Just a few short years ago, you were coming to Napa Valley as singles or as a couple for wine-tastings and late nights. Now, with young kids in tow, you’re wondering how that’s going to work. Lucky for you, there’s another whole side to the Napa Valley – one that you can enjoy as a high-energy, rambunctious family. We break it down here with some of our favorite kid-friendly activities.


Start your day at the ABC Bakery by loading up on lemony ricotta pancakes with peaches or Mexican chilaquiles – you're going to need a full stomach for the morning ahead. From there it’s just a couple of short blocks to find the Napa ARTwalk, a walking tour of downtown Napa featuring 14 new sculptures by artists from Napa and the Western U.S. (You can download a guide/map online, or pick one up at Napa Valley Welcome Center, 600 Main St.) Then Stop by Connolly Ranch so the kids can see the farm animals (check their website for events, too). By now the troops are probably hungry again. Stop by Azzurro Pizzeria and Enoteca on Main Street to fortify yourselves for the afternoon ahead. Once replenished, check out Napa Valley Paddle, which will outfit you with stand-up boards to paddle along the river in town, explore the wetlands of the restored southern branch of the river, or experience the forested riparian corridor leading you into the Oak Knoll AVA to the north. For dinner, there’s no better option than the Oxbow Public Market, where you can choose from the Kitchen Door Restaurant, Hog Island Oyster Bar (seafood), C Casa (Mexican), and Gott’s Roadside (burgers). Don’t forget dessert at Kara’s Cupcakes or Three Twins Ice Cream!


Good news: The beloved Model Bakery has opened a new walk-up location in Yountville, in one of the old train cars of the Railway Inn. Right across Washington Street is the massively popular Bouchon Bakery, where (particularly on weekends) the lines can extend down the block. Grab some coffee (or hot chocolate) and pastries, then head over to Napa Valley Bike Tours and Rentals. There’s a new segment of the Napa Valley Vine Trail that can takes you on a protected path 12.5 miles, all the way to Kennedy Park in Napa. If your kids are young, just go as far as you want and circle back in time for lunch at Protea, which offers “Caribbean-inspired global cuisine” and even has a rooftop terrace for al fresco dining. Start your afternoon at the Napa Valley Museum, across the highway, for permanent and rotating exhibitions of the valley’s environment, culture, history, and creative expression. Or book a show at the Lincoln Theater, which offers a full roster of live stage, music, and dance offerings. And don’t forget shopping: The V Marketplace, back on Washington Street, is a warren of shops and galleries with goodies from chocolates to art, fashion, and home accessories. By now you’re surely ready for dinner. You’ve earned some excellent wood-fired pizza at Redd Wood, which has outdoor tables for tired kids and artisanal cocktails for the grown-ups!

St. Helena

Begin the day at the flagship store of the Model Bakery, which has a nice breakfast menu and world-renowned English muffins. From there you can walk a few blocks south on Main Street to Nimbus Arts for art classes and camps (be sure to check out the online schedule in advance for classes and hours). Drive over to the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, a small gem of an exhibit that houses the largest collection of Stevensoniana in the world – including the famed author’s wedding rings, his globe, and a lock of his hair. Okay, time for lunch: Head to Gott’s Roadside back on Main Street for high-end burgers, Niman Ranch hot dogs, and thick creamy milkshakes. If the day is hot and the troops are tired, you can often find a family matinee in the historic, 102-year-old Cameo Cinema (it’s air-conditioned!). Or, if you’re still feeling high-energy, you can check out the world-class Skateboard Park (bring your own equipment) and playground at Crane Park. Is it time for dinner already? Head over to Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, which has outdoor seating, a large garden, live music on the weekends, and even a petanque court.


The best place to start in Calistoga is Café Sarafornia, an old-fashioned diner where you’ll find something on the menu to please even the fussiest eaters. If your kids are over age five, sign up for a tour at Castello di Amorosa, an authentic 107-room castle with a moat, drawbridge, torture chamber, and defensive towers – you’ll swear you’re in an ancient hill town in Tuscany. Then head north on Highway 128 to visit Old Faithful Geyser, one of only three regularly erupting geysers in the world. It’s said to be one of the most photographed spots in California, so bring your selfie-stick. And the property also features a farm with goats, sheep and llamas, plus tables for picnic lunches. If you didn’t bring your lunch, head back to town for barbecue at Buster’s on Foothill Blvd., said to be one of the three best places in the valley for BBQ (the tri-tip sandwich is a particular favorite). Okay, you’ve earned some chill time this afternoon. Head east on Lincoln Avenue to Indian Springs Resort, where guests of the hotel and spa can float in the natural thermal mineral water pools and Mom or Dad sneak off to get a massage or other treatment. The resort also provides bicycles for guests staying at the property. Finally, find Checkers on Lincoln Avenue for a dinner of family-friendly Italian fare.

You’re done! You’ve just packed three days full of family fun and memories. We’re betting you’ll be back sometime soon for another round.

Looking for more family friendly resources? Check out NapaValleyKid.com

Photo credit: Indian Springs Resort & Spa