The Napa Valley may be best known for its world-class wineries and restaurants, yet it is also a welcoming destination for families. Year-round mild temperatures and more than 70,000 acres of protected land allow visitors of all ages to fully enjoy the outdoors, while hands-on adventures, full-service hotels, and family-friendly restaurants result in itineraries that appeal to all.
The Great Outdoors
From the Napa River to Lake Berryessa, Napa County is home to several large bodies of water, and all the associated fun, water-related sports. Rent a kayak or paddleboard at Napa Valley Paddle or Getaway Adventures, and spend the day afloat. Or, catch some fish with Wombat Charter Tours. For an altitude adjustment, hike in one of Napa Valley's many protected outdoor areas such as Alston Park, Newell Open Space Preserve, Skyline Wilderness Park, The Napa River Bay Trail, or Bothe Napa Valley State Park. The valley is also full of great biking trails. The Napa Valley Vine Trail, which currently provides a 12-mile trail between Napa and Yountville, will eventually link 47 continuous miles along the valley floor. Bicycle rentals are available at Napa Valley Bike Tours, St. Helena Cyclery, and the Calistoga Bike Shop. For younger kids, there are playgrounds at Napa Fuller Park, Yountville Park, and St. Helena Crane Park.
Bothe State Park offers both day-use and overnight camping, picnicking, swimming (weekends during the Summer), and hiking trails through stands of coastal redwoods as well as forests of Douglas-fir, Tanoak, and Madrone. The large picnic grounds are located in the day use area, and are available for group events and getaways. A visit to the working Bale Grist Mill is like stepping back into 19th-century Napa Valley, and visitors can even buy flour milled on site. Skyline Wilderness Park in the southeastern hills offers both disc golf and archery. The Carolyn Parr Nature Center is dedicated to helping people of all ages learn more about local native plants and animals, including a collection of raptors, a mountain lion, and some non-native animals. In addition, hikes are offered in the nearby Westwood Hills Park. The Land Trust of Napa County offers hikes on several of its protected preserves on most weekends. These hikes are free but often fill up quickly so advance registration is recommended.
Activities & Attractions
For one of the newest and “greenest” ways to see the Napa Valley, Laces and Limos offers tours in their eco-friendly tuk-tuks, a modern day version of a rickshaw, with kid-friendly itineraries as well as pricing. A family favorite is Calistoga's Old Faithful Geyser, one of the world's three such named geysers, which erupts a spout of 350-degree water every half hour. While waiting for the eruption, families may visit the petting zoo's Tennessee Fainting Goats, four-horned sheep, and llamas. Just up the road is the Petrified Forest, with giant redwood trees that were turned into stone following a massive volcanic explosion that took place more than three million years ago. Or, give the kids a wine-country memory they will never forget and reserve a hot-air balloon ride in the wee morning hours with Napa Valley Aloft or Balloons Above the Valley that provide breathtaking views of the valley at sunrise. Napa Valley Aloft launches from V Marketplace in Yountville and accommodates children as young as six years old. Balloons Above the Valley features a package that includes brunch in the Napa's Oxbow Public Market, another family favorite.
Foodies on Foot is a family and pet-friendly walking tour of downtown Napa restaurants. Tours feature easy to eat items such as pizza and ice cream from local vendors, and kids under six are free, while kids between 6-12 are half price. The restored antique Pullman-style Napa Valley Wine Train departs from downtown Napa and runs through St. Helena. The seasonal open-air car is especially popular with families and the chefs are able to adapt dishes for younger tastes, including a barbeque meal or plate of simple pasta.
Wineries with “Kid-Appeal”
Many Napa Valley wineries cater to families to ensure that both adults and children have a memorable and enjoyable experience. Jamieson Ranch Vineyards offers Mini Moments, a one-of-a-kind, family-friendly experience offering guests the opportunity to interact with their three miniature horses; Whinnie the Pooh, Sweet Jane and Molly. Sterling Vineyards is reached by a gondola rising 300 feet to a mountaintop winery designed to resemble a contemporary Greek fortress. Once off the tram, kids receive a “tram pack” of goodies to keep them busy. The self-guided tour allows guests to walk around the grounds rather than standing in a tasting room, and frozen slushies are offered to children. Honig Vineyard & Winery offers toys and puzzles to play with, juice boxes and goldfish to snack on, and sidewalk chalk for kids to create artwork on the patio while their parents enjoy a tasting.
Materra Cunat Family Vineyards is not only child friendly, but also welcomes four-legged fur babies on a leash. Frog's Leap Winery, which is also a working farm, complete with vegetable gardens and fruit orchards, also features a large pond for frog catching and goldfish spotting. Or, take a tour in a 4x4 vehicle at Long Meadow Ranch's mountain vineyards. Its tasting room in downtown St. Helena has a petanque court and large lawns for working off excess energy. Castello di Amorosa is a meticulous reproduction of a 13th-century Tuscan castle that will fascinate all ages with its dungeon, moat, suits of armor, and courtyard. Outside, there are emus, peacocks, and sheep to entertain even the most tired toddler, child, or teen. Dutch Henry Winery features picnic tables and a bocce ball court where families can rest and relax after a tasting. And at Chateau Montelena, families can explore the castle-like winery with its lake, Japanese gardens, and koi fish. Here is a link to other family friendly wineries.
Menus that Cater to Kids
Oxbow Public Market in Napa is an upscale food court that appeases every palate or craving. Gott's Roadside, both in Napa and St. Helena, provides American classics such as burgers, fries, and shakes, and wines by the glass or bottle for adults. Pizza requests may be fulfilled at Pizzeria Tra Vigne and Azzuro Pizzeria and Enoteca. The town of Yountville offers seasonal picnic items from Addendum, which offers cuisine from 3-Star Michelin Chef Thomas Keller spring through autumn in a relaxed, family-friendly environment. In St. Helena, The Charter Oak Restaurant offers a special kids' menu, homemade play-dough, high chairs, communal dining, and a dessert cart with popsicles. Archetype, also in St. Helena, features signature dishes such as wood-fired cheese pizza and sugar maple donut holes. Calistoga has Checkers and Café Sarafornia, both offering kid-friendly menus.
East meets west with Asian-inspired offerings including Two Birds/One Stone, where dishes such as fried chicken, forbidden rice and savory Japanese pancakes appeal to both young and old, and Napa Noodles features a fun Keiki (kids) menu, coloring books, and four big screens including one dedicated to kids' movies. Fans of global cuisine will enjoy Heritage Eats, a fast-casual eatery offering meals for kids and adults at an approachable price point, including kids' quesadillas, PB&J's and grilled cheese, as well as tacos, wraps, pitas and more. For sports fans, Norman Rose Tavern in downtown Napa offers elevated pub fare, a kid-friendly menu, and TV's for watching live sports. For sampling the best of Napa Valley's fresh produce offerings, visit one of the many Farmer's Markets April through November.
Arts and Culture
di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art presents contemporary exhibitions and educational programs for all ages, with complimentary admission for all visitors 17 and under. Families may visit the center's multiple galleries, the outdoor sculpture park, and 35-acre lake, all located on 217 scenic acres in Napa Valley's famed Carneros region. Every second and fourth Friday, they feature a “Short Stories” program for kids ages 2 – 5. The Napa Valley Museum in Yountville offers a range of family friendly activities including “Free Family Fun Activity” day on the second Saturday of every month. The Yountville Art Walk and Napa Art Walk are similar to outdoor treasure hunts for art and are perfect activities for kids of all ages. For those visiting the Napa Valley in April, be sure to review Napa Valley's Arts in April program. Experiences include the annual La Strada dell' Arte Street Art Festival where students and professionals create chalk art right on the street.
Summer Family Fun
Summertime is especially fun for families visiting the Napa Valley, offering professional baseball, free music concerts and even outdoor movies. The Napa Silverados baseball club is enjoying its inaugural season as the newest member of the six-team Pacific League of Independent Baseball clubs, the only remaining independent league on the West Coast. Forty home games will be played each summer (June through August) at the Napa College Baseball complex. With extremely reasonable ticket prices and food and beverage options, it's a great way for families to enjoy America's favorite pastime.
Several free summer concerts are held up and down the Valley. The town of Calistoga offers Concerts in the Park, a series of free summer concerts, on Thursday evenings 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Pioneer Park. The City of St. Helena also presents its annual Summer Concerts, a series of free, family-friendly concerts in Lyman Park 6 to 8 p.m. every other Thursday evening through the summer. The Town of Yountville presents Music in the Park at Veterans Memorial Park 5 to 7 p.m. on Sundays during the summer. The City of Napa features two opportunities to enjoy free music during the summer. Napa City Nights takes place at Veterans Park on Main Street each Friday evening at 6:30 to 10 p.m., and monthly at the Third Thursday at 5 concerts at The Oxbow Commons.
Film fans may also enjoy their favorite movies at the Yountville Hot Summer Movie Nights in the Park. This summer film series runs one Friday each month from June through September and features family rated films, snacks and dinner from a food truck that varies each month. Low back lawn chairs, blankets, warm clothes, and a flashlight for after the movie, are recommended. Food trucks and concessions start at 6:30 p.m. and movies will begin at dusk. Please leave pets at home.
From cooking schools to working farms, families can have fun together and take home a new skill or a new appreciation for the land. If there is a budding chef in the family, book a tour at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (CIA) in St. Helena to visit the vegetable gardens and learn about cooking techniques and healthy eating. At the CIA's Napa outpost, The Culinary Institute of America at Copia, every Sunday is “Family Funday,” where the entire family can take part in hour-long cooking demonstrations followed by samplings of that day's topic. Silverado Cooking School offers two classes that appeal to families with teens in tow (minimum age 12), the Farm Class where the class starts on an actual working farm, and the Napa Farmer's Market Lunch Class, where the chef leads guests on a culinary journey to seek out the perfect ingredients. After exploring the market, guests head to the school's kitchen to transform their selected ingredients into a three-course lunch that they prepare and enjoy together.
Connolly Ranch is a nonprofit educational 12-acre farm in the heart of Napa featuring three barns, a duck pond, greenhouse, hiking trail, natural playground and 86 animals including donkeys, pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, rabbits and more. Enjoy life on the farm through programs such as Farm Fridays, Second Saturdays and Walk-in Wednesdays. For a more personalized experience, schedule a Farm Day Vacation, featuring farm-related activities complete with a gourmet picnic lunch paired with Napa Valley wines.
The bustling social scene at Solage Calistoga means a fun stay for all age groups. There are two pools, one for families and a separate Olympic-size pool for adults, both surrounded by towering palms. Kids can play bocce ball or borrow the complimentary beach cruisers to bike into town.
Each of the multi-room lodges at Calistoga Ranch provides a full kitchen and a central outdoor family space. Complimentary bicycles are provided to guests for easy access to downtown Calistoga. Catch a glimpse of the resort's Baby Doll sheep that work as natural “lawnmowers” on the property.
The mineral pools of Calistoga Spa Hot Springs have been a mainstay of Napa Valley visitors for generations. Geothermal forces elevate the temperature of the mineral water to 180 degrees Fahrenheit at the source. In addition to the resort's three core pools, Calistoga Spa Hot Springs features a wading pool and water feature for younger guests.
Indian Springs Resort in Calistoga depicts a family vacation circa 1930, with a range of accommodations that includes rooms, bungalows, cottages, and houses. A big attraction for kids is the Olympic-sized mineral pool, one of the largest pools in California, which is kept at 82–102 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the season. The resort also offers complimentary bikes to ride around the property or into town.
Meadowood Napa Valley is the perfect home base for an active family. The 250-acre resort includes tennis courts, golf fairways, croquet lawns, hiking trails, and spacious cottages. During the summer, its Children's Sports Camps are open to children ages 6 to 11 and offer instruction in tennis, golf and croquet.
Silverado Resort and Spa offers one and two bedroom suites with full kitchens, as well as an eight-week Golf, Tennis, Swim Camp (GTS) open to ages 6-12. Kids will learn the fundamentals in each sport, and, after camp, can jump in the pool for supervised swimming in resort's main pool.
Embassy Suites Napa Valley features both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a children's menu, bicycle rentals and the Embassy Suites weekly supervised swan and duck feeding.
The Carneros Resort and Spa in Napa offers a collection of cottages with plenty of space for families, along with a family pool (as well as an adults-only pool), which includes toys and snacks. On Saturdays, June through September, parents can have a night out while kids enjoy dinner, games, and a kid-friendly movie. Carneros Kids' Night also includes a game room complete with ping pong, foosball, shuffleboard and an array of board games.
The Meritage Resort and Spa features the Crush Lounge, offering six lanes of bowling, sports entertainment and dining all in one area. Lanes may also be reserved for special celebrations, including birthdays.
Vista Collina Resort offers families a home-away-from-home with 39 suites, each offering spacious living rooms, dining areas and full kitchens, ideal for family dinners. In partnership with Hestan Cue, Vista Collina Resort offers guests an in-suite culinary experience where families can select farm-fresh ingredients from The Market and learn to cook gourmet kid-friendly meals.
Other family-friendly non-resort properties, each which feature swimming pools for a relaxing splash at the end of the day, include Holiday Inn Express & Suites and the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Spa Napa Valley in American Canyon; Westin Verasa, the Hilton Garden Inn, and Hampton Inn and Suites, each in Napa; the El Bonita Motel in St. Helena; and the Best Western Plus Stevenson Manor in Calistoga.