Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd go to Napa without wine tasting as the goal of my trip. But times have changed and kid-centered activities are now my life. The girls and I packed up the car a few weeks ago and headed up to visit my cousin, who just happens to live in one of the most beautiful parts of California, Napa.
With a three and five year old, wine tasting is off the menu (until my next adult-only Napa trip). It's forced me, and my cousin, to think of all the other things that her fair city has to offer other than wine, and there's a lot!
Our first inspiration for kid-friendly things to do came from the book Maggie and Maddy: Adventures in Napa Valley, by Kyle and Amy Goleno. I found it at the Oxbow Market a few years ago, while on a girls' trip. It's the cutest story about two little sisters who explore the Napa Valley. The sisters go through Downtown Napa, snack on pink donuts at the Buttercream Bakery, and more. Pink donuts from Buttercream have now become a tradition in our family, whenever we see my cousin we have to indulge in them!
This trip, we made it a point to not only get pink donuts, but to actually eat breakfast at the Buttercream Bakery, too. Delicious! It has your typical diner food, but the pastries and donuts are off the hook! It's no surprise I put healthy eating on hold for a few days.
Strolling around Downtown Napa is such a treat. There are fun art installations that the kids can interact with, watch the kayaks on the river, marvel at the Wine Train slowly driving by, and running around the Veterans Memorial Park, to start. During the summer, the city sponsors a concert series in the park, which we've gone to and love! Put out a blanket, bring a picnic, sip wine by the river and watch the kids dance to the music. Fabulous memories!
Since we've done the Oxbow Public Market almost every time we've been to Napa, we decided to change it up and check out the Culinary Institute of America at Copia, just next door. It's only been open a few months, and the great thing is, they have cooking classes for kids on Sundays! The age minimum is 4, so we had to skip it this time (M is only 3), but as soon as January rolls around, we're coming back!
They have an on-site restaurant, too, The Restaurant at CIA Copia. We weren't able to eat there (make a reservation ahead of time!), but the atmosphere is great and the staff was super friendly. The girls decided to blow out all the candles in the bar area and no one asked us to leave, they even laughed - amazing! Definitely on my short-list of restaurants to try in the future.
There's a grassy amphitheater behind the building, which the girls loved running around. The views of the Napa River through the olive trees were beyond relaxing. Miss G even got some good tree climbing in.
I had grand plans to visit at least one restaurant in Yountville (I always love to stop at the Bouchon Bakery, line out the door and all), but after setting up a picnic in the Yountville Park, the girls decided they couldn't leave and had to play for over 2 hours. The sacrifices I make as a mom ;-) The play structures are on the newer side and there are separate structures for the tiny kids and bigger kids. A lot more than I was expecting from a wine-town. And apparently they even have evening movies in the park! We are so hitting that up on our next visit this summer.
I did have to drag the girls to one of the most quaint, and fancy, chocolate shoppes ever! Woodhouse Chocolate, in St. Helena, is a sight to be seen. The window display was phenomenal - the giant chocolate Easter eggs, bunnies, ducks... It was a struggle to keep the girls from touching it all. I picked up some chocolate bunnies for the girls and salted chocolate caramels for my husband. All I can say is that they were worth every penny - delicious!
We even stopped by the Napa Welcome Center. The volunteers are so friendly and really know of what they speak - they've actually been to the wineries and give excellent recommendations. And you may even run into my cousin, she volunteers there! Make sure to say hi for me when you stop by.
Have I convinced you that Napa isn't only for adults? Taking the kids will open up a whole world of things that you most likely would have missed had you stuck to the Silverado Trail.
Enjoy your next weekend away in Napa!
Even more fun things to do with kids:
- Sonoma Train Town Railroad
- Old Faithful Geyser of California
- Kennedy Park of Napa
- Good site for even more (I haven't tried all of them, though!)
***I wasn't compensated by any of the promoted places in this post, they didn't even know I'd be writing about them!