Let’s call a spade a spade. This itinerary is Napa Valley WITH kids, not Napa Valley FOR Kids, because the focus here is on wine tasting — just at locations that welcome families. See the difference?
So I’m not going to lead you to Yountville Park or The French Laundry chicken coops. I mean, you could do those things (and I can tell you how in this alternate itinerary), but for today it’s all about the fortunate parents who happen to have kids with them when they are wine tasting in Napa Valley.
I feel like this is a pretty strong itinerary — not only because I have kids and love going to wineries, but because I’ve truly put these stops to the test OVER. AND. OVER. The wineries may or may not be happy about that, but they haven’t turned us away (yet) — and my kids have been generally happy.
Assuming you’re starting from within Napa or driving up from civilization/SF/Bay Area, let’s start from the south end of Napa Valley in the city of Napa. We’ll also assume the weather is cooperating. Let’s go!
We all know that the days start earlier when you have kids. So first, coffee.
Order yourself a cup and some hot chocolates for the kids, then turn 180 degrees and order everyone a breakfast taco from C Casa at the Oxbow Market, which is right there next to Ritual.
I cannot pass up these tacos. They’re made upon order with loads of fresh, local ingredients. It makes me feel healthy just eating one. Plus, bonus, they lay a good base for the upcoming day drinking.
Tacos and coffees in hand, head out the back doors to the patio.
The back patio is my favorite place to sit at Oxbow for a few reasons. 1. I can enjoy my meal in the sunshine, 2. I get to take in the view of the Napa River, Oxbow Commons Park, and the Wine Train and 3. if my kids drop their food or spill their drinks, it’s pretty much OK. Bird food.
Ready to go? Pack up the troops and start heading north on Highway 29, the main artery up the middle of Napa Valley.
Our first stop is for BUBBLES. Nope, no orange juice. Just straight bubs. Helloooo Domain Chandon, my old friend…
Though Domaine Chandon, in Yountville, doesn’t allow those under 21 in their tasting room, children are allowed on the terrace and the grounds. My recommendation? Get your tastings to go, or just order a glass (bottle?) and head out to the terrace to enjoy the wine and your surroundings.
I think the architecture is pretty slick, and not only does Chandon have a fantastic lawn and beautiful grounds but you can get a good view of the vineyards from atop the hill. Go head, climb that hill! Take in the views.
Ahhhh, bubbles. Sigh. Aren’t they just the best way to start the day?? I know!
This stop requires some forethought (i.e appointment required). With kids in tow, I’d recommend the Garden Tasting. It’s very relaxed and allows you to explore a bit more and taste the wine at your own speed.
I’ll admit, I love Frog’s Leap. I mean, I would move in if I could.
The Vineyard House is tasteful and inviting, and it’s got a wrap-around porch I could grow old on. Even on those imperfect weather days, you can still view the grounds from this wide, sheltered porch.
That being said, the best part of the whole experience, in my opinion, is beyond the porch.
Frog’s Leap has done a fantastic job of creating “spaces” on the property. There’s the porch, right, but then there is the wide, green lawn below flanked by Adirondack chairs. Parents can test those out while the kids are entertained with the corn hole set.
Beyond the lawn you can choose to explore the sprawling gardens, or rest your glass on a table in the shaded seating area.
But wait, there’s more! You can also watch the dragon flies chase each other above the fountain, explore the barrel room, or visit with the animals (another win for many kids).
Sooo many lovely spaces.
Really, the whole Frog’s Leap experience is one of my favorite. I always recommend it to those unfamiliar with Napa. It’s relaxing and beautiful, plus, you know… wine.
Ok, probably time for lunch. With your kids. Which means we’re not going white tablecloth today. We’re going to Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena.
Gott’s Roadside is a well known crowd pleaser. And oh, how the crowds flock to this place!
But for good reason, because not only is it quite tasty, it also has a hoppin’ atmosphere and it doesn’t break the bank in that Napa-Valley-restaurant kind of way.
It’s mostly burgers and sandwiches, fries and onion rings, all of which are done well. Gott’s wouldn’t be able to exist in Napa if it wasn’t up to snuff, so I think the whole family will be happy with this Napa Valley institution.
Can I recommend the Ahi Tacos? MMMmmmm so good. Today’s dining theme is tacos, apparently.
Here’s a sneaky tip for you: if the line is super long, call in your order when you get there. You still pick up at the window, but the wait isn’t as long and you don’t have to stand in the line. And if you’re really proactive you can order online beforehand and indicate when you’ll pick up, saving yourself any waiting at all.
Judge me if you will on that one, but it really does help when you have hangry, antsy kids.
Fed and rested? Do you have more in you? Do the kids? If the answers are yes, head 1 mile south to Hall Winery.
Hall Winery in St. Helena is well known for appreciating arts and architecture, and if you didn’t notice it on your way up the valley you’ll notice it now. It’s the one with the enormous silver bunny leaping out of the vineyard.
With kids, I’d say you’ve got two reasonable options for wine tasting at Hall. You can head upstairs in the visitor center to the tasting bar, where the walls are windows and the mountain views are spectacular, or you can forego the formal tasting and make a beeline for the outside bottle service station.
I tend to choose the latter so the kids can enjoy yet another beautiful lawn, garden and bocce court, and I can enjoy kicking back in one of the many outdoor seating options.
If you choose this option as well, be sure to explore the grounds yourself, and don’t forget to take the requisite selfie at the reflection pool.
In the event you skipped a stop, have some extra time, or if you and the kids are REALLY game for more, swing by R&D Kitchen for a cleansing ale.
R&D Kitchen in Yountville is part of the Hillstone Group, which also owns the Rutherford Grill, and is right off Highway 29 as you head south back toward Napa city proper.
(photo credit Yountville.com/R&D Kitchen)
It has outdoor gardens the kids can check out, and if they ask nicely the staff will give them fish food for the koi pond — though those fish may be rather overfed already.
Outdoor seating is available, and while the full menu is available at the outdoor bar, the options are more limited at the high-top tables and the Adirondack seating.
Out here I’d suggest the Chips & Dip Duo. I think you’ll like it — plus it’s staying with our taco theme of the day (kind of a stretch, but I’m sticking with it). And, hey… if it happens to be that time, you can even stay for dinner.
If you and your family have made it this far, I applaud you. It’s not always easy wine tasting in Napa Valley with kids, but sometimes you gotta do whatcha gotta do. Takin’ one for the team, right? Go you! And kudos to those kids too, hopefully everyone got to enjoy themselves at least a little.
Everyone should sleep well tonight.
Are your kids a little bit younger? Check out this alternate itinerary for visiting Napa Valley with Kids.
Ice Cube Says:
Chickity-check yo’ self
before you wreck yo’ self.