Sunday, May 10, 2009
GETTING THERE: From San Francisco, take Route 101 north across the Golden Gate Bridge and after 22 miles, turn right on Route 37 east, then left on Route 121 north. In Napa, continue north on Route 29.
WHERE TO STAY: I stayed at Golden Haven Hot Springs (1713 Lake St., Calistoga, 707-942-8000, http://www.goldenhaven.com), where rooms usually start at $115, though the hotel has numerous specials. For the ultimate in luxury, Calistoga Ranch (580 Lommel Rd., Calistoga, 800-942-4220, http://www.calistogaranch.com) has private lodges starting at $550 per night. On the other end of the price spectrum, camping is available at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park (3801 St. Helena Hwy., Calistoga, 707-942-4575, http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=477) starting at $20 per night.
WHERE TO EAT: Calistoga is full of restaurants with good, reasonably priced food. For breakfast, you can't beat Cafe Sarafornia (1413 Lincoln Ave., 707-942-0555); breakfast is served all day, and the homemade corned beef hash's peppers, onions, corn and peas add crunch to the usual potatoes and beef. Dinner at Hydro Grill (1403 Lincoln Ave., 707-942-9777) hit the spot, and the menu has daily specials and interesting beers. Try the microbrews and terrific food (I loved the steamed mussels and clams) at the Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery (1250 Lincoln Ave., 707-942-4101). For a picnic, stock up on everything you need -- cheeses, fruit, bread and olives, plus other groceries -- at Cal Mart (1491 Lincoln Ave., 707-942-6271).
WHAT TO DO: There are more than two dozen spas around Calistoga, most of them offering mud baths. At Golden Haven Hot Springs, mud baths cost $75, though numerous discounts are offered through the Web site (http://www.goldenhaven.com). Nearby, Indian Springs Resort and Spa (1712 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, 707-942-4913, http://www.indianspringscalistoga.com) is the oldest continually operating pool and spa complex in California; "Calistoga" coiner Sam Brennan opened a pool on the site in 1861. The newest spa in town is the Solage Calistoga (755 Silverado Trail, 866-942-7442, http://www.solagecalistoga.com), a "casual-luxury" hotel and spa owned by the same hotel group that owns Calistoga Ranch.
For nature lovers, the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park (3369 St. Helena Pkwy. N., near Calistoga, 707-942-4575, http://www.parks.ca.gov) operates its 36-foot water wheel on weekends, and it has trails connecting it to nearby Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Ditch the car and rent a road or mountain bike at Calistoga Bikeshop (1318 Lincoln Ave., 866-942-2453, http://www.calistogabikeshop.com; rentals start at $10 per hour or $35 per day).
In Sonoma, the San Francisco Solano Mission complex (114 E. Spain St., Sonoma, 707-938-9560) offers a chance to glimpse California's past; the exhibits in the barracks and paintings in the church are particularly interesting.
When it comes to wineries, there's one around every bend; we visited three. We loved the laid-back Larson Family Winery, even though our bocce game was a washout (23355 Millerick Rd., Sonoma, 707-938-3031, http://www.larsonfamilywinery.com); rode the aerial tram at Sterling Vineyards (1111 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, 800-726-6136, http://www.sterlingvineyards.com); and squeezed in a late-afternoon tasting at Merryvale Vineyards (1000 Main St., St. Helena, 707-963-7777, http://www.merryvale.com).
FOR MORE INFORMATION: The Napa Valley Visitor Information Center (1310 Napa Town Center, Napa, 707-226-5813, http://www.legendarynapavalley.com) lists lodging, wineries, restaurants and activities in Napa Valley. The Calistoga Visitor's Center (1506 Lincoln Ave., 866-306-5588, http://www.calistogafun.com) offers special deals on lodging, plus guides to spas, shopping, outdoor recreation, family fun and more.