Soak it Up in Low-Key Calistoga
Surrounded by grapes and vineyards, soaking up the warm ambience of Calistoga is easy. Sitting at the northern end of Napa Valley, it’s further from San Francisco than many of its well-known Wine Country neighbors, but thanks to geothermal hot springs, this laid-back spa city’s warm welcome will make you forget about the extra minutes in the car.
Get moving sooner as opposed to later and don’t forget your bathing suit, because your first stop should be Calistoga Spa Hot Springs. Hotel guests get first priority, but day trippers can also take advantage of four newly renovated mineral pools.
The mineral water comes out of the ground here at a blazing 180 degrees. It’s blended with cooler mineral water to drop the temperature. The lap pool is the coolest of the four pools at 80 degrees. The shallow kiddie wading pool is a toasty 90 degrees. The temperature registers 100 in the soaking pool, then things start to really heat up in the adults only Jacuzzi Pool at 104 degrees. Pool toys are welcome. Just don’t get wild floating on your noodle in the Jacuzzi Pool.
Somehow come to town without your swimsuit? No worries, you’re covered. Disposable bathing suits, that’s right disposable bathing suits, are available for $5 at the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs front desk. The look doesn’t exactly mimic high fashion, but once you’re in the water, you won’t care and no else will be able to see. Their blue color blends well with the mineral pools.
Day use is on a first come, first serve basis, so the sooner you arrive, the better. Folks line up to get in. The outdoor pools are available for day use from 10 am to 9 pm year round, except for summer weekends and select holidays. The cost is $25. It includes a towel and use of a locker and shower facilities. More importantly, it comes with in and out privileges.
Frank, the mineral pool lifeguard, is also a concierge of sorts, happy to recommend local eateries and destinations. He also puts together a weekly list of events happening in and around town.
When you feel the need to dry out, or get hungry, make the one block walk to Calistoga’s main drag, Lincoln Avenue. Lined with boutiques and eateries, you can take the time to wander or be back soaking in the hot springs in a matter of minutes. If you decide to stretch your legs, Calistoga Roastery is a good place to grab a cup of coffee. Stop in newcomer Calistoga Olive Oil Company to get a taste and education on olive oil. Don’t pass up an opportunity to try the lime olive oil.
If lunch is calling, head to Buster’s Barbeque & Bakery on the corner of Highway 29 and Lincoln Avenue. The Tri-Tip sandwich with a side of cole slaw is big enough to share. Ready to do some tasting? There are plenty of wineries within a short drive, including Sterling Vineyards, Castello di Amorosa and Velo Vino.
Whether sipping or snacking, by the time you’ve finished you’ll be ready for another dip in a warm mineral pool, or at the very least, a nap in a lounge chair next to one.