Napa on a budget
Itinerary: Napa Valley on a Budget
July 31, 2017

Itinerary: Napa Valley with Kids II

You’re in Napa Valley with your kids.

Wait, what?? Napa’s not for kids. It’s an adult playground. Isn’t it? Well, it seems that *sometimes* families want to vacation together — and that is actually possible in Napa.

This itinerary has something for everyone. The adults get to experience Napa, and the kids get to… well, experience Napa in a different way.

Assuming you’re coming at Napa from the south, we’ll start the day toward the southern end of the valley in the town of Yountville.

Coffee & Croissants at Bouchon Bakery

Because you have young kids you’re likely up at the break of dawn, so seek out Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, located on the main thoroughfare of this walkable town. This is where you’ll get your very important coffee and croissant.

Bouchon Bakery in Yountville

Yes, you’ll very likely have to wait in a ridiculous line (don’t worry, it tends to move pretty quickly). But those pastries are SO worth it. I get the ham and cheese croissant flattened in the panini grill. It is flaky, cheesy, buttery goodness. The kids prefer the monkey bread and hot cocoa.

Have a seat outside and enjoy the weather — and the fantastic people watching.

Really, just mesmerizing. It’s like watching fire.

Ok, crushed that breakfast. Coffee in hand. Ready to walk off the minor gluttony?

Wrangle up the family and stroll north along Washington St. You’ll soon come to The French Laundry on the right, a very famous Michelin star-rated restaurant that put Yountville — and Napa to some extent — on the culinary map, setting the bar for awesome food in Napa Valley.

Across the street is The French Laundry garden. Visitors are welcome to wander through, so head down one of the rows and have a look. What’s growing right now? What is that plant? I don’t know, but whatever it is, chances are it’s going to be among the fresh, seasonal ingredients for the current menu.

Head toward the chicken coop at back of the garden where you can visit the unusual and fancy chickens that wear “fur boots”. Very Ooo La La. Little kids will enjoy this side jaunt. At least mine did.

A few blocks further along the walk is Washington Park.

Washington Park and playground is really quite nice. Our family spends a lot of time here. It’s like Pleasantville. It’s always perfectly coiffed, never a leaf out of place. It’s both sunny and shaded, and the bathrooms are usually clean. <— That in itself should sell you on this park.

Score yourself a bench and let the kids loose on that playground.

I mean, really run ‘em, because they’re going to need to be low-energy for your upcoming winery visits. Which will be right after you chase down the free Yountville Trolley and ride that back to your car. Unless, of course, you want to walk back. Whatever works.


Whew! Now it’s your turn. First stop: Inglenook.

Inglenook Winery
Photo credit:

This beautiful estate, owned by Francis Ford Coppola, is located on the west side of Highway 29 in Rutherford. And though they recommend appointments during the busy season, appointments are not required.

It’s a historical estate with wonderful wines, and it has plenty of space for the kids.

The entrance to the estate in a long, leisurely, tree-lined drive that takes you to the peaceful middle of the valley, where the highway noise is no longer audible.

The old stone building that houses the tasting room and gift shop is dark and cool, and contrasts nicely against the bright sunshine and heat of the outdoors. There is a labyrinth of rooms to check out once you’re inside, including a small bistro if more snacks or coffee is necessary. However, as you’ve got young children I’d recommend heading back outside with your tasting glass.

Pick a bench, or plop a squat in the grass, relax, and take in the vineyard and mountain views. It’s ok, because the little ones will be fully entertained exploring the beautiful grounds or simply pushing the wooden sailboats around the the magnificent fountain.

Aaaaaand exhale…

Feed the People

I’m usually juuuust starting to get hungry again by now. Are you? Across the road from Inglenook is the Rutherford Cross Road, and just a few yards down on the right you’ll find Luna Market. Pick up some food for your picnic (in my case, a burrito), and continue heading east toward Silverado Trail. Our picnic destination is Casa Nuesta winery in Calistoga, just a bit further north on the Silverado Trail.

Casa Nuestra

Though they do prefer you make an appointment, Casa Nuestra is not your typical Napa Valley winery. It’s held onto its past, and the many Elvis wall hangings in the small tasting room will attest to this.

Outdoors, under the shady live oak trees and amongst the gardens, are picnic tables placed here and there. And… wait for it… farm animals! I know, super exciting, right? Well, it is for the kids, so it’s a win for you.

When we were last there, our host instructed us on which of the garden plants the goats thought were the tastiest, and the kids spent the bulk of the visit feeding the animals, chasing a dog and frolicking in the vineyard rows. It was simply dreamy in that “I don’t feel like I’m in Kansas anymore” kind of way.

Casa Nuestra Winery Picnic

We had a leisurely picnic lunch paired with our delicious tastings, and I suggest you do the same.

Just take it in. Elvis and all.

Alright, attention spans dwindling. Onward… and upward! At Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga.

Sterling Vineyards

Spoiler alert! The kicker with Sterling is that you take a gondola ride up to the winery. I know, right? Do you see why this may be a good one for kids?

But really, this popular destination is truly a great spot. The gondola is exciting and fun for all, with the added bonus of fantastic photo ops.

Once at the top, you’re greeted with a glass of white and invited to taste at your leisure along the ikea-like self-guided tour. And aren’t they clever! They placed tasting stations along that path so you can try new wines along the way.

The crowd favorite, understandably, is the terrace at the top showcasing the spectacular valley views. Serious selfie stick time here, people. You’re way up high in the northern end of Napa Valley where the mountain ranges are closer together. Puh-lease stop for a moment to take in the view and appreciate the beauty. It’s magnificent.

Still up for more? Wow. You’re ambitious. What with the kids and all. But if you must…


Start making your way south on 29, and a few miles down pull in at Farmstead in St. Helena.


Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch

Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch is not only a restaurant with killer, farm fresh food and a bumpin’ atmosphere, but it also has a wine tasting salon, a small relaxed cafe, Olive Oil tasting, a general store… The list goes on.

You can refill on food, coffee, wine, tastings, and relaxing here. It’s your Napa Valley one-stop shop even if you aren’t traveling with small children.

I recommend the cheddar biscuits — and I tend to be ready for a diet coke or a palate cleansing ale at this point. But it’s up to you, because from here on out you’re on your own.

Have a great night.


Ice Cube Says:

Chickity-check yo’ self
before you wreck yo’ self.
With this.

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