Napa Valley With Kids? The Best Family-Friendly Hotels, Restaurants, and Things to Do in Wine Country
After numerous visits to Napa Valley with her kids, one Bay Area writer is convinced that the region is as much for families as it is for foodies and wine lovers.
I have a confession to make, and I can already hear an audible gasp from my Northern California friends and neighbors: I’m not all that into wine. I absolutely can and do appreciate excellent wine, craft beer, and cocktails (when I do drink, I want it to be good after all), but I am no fanatic. What I do love more than anything is traveling and making memories with my family, which includes my husband and two young kids, ages four and six, and one of the places we love to do that in is Napa Valley.
Despite the fact that neither my husband nor I are hardcore oenophiles, we have found ourselves repeatedly exploring Napa Valley over the years from our home in nearby Concord, a mere 40 minutes from the southern reaches of Napa Valley. That’s because the region has so much to offer beyond fine wine. For one, it’s absolutely gorgeous—the rolling hills accentuated by oak trees and scenic rows of vines never get old. Secondly, we love amazing food, of which there is no shortage in Napa Valley. Third, there is so much to do, including biking, nature-filled hikes, farms and gardens to visit, and kid-friendly wineries, too. And lastly, a growing number of family-friendly hotels and resorts have transformed the region into a relaxing and welcoming getaway for visitors of all ages.
In the end, any excellent wine we end up sampling is icing on the cake for us.
Best places to stay with kids in Napa Valley
When heading to Napa Valley with kids, where you stay can become an integral part of the experience. I’m partial to two areas in Napa Valley when I’m with the kiddos: Carneros at the very southern end of the region, and Calistoga at the far northern tip. Both are more laid-back and offer access to top-notch family-friendly resorts.
Calistoga Motor Lodge
Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa, a revamped midcentury motel, has the advantage of being both hip and more reasonably priced compared to some of the more luxurious resort properties in the region. Book into a camper suite that has a separate room with a camper van–style dining table that transforms into a bed or into one of the newer Vista double queen rooms with a balcony. Kids will love this playful property with its fun road-tripper theme that features three geothermal mineral pools, games like bocce ball, Hula-Hoops, and cornhole (plus an assortment of board games in the rooms and at reception), and complimentary bikes for guests.
Carneros Resort and Spa
With its spacious collection of 100 freestanding cottages set among the resort’s 28 acres that provide plenty of room to spread out, Carneros Resort and Spa at the southern end of Napa Valley is ideal for families. There’s also a family pool (plus an adults-only pool); kid-approved dining like Boon Fly Café, housed in a big red barn and serving a kids’ menu with regulars like silver-dollar pancakes, cheese pizza, and chicken tenders; and bikes available for guests to borrow.
In 2022, the property unveiled a fun Camp Carneros program for younger guests that offers a “backyard campout” experience complete with a kid-sized tent, sleeping bag, lanterns, faux campfire, and a s’mores kit that families can have set up in the backyard (for an added fee of $75). There is also a portable video projector available on request for setting up a movie night under the stars in the backyard. The property offers daily scavenger hunts, tours of the produce garden, and kids’ yoga, among other family activities. Little ones will also delight in such features as the oversized chess board in the property’s central lawn area and the “Chick-Inn,” a chicken coop where kids can visit the resident birds. Families who would like even more space can book a sprawling two-bedroom residence, complete with a full kitchen and dining room.
Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley
It took Four Seasons until fall 2021 to finally be able to boast a property in Napa. The result is this sophisticated 85-room resort in Calistoga with Four Seasons’ trademark elevated service and family-friendly offerings, including the complimentary Kids for All Seasons program for children age 5–12. (Kids for All Seasons is Four Seasons’ version of a kids club, a fully-staffed facility with games and activities the kids can enjoy while parents go winetasting or take a break at the spa.)
Accommodations range from standard guest rooms to two- to four-bedroom residential villas, perfect for multigenerational gatherings and reunions. Parents can bring their kids to the family-friendly pool, and those seeking greater serenity can head to the adults-only pool and Spa Talisa for the wellness that Calistoga (and its natural hot springs) is known for. Campo Poolside offers casual Mexican fare alongside the family-friendly pool, while the property’s signature Truss Restaurant + Bar (for elevated classics such as bucatini, burgers, ribs, and grilled pizza, served alongside elaborate cocktails and a mile-long wine list, too) and the newly opened fine dining restaurant Auro (for a tasting menu from a Top Chef alum) offer a perfect opportunity for a parents’ date night (babysitting services are available). Or opt for in-room dining on your private patio with views of the vines—the Four Seasons is located on a working vineyard. Families can also play bocce ball and borrow bikes for tooling around town.
Meadowood Napa Valley
For families looking for a quiet and serene outpost in the heart of wine country, look no further than Meadowood Napa Valley, a gorgeous resort tucked into the hills and shaded oak trees of this St. Helena enclave. There’s a family-friendly swimming pool, tennis courts available to players of all ages, and three miles of hiking trails that meander around the hilly and wooded property. The in-room dining menu features options like mac ‘n’ cheese and burgers for kids. Of the 36 guest rooms and suites, families may want to check into a larger “Treeline Suite” with separate sitting room and flexible sleeping options. With its ample shade, Meadowood is a great option for the height of summer and early fall (July through September) when temperatures can soar into the triple digits in Napa Valley.
Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection
After a $30 million redesign that was completed in 2021, Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection in Calistoga now offers accommodations that are perfect for families: brand-new one- and two-bedroom cottage-style suites with private patios. The effortlessly chic resort also features a new family pool area, and other kid-friendly activities such as lawn games, bocce ball courts, a splash pad, and s’mores on Friday and Saturday nights. In addition, families can book a personalized pizza making experience.
Kid-friendly restaurants in Napa Valley
Boon Fly Café
Whether you’re stopping in for the daily brunch (make sure to get the doughnuts) or are grabbing some dinner, Boon Fly Café’s Southern-influenced menu features something both adults and kids will love—and being housed in a red barn adds to the charm. Boon Fly resides on the Carneros Resort and Spa property, and you can take the kids to its central lawn area to get their wiggles out, play some giant chess, and check out the produce garden and chickens.
If you’re up in Calistoga, head to this throwback diner-style restaurant on the city’s main drag (Lincoln Avenue) that serves up every kind of breakfast item you could possibly imagine. There’s a kids’ menu for breakfast and lunch (Café Sarafornia isn’t open for dinner) that includes pancakes, eggs, grilled cheese, and chicken fingers, and adults can indulge in bulging breakfast burritos, benedicts, and French toast.
What’s great about Fleetwood, Calistoga Motor Lodge’s new-ish on-site restaurant (it opened in 2021), is that families can nab a table outside and the kids can roam the grounds of this laid-back hotel, with fun distractions like lawn games and lush landscaping, while waiting for their pizza, pasta, and other wood-fired mains (including burgers, salmon, chicken, and steak). When the weather is nice, this is an ideal place for a relaxed and delicious dinner atop garden tables set among the trees, market lights, and firepits.
Our family should own stock at Gott’s we go there so often. It’s the ideal better-than-fast-food option with a kids’ menu that features burgers, hot dogs, and chicken tenders (along with what we have declared is the world’s absolute best ranch dressing), and enough added variety for the adults so that you don’t feel like all you ever eat any more are burgers and pizza. There are Ahi tuna and Baja fish tacos, specials that include crab, lobster, and Cuban sandwiches, and our go-to, the Vietnamese chicken salad. End the meal with some soft serve and shakes. There are two outposts in Napa Valley, one adjacent to Oxbow Public Market in Napa, and one in St. Helena.
Oxbow Public Market
We start, and often also end, almost every single visit to Napa Valley with a pit stop at Napa’s Oxbow Public Market, where there is literally something for everyone. If you’re just starting your day, grab a perfectly made cappuccino or cold brew at S.F.-based Ritual, and fuel up with a breakfast sandwich (with house-made English muffins) at neighboring Model Bakery, breakfast tacos at C Casa, or bagels and lox at Loveski. Bribe the kids with Kara’s Cupakes and a book or fun activity set from Napa Bookmine that they can read and play with for the rest of your time in Napa Valley. For lunch or dinner, options include sushi at Eiko’s, Hog Island Oysters, and Live Fire Pizza. Grab a growler of craft beer from Fieldwork and some amazing meat from butcher Fatted Calf to throw on the grill if you’re staying at a vacation rental.
Pizza Tra Vigne
When you want something certain to be a win, head to Pizza Tra Vigne in St. Helena, which features a full menu of pizzas, pasta, paninis, antipasti, and salads as well as a kids’ menu with eight-inch pies and spaghetti and ravioli. There’s also a happy hour menu from 4 to 6 p.m. daily (aka the time many of us eat dinner with our kids anyway). You can dine in or order takeout.
Kid-friendly wineries in Napa Valley
Wineries and tasting experiences that are amenable to kids do exist. The key is to first make sure that kids are allowed (many wineries require that visitors are 21 years of age or older), and check that the experience is not too formal (if it’s a reservation-required sit-down affair, it’s not going to end well). As long as it’s more casual and there are places and spaces for the kids to explore, like pretty gardens and expansive lawns, it can be a win-win for all. Here are some examples of wineries that actually embrace the younger members of the fam.
Cakebread Cellars (Rutherford): At Cakebread, you can book a “Family Tasting,” which offers adults the chance to sample four wines during “a communal walkaround experience.” You have to reserve the family tastings, which cost $45 per adult and are offered daily at 10 a.m. There are gardens and lawns to run around in, and the winery is also home to a falcon that is employed to ward of birds that feed on the crops.
Castello di Amorosa (Calistoga): First off, it’s a castle, so you can play it up even before you arrive. “Guys! We’re going to a castle! The kind where princesses and knights live!” At Castello di Amorosa, kids can do a grape juice tasting (for $25) and the family can explore all the unique rooms and spaces such as the Great Hall, knight’s chamber, the moat, drawbridge, and the torture chamber (with an iron maiden torture device). Added bonus: There are goats, emus, peacocks, pigs, and sheep to visit.
Oasis by Hoopes (Napa): Make a family-friendly reservation at Oasis by Hoopes and you’ll have 90 minutes to spend enjoying the property’s organic gardens and nonprofit animal sanctuary, complete with lovable rescue animals such as goats, pigs, chickens, and turkeys. Kids must be included in the reservation and the charge for minors age 2 to 20 is $20 each. There’s an Airstream to check out as well as shaded seating where you can enjoy a cheese plate or goods from the on-site farmers’ market.
V. Sattui Winery (St. Helena): One great way to keep kids busy and entertained at a winery? Food, which is why the on-site deli at V. Sattui Winery is key. This sprawling 2.5-acre winery offers plenty of space to run around and to have a picnic (available from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily) with the sandwiches, salads, or cheese bought from the deli (outside food is not permitted). On Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., a food truck churns out barbecue, personal pizzas, sandwiches, salads, truffle Parmesan fries, and freshly baked cookies and cannoli. After sipping some wine (for the adults) and grabbing some grub (for everyone), families can meander among the estate gardens and underground wine cellars.
Kid-friendly things to do in Napa
If you want to cruise around between wineries or are just looking to burn some youngster energy, one of the best and most fun ways to get around Napa is by bike. If you’re staying at a hotel or resort that loans out bikes to guests, ask for recommendations on where to go based on interests and abilities. The mostly flat Napa Valley Vine Trail is a fine path to hit—when completed it will span a full 47 miles between Vallejo and Calistoga; currently the 12.5 miles from Kennedy Park in Napa to Yountville are available for use. If you’re looking for a more curated outing, perhaps to a few family-friendly wineries, book a biking tour with outfitter Getaway Adventures, which welcomes all ages on many of its tours. 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.
In Napa Valley, 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. Another option is Skyline Wilderness Park with 25 miles of trails and gardens that showcase native flora.
Another fun experience for families in Napa Valley is horseback riding, and one great option for getting on horses is at Owen Ranch just north of the valley. The ranch offers everything from classes parents can do with their young toddlers to trail riding and rodeo lessons, as well as week-long summer camps for families vacationing in the region a little longer.
Old Faithful Geyser
This is kind of a cheesy stop in Calistoga (yes, with the same name as the much more famous geyser in Yellowstone National Park), but it’s a legitimate geyser and is pretty good entertainment for kids (OK, maybe for adults, too). There’s a dedicated parking lot, and after paying the entrance fee, visitors walk along a path to the geyser and can visit some farm animals and entertain themselves with an interesting variety of curiosities (Hula-Hoops, anyone?) the facility has laid out for guests to pass the time while waiting for the once-every-20-minutes-or-so show.
True to its name, this playground in the city of Napa is fantastic if you’re looking for a place to just let the kids run around, climb, dig in the sand, play chase, and climb some more. It’s good for a really wide range of ages, from toddlers to teens. Even if we’re heading further north in Napa, we’ll often stop here on the way to let kids be kids.
Sonoma TrainTown Railroad
As per its name, Sonoma TrainTown Railroad is in neighboring Sonoma not Napa Valley, but I would be remiss in not mentioning it as it’s a mere 20 minutes from the city of Napa and it’s such an appealing option for families traveling with small kids in the region. We stop here frequently whether we’re visiting Napa Valley or Sonoma. The main draw is a train ride to a little farm where passengers disembark to feed the animals, and you can also purchase tickets to other kiddie amusements like a flying airplane ride and carousel.