Following the winery road from vineyard to vineyard, talking and relaxing with friends… That is how I remember my prior visits to Napa.
But Napa with kids can be tough. The winery road is not so accommodating to those only old enough for grape juice. And the patience of kids wears thin listening to adults drone on about fruit and tannin.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Napa with kids, here are a few activities both you and they might find fun.
Visit Some Kid-Friendly Wineries
These do exist. They range from those that simply allow the under-aged to those that offer some true fun for kids.
Castello di Amorosa is a Tuscan-styled medieval castle and listed first because, come-on, what kid doesn’t love castles? It has towers, courtyards and a moat with a drawbridge. And for some reason it has a torture chamber. (Maybe for misbehaving children?) There’s a guided tour and tasting where kids are offered grape juice, and those that are too young (under five) or squirmy can find places to explore and run around on the grounds.
Other good wineries for Napa with kids include Sterling, Beringer and V. Sattui. Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga has the region’s only aerial tram that brings passengers to the top of their vineyard and offers fantastic views of the surrounding Napa Valley. Beringer Vineyards, Napa Valley’s oldest continuously operating vineyard, has a 30-minute cave tour and a grand old mansion to be explored. And V. Sattui Winery has a nice picnic area where kids can run around while you sip wine and enjoy food from the winery’s deli and marketplace.
Many other wineries allow children (make sure to check age restrictions) though may not offer much in the way of activities for the kids. We found that a nice grassy area, such as that at Domaine Chandon, was a minimum requirement to keep the kids entertained.
Take a Trip to the Jelly Belly Factory
Why not let the kids have a chance to do a tasting? And what better tasting for kids than Jelly Bellies! The Jelly Belly factory is located on Jelly Belly Lane in Fairfield (my old stomping ground in middle school), which is a pretty easy drive from Napa.
This is a fun morning or afternoon getaway and a sure pleaser for the kids. The factory offers an entertaining tour with a bit of jelly belly history mixed candy making and jelly belly art, of all things. The kids loved the jelly belly tasting at the end of the tour, especially since I let them pick out my tasting.
Did you know jelly bellies came in flavors such as rotten egg, dirty dishwater and stinky socks? Well, I didn’t. It turns out they taste remarkably realistic, meaning absolutely disgusting. And it seems Jelly Belly has a hit on their hands, because the kids just had to buy BeanBoozled, a game based on these gross jelly bellies for their aunt. (This game is not for the faint of heart!) Thankfully no one picked the dead fish or barf jelly belly for me to try.
Go for a Hike – Skyline Ridge Trail
The Skyline Ridge Trail to the southeast of town provides a great view and a good workout. A hike to the ridgeline is worth the effort to see the beautiful Napa Valley below. The contrast between the rolling golden hills and the vibrant greens of the vineyards is quite striking. We love hiking to unique views like this one on our trip. It’s fun to try to pick out a winery or two with a pair of binoculars. And you get to burn off some of those calories from wine tasting.
The Skyline Wilderness Park itself is easily accessible from town and has dozens of miles of interlinking trails. Trails range from easy for those that hug the valley floor to moderately strenuous for those that climb up into the hills. Mountain bikers also like the trails, which venture far into the back country. Make sure to check out the shaded nature garden near the entrance to the Skyline Park containing local plant varieties.
Get a Burger at Gott’s Roadside
In the mood for a juicy burger with that glass of wine? Gott’s Roadside is the place to go in Napa for a quick bite. Located across the bridge from downtown next to the Oxbow Market, Gott’s is a burger joint plus a little more. The menu has many tempting burger creations but also a good selection of salads, soups, fish tacos and sandwiches. Everyone in our family found something they liked, and it’s very kid friendly. And this being Napa, of course you can also get a local bottle of wine to go with your order.
Grab a Snack or Coffee at the Oxbow Market
Another great stop for a quick bite or a coffee is the Oxbow Market. There are over twenty independent merchants in this indoor market offering everything from wood-fired pizza to locally sourced produce to organic ice cream. The market focuses on supporting sustainably grown and high-quality food from local businesses. We offered our children their choice of dessert after dragging them around to a couple wineries. The selection is tempting… handmade chocolates, artisan cupcakes, creamy milkshakes. I had a cupcake too!
Stay a While at the Skyline Wilderness RV Park
I’m pretty sure the average Napa tourist doesn’t roll up in an RV. But if you’re like us, that’s the way to travel!
The Skyline Wilderness RV Park is a nice option for those bringing their hotel room with them. The park is situated a couple miles southwest of downtown Napa just past the outskirts of town. While light on amenities and with somewhat tight spaces, the park is relatively quiet and very conveniently located to Napa Valley wineries. The adjoining nature preserve and trail system are also a huge plus for those that like to get outdoors to walk, hike, bike or simply enjoy nature.
Napa with Kids… Very Doable
So, Napa with kids… it’s a different experience than simply going with your partner or friends. But there is plenty to do here for families that’s a good time for everyone.