What to do with the Kids in Napa Valley

Napa Valley, one of California’s premier wine tasting destinations, might not sound like a kid-friendly vacation spot, especially if you want to actually, well, drink. But as you can see from the list below, Napa has a surprising number of activities for families. You can book visits to these places on your own but, as always, we recommend hiring a guide to improve the overall experience.

One suggestion would be to enlist the help of Derek Martin with Concierge of the Valley, as his company will design a custom trip that will take into consideration your entire family’s needs.

No matter if you decide to visit some, or all, of these destinations (with or without the help of a guide) the best part is you can still squeeze in a glass of wine between adventures.

Scientopia Discovery Center

Let your kids burn off some energy while learning a few things about science at the Scientopia Discovery Center in Napa. There are plenty of interactive exhibits and play areas where kids can role-play, make crafts or take part in hands-on science — from dressing up in costumes to playing instruments and moving magnets. The centre is designed for kids up to 13 years old; there’s even a carpeted infant/toddler room for babies and crawlers full of soft, vinyl blocks to play with. If you’re not sure your older kids will be into it, bring them in for a free tour before paying the cost of admission.

The Petrified Forest

This isn’t any ordinary walk in the woods. In the Petrified Forest, you’ll wander through a grove of redwood trees that have turned to stone (thanks to the eruption of Mount St. Helena 3 million years ago). And, at up to eight feet in diameter, they’re quite a sight, even if your kids aren’t interested in the science behind petrified trees. Tours are available, but the trail is open for self-guided tours and it’s easy to navigate.



Safari West

It’s not exactly a zoo or a drive-through park; Safari West is a wildlife preserve with more than 90 species of animals and birds. Open year-round, the park’s goal is to propagate endangered species and educate the public. Tours include a combined walk and safari jeep tour where you’ll see antelope, zebra and wildebeest roaming through the foothills. You can even spend the night in an African-style tent, surrounded by roaming herds of animals.



Old Faithful Geyser in Calistoga

This geyser may not be as well-known as the one in Yellowstone National Park, but it regularly spews out water from the earth about 60 feet into the air. There’s not a lot to do here (though there is a petting zoo for kids), but it’s a perfect spot for a picnic lunch while watching the geyser go off every 15 to 30 minutes. Plus, it’s a lot less crowded than Yellowstone.



Triple Creek Horse Outfit

If your kids are older and don’t want to be dragged around wineries drinking juice boxes, try a guided horseback tour at Triple Creek Horse Outfit through vineyards, oak woodlands and groves of redwoods (tours are suitable for beginners and more experienced riders). Open six days a week, weather permitting, rides are by reservation only; children 8 and up are eligible for trail rides, while younger children have the option of a guided pony ride. Located in Jack London State Historic Park, admission includes tickets for complimentary tastings at Benziger Family Winery and Imagery Estate Winery.



Oxbow Public Market

This 40,000-square-foot gourmet food market is a great spot for lunch, featuring local artisan food and wine vendors and restaurants. Sit indoors at communal-style tables or outside on a deck overlooking the Napa River. Try C Casa for tacos served with homemade white corn tortillas or Gott’s Roadside for made-to-order burgers. While adults will appreciate the gourmet coffee and small-batch craft spirits, kids will enjoy Kara’s Cupcakes and Three Twins Ice Cream. And it’s open seven days a week.


Playground Fantastico

This is more than your average kid park — Playground Fantastico is a whimsical, community-built playground (designed with input from kids) looks like a castle with rocket-shaped towers, swinging ramps and stone geysers, as well as a giant sand pit with a stream flowing through it. For toddlers, there are playhouses, a wooden train and swings. For kids, there’s a wooden fort with tunnel slides and lots of cubbies to play hide and seek.



Family-friendly wineries

While these tend to get mixed reviews, some wineries welcome families. One is Castello di Amorosa, which was inspired by 13th century Tuscan castles. For minors (five to 20 years of age), the winery offers tours that take in a medieval armory, dungeon replica, torture chamber, chapel and courtyard (along with wine caves and wine tasting for parents). For those under five, there’s a mini-farm to explore. Sterling Vineyards offers a scenic gondola ride to the top of the hillside, while Frog’s Leap allows kids to explore a historic barn, veggie gardens and seasonal pumpkin patch.



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