Napa Valley

If kids traveled to Calistoga in the 1860's, they would have arrived by stagecoach or the Napa Valley Railroad, visited the natural hot springs and mud baths, had fun at the Calistoga Hot Springs Resort, complete with cottages, a skating rink and swimming pool, and watched geysers spouting water in the air. A silver mine was discovered on Mount St. Helena, and pioneer families brought their wheat to be ground at the Bale Grist Mill.

Sharpsteen Museum - In the Sharpsteen Museum, step back in time to the mid 19th century, when Calistoga was a busy hot spring resort. Check out the wonderfully detailed diorama of Calistoga Hot Springs Resort, down to the details of ladies in long dresses, strolling on the lawns. There's a charming Victorian doll house and full size stagecoach. The Brannan Resort Cottage is completely decorated with period furnishings (very comfy for a vacation cottage).
Pioneer Park - Across the creek from the Sharpsteen Museum is a small shaded park with a lovely gazebo and an old summertime feeling. There's a large kids' playground with climbing structures, picnic tables, and a stream to play in. A gem.
Take a soak - Calistoga is famous for its spas, mud baths and mineral water pools. For families, buy a ticket for day use - fun and relaxing for the whole family. Calistoga Spa Hot Springs (1006 Washington St.) has a big naturally heated swimming pool and wading pool with fountain.
Old Faithful Geyser (Tubbs Lane) - Calistoga is famous for its mineral springs and the Old Faithful geyser. The geyser starts with little wisps of steam wafting up, then poof, it shoots hot water straight up in the air. After several minutes, the geyser stops, as if the faucet were turned off, but it will do this same thing every 10 - 20 minutes. There are picnic tables and a grassy area for kids to run around while you wait for the next eruption, and also four-horned sheep, goats and llamas.
Bothe - Napa Valley State Park - The park has lots of offer - a campground (stay in a yurt!), plenty of picnic tables in the shade, hiking, horseback riding and swimming.
Hiking trails -
Pick up trail maps at the Visitor's Center, or ask a park ranger for maps if the center is closed.
History Trail - Take a 2.2 mile (round trip) hike from the park to the Bale Grist Mill, passing by the Pioneer Cemetery on the way. In the Pioneer Cemetery, (only a short distance from the parking lot), the trail meanders through rustling grasses and yellow dandelions. Slight breezes blow over the old headstones, a remembrance of those people who settled in the Napa Valley in the 19th century.
Ritchey Canyon - Both the Ritchey Canyon Trail and Redwood Trail follow along the creek, through redwoods and evergreen trees, with wildflowers in the spring. Other trails will have views of the Napa Valley. If you have little ones, you can easily spend hours wandering a short distance up the trail; older kids will enjoy a longer hike through the canyon.
Tip: If you're out hiking, watch out for poison oak - brushing against the leaves can cause bumps and itching. Bring plenty of water and keep and eye out for rattlesnakes. After your hike, check the kids to sure that they didn't pick up any ticks along the way.
Public pool - The public pool in Napa Valley State Park is open from June - Labor Day. Perfect spot to cool off on a hot day.
Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park - Before the Napa Valley was planted with vines, wheat was the big crop. In the 1840's, Dr. Edward Bale set up a grist mill to grind wheat into flour. Water from Mill Creek powered the huge 36 ft. wheel that turned the grinding stones. Bale went off to the Gold Rush, but his wife Maria Bale continued the mill until the 1900's (and the mill made money, a real "gold mine.")
Today it's a short walk to the mill, situated in the trees along the creek. On weekends you can see the mill in action (10am - 4pm), grinding wheat and rye flour, cornmeal and polenta (which you can buy at the gift shop). Picnic tables and restrooms.
Events -
- Old Mill Days - In October, at Old Mill Days kids can step into 19th century activities: saw a log by hand, make corn husk dolls and rope, watch a blacksmith and lace maker at work, listen to live music, husk corn cobs, spin wool into yarn, crush apples to make apple juice, taste cornbread made from corn ground in the mill. Low key, uncrowded, and a real gem.
- Pioneer Christmas - Long popular with local families, one Saturday in December, kids have fun doing traditional Christmas activities - string cranberry garlands, decorate gingerbread cookies, make rosemary wreaths, lemon pomanders, festive rope and bookmarks, listen to live music, and drink hot apple cider.
Robert Louis Stevenson State Park (Highway 29) - In 1880, Robert Louis Stevenson, beloved author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped, spent several months with his bride on Mount St. Helena, camped out in a dusty, deserted bunkhouse from the Silverado Mine. When he wrote Treasure Island, he described some scenes from Mount St. Helena. On the Table Rock Trail, hike for a mile to get a spectacular view of the Napa Valley. About a mile up the Mount St. Helena Trail, there's a monument to Robert Louis Stevenson.
Petrified Forest (Petrified Forest Rd.) - When Mount St. Helena blew its stack about 3 million years ago, it spewed tons of lava and ash all over the valley. Buried in ash, the wood cells of redwood and pine trees were replaced with crystallized silica - the trees turned to stone. In 1870, a petrified stump was discovered, and gradually entire trees have been carefully uncovered.
Walk on shaded trails (strollers okay) to view the "petrified forest." Picnic tables and a gift shop with oodles of shining polished stones, including petrified rocks.
Tip: The petrified trees here aren't brightly colored like the Petrified Forest in Arizona, but are beautifully preserved redwoods (now extinct).
Fun food
Calistoga Farmer's Market – Stop in the sample the bounty of the Napa Valley, amazing local fruits and vegetables, breads and baked goods, and activities for children. On Saturdays, June - late Sept., 8:30am - 12:30pm, on Lincoln Ave.

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