They call Napa Valley “the playground for adults” and with good reason. Within an 1 hour from San Francisco or Oakland International Airport, can you find a fun-filled weekend trip that includes hiking, dining, wine tasting, balloon trips, mineral baths, and champagne?
Are you in need of some R & R? Could the two of you use some time alone to rekindle and reconnect? The romantic spirit of Napa is undisputed – no combination of activities paint a more vivid picture of love: Cycling along the riverfront, strolling hand in hand amid Downtown’s eclectic shops and galleries, selecting sweet and savory provisions for a gourmet picnic, relishing each sip of wine, indulge in a wellness spa treatment to revitalize your souls, and taste the bounty of the region over a candlelight dinner.
Whatever reason you have, here is a two day trip to Napa Valley to experience ‘Bubbles, Baths, and Balloons’!
Depending on when you arrive and the check-in time at your Napa downtown hotel, you’ll probably find that you have time to discover two very special and completely different wineries to explore and get your taste buds started. Both these vineyards require reservations so, please plan ahead.
RSV believes luxuriously elegant wine and earth-friendly farming are not mutually exclusive. Caring for the land, combined with conscientious business practices (solar power, alternative fuel, biodiversity, using animals to mow the cover crops, to name a few) define the elegant and well-crafted style that is RSV. ‘Good wine shouldn’t hurt… your palate or the planet.’
To taste RSV wines at home or in a restaurant is a good thing, however, to experience a flight of RSV wines, in the place where they are made, can be a very enlightening experience. You can either belly up to the bar and taste a flight with small nipples paired with it for $45. Or sign up for their “Perfect Circle Tour” for a more immersive Farm to Table culinary experience. This is the tour I took, and I am so happy that I did. The tour guided us through their vineyards, culinary and flower gardens and explained how their animal husbandry program helps shape their wines. With a glass of wine in hand, we ventured down to their private library in their caves. It is here that a culinary delight was presented to us to accompany a flight of seven reserve wines. Their wines are delicious but exceptional paired with food!
Across the street from RSV is Baldacci Family Vineyards. I know what you’re thinking, Baldacci, and the answer is yes. The famous author is the uncle of Michael Baldacci, who is proudly adding the family touches to their small unique vineyards. His sense of style, farming techniques, winemaking skills and family pride is fully represented in every bottle. Their fine collection of Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Syrahs are perfectly balanced, but they are well known for their Cabernet Sauvignons! Rich, deep, full-throttle, superb intensity, elegant and classic are a few words to describe these gorgeous beauties. The whole experience was completed by their unpretentious hospitality accented by their philosophy of “love, life, and family”!
Time to continue your journey into town and head for your lodging.
The Napa River Inn is centrally located on Main Street. Their ambiance is both elegant and charming at this Michelin rated hotel. They believe in making your experience a memorable one, starting with breakfast-in-bed from Sweetie Pies bakery. Sixty-six guest rooms are spread between 3 separate buildings along the waterfront, offering a one of a kind experience with walking access to Napa’s Downtown district.
A unique blend of downtown Napa Inn and Boutique Hotel. The Inn has the amenities discerning guests desire with clean, modern design, luxurious linens, fireplaces, jetted spa tubs, an outdoor pool, lush gardens, on-site spa treatments and culinary delights both at breakfast and at the evening wine and hors-d’oeuvre social.
The Hilton Garden Inn Napa hotel located in the heart of California’s wine country. They offer comfortable accommodations, friendly service, and a relaxed atmosphere in the beautiful Napa Valley. They have wonderful reviews and provide a budget-friendly option.
Time to stretch your legs and stroll through the town’s boutiques and shops for everything from art to jewelry to uniquely crafted local artesian gifts. The ambiance along the riverfront is both serene and entertaining. You can observe a local fisherman fishing on one bank and the dance of a Herron on the other.
The food scene in downtown Napa will blow your culinary socks off with superb dining venues than you can possibly visit in a weekend.
Specializes in freshly baked desserts and homemade loaves of bread. They offer both lunch and breakfast dishes and of course, a large selection of coffee choices.
Jax: Located in a park like setting and offers outdoor seating. They have the best “Burger and Beer” choice in town.
The diversity of dining rolls on with the southern fried comforts of this bustling restaurant and bar scene at Morimotos with its sultry cocktails, Seafood, and Sushi.
For an evening of entertainment
Uptown Theatre Napa is the North Bay Area & Napa Valley’s Premier Indoor Concert Venue. Concert Tickets for all shows. Beautiful venue with amazing.
Silo’s is tucked behind our historic building like a Classy Chicago Speakeasy. It features their own Small Crafted Draft Beers, a full Liquor License and some of the finest Napa Valley Wines. While you may not know exactly who will be playing when you get here, due to the incredible artists that are attracted to the opportunity to drop in and play at “Napa’s Premiere Music Room,” you always know you’re going to hear the very best “live” Blues, Jazz, Rock, Reggae, Smooth Jazz and Motown music from the area. They offer both vegetarian and vegan dinner choices! Live music Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Day two: Calistoga
Rise and shine.
Get some altitude. If you’d like a truly spectacular memory of wine country, your best option is to see it at sunrise from a graceful, floating hot-air balloon. Several companies offer airborne adventures throughout the valley. Remember: All flights take off at sunrise!
Their friendly, experienced pilots will escort you above the vineyards, where you can explore the beautiful Napa Valley at a birds’-eye view. Your hot air ballooning excursion includes a preflight café & pastry service, and a full champagne brunch celebration following the flight. Bring your camera and a sense of adventure. This company leaves from the Napa area. Balloons Above the Valley special $179 sunrise w/ champagne breakfast
The Calistoga area is geologically distinctive as it features natural hot springs, geysers, and the rich volcanic soil for which the wine country is known. You may catch sight of Old Faithful Geyser, one of only three in the entire world. The geyser has erupted up to 7 times in one flight and has been featured on National Geographic. We often fly near the dramatic Palisade Cliffs of Napa Valley as well as the highest peak in Napa County; Mount St Helena. This company leaves from the Calistoga area. Calistoga Balloons $239
If ballooning through the sky is not your thing, then biking maybe.
Another exceptional way to experience the valley is from a bicycle – whether you’re going for a long, ambitious ride or just carrying picnic supplies to a nearby park. The valley is networked by a series of crossroads between Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail if you like to keep it flat or has a wide variety of twister routes if you’d prefer to get some elevation. And with the progress being made on the Napa Valley Vine Trail, there are increasing options for getting off the road altogether. Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga all offer good bike shops with daily rentals.
After this morning’s activity, it’s time for bubbles! Frank Family Vineyards is housed in the historic Larkmead winery in Calistoga. They produce wines that live up to the heritage of the land on which they are produced. Their wines are handcrafted in small quantities and are only sold at the winery and in a handful of select restaurants. Once owned by wine legend Hans Kornell, the winery originally secured its reputation with sparkling wines. Five sparkling wines continue to be handcrafted today in the old building: Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Rosé and occasionally the Rouge and Reserve. All of these are made in the traditional French method champenoise style. Winemaker Todd Graff carefully crafts their sparkling and still wines with the utmost care and drive to achieve a perfectly balanced experience. After sampling their wines, Todd has achieved his goal. All the wines are scrumptious from nose to finish.
Just take a hike or find a perfect picnic spot. As you might expect from its topography, the Napa Valley is surrounded by great hiking terrain. Some local favorite hikes are at nearby Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Skyline Wilderness Park, Alston Park, Oat Hill Mine Trail, and Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. Take along an Italian picnic:
The Olive Oil Company is the best place for this and so much more! It truly is a treasure trove of everything Italian.. And they offer shaded picnic tables under beautiful old trees.
Calistoga is well known for the spa treatments. Everything from mineral pools, to mud baths, to massages to revitalize your souls. If your lodging choice doesn’t offer a spa package, you don’t need to miss out. Time to get pampered the Calistoga way!
Solage Calistoga Resort: The 89 guest rooms and suites invite relaxation with buttery leather chairs, shady patios and pillowy beds dressed in high-thread-count linens. The chill vibe extends into the spa-like bathrooms, which feature pebble-stone showers and organic, local bath products.After a long day of wine tasting, relax by one of two pools — a 130-foot adult pool or a separate one for families — or book a treatment at the spa. The centerpiece is its famous Mud Bar & Bathhouse, a series of spring-fed, co-ed pools, complemented by mineral-rich mud body masks.
Craftsman Inn. If you are looking for the amenities of a chic, boutique hotel with the friendliness and knowledge of owners and innkeepers who work, live and play here and take pride in sharing what they know, then this is where you should stay.
Massages, mud, and facials:
Evening entertainment and dining
No trip to Calistoga is complete without experiencing Chef Michael Chiarello’s creations at Tra Vigne.
It is a quintessential wine country experience. From its classic neo-Italian dining room highlighting the old world bar to the magnificent shade covered Tuscan courtyard, people say you could be anywhere in Italy while dining at the elegant Tra Vigne. Still to this day, they serve the BEST Carbonara I have ever tasted. All their dishes are prepared to perfection!
You are coming to the end of your trip and I’m sure you agree why they call Napa Valley “the playground for adults”. It’s a fun-filled weekend trip that includes hiking, biking, dining, wine tasting, balloon trips, mineral baths, and champagne!
If you live North of Napa, a beautiful autumn drive awaits you along Hwy 128 East. Once you enter the valley in Calistoga, continue south towards Napa. Drive time is approximately 3 hours.
If you are coming from the San Francisco Bay area, I-80 or Hwy 37 to Hwy 12 will take you to downtown Napa. Travel time: about 1 hour
Coming from Sacramento area: Take I-80 to Hwy 12. in Napa. Drive time: less than 2 hours.
San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airports have multitple flights daily and travel time is about an hour
Words and photographs by Shelley Pittman