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The Grape Adventure - Family Travel in Napa Valley
Napa has always been synonymous with romance. Vacationing families, however, will be pleasantly surprised to find that the area offers something for everyone. The inclusive nature of several new properties enables parents to experience the romance of Napa while their children revel in the magic and exhilaration of the area.

Accommodations

Solage Calistoga has wonderful amenities for both parents and children. The cottage-style property is contemporary and relaxed, featuring both rooms and open-plan suites. There's a casual bistro with indoor and outdoor dining, as well as a room service option. The environment onsite is a social one. Kids can play in the family pool complete with water toys, while parents can hit the fitness center or take in a yoga class. And when they want a little R and R, there is an onsite spa that features an array of services, a Mud Bar, and a mineral pool. Teenagers have access to the gorgeous main pool area. The property also has complimentary cruiser bikes, bocce ball court and offers special kids programs and activities over the summer.

The Carneros Inn is another good option for families. "The Inn is incredibly family-friendly," says Siobhan Dugan, the property's Leisure Sales Manager. "There are plenty of activities on property and around the valley to make sure the whole family enjoys their stay." Otto's Pool, the option for families, is composed of an infinity lap pool, a hot tub, cabanas, a children's pool, and a snack shack. Complimentary DVDs and games are available for families to use in their downtime. When everyone's got a little more energy, Siobhan recommends taking the kids to feed the neighboring horses and cows (supplies are provided at reception), taking one of the complimentary bikes on the property out for a spin, or playing a game of croquet or bocce ball.

For families that want to experience the best Napa has to offer but would prefer to return home to a private space, Liza Graves, co-founder of Beautiful Places, has the answer. Specializing in properties in Napa and Sonoma Counties, the travel service offers a range of villa rentals—from rustic to Italian-inspired to modern—that are perfect for privacy-seeking parents. In terms of renting to families, "We to try to understand what their needs are so they can match them up to the right property," says Liza. "Properties can have tennis courts, basketball courts, one property even has chickens and doves." Families can do as much or as little as they want on the property, and the travel service provides any and all kinds of amenities a family could ask for—things like picking up groceries, planning visits to private wineries, and hiring private chefs.

Activities

There are a number of fun family-oriented excursions throughout the area. Anthony Burich, the lead concierge at The Carneros Inn, shared his top recommendations:

The Grape Escapes

When in Napa, families should take a stroll around the Carolyn Parr Nature Center. It depicts animals and plants found in the County's natural habitats. Kids can observe and touch a collection of skins, skulls, and bird's nests in the Children's Corner. The 12-acre Connolly Ranch is also ideal for kids, featuring an animal preserve where they can interact with horses, sheep, ducks, peacocks, roosters, and more. For some wine education, Anthony Burich recommends the St. Supery Discovery Center in Rutherford. It's a kid-friendly winery featuring topographical maps and an option to venture out into the vineyards.

The Grape Wide Open

Families can drive over to St. Helena and visit the Grist Mill State Historic Park, or they can head to Sonoma to visit the petting zoo or take a guided tour through Train Town. Featuring acres of landscaped parks and a petting zoo for the smaller kids, it's a wonderful treat for the whole family. And the Cornerstone Festival of Gardens features 9 acres of changing garden designs from the world's top landscape architects. It's an exhibit that's sure to inspire both older kids and parents alike. For those looking for a great family-friendly winery, Anthony Burich recommends heading to Glen Ellen and visiting the gorgeous Benziger Winery. Families can listen to the guide speak about the biodynamic farming practices and picnic in the scenic gardens afterwards. While in Glen Ellen, families can visit the Jack London State Historic Park. Younger children will enjoy exploring the lovely grounds, while older ones can take a look around the museum, which displays a collection of London's books, mementos, and articles.

Good Grapes, Charlie Brown

Parents with young children should pay a visit to the Charles Shultz Museum in nearby Santa Rosa. It's the permanent home of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the whole crew. The museum shows daily screenings of Peanuts Cartoons, and features a "Snoopy Labyrinth" as well as rotating exhibits of all the characters. And to celebrate the kids' love of real animals, head to Safari West, a private 240-acre wildlife preserve that houses 400 free-roaming birds and mammals like antelopes, gazelles, elands, and zebras. Lisa Graves also recommends this trip, saying that the African preserve is incredibly authentic.

No Sour Grapes

When the kids need to satisfy their sweet tooth, head to the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield. They can learn how the company creates its exotic and delicious flavors, with over 40,000,000 jelly beans being manufactured every day. And to work off some of the sugar rush, a visit to the Scandia Family Fun Center is the perfect icing on the cake. It features over 200 games that will keep everyone entertained, including batting cages, a Lil' Indy Raceway, water bugs, and a miniature golf course.

Start packing your kids' suitcases and get ready for a breathtaking, relaxing, and multifaceted adventure in Napa Valley!
About the Author
Lucia Stoller is a writer for the family travel resource Ciao Bambino. Ciao Bambino is a worldwide guide to family-friendly vacation properties including hotels, villas, resorts and apartment rentals catering to babies, toddlers, children, and teens.
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