• An "Innsider's" View of Napa Valley

Kid Friendly Wine Country: Oxymoron or Fantastic Vacation?

Just because you planned a vacation to wine country doesn’t mean you have to leave the kids at home! I know it’s shocking, but there really is more than grapes in the valley (just don’t tell the winemakers). Sit down. Relax. I’ve got you covered.


Carolyn Parr’s Nature Center. Take a trip to the nature center where children can learn about local plants and animals via dioramas and a hands-on learning corner. Play a board game or discover something new at the insect display. Tours are also available to help guests learn about human impact on the environment.

The Clayhouse. Kids will love being able to choose their own piece of raw, unfinished pottery to paint, glaze, and finish all by themselves. After the decorating is complete, each piece of pottery is fired in the kiln in order to harden. More than 50 color glazes are available, and prices start as low as $3.00. Call seven days a week to make your appointment.

Playground Fantastico. The project was created by a gathering of community children and adults who met with playground architectural firm Leathers and Associates. Local artists and companies were used to put the idea into action. The park was constructed by thousands of people over a six-day period in a true ”barn-raising” style. The park has a castle theme and a concrete river alongside a large sandbox.

The Little Gourmet. Playing all day can make even a grown child hungry! Walking along Main Street, Napa a few months ago I came across The Little Gourmet- “a kid’s restaurant that’s grown-up friendly.” Even the pickiest of kids will love what the menu has to offer. “Six Friends on a Sleepover” and “Snakes and Worms” will help answer what are you getting in no time! The restaurant also offers cooking classes on Monday nights, and special holiday decorating parties. Parent participation is welcome, but definitely not required. Lunch and dinner are served Tuesday through Saturday.

Scientopia Discovery Center. Squeeze in a little education to any kind of family vacation. The kids will enjoy playing with the Magnet Table and Gravity Wall, all while discovering important scientific principles. They will also learn about x-rays and mathematics, solar power, their senses, and a whole lot more! Take a walk in the Children’s Garden, learn about art and recycling, or how to shop for healthy foods. So, if you want to jump into the recycled tire material with your kids, go for it! If not, there is a small adult relaxation area with vending machines and tables/chairs. The center is open from 10:00-5:30 pm Monday through Friday. Special summer camps and classes are also available.


Old Faithful Geyser. Take a short trip to see one of only three regularly erupting geysers in the world. Watch as heated water shoots up into the air nearly 60 feet every fifteen minutes. It’s believed that the geyser has been running for over a thousand years. Prices are $8.00 for adults and $3.00 for children.


Train Town. The park showcases a one-and-one-quarter-mile scale railroad track, carousel, giant swing, Ferris wheel, and roller coaster. The train has been called “the most well-developed scale railroad in the Americas.” All aboard for a scenic tour along waterfalls and bridges, while en route to the one-half scale town of Lakeville. Open weekends September through May starting at 10:00 a.m. and daily starting in June.


Jelly Belly Factory. The perfect place to satisfy that tooth! Learn how this colorful candy is made by taking a factory tour. You’ll also discover why it takes over a week to create each bean. Try a new flavor of a jelly bean, or purchase a bag of flops that contain several different mixes and sizes of the bean. Tours are complimentary and run daily, excluding holidays, starting at 9:00 a.m.


Six Flags Marine World. Take a tour through a water-enclosed shark tunnel. Then, head over to the dolphin show to see some incredible acrobatics. You may be lucky enough to become part of the show when two audience members are chosen to perform tricks alongside the dolphins. Let playtime begin at the Looney Tunes Seaport, Thomas Town, or Tava’s Jungleland- all kid-friendly areas sure to strike up a smile. Cartoon friends can be found all over the park for a hug or picture. Be sure to purchase your tickets online for special discounts.

Santa Rosa

Safari West. Kids are sure to enjoy this once in a lifetime wildlife experience. The park calls itself “the spirit of Africa in the heart of wine country.” Take an authentic safari tour while surrounded by giraffe, kangaroo, antelope, gazelle, zebras, and cheetahs! Animals roam freely and interact with guests at this incredible African savannah. If the arid climate tires you out, spend the night in a safari tent or cottage where the natural soundtrack is sure to thrill. Don’t forget to taste what the park has to offer in the Savannah Cafe, open for lunch and dinner. Check the website for specials and hours.

Charles M. Schultz Museum and Snoopy’s Home Ice. Learn about the artist’s incredible attention to detail and view Peanuts comic strips dated from 1950 all the way through 2000. The museum holds nearly 6,000 sketches, including hundreds of preliminary drawings for Peanuts. Kids will enjoy taking a walk through the outdoor Snoopy labyrinth. Don’t miss the incredible tile mural made up of 3,588 tiny Peanuts images. The museum is open Wednesday through Monday from 11:00-5:00 p.m. After a museum tour, stop by Snoopy’s ice rink for all-ages fun. Call for public skate hours and prices.

Winery Tours

No one and I really means no one, wants to listen to your screaming, crying kids while trying to enjoy a nice glass of wine. Strollers are not wine-cave friendly, nor are they vineyard friendly. Best advice- leave both your young kids and mal-equipped, Econo-size stroller at home (or at least with a sitter). Now, if you’ve got kids that are a bit older but not of drinking age, and you are confident they can hold their own while at an adult venue, please see below:

Beringer Wine Estates. You and your children can take an underground cave tour showcasing the winery tunnels dug deep inside the hillside by Chinese laborers. Located in the town of St. Helena, the winery was built around 1879 and has been in use ever since.

Sterling Vineyards. Also inhabiting St. Helena, this winery is definitely worth the tram price for the view alone. Families can walk around the beautiful outdoor grounds or browse through the art gallery. Guests are also able to take their own self-guided tour.

St. Supery Winery. Some call St. Supery ”a kid-friendly winery.” A little oxy-moronic by drinking-age standards, but I’m over it and need to move on. Kids can take a walk in the vineyard, play with a topographical map, or even use “smell-o-vision” to learn something new about grapes. Wine tasting for the adults and a discovery center for the kids. What more could you ask for? St. Supery is located in the town of Rutherford.

These are just a few; for a full list of ‘family-friendly’ wineries visit the Napa Vintners list.

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