While Napa Valley certainly draws visitors for its world-class wineries and vineyard views, there’s much more to Napa than just wine, and nowhere is this more evident than in Calistoga. Located in the northern part of the Napa Valley, Calistoga is a great place to go wine tasting, no doubt, but it’s also home to some truly unique attractions, hot springs spas, local shops and eateries, and some of the most picturesque scenery in the region.
When you’re ready to experience all that this small town has to offer, read our guide to the top eight things to do in Calistoga.
If there’s one word that should be associated with Calistoga, it’s relaxation, and thanks to the area’s numerous mineral pools and spas, it’s easy to make R&R a top priority when visiting. More than just a stress reliever, Calistoga’s hot springs are known for their many therapeutic benefits, including easing sore muscles, relieving arthritis pain, promoting healthy circulation, and calming skin conditions, while mineral-rich mud baths and massage treatments purify toxins to leave you feeling totally blissed out.
When you’re ready to experience the rejuvenating benefits of the area’s mineral waters, you can’t beat a dip in the historic, Olympic-sized mineral pool at Indian Springs Resort. While hotel guests get free access to the pool, Indian Springs does offer day passes for a fee, available when booking a spa treatment. Luckily, many of the hotels and inns in and around Calistoga offer access to their own on-site mineral pools, including Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort, Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, and Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa & Resort, making it easy to experience Calistoga’s hot springs at your leisure.
For the ultimate in wellness and deluxe accommodations, plan to stay at Solage. This luxurious Auberge property features a 20,000-square-foot spa with a geothermal pool, where mud therapies, mineral bath rituals, and skin treatments are inspired by the area’s natural springs. The resort’s 130-foot swimming pool, while not a mineral pool, makes for an exceptional place to relax post-treatment.
Just a few minutes outside of town is Old Faithful Geyser, where one can witness the spectacular sight of water shooting up into the air every 30 to 40 minutes. While the main attraction is the regular eruption of this famed geyser, naturally, a visit offers a more well-rounded experience than one might expect, thanks to picnic grounds with bocce courts and cabanas, a garden area featuring native plants and grasses, an on-site geology museum, and an animal farm, where you’ll find goats, sheep, and llamas. Llamas and pygmy goats and geysers, oh my! It all adds up to a memorable afternoon in Calistoga.
It may not be the cheapest activity on this list, but we can’t think of a more exhilarating way to start your morning than by soaring above Napa Valley in a hot air balloon. Calistoga Balloons, which picks up right from downtown Calistoga, offers private flights for two (at $2,200 per couple), but if you’re not looking to spend the big bucks on a flight, Napa Valley Balloons offers standard balloon rides at $275 per guest. They’ll even pick you up from your hotel and transport you to their launch site. Keep in mind, this adventure is for the early birds, as most rides require an arrival before sunrise, usually around 5 or 6am.
When the great outdoors are calling, Calistoga’s Palisade Trail is the spot to go. Though the 10-mile round trip, 2,000-foot climb hike is challenging, experienced hikers will be rewarded with beautiful natural scenery and some of the most spectacular views in all of Napa Valley. Just don’t forget to bring your water, as it can get hot in the sun. For a shortened version, opt to hike along the lower Oat Hill Mine Road, a four-and-a-half-mile round trip trek that provides equally wonderful scenery along the way.
If a unique outdoor experience with the family is what you seek, don’t miss a visit to Calistoga’s Petrified Forest. This preserved ancient forest is a sight to see, featuring a majestic display of fossilized redwood trees — the result of being buried in lava over 3 million years ago. Walk along the trails on your own to explore this ancient phenomenon, or opt for a guided tour for a deeper understanding of how this forest came to be.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in Calistoga’s natural surroundings, but it’d be a shame to not spend some time exploring downtown Calistoga. Calistoga has lots of boutique shops and tasting rooms all within walking distance, which makes it easy to sip and stroll all afternoon.
Plan to peruse the assortment of artisanal goods for the home and garden at Blackbird, shop for antique goods and furniture at Roam Antiques, and check out Calistoga Pottery for their selection of handmade pottery. Also downtown is Copperfield’s Books, featuring a wide range of books from local and international authors, Flourish Chocolate, offering one-of-a-kind chocolate creations, and Monastery Books and Gifts (yes, actually located inside a Christian Monastery for women) for a selection of spiritual books, homemade goodies, olive oils, teas, and honey. You’ll also find a variety of art galleries and clothing shops around town that are worth popping into.
When you’re ready to whet your palate with some locally made wine, Calistoga’s tasting rooms offer something for everyone. Located in a vintage 1930s gas station, Tank Garage Winery charms with its hip vibe and limited-edition blends and natural wines, while nearby T-Vine Winery offers a friendly ambiance and single-vineyard wines from some of the last remaining old-vine vineyards in California. Around the corner on Lincoln Avenue, CAMi Art + Wine blends contemporary art with wine, and a few doors down, Olabisi features limited production wines from a husband-and-wife-duo.
The 1976 Judgment of Paris has been one of Napa Valley’s greatest success stories, and at the forefront of the tale is Chateau Montelena. Known for being the winery that broke the hearts of many a francophile when its wines beat out their French counterparts at an illustrious blind tasting in Paris, this “sip heard ‘round the wine world” was a catalyst for California’s wines being taken seriously on a global scale.
Today, Chateau Montelena still produces noteworthy wines from its historic Chateau, which is surrounded by a beautiful five-acre Jade Garden, complete with Chinese gardens, bridges, and swans. Also in Calistoga is the historic Schramsberg, founded in 1862, where sparkling wine, elaborate wine caves, and picturesque grounds await.
Whether you’re hungry for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Calistoga’s intimate restaurants and cafés offer a perfect mix of casual ambiance and good food.
For gourmet coffee and a scrumptious pastry or breakfast sandwich, stop by Sam’s General Store, located in the original cottage of Calistoga’s legendary founder, Samuel Brannan. Or, grab a selection of goods to curate your own picnic lunch later in the day. The long-standing Cafe Sarafornia is another top spot for the breakfast/lunch crowd, where a menu of comforting classics is offered all day from this quaint, casual spot.
One of the most popular restaurants in town for dinner is Evangeline, a French bistro “with a Creole soul” in downtown Calistoga. The covered outdoor patio makes for a lovely setting to enjoy the restaurant’s French bistro classics and creole-inspired dishes. Nearby, Amaro Italian Kitchen, located in the Mount View Hotel, features Italian cuisine served alongside one of the most extensive selections of Amaro in the country. Down the road, Sam’s Social Club is another worthy dining choice, where California focused-cuisine highlights fresh, local ingredients in a playful, creative way.