Emma K. Morris photo

In Calistoga, Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort gets a fresh, camp-chic makeover

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The 1952 wellness resort that pioneered Calistoga's famous mud bath treatment and was once a hot spot for Bay Area vacationers has been restored to its glory.

Just in time for your summer trip to Wine Country, Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs has reopened after an extensive renovation that includes a brand new spa and restaurant. It's the perfect place to detox from heavy Pandemic imbibing...and then retox all over again at the local wineries.


Dr. Wilkinson's Fresh Digs

(Courtesy of Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort)

Dr. Wilkinson's had lost its luster over the years, struggling to compete with more modern and luxurious resorts in the area, but new ownership has managed to return the hotel to its heyday while still preserving its vintage summer camp vibe. Nostalgic tributes to the resort's storied history are sprinkled throughout the property, starting with the iconic neon sign and the teal 1952 Buick, known as simply Doc, parked out front.

In keeping with the theme, the resort's 50 rooms are minimalist and clean with the feeling of an elevated dorm room (you know, the kind you might see in college brochures, not what you actually ended up with). Wood planks on the ceilings are complemented by white beams and add warmth to the room, as do pops of orange in the mid-century modern furnishings and decor. The throwback motif carries on through black and white photographs from the resort's early days and a Galanz mini fridge in each room.

A handful of rooms have hints of Napa Valley's signature luxury, like the Spa Cottage with a clawfoot tub or the Peloton King which comes with your own private bike. The Victorian House is a 1925 party pad that sleeps up to 15 guests.

Pool Days + Spa Dreams at Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort

(Courtesy of Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort)

Dr. Wilkinson's two spring-fed mineral pools, nestled privately among palm trees in a Palm Springs–inspired sanctuary, have been freshened up with playful, brightly colored murals and a large deck outfitted with chaise lounges, day beds, and a pair of cabanas. There's also a grassy area for picnics and lawn games like Petanque and Jenga.

But it's the spa that Dr. Wilkinson's built its reputation and celebrity on and the head-to-toe remodel honors that. Although Calistoga had long been tapped for its natural volcanic hot springs, Doc is credited with being the creator of the original mud bath treatment, a staple now of nearly every resort in town. The reimagined spa features a new spa garden and a slew of new mud baths, mineral and mineral pools, and a mix of modern experiences like sound therapy and CBD infusions. There's even a Beer Brew mineral bath made with fresh hops, dry ale yeast, malt, barley, and a local beer for sipping.

The Works treatment ($329) is a relaxing and detoxifying six-step process that includes a mineral shower, mud bath thermo-therapy and face mask, hydrotherapy soak in a private mineral pool, geothermal steam, sleep-inducing cold blanket wrap and, finally, a 30-minute massage. They also offer it as a couples treatment.

Healthy(ish) Food + Drinks at Dr. Wilkinson's House of Better

(Courtesy of Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort)

House of Better is Dr. Wilkinson's new restaurant and its oh-so-casual aesthetic is ideal for a post-pool-day meal when you don't feel like getting dressed up (or even showered) and going anywhere far. No reservations necessary; simply place your order at the counter and then dine on a small patio next to a grassy lawn. The whole experience feels like a summer barbecue in your best friend's backyard.

True to its name, House of Better's Southwestern-inspired menu is health-conscious and centered on green chiles. You'll find them integrated into several dishes, from the enchiladas to the burger, and with chef Trevor Logan (of SF's long-running, but now defunct Green Chile Kitchen) in the kitchen's driver seat, you can trust that House of Better knows what it's doing. The chiles, which reportedly give off a blast of Vitamin C and endorphins, are roasted daily in the restaurant's roaster.

Start your meal with one of three dip samplers, like the guacamole, which comes with a flight of Japanese, Middle Eastern, and Mexican guac, or the salsa, which ranges from the fiery "Christmas" to roasted tomatillo to citrus habanero. In addition to House of Better's high-desert signatures, the menu features salads, grilled (not fried) fish tacos, and a Booster Bowl (sautéed kale, red quinoa, anasazi beans, calabacitas, red or green chile, avocado, pickled onion). Nutritional cooking is another tried and true skill set of Logan's; Booster Foods Nutrition Kitchen on SF's McAllister Street was also a former venture of his.

On the weekends, brunch beckons with pineapple and lemon mimosas, red chile-dusted maple bacon, and an old Green Chile Kitchen favorite, the New Mexican breakfast burrito.

The biggest buzz surrounding House of Better is for its buttery pies made with organic butter and less sugar. These pies were a staple at Green Chile Kitchen and are served at Chef Logan's Chile Pies Baking Co. in Guerneville. Flavors range from Lemon Buttermilk to the pie shop's signature Green Chile Apple, made with walnut streusel, cheddar crust, whipped cream, and red chile honey drizzle.

From the bar, you can choose from local wines, spritzes, and homemade sangria plus a range of herbal tonics, ferments, zero-proof cocktails with adaptogens and nootropics, and medicinal teas to balance out the day's wine tasting. And of course, there's a Green Chile Lemonade made with wine-based vodka. Get your drinks served in plastic cups to sip poolside.

(Courtesy of Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort)


// Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort + Mineral Springs, 1507 Lincoln Ave. (Calistoga), drwilkinson.com

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