Local Getaways: Escape to Calistoga, Napa Valley’s Chic Wellness Hideaway

With a long tradition of welcoming spa seekers to its natural hot springs and mud baths, Calistoga is now in the midst of a modern renaissance.

Local Getaways: Escape to Calistoga, Napa Valley’s Chic Wellness Hideaway

Relax and unwind at the new Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley in Calistoga.

Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley

Just under two hours north of San Francisco, a vintage wellness outpost is being reborn as a stylish wine country getaway thanks to a fresh crop of new and newly transformed hotels and resorts.

A longtime focus on relaxation courtesy of the region’s natural thermal baths and its more remote location at the northern tip of Napa Valley make Calistoga an ideal destination for travelers looking to complement vineyard visits with a chill-by-the-pool-sipping-cocktails à la Palm Springs vibe. Summer temperatures often reach well into the 90s here, too, so it truly can compete with that desert heat.

A cute and quaint main shopping drag in the historic downtown area, a solid mix of exciting eateries, vineyards and wineries, and plenty of gorgeous hiking and biking through rolling hills and wooded paths make Calistoga one of the most dynamic destinations in Northern California wine country. There really is something for everyone, from avid oenophiles to outdoor adventurers.

Add to that the recent arrival of the much-anticipated Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley, the first Four Seasons to debut in Northern California wine country—and suddenly this quiet, old school retreat is full of fresh energy. The Four Seasons joins several other properties in Calistoga that have been completely overhauled in the past year, making it almost hard to choose where to rest your head in this neck of the wine country woods. But, worry not, we’re here to help.

Where to stay in Calistoga

You’ll have a view straight out onto the vines from the rooms at Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley.

You’ll have a view straight out onto the vines from the rooms at Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley.

Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley

Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley

Book Now: From $1,200, expedia.com

Time spent at the Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley is time centered around the good things in life: wine, food, wellness, and relaxation. Newly opened in fall 2021, this 85-room resort is set within a 4.7-acre working organic vineyard, run by Elusa Winery, so you’ll be literally sleeping amid the vines.

This super-luxe property features beautifully designed guest rooms, suites, and residences that evoke a modern farmhouse aesthetic. The accommodations are thoughtfully accented with cozy sitting nooks, artful lighting pieces, rich textures in the artwork and linens, and the pièce de resistance—the massive and bright bathrooms with deep soaking tubs.

Given the on-site winery, an exploration of the winemaking process is available for all guests (as well as visitors) who want to fully immerse themselves in the journey from grape to glass through private tours and tastings. And there are plenty of other palate pleasers on-site as well, including the property’s signature Truss Restaurant + Bar, a casually sophisticated destination for elevated classics such as bucatini, burgers, ribs, and grilled pizza, served alongside elaborate cocktails and a mile-long wine list, too. At least one in-room dining experience on your private patio with vineyard views is highly recommended.

For those looking to do the Calistoga thing and seek wellness and relaxation, the Spa Talisa at Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley offers mud treatments, massages, a steam room, and nail salon. Or you can take a dip in one of two large and inviting pools (one is adult-only and one is family-friendly), and warm up in the adjacent hot tubs, that stretch through the center of the property. Then fuel up on some tasty tacos, guacamole, and refreshing drinks at Campo Poolside.

Active guests and families can check out bikes for tooling around town, hit the fitness center or take a yoga class, and play bocce ball. Parents can also take advantage of the complimentary Kids for All Seasons program for kids age 5–12.

Dr. Wilkinson’s features two geothermal mineral pools sourced from Calistoga’s natural springs.

Dr. Wilkinson’s features two geothermal mineral pools sourced from Calistoga’s natural springs.

Photo by Katie Newborn

Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs

Book Now: From $279, expedia.com

Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs, an iconic Calistoga property that dates back to 1952, recently underwent a massive overhaul and expansion that has transformed it into a chic, midcentury-modern boutique resort. A new onsite counter-service eatery, House of Better, serves up Southwestern-style weekend brunch and daily dinner, and the guest rooms have been fully renovated with plush bedding and fun, midcentury-inspired furniture. There are also several entirely new guest room concepts, including spa “cottages” featuring clawfoot tubs, and a restored five-room Victorian house (each room can be rented individually or the entire house can be reserved for groups of up to 15).

The super laid-back pool area, a highlight of the property, features two geothermal mineral pools sourced from Calistoga’s natural springs, one kept at about 90 degrees and the other at 70 degrees. Remaining true to its long-standing wellness roots, the spa treatment rooms have been updated as well to include a new outdoor spa area and several indoor mineral baths.

Calistoga Motor Lodge

Book Now: From $209, expedia.com

Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa—a well-designed and reasonably priced revamped midcentury motel—has been a fan favorite of ours since it first opened several years ago. A playful property with its hip road-tripper theme (guest rooms have camper van–style dining tables and board games), the property features 50 standard guest rooms and suites, the visually striking MoonAcre Spa and Baths, and three geothermal mineral pools. Also recently unveiled were a new restaurant, Fleetwood, reception area, and 12 sleek Vista rooms.

Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection

Book Now: From $799, expedia.com

Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection has always been a place to see and be seen in this corner of Napa Valley, but with a $30 million redesign unveiled last year, there are several new reasons to check in. They include freshly renovated guest rooms and the brand-new one- and two-bedroom cottage-style suites with private patios, as well as a pool area that has been enhanced with a new deck, lounge seating, private cabanas, and a children’s pool.

Things to do in Calistoga

Visit the vines by bike to get great views.

Visit the vines by bike to get great views.

Photo by Shutterstock

Winetasting around Calistoga

One of the best ways to go winetasting in Calistoga is . . . by bike. Yes, bike. On a sunny day, riding through the vines, leisurely stopping at wineries and vineyards along the way, is second to none. And a great outfit to do it with is Getaway Adventures. The guides pick the venues in advance so all you need to do is hop onto your provided wheels, follow your guide, soak in the views, and sip and savor.

For those simply looking for one or two great winemakers to visit, here are some of the best wineries and vineyards in and around Calistoga:

  • Theorem Vineyards has roots dating back to the late 1800s and is beautifully situated on Diamond Mountain. This intimate tasting experience is available by appointment only and is perfect for cabernet lovers.
  • Chateau Montelena Winery is another great stop for striking buildings and grounds. This winery made history in 1976 when its chardonnay won the Judgment of Paris in a blind taste test against French wines. Be sure to stroll through the on-site gardens.
  • Tamber Bey is set on a working horse ranch and has picnic lunch pairings available.
  • Sterling Vineyards is temporarily closed due to fire damage but should be on your list for its aerial tram experience and world-class wines (slated to reopen in 2023).
  • Brian Arden Wines has an open and airy space with great vineyard views, wonderful cabs, and culinary pairings on offer.

Out in nature

If you need to stretch your legs after all the eating and drinking in wine country, the good news is that Calistoga is surrounded by some great hiking and biking trails. Nearby, Bothe-Napa Valley State Park and Robert Louis Stevenson State Park offer plenty of hiking trails ranging from easy nature walks to more strenuous climbs such as to the summit of Mount St. Helena at 4,300 feet in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.

Also worth visiting is the Old Faithful Geyser in Calistoga (yes, with the same name as the much more famous geyser in Yellowstone National Park). This is kind of a cheesy stop but is a legitimate geyser and is pretty good entertainment for kids (OK, maybe for adults, too).

If you want to go horseback riding, head to Owen Ranch for a private lesson or trail ride, or explore on two wheels along the Calistoga Bike Trail, which will ultimately connect to the ambitious Napa Valley Vine Trail system.

On the town

Downtown Calistoga is great for bopping around, whether you’re looking for vacation snacks, pool toys, or just want to browse for gifts, clothing, or art. The majority of the action is on Lincoln Avenue, where CalMart has all your grocery needs. Or get lost in the wonderful Blackbird of Calistoga shop looking for gifts, classy toys for kids, and unique home accents.

Where to eat in Calistoga

Head to Fleetwood at Calistoga Motor Lodge for wood-fired dinner under market lights.

Head to Fleetwood at Calistoga Motor Lodge for wood-fired dinner under market lights.

Photo by Emma K Morris

Start the day with a great cappuccino or cold brew from Soul Rebel Coffee, or head to Sam’s General Store, where coffee and to-go bites are served out of a tastefully renovated 1860s cottage.

For breakfast . . . Everyone visiting Calistoga should eat at least one breakfast at Café Sarafornia on the city’s main drag, Lincoln Avenue. This unfussy diner-style restaurant features every kind of breakfast item you could possibly imagine, from bulging breakfast burritos and benedicts to griddle classics, like French toast and pancakes. For the best brunch with New Orleans flare, nab a table at Evangeline for fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, or buttermilk biscuits and gravy.

For lunch . . . At Buster’s Southern Barbecue, the smoke starts spewing early in the day from all the perfectly cooked ribs, chicken, and pork hitting the grill. Another casual outdoor option for lighter Southwestern fare is House of Better at Dr. Wilkinson’s. For lunch poolside, head to Solage, where a new Mexican outpost Picobar has recently opened, serving up tacos, queso, and cocktails.

For dinner . . . Calistoga Motor Lodge’s new onsite restaurant Fleetwood is the ideal place for a relaxed but delicious dinner on Parisian-style garden tables set among the trees, market lights, and firepits. The wood-fired menu includes spinach and ricotta agnolotti, buffalo mozzarella pizza, and oak-grilled salmon. If you’re looking for a bit more of scene combined with comfort cuisine, head to Sam’s Social Club located at another favorite Calistoga resort, Indian Springs Resort & Spa. To really step it up a notch, reserve a table at Solbar at Solage, or head to the Four Seasons’ Truss Restaurant + Bar to experience kitchens that are currently turning out some of the tastiest food in Calistoga.

The best way to reach Calistoga from San Francisco

There are a couple ways to head up to Calistoga from San Francisco and likely traffic will help you determine your route—generally the drive is about an hour and 45 minutes up to two hours.

The most direct route is to head straight up on Highway 101, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. After passing Santa Rosa, head east on Mark West Springs Road, which will take you almost directly into downtown Calistoga (after passing Safari West and the Petrified Forest, two of the region’s other well-known attractions). Or you can cross the Bay Bridge and head up through the East Bay traveling along Highway 80 and then 29. This route takes you straight through Napa, Yountville, and St. Helena if you want to hit up some wineries or eateries along the way. Grabbing a Ritual Coffee and Model Bakery breakfast sandwich at Oxbow Public Market in Napa on the way up is a staple in our house. And we also often stop at Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena for lunch on the way back.

>> Next: How to Spend a Weekend in Napa Valley, California

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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