Modern Guide to Calistoga: Laid-back Luxury in Napa's Hot Springs Town
A picnic in the vineyard at Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley. (Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley)

Modern Guide to Calistoga: Laid-back Luxury in Napa's Hot Springs Town

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This Northernmost enclave of Napa Valley is certainly its most rustic, which means it still feels like real people live and work here. If Napa’s grandeur is a bit over the top for you, or if you just want to end your day in a more down-to-earth spot (while still enjoying some pretty luxe amenities), then Calistoga is the place.

Another bonus in Calistoga: the natural volcanic hot springs. Originally discovered by the Wappo tribe more than 500 years ago, their rumored healing powers remain a draw today, along with venerable wineries, classy eateries, quirky shops, and luxury resorts.


Where to Eat + Drink in Calistoga

There's no shortage of pie at House of Better.

(Emma K. Morris)

For a place with such a small town feel, Calistoga has an enormous number of restaurants to visit. And brunch. Lots of brunch.

Local Favorites

Calistoga Creamery(1473 Lincoln Ave.) isa sweet little scoop shop that uses organic Strauss dairy in their interesting ice cream flavors. // Lincoln Avenue Brewery(1473 Lincoln Ave. B) is a low key respite from the Wine Country scene tucked down a path behind the creamery, and a perfect place to grab a pint or two. // Enjoy another pint on the patio at the Calistoga Inn (1250 Lincoln Ave.), the first brewery to produce beer commercially in Napa County after Prohibition. They even sneak their brews onto the dining menu in dishes like their Best Hash & Eggs (Calistoga Red Ale–braised corned beef griddled with pepper, onions, and potatoes, plus poached eggs). If you're feeling nostalgic for college dorm life, you can snag one of 17 minimalist rooms upstairs, complete with common restroom and shower facilities. // Follow the sweet, smoky smells of authentic Louisiana barbecue to the top of Calistoga's main drag, where Buster's Original Southern BBQ (1207 Foothill Blvd.) is firing up the grills. Buster's is a carnivore's dream; have your choice of tri-tip, ribs, chicken, pork loin, pulled pork, hot links and dogs, slathered in their original sauces (which are all family recipes). Go for live jazz and blues on Sunday afternoons.

Upscale Favorites + Brunch

The upmarket Evangeline(1226 Washington St.) is a quaint patio bistro in le style français but with "a Creole soul." Here, elegant luncheons include chichi classics like a tour de fruits de mer. There's also a killer croque, gumbo, and a very memorable fried quail. Brunch is back after a pandemic-era pause, with some classics like a Cobb salad, a version of biscuits and gravy with an inverted house-made biscuit on top, and stellar fried chicken and waffles. Don’t miss the knockout apple tarte tatin. This is also a great place to enjoy cocktails if you are a little bit sick of all the wine. // The weekend brunch at Sam's Social Club (1712 Lincoln Ave.) is also a must, with decadent sharable yummies like candy cap churros, black truffle deviled eggs, and a few “healthy” items such as a grilled avocado toast or the breakfast salad. Enjoy Sam’s large outdoor deck with views of the hillside where you might spot Bambie chowing down on her own meal of leafy greens. // Yet another go-to brunch spot is Lovina(1107 Cedar St.), housed in a historic Craftsman with a pretty garden patio and wonderful food. Perfectly dressed little gems, an amazing BLT, and fun stuff on Model Bakery English muffins will keep you coming back here every time you visit. // Dinner at Solbar (755 Silverado Trail N), Solage's Michelin-starred restaurant, is where you’ll find chef Gustavo Rios specializing in healthy indulgence. That being said, if you see the butterscotch pudding on the dessert menu, order it and savor every last velvety bite. It will never leave your memory. In addition to recently expanded outdoor seating areas, Solage recently opened Picobar, a more casual, poolside modern Mexican restaurant with outstanding tacos and agave-based cocktails.

New Restaurants in Calistoga

In the pandemic shuffle, a slew of other new places keep opening up. House of Better(1507 Lincoln Ave.), located at Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs (see below) is also a great bet for brunch. Southwestern flair is the theme, with hatch green chilies gracing wood–fired flatbreads and New Mexican flat enchiladas, and a signature apple chile pie. Don’t leave without trying a slice. They also have fun drinks and a great atmosphere. // Up the street a bit is the new Amaro Italian Kitchen(1457 Lincoln Ave.), a classy bar and classic Italian vibe that replaces Veraison, (but the owners remain the same). As the name suggests, they have one of the most extensive selections of Amaro in the country, and a tempting menu full of things you definitely want to eat while sipping a negroni. // Palisades Eatery (1414 Lincoln Ave.), which opened in 2019, is a cheerful spot where you can find a huge menu with a ton of salads, tacos, sandwiches, pizza…something for pretty much anyone. // Set to open any day now is the Calistoga Depot(1458 Lincoln Ave.), JC Boisset’s latest, ambitious build-out of the historic depot and rail car cluster. A cafe and marketplace called Provisions will offer food, plus a distillery, beer, and even some really great lemonade for the kiddos.

Where to Stay in Calistoga

A guestroom at the Four Seasons Napa Valley. (Courtesy of Four Seasons)

There are as many wonderful places to stay in Calistoga as there are places to eat. The lodging landscape is ever-evolving, with new properties and renovations happening all the time.

A big unveiling last year was Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs(1507 Lincoln Ave.), the reopening of the iconic 1952 wellness retreat adding a hip new vibe to its vintage charm. A new spa, three mineral pools of varying temperatures, a fun restaurant with pie, and affordable (at least for here in the Napa Valley) rooms will solidify this place as a go-to spot to stay. Don’t miss filling up your reusable water bottle (provided for you in your room) with their gigantic Calistoga spring water spigot, complete with multiple filtering layers and lovely brass trim. Remember: Good hydration is key here in wine country.

Another new property, and one that was anticipated literally for years, is Four Seasons Napa Valley(400 Silverado Trail). The complete build-out, which included 85 guest rooms and suites, private residences, a vineyard site and tasting room, three restaurants (The Living Room at Truss, The Restaurant, and Campo), a fully supervised “Kids for All Seasons” center (huge bonus for you parents!), and a central pool was finally completed at the end of 2021. It is the kind of place that makes you feel worlds away from regular life.

The Francis House(1403 Myrtle St.) opened pre-pandemic to much fanfare, and remains an intimate (only five rooms), impressive place to stay. The house, which sat vacant for over 50 years, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also notable structurally, as Napa’s only example of French Second Empire architecture. Lovely landscaping, outdoor fountains, a pool house with a salt room, and the finest amenities make this a special occasion kind of place.

If you are looking for a bit of autonomy, The Bungalows(207 Wappo Ave.) is a great option. These three stand-alone modern craftsman cottages are tucked away on a side street across from Indian Springs, placing you in a great, walkable location that feels away from the bustle at the same time. Each one has a kitchen and dining area, so you can “stay in” if you start feeling over-fed from all the dining out.

Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa (1880 Lincoln Ave.) might not have all the bells and whistles of its fancy neighbors, but it does have three magical geothermal hot spring pools and is oozing with nostalgia and fun. This 1940s roadside motel has been given a midcentury modern makeover, with minimalist rooms inspired by the great American road trip, each outfitted with camper banquette seating (and a hula hoop). Take advantage of a guided hike or bike ride offered in the mornings, or if you're not an early riser, cruiser rentals are free for the first two hours. Both lawn and analog games abound in an effort to nudge you to unplug. And don't leave without scheduling a treatment at the Moonacre Spa and Baths, designed as an ode to traditional European bath houses.

Indian Springs Resort & Spa (1712 Lincoln Ave.) is really pretty magical. Witness the Olympic-sized swimming pool, filled with heated mineral water from the property's four natural geysers, as well as a smaller adults-only pool. Not a bit of luster has been lost in the wake of a recent expansion, which added 72 bohemian chic rooms housed in two-story buildings with private decks; three awesome two-bed, two-bath bungalows with yards for outdoor entertaining; and the restaurant, Sam's Social Club. Happily, all the new additions are respectful of the 17-acre property's laid back, natural vibe—there are still plenty of gardens, hammocks, walking paths, and lawn games (anyone for a game of croquet?).

Long known as the place to stay here in Calistoga, Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection (755 Silverado Trail N) finished a $30 million redesign in 2021, somehow making a spot that was already pretty incredible even more appealing. The work included adding new suites, public area and room renovations, and a transformation of the onsite restaurant, Solbar. Pool cabanas, a new hot tub and pool deck, as well as the brand new Picobar restaurant have made the property even more of a destination, even if you are only just dropping by for a margarita.

Where to Wine Taste by Car or Bike in Calistoga

(Courtesy of Frank Family Vineyards)

Founded in 1895, Larkmead(1100 Larkmead Lane) is an estate with many stories to tell. The winery is under the helm of Kate and Cam Solari Baker, who have deep dedication to the site’s special expression and preserving the rich heritage of the label. Kate is also an accomplished artist, and a tasting here will let you get a peek at her work, including a whole series in which she uses her mother’s old ledgers in collage to recreate aerial maps of the property blocks and the surrounding Napa Valley. It is not to be missed (plus the work of winemaker Avery Heelan is pretty good, too).

Built in 1884 and formerly Landmark Winery, this beautiful stone cellar is another historical gem. In 1958, Hanns Kornell (of Kornell Champagne) produced the first French champagne method sparkling wine in California. Now Frank Family Vineyards (1091 Larkmead Lane), Napa Valley's third oldest winery, is still one of the only producers around that makes their bubbly in-house. They've also got an impressive range of still wines—the reserve chardonnay is a must-have for your cellar—and cozy tastings take place either inside an adorable yellow craftsman, or out on the sunny lawn, where happy dogs often frolic about.

Brian Arden Wines (331 Silverado Trail) is a small family winery that makes less than 5,000 cases a year, so you'll want to hurry on over to get a taste of their limited release varietals like cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel (made from family vineyards planted in the 1880s), and even a malbec, before they sell out. Brian Arden's gorgeous, cozy, and modern tasting room never feels overcrowded—though you'll likely run into a few friendly pups—and it's the perfect place to watch the sunset over the Napa Valley Palisades through the floor-to-ceiling picture window. The best part? It's a very short bike ride away from downtown Calistoga and all the lodging we mentioned earlier. And now that the Four Seasons is across the street, it makes for a very convenient tasting experience.

Speaking of Four Seasons, the onsite tasting room of Elusa Winery(400 Silverado Trail) is a special collaboration, making them one of the very few hotel properties on a working vineyard. The 4.7 acre organic vineyard is smack in the middle of things, so you can look out your window and witness the “grape-to-glass” operations. This is a unique partnership between winemaker Jonathan Walden and consulting winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, and a tasting session here will feel pretty cool, especially if you opt for the one where you drink wine out in the vines.

When you've had your fill of pools, spas, and shopping the odd boutiques on Lincoln Avenue, bike over to the historic Chateau Montelena(1429 Tubbs Lane) for wine tasting in an 1888 Gothic-style estate. The winery was made famous in the 1970s at the legendary Paris tasting where its Chardonnay beat out French competitors. French in style, the wines are delicious, but we're most smitten by the picnic grounds: private, reservation-only pagodas on idyllic Jade Lake.

Up on Diamond Mountain sits Theorem Vineyards (255 Petrified Forest Rd.), a property that was completely resuscitated by Kisha and Jason Itkin after they fell in love with the rustic site in 2008. Today, it is an astounding place to visit, with Kisha’s bold aesthetic and high design. The most recent addition is the Tasting Barn designed by Richard Beard, which stands on the exact footprint of the original 19th century dairy barn. A tasting here (another Thomas Rivers Brown project), featuring wines by winemaker Kathleen Ward (hand-picked by Thomas himself for the post), plus the sweeping views of Mount St. Helena and creative food from estate Culinary Director Josh Mitchell, will have you hooked. Try his fermented hot sauce from peppers grown onsite.

Where to Wine Taste on Foot in Calistoga

Summer vibes at Picayune Cellars tasting room and mercantile.

(Robb McDonough)


Downtown Calistoga has plenty of walk-in friendly wine tasting rooms that you can casually pop into on foot. Housed in the historic Calistoga National Bank Building, the inside of Huge Bear Wines(1373 Lincoln Ave.) is surprisingly luxe, and yes, there's a huge bear to take a selfie with. They also donate $1 from each bottle purchased to a charitable cause. // Picayune Cellars(1329 Lincoln Ave. suite B) is a great two-birds-one-stone kind of place. Owned by French native, Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf, makes lovely wine in the classic Negociant model and has assembled her tasting room into a crafty mercantile, featuring one-of-a-kind goods and a relaxing little courtyard space out back. // Close by is Cami Vineyards(1333B Lincoln Ave.), a hybrid tasting room and art gallery featuring local artists (including founder Laurie Shelton) and estate wines. You can opt for food pairings along with the estate wines (and olive oil!) which comes with some killer focaccia. // Situated in a retro, 1930s-era gas station, Tank Garage Winery (1020 Foothill Blvd.) produces small collections of unique wines that celebrate the heart and soul of vintage California culture and creativity, ranging from refreshing rosé, to delicious red blends and aromatic chardonnays. Tank also partners with local artists and illustrators to create labels for each bottle that embody the taste of their wine blends. The Instagram-worthy space is decorated with funky art and vintage items such as classic motorcycles, guitars made from old oil cans, and pinball machines. There's even a speakeasy—but you'll have to figure out the password for yourself.

Where to Shop in Calistoga

(Courtesy of @westofpoppy)

Sister-owned sister stores, Rove Boutique(1371 Lincoln Ave.) and West of Poppy(1365 Lincoln Ave.) are basically next door neighbors with equally cute goods. Flowy maxi dresses, unique earrings, and everything you would ever want to wear are on offer. Duck in after some wine tasting and you will absolutely end up with a new outfit. // Husband-and-wife potters Jeff and Sally Manfredi have been making their unique Calistoga Pottery (1001 Foothill Blvd.) using post-harvest grapevine-ash glazes and copper oxides in Calistoga since 1980. Grab a stoneware mug and ask Sally for her recommendations on the area—word has it she's the "unofficial mayor of Calistoga." You can see Calistoga Pottery at wineries such as Round Pond and Frog's Leap, as well as Bottega and Terra restaurants. // Another local couple, Christian Parks and Laura Koerth, use classic European techniques (they met at the French Pastry School in Chicago) to create Earth & Sky Chocolates (1454 Lincoln Ave.) confections that look like colorful works of art and are almost too dreamy to eat. The pair is also committed to sourcing ingredients from Napa Valley, including wildflower honey, distilled bourbon-whiskey, and beer. Their little shop at the Calistoga Depot is under renovations, but you can make an appointment to pick up a box of chocolate bon bons, their signature treat available in creative flavors like Banana-Bourbon and Rum-Mint-Lime. // Ditch the luggage you're traveling with for something fun, colorful, and new at Catch Calistoga (1365 Lincoln Ave.). Tote bags, clutches, purses, duffels, and more from Toss Designs come in a variety of playful textures and prints—think palm trees, checkers, pom poms and confetti—that will make a statement wherever you go. For something more sleek, shop the Infinity collection, where you can essentially build your own bag. // Blackbird (1347 Lincoln St.) is where you'll find a curated inventory that includes Chilewich placemats, Baggu metallic leather pouches, and regional books by Wine Country architect Howard Backen and Michelin-starred chef Christopher Kostow. // If you're looking for a new conversation piece at home, or a gift for the person that has everything, Roam Antiques & Design (1124 Lincoln Ave.) has the goods in the form of rare and eclectic treasures, like an 1800s wine corker machine made in San Francisco, or a giant pre-WWII searchlight from Britain. Sure, you don't actually need it and it will take up the better part of an SF studio apartment, but it'll look so, so cool. // Nearby is The Vintage Treehouse(1117B Lincoln Ave.), another antique spot for endless browsing, with a more farm-y vibe and eye-catching signage.

Outdoor Adventures in Calistoga

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.

(Courtesy of Napa Valley Register)

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park

Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish author of Treasure Island, honeymooned in Calistoga with his wife Fanny in 1880; the pair was drawn to its climate, legendary waters, and budding wineries (Schramsberg was a favorite). Stevenson wrote about his adventures there in his 1883 book, Silverado Squatters. His namesake, Robert Louis Stevenson State Park(Lake County Hwy.), is mere minutes by car from Solage, and the 2-mile round trip Table Rock Trail to the overlook, where views of the valley are vast, is the perfect distance for digesting a bountiful brunch. More intrepid hikers can take on the trail to the summit of Mount St. Helena, a five-mile hike from the trailhead (10 miles round trip). With 2,000 feet of elevation to gain, it's the perfect distance not just for digesting brunch, but obliterating every guilty calorie of the last 24-36 hours. And when it comes to summiting mountains, let's face it, this is a rather easy one to cross off your list. Save Everest for another day.

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park

Just past the famous "castle winery," Castello di Amoroso, you'll come to the park entrance for the 1,900-acre Bothe-Napa Valley State Park(3801 St. Helena Hwy). Dating back to 6,000 BC, this area was once inhabited by the Koliholmanok, later known as the Wappo. Heavily wooded amongst coastal redwoods, Douglas-firs, tanoak, and madrone, it's a great hiking spot if you want to escape the sun's rays on a particularly hot day, and you won't find a boring fire road in sight. There are 10 miles of trails, but for a bit of a workout, try the Coyote Peak Trail which climbs 1.5 miles to a 1,170-foot overlook where you'll be rewarded with views of Napa Valley, the surrounding hills, and Mount Saint Helena. Before you leave, it's also worth the quick 1.1-mile jaunt down the History Trail, which leads past an old cemetery where some of the town's first pioneers are buried, and to the historic Bale Grist Mill, built in the 1840s. Prefer camping? Book one of their new yurts or restored cabins for your stay, and use the money saved on a hotel to buy more wine.

Calistoga Speedway

Most people would never know that Calistoga has its own race track, but the converted horse track has been hosting open-wheel races since 1937. You won't likely find Nascar greats like Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson burning rubber at the Calistoga Speedway (1435 N. Oak St.), but you will get to witness a lot of action while mingling with the local crowd. Every April through September, all kinds of racing vehicles—including monster trucks, Winged Sprints, motorcycles, and Midgets—gather at the Napa County Fairgrounds (the same spot the local high school football team plays), to race around the ½-mile dirt oval at speeds that reach over 120 mph. Check their schedule before your visit, as it could be the best nightlife happening in this sleepy town that weekend.

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