Are you visiting Calistoga, California? Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown shares her favorite tips and locations for best things to see and do in Calistoga, California.
A downtown walking tour of Carlo Marchiori murals is a good introduction to the town of Calistoga: Starting at 1437 Lincoln Ave. See facing murals which show old Calistoga painted by this Italian-born muralist.
Insider Tip: When looking at these murals, Marchiori is the figure in the barber chair; the man reading the paper in an upper window is based on his brother; the dogs peering out the door are Marchiori’s. His partner, Tony, is the inspiration for the Chinese laundryman whose work can be found all over town, including Enoteca Wine Shop. Carlo’s art gallery, Galleria Ca’Toga d’Arte, is next to Vermeil Wines, 1206 Cedar Street.
Looking for farm-to-table Calistoga cuisine? I recommend Sol Bar at Solage Calistoga.
When you come to Calistoga, you have to try a mud bath or massage at one of the many local spas within Calistoga. I enjoyed a girlfriend getaway at the Roman Spa Resort.
Bothe Napa Valley State Park is often overlooked by visitors to Calistoga. Unfortunately, the park no longer offers horseback riding, but you may head over to Owen Ranch in Middletown or Sonoma Valley for horseback riding.
If you come to Calistoga, get your picture taken in front of the Napa Valley welcome sign.
If you have to order one thing off the menu at Calistoga Inn, order the Best Burger and wash it down with a Calistoga Wheat Ale.
Calistoga offers a lot of options to visitors; from good food, to wine tasting, to spa treatments and mud baths.
Best Place to watch local crafts people at work: Calistoga Potter Jeff Manfredi can usually be found working on his wheel creating artisan pottery in his studio.
When I need chocolate, I go to The Candy Cellar. Update: Candy Cellar has closed. Visit Earth & Sky Chocolates or Flourish Chocolate instead.
Photo ops, and wine tasting, in Calistoga include the Castello di Amorosa. (top photo)
The best vantage points are taken by climbing to the top of the tower and looking out over the Napa Valley.
The most unique art tour: Every Saturday from May-October, artist Carlo Marchiori leads tours of his home, Villa Ca’Toga. Visitors will see the grounds, “ruins,” grottos and garden. His sly humor and creativity spill out of every corner. One guest room is painted to make you the bird in a birdcage. There’s even a cat peering in at you and the room comes with yellow pajamas. A bargain at $25 per person.
In Calistoga, an active day outdoors involves hiking, biking or walking.
My favorite hikes: Kortum Canyon Road at the intersection of Hwy. 229/128 and Lincoln Avenue is a great walk. Bothe Napa State Park has lovely redwood groves for strolling year-round. Oat Hill Mine Trail, at the other end of Lincoln Avenue by Silverado Trail, is a thigh-burner, but the views are worth it.
Calistoga’s best museum is the Sharpsteen Museum of Calistoga. A place to see glimpses of Calistoga’s past with dioramas of what the town looked like in the 1860’s. You’ll see a completely furnished old-fashioned kitchen, blacksmith shop and turn of the century house and parlor all housed in an original Brannan Cottage with its arched gingerbread facade. There were more than a dozen of these guest cottages at the site of Calistoga’s first spa resort.
You don’t need kids with you to visit this historical museum, but if you do, they’ll love the stagecoach and the miniature model trains. You can also see Ben Sharpsteen’s Oscar from his work as a Disney animator on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” There is also a double-sided dollhouse made by Calistoga resident Ruth Durbin.
To find out what’s going on at night or on weekends, read The Weekly Calistogan or the Calistoga Tribune.
You can tell a lot about Calistoga from visiting the local festivals.
In the spring you should attend Sarafornia: Engage Calistoga, a four-day celebration of Calistoga’s bohemian spirit.
In the summer Calistoga offers free concerts in the park every Thursday from the last week in May through the end of August. Taking place from 6-8 p.m., each week features a different band. Don’t forget your take-out dinner from any of Calistoga’s great dining options (Evangeline offers fried chicken dinners to-go with sides on concert nights but they sell out fast so be sure to reserve on their website.)
In the fall visit the wineries during harvest or go up in a hot air balloon.
In the winter you’ll want to watch Calistoga’s Annual Lighted Tractor Parade. Vintage and modern tractors, antique trucks and construction equipment bedecked with lights roll down Calistoga’s main street to celebrate the holiday season and Napa Valley’s agricultural heritage. Tractor Parade is always the first Saturday in December, 7pm.
For a great breakfast treat have the coffee cake and coffee at Calistoga Roastery. Anyone who wants to know what’s really going on in town heads to “The Table of Ka-nowledge,” an opinionated group of residents gathering spot.
Just outside of downtown Calistoga you can visit Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.
The best way to see downtown Calistoga is to walk.
If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the Old Faithful Geyser. (Truth be told, I have not visited the Geyser yet.) Or they can find the Queen Bee at Vermeil Wines. The tasting room used to house a beeswax candle shop. They kept the two small doors that you can open to see the bees hard at work behind the glass making beeswax and honey.
What are your favorite things to see and do in Calistoga, California?
Thank you to the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce for assistance with this post.
Castle and Calistoga Roastery photos by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. Photo of Bird in a Cage courtesy of Villa Ca’toga website.