are some good bike rental shops in Calistoga:

  • Calistoga Bikeshop on Lincoln Ave. - offers road bikes, mountain bikes, electric bikes, and hybrid bikes. They also offer guided bike tours of the Napa Valley, which can include visits to wineries.

  • Napa Valley Bike Tours - provides a variety of rental plus self-guided and guided tours with routes tailored to your interests.

Hiking - Did you pack your hiking shoes? The Calistoga area offers some of the best hiking experiences in Napa Valley, with trails that range from easy strolls to challenging treks. Here are some top hiking destinations in and around Calistoga:

  • Robert Louis Stevenson State Park - Named after the famous author who honeymooned in the area, the park offers a mix of natural beauty and literary history. The park features diverse landscapes, including forested areas and open ridges. Top trails in the park include:

    • Mount St. Helena Trail: A challenging hike that rewards you with panoramic views of Napa Valley and beyond. The trail is approximately 10 miles round trip with a significant elevation gain.

    • Table Rock Trail: A moderately difficult hike offering stunning views of the surrounding valleys and unique rock formations.

  • Bothe-Napa Valley State Park - The park is home to beautiful redwoods, Douglas firs, and oak trees. This park offers easy to moderate trails, a swimming pool, and picnic areas, making it a great destination for families.

  • Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park - The park features a fully restored, water-powered grist mill from the 19th century. A 2-mile round trip hike from Bothe-Napa Valley State Park to Bale Grist Mill, passes thrugh scenic woodlands and historic sites.

  • Petrified Forest - Walk among ancient, petrified redwood trees that are millions of years old. The forest offers short, easy trails that are suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

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Best Boutique Shops

Calistoga offers a delightful array of boutique shops that cater to a variety of tastes, from fashion and home decor to unique gifts and local artisan products. A few favorites include:

  • Copperfield’s Books - A charming bookstore offering a wide selection of books, including bestsellers, local interest titles, and children's books.

  • Blackbird of Calistoga - Features a carefully curated selection of women's clothing, accessories, and jewelry from local designers and artisans.

  • Calistoga Pottery - Specializes in handmade, functional pottery pieces crafted by local artists Jeff and Sally Manfredi.

  • Mad Mod Shop - Offers a unique collection of vintage-inspired clothing, accessories, and home decor.

  • Earth & Sky Chocolates - Offers a delectable range of handmade chocolates and confections.

  • Roam Antiques & Design - Offers a diverse selection of antiques, vintage furniture, and decor.

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The Arts Scene

Calistoga’s arts scene is deeply intertwined with its natural beauty and wine culture, offering numerous galleries and public art displays that reflect the region's unique character. Some top galleries not to miss include:

  • Ca'toga Galleria D'Arte - This gallery showcases the works of Carlo Marchiori, a renowned Italian artist known for his frescoes and sculptures. The gallery itself is a piece of art, with beautifully designed interiors that transport visitors to another world.

  • Lee Youngman Galleries - Featuring a wide array of contemporary and traditional art, this gallery is a staple in the Calistoga arts scene. It highlights both local and national artists, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts.

  • Indian Springs Art Gallery - Located within the historic Indian Springs Resort, this gallery features rotating exhibits of local artists. The tranquil setting and high-quality art make it a delightful stop for visitors.

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Events and Festivals

Calistoga hosts a variety of annual events that celebrate its rich culture, history, and natural beauty. Here are some big events in Calistoga not to miss:

  • Calistoga Half Marathon & 5K - February

    Runners from all over participate in this scenic race through Napa Valley’s vineyards and rolling hills. The event includes a half marathon and a 5K race, offering options for both serious runners and casual participants. The race is followed by a post-run celebration featuring local food and wine.

  • Calistoga Food & Wine Event - March

    This three-day event features exclusive wine tastings, food pairings, and culinary demonstrations. Local chefs and winemakers showcase their best work, offering guests a taste of Calistoga’s culinary excellence. The event includes winemaker dinners, a grand tasting, and educational seminars.

  • Mustard, Mud, and Music Festival - April

    This festival celebrates the blooming mustard fields, Calistoga’s famous mud baths, and local music. Events include live music performances, art exhibits, and special mustard-themed dishes at local restaurants. The festival also features a 5K fun run, wine tastings, and activities for all ages.

  • Calistoga Art & Wine Festival - May

    This festival brings together local artists, winemakers, and musicians for a day of art, wine, and entertainment. Attendees can browse art booths, enjoy live music performances, and sample wines from Calistoga’s renowned wineries. It’s a great way to support local artists and vintners while enjoying the vibrant community atmosphere.

  • Fourth of July Parade - July

    A beloved annual event that captures the small-town charm and patriotic spirit of this Napa Valley community. The parade typically starts at 11am and runs down Lincoln Ave. It’s my favorite Fourth of July parade I’ve ever attended! Get there early to set-up a chair along the parade route and enjoy!

  • Calistoga Harvest Table - September

    This event celebrates the grape harvest season with a grand outdoor dinner along Lincoln Avenue, the main street in Calistoga. Over 1,000 guests enjoy a feast prepared by local chefs, paired with wines from more than 40 Napa Valley wineries. It’s an opportunity to experience the community spirit of Calistoga while enjoying exceptional food and wine in a unique setting.

  • Napa Valley Film Festival - November

    While the main events are centered in Napa, Calistoga hosts screenings and events as part of the Napa Valley Film Festival. The festival showcases a diverse selection of independent films, along with Q&A sessions with filmmakers and actors. Wine tastings and culinary events complement the film screenings, offering a full cultural experience.

  • Calistoga Lighted Tractor Parade - December

    A beloved holiday tradition, the Calistoga Lighted Tractor Parade features vintage and modern tractors, trucks, and floats adorned with lights and holiday decorations. The parade celebrates the town’s agricultural heritage and is a festive kickoff to the holiday season. Families and visitors line the streets to watch the illuminated procession and enjoy the holiday atmosphere.

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Best Wineries to Visit

Obviously, the entire Napa Valley is home to some of the region's most esteemed wineries and there are tons of great wineries to visit for a tasting. Here are a few of my favorites in the Calistoga area (note: for all wineries, I highly recommend making tasting reservations in advance!):

  • Chateau Montelena Winery - this is the winery that gained international fame when its 1973 Chardonnay won the Judgment of Paris in 1976, putting Napa Valley on the global wine map. The winery features a beautiful stone castle and a stunning Chinese garden with a lake, providing a picturesque setting for wine tasting. There is also an option to book a guided tasting tour, but remember - do so in advance!

  • Schramsberg Vineyards - Schramsberg is renowned for its sparkling wines, produced using the traditional méthode champenoise. The winery features historic wine caves that date back to the 19th century, offering a unique setting for tastings. Schramsberg’s sparkling wines have been served at official state functions by U.S. presidents since the 1970s. Hot Tip: Book the Cave Tour and Tasting for an immersive experience that includes a walk through the atmospheric wine caves.

  • Sterling Vineyards - The only winery in Napa Valley that features an aerial tram, providing visitors with breathtaking views of the surrounding vineyards and mountains. The aerial tram can get busy, so visiting early in the day can help avoid long waits.

  • Frank Family Vineyards - The winery is housed in a historic Larkmead winery building that dates back to 1884. The tasting room offers a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, often highlighted by the presence of family members and a knowledgeable staff. Again, reservations are recommended, particularly on weekends, to ensure a spot in the popular tasting room.

  • Tank Garage Winery - Tank Garage Winery offers a unique and modern twist on the traditional Napa Valley wine experience. Housed in a 1930s-era gas station, it has a quirky and distinctive charm. The building has been beautifully repurposed to serve as a tasting room and a space where visitors can enjoy their wines in a casual, yet stylish environment.

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Let’s Talk Food!

Fresh, local produce is the highlight of your meals in Calistoga. With so many delicious food and restaurant options, you really can’t go wrong in this town! As usual, I recommend booking all restaurant reservations in advance. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Calistoga Roastery - Located on Lincoln Avenue, this is the go-to spot for delicious breakfast sandwiches and coffee. Best way to start your day!

  • Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery - My favorite spot for lunch, especially during the warm months where you can enjoy a leisurely lunch outdoors near the creek.

  • Evangeline - This New Orleans-inspired restaurant is my favorite spot for dinner in Calistoga. If the weather is nice, be sure to eat outside in their beautiful courtyard!

  • Solbar - Not staying at Solage, but want to experience an incredible meal on their property? Book a reservation here - the food is so good!

  • Sam’s Social Club - Located on the Indian Springs property, the farm-fresh, California-style cuisine is not to be missed at this happening spot.

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Calistoga is a place where the pace of life slows down, inviting you to unwind in hot mineral spring pools, mud baths or massages, explore the charming downtown streets, indulge in world-class wine and incredible farm-fresh cuisine, embark on scenic hikes or bike rides that reveal breathtaking vistas at every turn. Calistoga a true haven for travelers seeking a perfect blend of tranquility and adventure.

I hope you’ll visit this magical town soon, and if you do… I have a very good feeling you will yearn to return.

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