We love our weekend and day trips to Napa California. Check out the video footage from our trip:
Where to Stay in Napa with Kids:
Napa valley is a great getaway if you are in the Bay Area although if you are looking for accommodation in wine country, you may be overwhelmed by your choices: everything from luxury villas to motels spanning the inland and coastal areas are options. For a reasonable and convenient family-friendly place, I recommend the Embassy Suites in Napa. We stayed there for a night with my mother and son in tow over the holiday weekend, where suites at other more elite accommodations were running between USD600 and USD1000. For $300 (plus tax) we got a king bed suite with a sleeper sofa, complimentary full breakfast and a manager’s reception in the evening. Not bad.
The hotel is not in a vineyard like many of the Napa properties are but it is well located in downtown Napa, where you can walk down to the Napa Valley Toy Company, Annette’s Chocolates (great ice creams and lollies for the kids, not to mention hot chocolate and coffees), and several galleries and tasting rooms. You can also walk to the Napa Premium Outlets (with popular kids stores Gymboree and the Gap) and to a Lucky supermarket should you need groceries or a pharmacy. We explored the Silverado trail with institutions like Mumm and Stag’s Leap as well as were minutes away from fun Sonoma wineries like Domaine Carneros and Viansa ( go there for the atmosphere, not the wine).
For a more upscale experience, check out the Carneros Inn with it’s beautiful cottages, or a couple of steps down The Villagio Inn and Spa which is a resort hotel similar to the Embassy suites in terms of offering. Of course if you are partial to independent accommodation when traveling with family like I am, there is always Vrbo and Tripadvisor for a list of cottages and villas. My recommendation is to call rather than email the contact person. They are pretty relaxed around wine country and don’t respond as frequently. I am still on the hunt for my go-to wine country cottage and will let you know if I find it.
Where to Eat in Napa with Kids:
The rules in Napa with regards to food are a little weird. Many wineries do not serve food or allow you to bring your own for lack of a “picnicking” license. This is not the case in Sonoma where you can bring your own basket and blanket and settle anywhere although it is courtesy to buy a bottle at the winery you are squatting in. So while Sonoma encourages more casual dining, Napa is home to some world-renowned names like the The French Laundry (definitely NOT kid-friendly) and Bouchon Bakery. (Thomas Kellet completes his trifecta in Yountville with Ad Hoc, the newest addition, with prix fixe menus. Again, not recommended for kids, but definitely recommended for foodies). Other popular restaurants are Mustards Grill and Brix. (both wonderful family-friendly experiences – reservations highly recommended). If you are looking for a more casual option, swing by the Oakville Grocery for gourmet sandwiches, salads, cheese, configures, fresh fruit, coffee, wine and lemonade. There are little picnic tables outside (they get full pretty fast but don’t be afraid to share). Finally, the only winery in Napa that serves a full picnic lunch is V.Sattui, which offers large picnic grounds and bbq’d foods in addition to an Italian market. I personally find it too crowded and commercial, but it’s a reasonable option if you want food and a winery experience.
Napa Wineries We Love:
There are so many to choose from, and if you are a lover of California wines you will find yourself starstruck by names like Robert Mondavi, Opus One, Stag’s Leap, Plumpjack, Domaine Chandon and Stag’s Leap. The ones we have listed below we have had great experiences in, although again you couldn’t do yourself much harm by driving around and stopping wherever your fancy strikes.
Chateau Montalena: I will say first off that this is not exactly a kid-friendly place, except for the fact that it is located in a beautiful castle, surrounded by beautiful grounds complete with a lake, bridge and gazebo. Their wines are exquisite and definitely worth the $20/$40/$60 tastings. The winery is located in Calistoga in the northern part of Napa valley.
Cuvaison: Cuvaison has two locations, one in Calistoga and the other in Carneros, in between Napa and Sonoma. We visited the latter one which was a short drive from our hotel at the Embassy Suites in Napa and loved its understated grace (some Napa wineries can be a little over the top like Darioush which looks like it should be in Vegas instead of wine country- strictly avoidable). Cuvaison in Carneros is a small tasting room with a deck that overlooks a beautiful lake and its sprawling vineyards. Karam entertained himself walking through the plants while we tasted (and bought) some of the best California Chardonnays we have encountered his year (vintage: 2009).
Mumm Napa: For you lovers of the bubbles, Mumm Napa offers a wonderful selection of tasting flights and flutes, in a stunning set with layered decks overlooking their sprawling vineyards. Bright umbrellas and cool mist blowing over you while you sample some of the best sparklings in wine country remind you that life can’t get much better. I particularly recommend their sparkling pinot noir – something different to tell the folks at home about. Check out their website for coupons and tasting deals.
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