Saturday, May 25, 2013

Napa Valley with the Family

Three in our party of seven were minors which made planning for our Napa Valley trip a bit challenging. We asked friends who'd travelled to the area before and also spent lots of time with Google trying to plan our trip so it would be enjoyable to the youngest in our party (age 6) as well as the oldest.

We stayed in Vacaville, a city with a delightful downtown which was conveniently located about an hour away from Napa Valley. At the recommendation of a local, we ate a fabulous lunch at Joe's Creekside Cafe, a restaurant in an historic old post office. Highly recommended!

The Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield is just 20 minutes from Vacaville on the way to Napa, and they offer daily tours plus a huge factory store. Everyone in our group enjoyed the tour and the taste-testing! If you don't have time for the tour, just stop by to enjoy the store (I dare you to try the barf jelly bean)! Budweiser (almost across the street from Jelly Belly) also offers tours from 10-4, but we weren't able to work in that one.

In wine country, most of the things we wanted to see were in north Napa Valley in the Calistoga area. The road going up Napa Valley is 2-lane and filled with heavy traffic, but the drive is beautiful. We had planned on visiting Castello di Amorosa since we thought the castle intriguing (and because we'd read this), but because we had been in the car for awhile due to road construction and general traffic, we decided to head straight to Sterling Vineyards since we were sure their aerial tram would interest the kids. It did! The views were stunning, and the self-guided tour of the winery was very informative. Photo ops abound. No one in our party particularly cared for the wine, however.

We ate lunch at a local restaurant in Calistoga, Mary's Home Plate Cafe. It doesn't cater to tourists, as the atmosphere suggests, but the food was good.

Next stop was Old Faithful Geyser (get your coupon here). It certainly can't be described as a classy joint, but the kids enjoyed it. They enjoyed the petting zoo more than the geyser (which erupts faithfully, about every 10 minutes), but at least now they can say they've seen a real geyser. Hopefully, this stop made the science lesson on geysers a little more personal.

Just down the road from Old Faithful Geyser, Chateau Montelena Winery is a great little winery tucked away on Tubbs Lane in Calistoga. The grounds are beautiful with Asian inspired gardens and walkways which distracted the kids long enough for us to get our tasting. By the time they were begging to go, we were making our purchases and heading out anyway. The wine is definitely worth seeking out.

Last stop in the Napa Valley was The Petrified Forest on the aptly named Petrified Forest Road (get your coupon here). Years ago, a violent volcanic blast blew down giant trees which were petrified when the volcanic ash and mud covered them. Discovered in the 1800s, the trees are now on display via a shaded, relatively easy, and enjoyable walk. Great stop!

Napa Valley wrapped up our Northern California road trip which we had thoroughly enjoyed. If you missed them, read about our tour of San Francisco in 36 hours, our North Coast road trip, and our time in the Shasta-Cascade region.



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