When you think of Napa Valley, you probably think of “Wine Country,” right? Yes! Napa Valley is the home of wine in California, and adults have a thrill going on wine-tasting tours and enjoying the local delicacies.
But did you known California’s most famous wine country is also a great trip to take with the kids? This part of Northern California is filled with stunning scenery and other fun kid-friendly activities that have nothing to do with wine.
You can very well enjoy Napa Valley with your kids, as some of the wineries in Napa Valley have kid-friendly activities. However, today our focus is on some of the activities you can enjoy, besides the wineries to ensure the kids have as much fun as their parents on a Napa Valley family vacation.
- Best Time to Visit Napa Valley
- Getting To And Getting Around Napa Valley
- Where To Stay In And Around Napa With Kids
- Fun Things to Do With Kids In Napa Valley
- Some Family Friendly Wineries in Napa Valley
- More Tips For Planning Your Road Trip in Northern California
Best Time to Visit Napa Valley
Traditionally the best time to visit Napa Valley is during the harvest season. Harvest season falls between August and October and comes with lots of fun seasonal activities like grape-smashing events, balls, and harvest dinners.
It is also peak season in Napa Valley as most tourists troop in to participate in the fun. Be sure to book your accommodations, tasting events, and tours way ahead of time to avoid missing out on any activity.
Napa Valley typically experiences perfect daytime highs during this early Fall period as high as the mid and upper 70s. However, temperatures tend to drop into the 50s and 40s at night so ensure that you pack a coat and other warm clothing for yourself and your kids.
We also suggest summer is a great time to visit Napa with kids. There are fewer of the wine aficionados over summer, and more focus on family activities and enjoying the outdoor settings at many of the wineries (read, space for the kids to run about!).
Mid-summer highs hit into the low 80s in Napa Valley, ideal for a big day out followed by a refreshing dip in the pool.
Getting To And Getting Around Napa Valley
The nearest major city to Napa Valley is San Francisco, a little over an hour to the south. You are also only just over an hour from Sacramento.
There are several transportation options from San Francisco. You can either go by train, bus or car rental. You can also drive down in your vehicle and enjoy a scenic road trip through the stunning wine country.
The San Francisco/Vallejo Bay Ferry is also an exciting way to get to Napa Valley. It provides a more leisurely and scenic route to Napa Valley, where you can connect by road from Vallejo to Napa.
Once you get to Napa Valley, getting around town is relatively easy. If you and your family are into bikes, feel free to rent some bikes and cycle to and from major attractions in town. Take advantage of this family holiday to enjoy walking and participating in bicycle tours around town. It is also a great way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which is bad for plants (grapes too, of course!)
Napa Valley also has a fixed-route bus system called The Vine. The busses are all wheelchair-accessible, and they run through the length of the Valley and to the Vallejo Ferry terminal.
If you are not so sure about any of these transportation options, there is always Uber and Lyft to fall back to.
Where To Stay In And Around Napa With Kids
The Napa Valley area consists of small towns that boast great, family-friendly accommodations and attractions. These towns are American Canyon, Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, Oakville & Rutherford, and Calistoga.
Napa is the biggest town in the region and has a vast array of family-friendly hotels and restaurants. It is also central and offers easy access to all major attractions and tours in the wine country.
- Embassy Suites by Hilton Napa Valley offers some rooms that can sleep up to 6, along with indoor and outdoor pools. As a bonus, pets are allowed here and you can get rooms with a kitchenette.
- The Meritage Resort and Spa really has it all! Think bowling alleys to bocce courts and a family-friendly pool, you can also use the facilities at neighboring Vino Bello Resort, rooms here include kitchen and laundry facilities along with interconnected family suites.
Yountville is smaller and has a cozy appeal. The restaurants and hotels here cater more to high-end guests, so it may be better suited for couples. But with kids, why not try:
- Marriott Napa Valley Hotel and Spa, which offers the option of family rooms in a superb luxurious setting; think evening fire pits, huge swimming pool, garden games and a great spa.
St Helena is another central location that is great for getting around, while Calistoga, to the northern end of Napa Valley is best known for its natural hot springs and amazing spas.
- In Calistoga, try Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa – roadside motel meets boutique hotel with plenty of fun additions this place is just made for families!
- Indian Springs Resort and Spa delivers the perfect mix of cottages and bungalows, with a family pool fed by natural geysers!
Fun Things to Do With Kids In Napa Valley
We will be honest; Napa Valley is not the most overtly family-friendly destination, at first. It takes just a little digging to find some great family things to do in Napa Valley and the surrounding region.
Some of the most popular things to do with kids in Napa, and some hidden gems to get on your Napa itinerary include:
Located in Sonoma County, Safari West is an exciting and immersive safari experience complete with Jeeps and zebras, antelopes, and giraffes. It is professionally managed and has the most impressive collection of animals in the state.
Plan to spend the entire day exploring the 400-acre property with your kids. You can also plan to camp overnight and spend the extra time helping your kids learn about the environment and the importance of conservation.
Note that only kids who are four years old and above are allowed at Safari West.
The Petrified Forest
One of the fun, adventurous things to do in Napa Valley with kids is the Petrified Forest. The Petrified Forest is an excellent location for both younger kids and teenagers. Located in Calistoga among the redwood giants, this forest is perfect for walking and hiking. Explore the majestic petrified redwood giants that have been in existence for over 3 million years.
If you plan to visit with your toddler or baby, you can easily strap them to your chest and join any of the guided tours available from Wednesday to Sunday. You can also take a self-guided tour and enjoy the serene splendor of unearthed, petrified redwood trees.
Note that there is an entry fee of $12 for adults, $8 for juniors and kids $6 (Under 6’s go free).
Found in downtown Calistoga, this museum is one of the best family-friendly activities in Napa. It features unique memorabilia from the works of Ben Sharpsteen, who was a producer and one of the first animators for Walt Disney.
This museum has fun exhibits that will interest both kids and adults. It also features interesting exhibits about the history of Calistoga. It is inexpensive, and guests are only encouraged to make a $3 donation.
Jelly Belly Factory Tour
Located just 25 minutes away from downtown Napa, this unassuming building in Fairfield is a bag of fun for your little ones! Take an elevated tour over factory operations with an interactive self-guided walking tour that takes you through the complete jelly bean making process.
A nominal entry fee applies which we’re sure you’ll more than make up for in little samples! You can also tour the Jelly Belly Museum and take a ride on the Jelly Belly Express Train. The factory operates Monday to Friday so mid-week tours are best.
Oh, and if you’ve not quite had enough of wine tasting in Napa, grown ups can join a chocolate and wine matching experience at the conclusion of the tours! Definitely one of our kids’ Napa Valley highlights.
If your kids love the outdoors and wouldn’t mind a small hike, you should take them to see this semi-secret waterfall. Located in Angwin, you can find this waterfall about 20 minutes off the highway. Take the 1.3-mile roundtrip hike and explore the area around the waterfall.
Be sure to wear proper hiking boots and take beautiful pictures in front of the gorgeous waterfall. Click here for more information on how to get to the falls.
NB – the falls can dry up in summer, so don’t forget to check current conditions using an app such as AllTrails before you set off.
Head on to Sonoma and spend the day exploring Train Town with your kids. This tourist railroad with rideable miniature trains also features a 10-acre amusement park. Take a 20-minute train trip and go over bridges, through tunnels, and a miniature Lakeview town that has a petting zoo.
The rides are handicap-accessible. There are about six amusement rides that will keep the kids giggly and wanting more. Admission and parking are free, you just pay for attractions as you go.
Note they are open daily in summer, but only on weekends from fall to spring.
Children’s Museum of Sonoma County
Located in Santa Rosa, this Children’s discovery museum offers tons of experiential exhibits perfect for kids aged one year old to 10 years old. Major fun activities here include art stations, science exhibits, sensory exhibits, and a gorgeous outdoor garden.
There’s a kid’s café and kitchen called Flavortown where your kids will enjoy cooking meals in the real mini kitchen. You can sit at the café and ‘pretend’ to eat the delicious meals your kids churn up.
There’s also Nuts & Bolts, a hardware store where kids can explore construction with safe tools and gears, complete with construction hats and vests.
Another fun activity that will keep your kids engaged is AirMazing. It is a 15-foot floor-to-ceiling air maze. Kids get to direct the maze airflow as they watch yarn balls whiz around, in and out of the maze.
Good luck getting your kids to leave this fun interactive museum! Its the perfect way to fill half a day with your under 10 crowd.
Napa Valley Paddle
Do you have water lovers in your pack? If you plan to visit Napa Valley with older kids, you should plan to spend a day paddling along the beautiful Napa River.
This hidden gem is rarely crowded and features wide-open spaces you can explore. The weather is mostly great during the day, so you do not have to worry about cold and fog ruining your plans. The waters are always gentle and warm, perfect for beginners and families.
Be sure to enjoy the stunning scenery around the Napa River. The area around ranges from forests to tidal wetlands and mountains. You will also see several wildlife species, such as river otters, migratory birds, turtles, etc.
There are equipment rentals available at great prices, so there is no need to lug yours around. Learn more at napavalleypaddle.com
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Another fun stop with kids that can easily be combined with a trip to Napa Valley is a day spent at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The best theme park in California for adrenaline junkies, there are plenty of thrilling rides through to animal attractions, daily shows and little kiddy rides to enjoy.
Open weekends only in winter, during school breaks and summer they are open 6 days a week, make sure to check park opening hours before planning your trip to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
This is the perfect compromise day out for tweens and teens in Napa Valley!
Some Family Friendly Wineries in Napa Valley
Despite many wineries actively discouraging kids – and to be fair, you can see why if they are aimed at the upper end of the market – you can still find some real gems in the Napa Valley region. Why not get these into your Napa itinerary with kids:
Castella di Amorosa
Built to look like a Tuscan Castle, Castella di Amorosa is one of the top kid-friendly wineries in Napa. It is located in Calistoga and offers grape juice to kids while the adults enjoy top-quality wine at the wine-tasting tours.
The winery staff also gives kids coloring books to keep them occupied and happy during their stay. There is a $25 admission price that covers the grape juice for your kids – or add $7 for a chocolate course!
Be sure to make reservations before visiting, as they currently only offer wine tastings based on reservation alone due to the fire damage their Farmhouse building suffered.
Another top kid-friendly winery in Napa, Beringer is the oldest operating winery in the region. It is a 17-room mansion that is open to the public, and your kids will love exploring every inch of it.
Enjoy a picnic in the garden or play some bocce ball with your kids. There is a 30-minute Legacy Cave Tour that is open to both adults and kids. This tour takes guests through the historic tunnels dug by Chinese laborers.
Exploring Beringer Vineyards is an excellent opportunity to enjoy wine tasting while your kids learn history in a fun way with their Sip & Stroll tasting option.
Chateau Montelena Winery
Still on the list of kid-friendly wineries in Napa Valley, Chateau Montelena is a top pick. The estate features an immense stone castle built on the hillside where your kids can enjoy pretending to be princes and princesses while enjoying your wine tasting.
You can also check out the beautiful Chinese garden and lake at Jade Lake. There are rustic crooked bridges with swans and ducks swimming around. There’s also a pavilion where you can sit while the kids play around.
If you would like to have a family picnic here, be sure to make reservations ahead of time.
If sitting around wineries is really wearing thin for your little ones, a stop at V. Sattui Artisan Deli and Picnic Grounds can be the perfect place for all the family. No need to stress about reservations here, simply peruse the extensive gourmet food choices on offer and make your own meal to enjoy on their picnic tables and lawns.
There is still a seated wine tasting option, though slots are limited; you can simply buy by the glass or bottle and take it outdoors in the sunshine with the family without feeling you are disturbing other patrons with their tastings. And bonus, it’s pet friendly!
V. Sattui is in the St Helena region on the main road Napa Valley. They are open year-round making it a great choice any time you visit Napa (northern California weather dependent! – but there are covered options too for those rainy days). Weekends there’s also food trucks with some BBQ grill options too along with pizzas and parmesan truffle fries!
NB no outside food and wine permitted, but trust us, with over 200 cheese to choose from through to packet chips and crackers and sandwiches, paninis, salads, even our fussiest eater was satisfied!
We hope you’ve found some fun and exciting ideas here to plan a family-friendly trip to Napa Valley.
More Tips For Planning Your Road Trip in Northern California
- Many wineries in the Napa Valley region close for tastings mid-week, so it may be best to plan your family activities Monday through Wednesday.
- Remember wineries are working farms, don’t let you kids wonder off beyond the boundaries set
- Check whether venues allow your own picnic before bringing your own; we found most in Napa do NOT, unlike other wine regions in the US. This handy list points out those wineries that are picnic-friendly.
© Family Road Trip