Calistoga is a super cute small town in the Napa Valley. Within the Napa Valley there are several lovely towns with restaurants and accommodation. However, I did find Calistoga to be the quirkiest and most interesting. Here are 11 fantastic things to do in Calistoga California:
1. Eat at Solbar Solage Calistoga
I stayed at Solage and I ate at Solbar alot. That would be five breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 dinners. And everything was fantastic! Solbar offers outside and inside seating. We only ate inside once when outside was full and it was still a nice experience – but outside is definitely the better option!
Let’s start with breakfast – what a fabulous breakfast menu! Lots of healthy options like egg white omelets, grapefruit and avocado and crab etc as well as delicious pastries and some brilliant pancakes. Lunch we went with snacky options – fish tacos were a highlight! Dinner is structure as first, next, main and dessert. You can take only one, two or three items or you can go for the great value USD$80 4 course menu. This is great value for a Michelin star restaurant.
The menu changes regularly and keeps up with the season. When I was there I was particularly blown away by the lamb and the quality of the basics like the amazing tomatoes. There is, of course, a fantastic wine list as well. The wine list offers my new favourite thing after visiting Napa – wine flights! Large tasters of several wines grouped together by style or type.
2. Stay at Solage Calistoga
This is a lovely hotel! When you think relaxed, stylish California this is exactly what I had in mind! It is a lovely property which is quite spread out so there is a feeling of intimacy despite the size. Our room was huge with a living area and large patio. I love that it came with push bikes as well!
The service was fantastic, the food is amazing and wow the spa is lovely! There is a large spa area with extra pools, natural waters, steam rooms etc etc. We tried one of their core treatments which were a mix of a scrub, soak and massage and was lovely.
The main pool is huge and perfect for lounging by and reading your book – with a nearby pool bar of course! If you are looking for something more active you will receive a full activity schedule when you check in with all of the classes – from yoga to circuit – that is on offer during your stay.
3. Hit the Calistoga Wineries
Of course when it comes to things to do in Calistoga wine and wine tastings will be at the top of your list. I spent a lovely afternoon at the Von Strasser & Lava Vine Winery. We were able to do our tasting whilst sitting outside – such a treat being brought glasses of delicious wines for a Calistoga wine tasting whilst relaxing outside!
Brian Arden wines, which is very close to Solage, also comes highly recommended. And here is a great post on the Best Wineries in Calistoga.
4. Watch Sideways
There is something about watching a movie or tv show in the place where it is set – it seems to add so much! I had the same experience watching Narcos in Medellin. Anyway, I digress. The film to watch when tasting wine in California is Sideways. It was released in 2004 and stars Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church as two friends that decide to go on a week-long wine road trip. Download it before you leave home or if you are staying at Solage you can borrow it and watch in on dvd in your room.
5. Take the Wine Train
I find it hard to imagine that there would be anyone who wouldn’t want to take a ride on a wine train! Yes it is very touristy and it isn’t cheap but this is one of the most fun things to do in Napa Valley! There are many journey choices on offer. We went with a lunch offer that included a winery tour – the fantastic Grgich Hills.
We enjoyed a decent three-course meal with some great wine flights. The highlight though was the actual experience. It was lovely having lunch rolling through vineyards and then stopping off to taste more wine.
6. Enjoy Coffee from beans Roasted in Downtown Calistoga
American coffee can be rather dreadful – that awful drip stuff or far too milky cappuccinos. Luckily downtown Calistoga has a cafe that roasts its own beans and provides a great brew!
Yo el Rey is a super cute coffee micro-roaster. And of course, they are also organic and fair trade certified. They roast their own beans and have a lovely little café right in the heart of Calistoga. Art 1217 Washington also gets some positive reviews.
7. Hit the Calmart
I realise that visiting a grocery store was probably not what you expected when it came to what to do in Calistoga – but the Calmart is a large fabulous grocery shop on the main road in Calistoga. They give Wholefoods a run for their money with deli and takeaway food offerings. They can then meet all of your usual grocery needs.
However, for me, the highlight was the wine section! This is possibly the cheapest place to grab some great Napa wines! They even had a decent range of dessert wines and ports. This is the perfect place to grab wine for your room and wine to take with you!
8. Send some Wine home
The Calistoga Wine Stop, 1458 Lincoln, can ship your favourite California Chardonnay worldwide. It is located in the train depot. They stock everything from vintage to bargains and cover all varieties. They will even specially pack up your wine if you are taking it home yourself.
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9. Go shopping in a Train
The second train of the post! Downtown Calistoga has a couple of old trains that are California Heritage listed and have been kitted and fitted out to provide a retail experience. The Calistoga Wine Stop has a little tasting room here. There are also a few sweet shops and lovely quality souvenirs. The train car is part of the Calistoga Depot – all linked to the Wine Stop.
10. More Calistoga Wineries – but this one has a big twist!
Perhaps the most eccentric of the Calistoga wineries is the Tank Garage. This winery is actually in an old retro 1930s gas station. You can book a wine tasting or just drop in. Trying 4 wines will cost you USD$25 and take about 45 minutes. You may even get access to the back tasting room! This is normally only for members of their wine club.
Tank Garage has its own wines with super cool labels and fabulous names like Post Disco, Stars like Ours and my favourite a red called Lick! As you would expect they also hold garage sales of their wines!
11. Natural Hot Springs
The original Calistoga things to do was visiting its Natural Hot Springs. They have been a Calistoga tourist attraction since the 1880s. It is possible to stay at Indian Springs Resort, home to giant hot spring pools, or you book a spa treatment and get access. There are also many hotels offering hot springs treatments.
12. Hot Air Balloon Ride
Calistoga has its own hot air balloon specialists with flights planned daily. The ride will set you back US$239 and you will have to get up very early (the flights leave between 5 am and 7 am so you have to be up before then!). However, you will get some stunning views and may even see the geyser erupt a couple of times (see number 14 below).
The balloon floats around the northern area of Napa. Once you land you can enjoy your post-flight breakfast with either a mimosa or a glass of sparkling wine.
13. See some Million Year Old Trees
Like something out of an Enid Blyton novel, Calistoga has a Petrified Forest. The trees were caught up in lava flow millions of years ago and are now essentially fossils. The trees are a half mile walk or you can take a 1 mile guided walk. The walks take place at 11, 1 pm or 3 pm.
Please do note that unfortunately the Petrified Forest was effected in the fires in the area late 2017. However, they plan to be up and running again from May 2018. Do check their website before you go.
14. Old Faithful California Style
I do love a geyser! Something about nature taking charge of showing times! Depending on the time of year this geyser erupts every 10 to 45 minutes. Just like the Petrified Forest, the existence of the geyser is all linked back to a long-ago volcanic time. I did not expect to learn about ancient Volcanoes when I went to the Napa Valley!
The Geyser is open 365 days a year (it has recovered from the fires) and admission is USD$15 for adults. There is also a goat farm and an area for Bocce. Bocce appears to be a thing in Napa as there is also a Bocce ground at Solage Calistoga! Rumour has it that they also get some pretty amazing rainbows at sunset post-eruption.
Napa Valley Tours
Other Boutique Hotels in Calistoga
There are loads of cute boutique hotels in and around Calistoga. Go art deco at the Calistoga Wine Way Inn. Stay on the actual natural Hot Springs at Indian Springs. If you’re after some romance try the multi award winning Brannan Cottage Inn. Stay at a listed heritage property plus get an amazing spa at the Mount View Hotel & Spa.
The latest opening in the area is the Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa. This unique retro boutique hotel is like stepping back in time – in a modern and cool way.
Click here for prices and availability on the Calistoga Wine Way Inn.
Getting to San Francisco
The nearest airport for the Napa Valley is San Francisco.
I flew premium economy with British Airways – read my review here.
There are some fantastic drives around San Francisco – from heading south down to LA to drive around the Napa Valley. Click here for Great Deals on Car Hire.
Find out how much a flight to San Francisco costs from your hometown here
Other things you might like to read
If you’re staying in San Francisco here is my guide to the Top 17 Restaurants.
And read my review of cute boutique Hotel G in San Francisco here
I also spent time in Vegas on this trip – if that is of interest here is my Top 20 Things to do in Vegas besides gamble post
My post on A Luxury Travel Blog about the Napa Valley Wine Train
and also on A Luxury Travel Blog the Best Eating Experiences in the Napa Valley
I always enjoy reading great books set in the place where I am going before, during and after trips. Here are a few good reads set in the Napa Valley:
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Also published on Medium.