If you’re worried that visiting Napa Valley with kids might be a terrible idea, think again! As locals raising our own families here, we know the challenges of finding family-friendly activities in Napa Valley. But we also know Napa’s best-kept secrets, and we’re going to share them with you here! We’ve rounded up 15 of our favorite kid-friendly things to do in Napa as a resource for your family’s next visit to wine country.
Tour a Family-Friendly Farm & Ranch
Tucked in a residential neighborhood in Napa, Connolly Ranch Education Center’s mission is to connect kids and families to nature through farm-based education and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards. The Ranch includes an educational garden, hiking trails and is also home to chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, geese, miniature horses and donkeys. Weekend visits and private tours offered seasonally.
Find a Kid-Friendly Hike
Napa has a number of parks that are perfect for a short-and-sweet kid-friendly hike. Alston Park in northwest Napa has three miles of trails bordered by vineyards. In Browns Valley, Westwood Hills Park has three miles of trails through tree groves and grassy meadows. Skyline Park in east Napa has over 25 miles of trails, but the 2.5 mile trail to Lake Marie is perfect for shorter hike. Bothe State Park, between St. Helena and Calistoga, has more than 10 miles of trails that are mostly shaded, making it a great option for summer hiking. You can also hike to the historic Bale Grist Mill. Historic tours and milling demonstrations are offered on weekends.
Bike or Walk the Napa Valley Vine Trail
The Napa Valley Vine Trail is a perfect outlet for a family-friendly bike ride or walk. The entire trail currently spans 12.5 miles from southern Napa to Yountville. There are two popular departure points for a family-friendly bike ride. Starting from Third Street in Downtown Napa, you can ride a 7-mile loop along the Napa Riverfront and through Kennedy Park. Or, start from Yountville and ride south to Oak Knoll Avenue and back for an 8-mile roundtrip with vineyard views.
Bike rentals: napavalleybiketours.com
Graze Your Way Through Oxbow Market
Even the pickiest eaters will find something to nosh on at Oxbow Market. If you need to make a beeline straight for the nuggets and fries, head to Gott’s Roadside where you’ll also find a delicious array of creative elevated burgers, milkshakes and other nostalgic soda-fountain favorites. More adventurous eaters will enjoy the innovative tacos at C Casa Taqueria, Jew-ish fare at Loveski Deli or slurping oysters with a view of the Napa River at Hog Island Oyster Co. After grabbing a bite, head to Oxbow Commons park (straddling McKinstry Street) where there are large grassy areas for lounging or playing lawn sports and a large cement pavilion and pathways that are perfect for skateboarding, roller-skating or for little tykes on bikes.
Stroll Through a Culinary Garden
Wander through more than 50 organically farmed garden plots at the French Laundry Culinary Garden. Located directly across the street from the Michelin 3-star restaurant, the three-acre culinary garden supplies produce to all four of Chef Thomas Keller’s restaurants in Yountville. The garden also includes a first-class chicken coop and several bee hives.
Check out California Through My Lens’ blog post with photos from his visit.
SUP or Kayak the Napa River
Experience Downtown Napa from the river! Rent a kayak or stand-up paddle board (aka SUP) and paddle the restored tidal wetlands south of Downtown. Napa Valley Paddle and Enjoy Napa Valley are two outfitters that have a variety of suggested itineraries for families and will provide all the instruction you need on the day of your rental.
Visit the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art
Tucked amid the vineyards, the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art is home to a jaw-dropping collection of more than 2000 pieces of modern and contemporary art works. A family-friendly 1/3-mile trail winds through a Sculpture Meadow with large-scale installations. At every turn, the 200-acre site offers views of landscaped, sculpture-dotted grounds and wide open spaces.
Snap a Photo with Yountville’s Longhorns
Rent bikes in from Napa Valley Bike Tours in Yountville and venture north along Yount Mill Road, a family-friendly route – up to 6 miles out-and-back – with very little traffic that winds through the vineyards. A short way down the road, you’ll encounter a herd of resident longhorns that are fun to visit.
Yountville bike rentals: napavalleybiketours.com
Make a Memory (to Take Home!) at Calistoga Pottery
Sally & Jeff Manfredi, the artisan proprietors of Calistoga Pottery, have been making their signature rustic glazed pottery at the same location in Calistoga for more than 40 years. Their hand thrown earthenware can be found in wineries and restaurants throughout Napa Valley. Bring your kids to their studio in Calistoga where they can make a hand or footprint impression on a keepsake plate. Older kids can make an original drawing on plate. Your child’s marking will be carved out and inlaid with a contrasting glaze to preserve forever. It’s also fun to catch Jeff throwing (call ahead to find out his schedule).
Tour a Whimsical Artist’s Villa
Villa Ca’toga is the residence/studio/retreat of artist Carlo Machiori who is internationally known for his period-style murals. His enchanting 5-acre villa celebrates an eclectic array of cultures from Greco-Roman ruins, Thai stupas and a Roman pool and fountains. The interior rooms of the villa take you on a magical journey from Pompei to Greece to the American Southwest. Have fun imagining what it’s like to wake up in the Birdcage Room where a 360-degree trompe l’oeil mural that makes you feel that you are inside a birdcage with an ominous cat peering in at you. One tour offered weekly, May through October, Saturdays at 11:00am.
Check Out Napa’s RAD Murals
Downtown Napa is bursting with inspiring art that makes the most fun family photo ops. The Napa Rail Arts District (RAD Napa) includes 11 vibrant murals, with most concentrated along a half-mile section of the Vine Trail (bike path) between Vallejo Street and Lincoln Avenue. Another hidden alcove of 8 large-scale murals can be found at First Street’s Artist Alley behind the Archer Hotel.
Visit a Family-Friendly Winery (Yes, They Exist!)
While it’s true that many Napa Valley wineries don’t allow guests under 21 on property, there’s a fair number that welcome younger visitors. Castello di Amorosa is probably the most popular family-friendly winery – because, who doesn’t want to see a real-life castle? Alpha Omega Winery offers coloring books and crayons to entertain young visitors while the adults enjoy a tasting of premier Napa Valley Cabernet and Chardonnay. Oasis by Hoopes features an animal sanctuary that is home to goats, pigs, chickens and a donkey. With an advance reservation, children are welcomed with gift bags that include snacks, juice and coloring pages. Beringer Winery offers a family-friendly self-guided tour that includes a walk through the wineries historic wine aging cave (children under 11 are complimentary).
Or why not plan a family-friendly wine tasting bike tour? Laird Family Estate and Silenus Winery are both located along the Napa Valley Vine Trail, within an easy, flat 4-mile bike ride of Yountville. Both Laird and Silenus also welcome picnicking onsite by advance reservation.
Yountville bike rentals: napavalleybiketours.com
Explore Cornerstone Gardens
Explore the intersection where art meets landscape at Cornerstone Gardens. The ever-changing series of gardens showcase innovative designs from international and local landscape architects and designers. The experience is immersive and family-friendly as visitors of all ages are welcome to roam and interact with the garden installations. The gardens are free and open to the public. An onsite marketplace, tasting rooms and Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant, Folktable, will encourage you to extend your visit. cornerstonesonoma.com
Take a Hot-Air Balloon Ride
Experience a Napa Valley sunrise in a magical way you’ll never forget with Napa Valley Balloons. Kids ages 6+ or at least 48” tall can fly. Your pilot will act as your guide pointing out local points of interest and the valley’s extraordinary beauty. napavalleyballoons.com
Go on a Safari
Spanning more than 400-acres and home to nearly 1,000 animals representing more than 90 species, Safari West is the closest you can get to a real African safari with no passport required! Explore the Sonoma Serengeti on a wildlife safari where you’ll have the chance to see a variety of antelopes, primates, cheetah, buffalo, giraffe, lemurs, rhinoceros, zebra and more exotic land mammals as well as a wide variety of avian life from around the globe.