Calistoga Quick Guide
Not too many people know about Calistoga, as it’s sometimes in the shadow of Napa or Sonoma, however, I’ve been coming here since I was a kid and I’ve grown to love it even more than its flashier neighbors. Calistoga has a very small town feel to it, with one main street. Life moves a little slower here with days consisting of dips in heated mineral water, walks into town to grab food, massages, and wine tasting. Calistoga is the perfect retreat for those who are seeking rest and relaxation. We come here at least once a year especially after a busy period at work. It’s a great place for couples retreats, with some options for family getaways as well. The great thing about Calistoga is that you don’t need perfect weather to have a great time, in fact, I actually prefer Calistoga in the cold and even in the rain, as the cold air/water is a great contrast to the heated pools.
Where to stay
We recently started staying at a newer hotel in Calistoga called the Calistoga Motor Lodge. It is the cutest hotel (very hipster) with “No Selfies in the Bathroom” signs, in-room hula hoops, and wonderful plunge pools. They have three outdoor mineral pools varying in heat level, with the smallest and hottest one sheltered in a muraled structure. Right now, they’re in the process of building a restaurant on the property, but it won’t be completed until 2020. Bikes and board games are free to rent and tea and coffee are complementary as well, just inquire in their mid-century modern lobby. Every day, there’s a complimentary wine-tasting around happy hour, with wines from different wineries in the area.The property is also dog-friendly. I haven’t yet gotten to do a treatment at their spa, Moonacre Spa, but it’s on my list.
Location-wise, it’s about a 10 minute walk into town, but keep in mind that some parts do not have a sidewalk, so exercise caution. It’s also a very bikeable distance from a couple wineries that are around the corner in the other direction from town.
Where to eat
This one’s an oldie but a goodie. We like to come here for dinner. My favorite pasta is the Quattro Stagione, with pancetta and walnut pesto on fusilli. My husband enjoys the wine flights here.
Looking for a mid-day or after-dinner treat? We like to get a scoop at Calistoga Creamery. My favorite is the lemon cookie flavor. This place is also right next to the grocery store, so it’s great if you need to pop in for water or any other provisions.
Wow. This place is a little newer. It’s a Southern food restaurant just off the main street. We went here for brunch and fell in love with their shrimp and grits. They also have a great patio out back that is comfortable even during winter, as they have heaters and rain shields. On our most recent visit, we went expecting brunch, but because we went on a Thursday, they had their lunch menu. I decided to order the shrimp po’boy, and it ended up being one of the best po’boys I’ve had, even better than the ones I had in New Orleans.
I’ve been coming to Gott’s since it used to be called Taylor’s. It’s an a classic drive-through building with picnic tables out back. They have all the classic burgers and milkshakes, with a few rotating specials and some fancier fare. This place is almost always the first place we stop on our way into Calistoga. It’s also just down the road from Castello di Amorosa, the castle winery. There are multiple Gott’s locations, but the Saint Helena one is my favorite for its classic design.
I mentioned Farmstead in a previous post about Napa, but I’d be remiss if I left it out. Farm to table. Their biscuits and meatballs are not to be missed.
Where to Shop
Calistoga is stepping up their boutique shopping game. I found two dresses at Rove Boutique and a pair of earrings at West of Poppy. Both stores have the same owner, but all different merchandise-think geometric acrylic earrings, linen sun dresses, and beauty products.
What to do
Go wine tasting! I have a link here to my favorite wineries. Most are only a 10-15 minute drive from Calistoga.
Dip in the mineral water. The beauty of Calistoga is that you can take it slow. On our most recent visit, we didn’t even do any wine tasting, opting to just soak in the water and walk into town for meals or for a little shopping. I brought a book and read by the pool if I needed a break from the water, it was super relaxing.
When to visit
I highly recommend visiting in fall or winter. In fact, I even enjoy coming here in the rain, since the cold rain provides a nice balance to the hot water. Avoid summer if you can for a couple reasons 1) there are a LOT of kids on vacation here so it can be a little overwhelming if you came to relax 2) It may be too hot to enjoy the hot soaking pools.