Calistoga, California, sits at the end of the Napa Valley, like a cork in a wine bottle. To get there, you have to drive 30 miles, past the northernmost "Welcome to Napa" sign. As you approach it, the towns thin out and the wineries are farther apart. Things slow down a little and the Napa Valley gets narrower.
When you turn off CA Hwy 120 onto Lincoln Avenue, you'll be on a charming main street, lined with early 1900s buildings.
Calistoga's small-town ambiance, coupled with sophisticated dining and shopping, make it a favorite of many wine country visitors. Underground thermal features give rise to natural hot spring spas, adding to the ways to totally unwind in Calistoga. Grapevines and vineyards sprout in the surrounding countryside, and it's all so compact that you can get around easily.
Calistoga is Northern California's cute little spa town, with natural hot springs and mud bath spas to relax the tensest of visitors. It's a relaxed place compared to the rest of the Napa Valley. With lodging and a bicycle rental shop right in town, it's an easy place to have an automobile-free weekend and a good place to take the family.
Tripadvisor readers rate Calistoga #3 in Napa Valley, after the towns of Napa and St. Helena.
Calistoga isn't upscale Yountville, where almost every restaurant is a gourmet mecca and every hotel is a sophisticated haven. It isn't the town of Napa, which has more restaurants and lots of in-town tasting rooms. Being at the north end of the valley, it's not the central location for wine touring that St. Helena is.
That being said, it's a favorite place to stay in Napa Valley, a nice respite from all the fancy pants places further south.
Best Time to Go to Calistoga
Weather is best in spring and fall. Surprisingly, Calistoga can be the hottest spot in the entire Napa Valley on a warm summer day (because it's furthest away from the San Francisco Bay).
If you've only got a day in Calistoga, the best thing to do is take a leisurely stroll down Lincoln Avenue, where you'll find some lovely art galleries, winery shops, bookstores, and other fun boutiques.
4 More Great Things to Do in Calistoga
- Go to the Spa-a-a-h!: Calistoga calls itself the "Spa Capital of Northern California," and the title is well-deserved. With more than two dozen spas and massage therapy salons in town, the only stress you'll have to deal with is picking which one to visit.
- Wine Tasting, Winery Tours: Top wineries near Calistoga include Schramsberg (sparkling wine) and Castello di Amorosa, a fascinating recreation of an Italian castle.
- Ca'Toga: Italian artist Carlo Marchiori's whimsically-decorated, Palladian house Villa Ca'Toga is open for tours on Saturdays from May through October, and his works are on sale at his Ca'Toga Gallery in downtown Calistoga.
- Safari West: Take a mini-safari through this 400-acre wildlife preserve (which is also a safari-style bed and breakfast). It's just one of the best places to take the kids in Napa Valley, most of which are near Calistoga.
Annual Events in Calistoga
- March: Napa Valley Marathon (closes Silverado Trail until early afternoon)
- July: Napa County Fair and Fireworks
- November: Christmas Tractor Parade
While Calistoga isn't quite so thick with well-known restaurants as other Napa Valley towns, you'll find a selection of places to eat along the main street, at a broad range of prices. All Seasons Bistro (1400 Lincoln Avenue) is a perennial favorite, with an excellent wine list.
Where to Stay
Get some insights about the kinds of places you can stay and their pros and cons in the guide to finding your perfect Napa Valley lodging or just plunge right in to read reviews and compare prices on Calistoga hotels at Tripadvisor.
One of California history's greatest characters gave Calistoga its name, or so the story goes. Sam Brannan, who once owned most of the town, was asked what he planned to do with his northern Napa property. He intended to make it the Saratoga Springs of California, but with his diction slurred by alcohol Brannan replied, "I'm going to make it the Calistoga of Sarafornia!"
Calistoga is located about 75 miles north of San Francisco and 27 miles north of the town of Napa, in the north end of Napa Valley.