What can you do when your kids are on a winter break and you are thinking of places to spend a winter holiday?
The ideal winter getaway would normally be: heading to the mountains somewhere up north, skiing down the slopes or sledding down the snowy trails, riding a gondola lift or skating on a frozen lake. Winter resorts are sure to be filled to the brim with tourists seeking the warmth of a hot chocolate and a cozy time beside the fireplace.
Or perhaps you want to escape the cold and head down south (or fly somewhere abroad) to catch some sun, sea, and sand. The warm tropical heat would feel so good.
But if you want something out-of-ordinary winter vacation holidays, you may want to fly to California and try winter vacations for Napa Valley. While there are no snowy trails or winter wonderland in Napa, it offers a different kind of winter that you’d never thought before.
Winters in Napa are usually cool and rainy, typical of the Mediterranean winters. But you’ll be surprised — and charmed — by what you will see: the brilliant yellow mustard blooms spreading abundantly across the valley and taking over the bare, sleeping vineyards. The hills and the mountains, instead of being covered in snow, remain very much green throughout.
Plus, when you think of Napa, you’d think of wines, vineyards, and wineries — not the usual destination for the children and families. While it might be true that the words “kids” and “family” don’t usually come first to mind when people think of Napa, it has slowly become a family-friendly vacation spot. Because Napa is an agricultural area brimming with bucolic charm, it is a perfect place for the children to “pull the plug” from technology and discover the wonders of nature.
And speaking of nature, a good suggestion to explore the natural wonders, as well as the history of Napa, is to check out the Petrified Forest in Calistoga, the only extant forest in California from the Pliocene era. This national forest features some of the largest petrified trees in the world, most notably a fossilized redwood tree which earns the nickname “Giant.”
Having kids who tag along with you in Napa Valley can be a bit of a challenge. However, it gives you the chance to think of fun ideas that will keep your kids from getting bored while touring around the wine country. For a more fun-filled exploration, take the Napa Valley Wine Train. You and the kids too will surely be excited to ride the vintage Pullman cars which take you to some of the best wineries and other prime tourist spots in Napa. Enjoy a scenic ride and the views while being entertained by hosts and dining on delicious gourmet meals.
As Napa has become more family-friendly, more and more wineries have adapted their services to cater to the families and their youngsters. While most wineries do not permit children to take part in the wine tours and wine tastings, they offer other activities that will appeal to the kids.
Some of the wineries, like Castella di Amorosa, even offer sweet grape juice and other non-alcoholic beverages. The Sterling Vineyards will excite the youngsters with aerial tram rides that will lead to the hilltop winery — the only winery of that kind in Napa. It’s a great way to view the fields carpeted with those brilliant yellow mustard blooms!
A lot of wineries in Napa feature vast gardens and picnic grounds for the children to play and run around. V. Sattui has a large and pleasant picnic shaded by trees; Inglenook’s courtyard features a large fountain where children could play with their wooden boats, while Beringer boasts a picture-perfect garden. Castello di Amorosa is a perfect place for your kids to live out their fairy tale fantasies as it is built like a real old castle.
The holiday season is one of the reasons that families bond together. While you won’t get to spend a white Christmas in Napa, and the holidays aren’t usually busy here, there are still some big events that you should not miss. They include the lighting of the Christmas tree in downtown Napa, and the Annual Festival of Lights in Yountville (which magically transforms the town into a holiday wonderland with bright and energy-efficient Christmas lights), and the Christmas Parade (highlighted by heavily decorated holiday-themed floats that will surely charm and entertain spectators of all ages).
Winters in Napa are wet, and the frequent rains result into fewer hot air balloon flights. But there are plenty of dry and even sunny days as well — while the air is still cool — conducive for a hot air balloon adventure. Go fly with us at Balloons Above the Valley (BATV). You will experience the best and the most spectacular way to enjoy open and unobstructed views of Napa Valley, which boasts its full winter colors of bright yellow (from the mustard blooms) and green.
With your guide and the expertise of BATV’s flight crews, they will help your children to overcome their fears of flying. The kids will even get excited and have a fun time exploring and surveying the vast fields and valleys.
After the approximately one-hour flight, enjoy a champagne brunch served by the Michelin-starred C CASA at Oxbow Public Market. Kid-friendly meals are definitely available at the brunch.
If you want to go beyond your usual winter holidays, you might want to consider winter vacations in Napa Valley. The usual winter frost may be nowhere to be found in the wine country, but Napa will surprise you with unique and otherworldly seasonal sights, which are appreciated best when you go on a hot air balloon adventure!