If you’ve ever attempted to pull off a getaway with friends, you’ve likely faced the challenge of catering to a variety of interests. There’s your college roommate who can’t wait to get to the spa and your sister who wants to hop on a mountain bike; one friend wants to hit the local boutiques while another would rather browse at art galleries.
Don’t despair that there is no possible way to satisfy everyone. Instead, turn to the Napa Valley. For active travelers, there are great biking and hiking trails. Anyone looking for spa treatments will be in heaven in Calistoga, with its legendary mud baths and springs. Shoppers will want to leave room in their luggage for olive oil soaps, artisanal foods, and one-of-a-kind gifts. Oenophiles will enjoy the area’s most famous product, and everyone will be happy to swap stories at day’s end over a meal highlighting the bounty grown right here in Napa Valley.
On our suggested four-day itinerary, you’ll find it’s easy enough to ramp up the number of sporty, wine, shopping, spa and other activities depending on your specific gang’s interests.
Itinerary / 5 DAYSPLAN YOUR TRIP
DAY 1Arrive in St. Helena
Spend the first day taking advantage of the resort’s facilities. Once everyone has arrived, head into town for dinner at the Farmstead at Long Meadow, on Main Street in St. Helena. You may want to time your trip so that your “day 1” is the last Wednesday of the month. The restaurant’s Champagne Campaign is a happy hour with champagne, oysters, and caviar enjoyed on the deck. Every day of the month, Executive Chef Stephen Barber creates excellent renditions of American dishes with grass-fed beef and lamb and farm-to-table produce. At Farmstead, that term is meant literally—they grow most of the ingredients right at Long Meadow Ranch.
DAY 2Spa Life
The Spa Solage at Solage Calistoga is one popular choice and open to day visitors. The must-do experiences are the famous mud baths, offered at Solage and most area spas. Expect to be covered in warm, mineral-rich mud and then left to relax until every ache has disappeared and your skin has been given a fresh glow. You’ll follow it with a dip in the hot mineral springs, and then you may want to get a spa treatment—perhaps a facial, massage, or scrub.
In the afternoon, take some time to explore Calistoga’s picturesque downtown. Shoppers will want to pop into Stix & Stones Gallery for one-of-a-kind jewelry. The Calistoga Art Center and Calistoga Pottery offer opportunities to talk to some craftspeople and purchase some of their works. Later, continue on to the Tank Garage Winery. This is one of the most unusual tasting rooms in the area, located in a restored 1930s gas station. The wines are unusual too, with Tank Garage specializing in “one-offs.” They produce different blends each year rather than, as is typical of most wineries, creating the same wines with only slight variations depending on the qualities of each harvest’s grapes. (They are also known for their creative labels, making their bottles of wine excellent gifts—if you can bear to part with your purchases.)
Enjoy dinner tonight at the three-Michelin-star Restaurant at Meadowood Napa Valley, which has been called, by Michelin, “the peak of wine-country chic.” Chef Christopher Kostow’s menu is all about flavorful, fresh, California cuisine dishes.
DAY 3Wine Pairings
At well-known Robert Mondavi (est. 1965), oenophiles can join a tour focused on the process of creating world-class wines, complete with tastings of several of them. There are also art tours: Other wineries have since followed Mondavi’s lead, but they were the first to build an excellent collection of prints, paintings, and sculpture. The winery itself is an important building by Cliff May, an architect who reshaped how Americans live with his California “dream homes.” There is also a summer concert series, with headline acts performing in the early evening each Saturday.
Raymond Vineyards, in St. Helena, is known for its off-beat whimsical atmosphere with a red velvet tent and unusual art installations. On a visit here you can blend your own signature wine in the tasting room and take home a case, complete with its own custom label. You could also choose to order a case of their new Honoris wine, a new blend that honors the first responders in the Napa Valley wild fires, with all proceeds going to wine country relief.
In Oakville, at B Cellars, the emphasis is on wine pairings. After a introduction to the art of pairing wine and food, you can tour the chef’s garden and select ingredients for your meal, tour the production facilities, and then sit down to meal with ingredients you just picked—paired, of course, with B Cellars wines. The winery also offers blending classes, and there’s a croquet lawn as well.
These are just the beginning of a long list of favorite wineries in the area: There are some 400 in the Napa Valley to choose from.
DAY 4Ride a Bike
In the afternoon, stretch your legs while exploring some of Napa Valley’s best shopping. St. Helena’s Main Street has a number of unique stores. Popular favorites include Woodhouse Chocolate, where handmade chocolates incorporating chile, nutmeg, and other surprising flavors are presented like jeweled masterpieces; St. Helena Antiques, for unique vintage pieces; and the Napa Soap Company, for soaps and lotions incorporating California’s bounty with scents like blood orange, fig, and lavender. At the Napa Premium Outlets, the stores may be more familiar—Coach, Cole Hann, Michael Kors are some of the brands that have locations here—but you’re likely to find a coveted item at a bargain price.
For your final evening in Napa, head to Blue Note Napa, located in the historic Napa Valley Opera House. On any night, the music may be bluegrass, gospel, jazz or some other genre, but you can expect a festive atmosphere and good food. Another favorite in downtown Napa is the Uptown Theatre, located in an art deco building from 1937. The venue books big names in comedy and music—Snoop Dog, Chris Isaak, Willie Nelson, and others. You may want to buy your tickets at the same time as you make your other travel arrangements.