- A Karen Brown Recommendation
Our favorite Napa Valley town, Calistoga, bounded by rugged foothills and vineyards, is located at the intersection of Hwy 29 and Hwy 128. World-class hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts and resorts are located in town or a short distance outside. The main street, Lincoln Avenue, is lined on both sides by attractive shops and numerous restaurants. This charming town has been famous ever since Spanish explorers arrived in 1823 and observed Indians taking mud baths in steamy marshes. Sam Brannan, who purchased a square mile of land at the foot of Mount Saint Helena, gave the town its name: he wanted the place to be the “Saratoga of California” and so called it Calistoga. He bought the land in the early 1860s and by 1866 was ready to open his resort of a few cottages and palm trees. The oldest surviving railroad depot in California, now shops, received its first trainload of passengers when they came to Calistoga for the much-publicized opening of Sam Brannan’s resort. For more than a hundred years, Calistoga has attracted visitors from all over the world, primarily for its hot springs and spas. People came in search of its glorious, healing waters long before the region became a popular destination for its wineries. There are many excellent spa facilities and two kinds to choose from: with “heavy” mud and without. Among other places, traditional mud tubs are available at Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs, 707-942-4102, www.drwilkinson.com, and Indian Springs, 707-942-4913, www.indianspringscalistoga.com. Excellent spas include Lavender Hill (small and cute, great for couples and friends), 707-942-4495, www.lavenderhillspa.com, and Mount View Spa (a beautiful facility in the Mount View Hotel), 707-942-5789, www.mountviewspa.com. Whenever we go to Calistoga, we always make a point of visiting Old Faithful Geyser, one of only three such regularly erupting geysers in the world. It erupts at intervals varying between 15 and 50 minutes, throwing a spume of about 4,000 gallons of water over 60 feet into the air. This is certainly an interesting phenomenon. Old Faithful can be viewed from 9 am to 5 pm (9 am to 6 pm during daylight savings time). To reach the geyser, travel north from Calistoga on Hwy 128 to Tubbs Lane, turn right onto Tubbs Lane, and in half a mile you see the entrance to the geyser on your left. Cost $8, 707-942-6463, www.oldfaithfulgeyser.com. There is a multitude of wonderful wineries with Calistoga addresses. A few of the best to visit are; Schramsberg, Terling, Clos Pegase, Chateau Montelena and Vincent Arroyo. As you leave Calistoga, you may wish to stop at the rather commercial California Petrified Forest, a grove of redwoods that was petrified by ash from the volcanic eruption of Mount Saint Helena over 6,000,000 years ago.