Monday, August 11, 2014

How To Enjoy Napa Valley With Kids

Napa Valley with kids, Napa valley ideas for children, napa valley

Napa Valley with kids is a lot easier than you might think. Here's the thing: you need a good attitude about the trip. There will be pivots and, likely, cancellations. Flexibility is key to surviving Napa Valley with kids.

First, a bit of history. We've taken our daughter to Paris. Twice. The most recent trip involved wine tastings at Moët et Chandon and Tattinger in Champagne.

RELATED: How to Enjoy Paris with a Toddler

The latest adventure in taking a toddler to "adult" spots? The Napa Valley. Our most recent exploits remind me of the famous "baby in a bar" scene from the movie Sweet Home Alabama. 

This was my fourth trip to the Napa Valley, the first with the kid. Turns out it was a wonderful, family-friendly experience at every turn.

How to Enjoy Napa Valley With Kids: Where To Stay
Meritage Resort, Napa, Napa Valley Hotels
Meritage Resort
Our friend, Sarah, had arranged for a block of rooms at the Meritage Resort in Napa in celebration of her wedding. This was an outstanding property that had everything on site: a kids AND an adults-only pools, a bowling alley with casual bar food, an "ultra lounge", a formal restaurant and a coffee bar. The rooms were spacious while the large resort provided opportunities to relax or enjoy more adventurous pursuits such as walking the vineyards behind the property.

Every other time I have visited, I have stayed at the Yountville Inn. It's an ideally situated hotel in quaint downtown Yountville featuring a beautiful pool. It's located next to Bouchon Bakery so you can grab a quick coffee and breakfast in the morning.

How To Enjoy Napa Valley With Kids: Where To Eat 
Chandon Winery Napa Valley
Playing on the lawn at Chandon
We didn't miss many meals on this trip. Although the interesting thing was that we would typically eat a big breakfast, late lunch and forgo dinner because we were so full from the big meals early in the day.

We had an exquisite lunch at Chandon's étoile Restaurant on Friday, along with multiple glasses of sparkling wine après lunch.

Chandon Wine Napa Valley, Sparkling Wine
Sparkling wine
We adored picnicking at Oakville Grocery on Saturday. It's truly a Napa Valley must-do. We had a light dinner at Siena Restaurant at our hotel Saturday night. It was delicious! Before Sunday's wedding, we ate at Fish Story in downtown Napa. What a treat.

I've also enjoyed spectacular meals at Brix, Mustard's, Bouchon Bistro, Auberge du Soleil and Ad Hoc. Even an average meal in the Napa Valley is better than most whoopy-do meals elsewhere.

How To Enjoy Napa Valley With Kids: Wineries To Visit
Candidly, we didn't even think twice about bringing our kid to a winery. After formal tasting experiences in France, we felt we could handle anything and so could Jordan.

The wineries were more than happy to accommodate us. At least they seemed like it.
Peju Winery, Napa Valley Vineyards, Napa with Kids
Coloring at Peju
We visited Clos du Val, Chandon and Peju wineries. At Peju, they gave Jordan coloring books for her to play with while we tasted. It was a special touch and perhaps my favorite winery of the trip. We also visited Neyers which is a much more intimate tasting experience. It was simply the three of us and a tasting expert. I recommend it.

In the past I have visited Plumpjack, Joseph Phelps, Nickel & Nickel, HendryAlpha & Omega, Coppola Nieubaum (which is now Inglenook) Truth be told, I know there are more but that's all I can recall...because, wine.

Getting There
I have flown into Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco which we did this last time. Each airport has it's own pros and cons. The rental car line at SFO is always a pain.

I have also made my way to the Napa Valley via the Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. Traffic was horrendous on the Bay Bridge this time. I have never encountered crazy traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge.

For our Sunday night wedding, we used Napa Valley Nanny to watch Jordan. What a treat! The service was thorough in pre-screening us to make sure they knew everything they needed to know about Jordan. Our nanny for the night, Jasmine, was superb. I highly recommend them.

Getting Around
We rented a car at SFO. There's an inherent danger of driving after too many tastings in the wine country. We were sure not to drink too much and spit our wine when necessary as not to endanger ourselves (or at least my husband was cognizant of that).

You can hire a car in the wine country or even hire a person to drive your car. My friends used Concierge of the Valley and raved about the experience.

The Takeaway 
Napa with Kids

Don't be afraid to explore the wine country as a family. Wineries are accommodating and open to families.

Be realistic, though. You're not going to have a five-wineries-in-one-day experience you might have had previously. (Tweet this). You'll have to slow down the pace a bit. If you do want to blow and go, a nanny service is always an option.