Best of Napa Valley with Helen Brown

Experience Napa Valley Like a Local


Helen Brown - Spa Director, Spa Solage

"The need to be outside on a regular basis is critical to my level of happiness," says Helen Brown of Spa Solage. So she appreciates the Napa Valley's natural beauty and mild climate, which makes it pleasant to be outdoors most of the year. She encourages visitors to get active, too, whether it's a leisurely bike ride to Lake Berryessa or an uphill hike with views as the reward. Read on for Helen's tips on how to embrace the outdoors, including her go-to spot for dining al fresco.

5 Recommendations from Helen Brown


Clif Family at Velo Vino

"As a cyclist, I feel this place is a must-visit, as it blends the passions of wine, cycling, and food," says Helen. Indeed, the St. Helena-based Velo Vino tasting room offers samples of Clif Family Wines and treats from the Bruschetteria Food Truck. It's also the starting point for bike excursions through the Napa Valley hills.

Clif Family at Velo Vino in Napa Valley

Oat Hill Mine Trail

"For inspiration, I always look to nature, so I'll hike to the top of the Oat Hill Mine Trail, which is just half a mile away from Spa Solage," says Helen. "It's about a 3.5-mile hike uphill, and there's a panoramic view from the top, which gives a great sense of perspective and inspiration. I generally hike as far as Holms Place."

Oat Hill Mine Trail in Napa Valley


"This French bistro with a Creole soul is one of my favorite hideaway spots in Calistoga," says Helen. "I especially love eating outdoors here as they have an intimate patio and a casual, fun atmosphere." The wine list pays tribute to both New World (local Napa Valley) and Old World (Burgundy, Rhone) varieties.

Evangeline in Calistoga, Napa Valley

Mindful Photography Workshops

"Professional photographer Dr. Tim Carl offers a series of photo workshops," says Helen. "Each session is an hour and focuses on a different aspect of photography – lighting, portraiture, landscapes – and basic techniques for any level of camera, including iPhone. Tim will help you capture some of the best possible shots of the Napa Valley." Workshops can be booked via Spa Solage or by contacting Tim directly through his website.

Mindful Photography Workshops in Napa Valley

Lake Berryessa

"Lake Berryessa, which hosts an annual triathlon, is a great local place to train for open-water swims," says Helen. "It's within 15 minutes' drive of Spa Solage or an easy downhill bike ride, if you want to take a dip in the lake. It's an amazing resource we have for all guests who come to the Napa Valley."

Lake Berryessa