Friday, July 30, 2010

Traveling with kids: Wine Country

I've been putting off my report on our trip to Napa because I could not find my camera. Lo and behold it has finally resurfaced!

Husband and I took our three little girls to Napa earlier this month. We needed a change of scenery, a break from the day-to-day. Whenever I told people we were going to Napa, they would say, "what are you going to do with the kids"? It seems that Wine Country has gotten a reputation for being an "adult only" destination. But Husband and I aren't wine drinkers, so we were looking for alternative forms of entertainment anyway.

After lots of research, I made a list of potential spots we could visit and then we just played it by ear each day. So where did we end up?

We crossed over into the Valley of the Moon and visited Sonoma Train Town, which was just perfect for our little crew. They have a scaled-down train that travels a delightful little track through tunnels (S loved that part), over bridges, and past waterfalls.
Your train ride stops part way at a little town where they have a petting zoo set up and a town that's built at half-scale.

After the train ride, we bought tickets for some of the rides (5 tickets for $10, or $2.50 each). Each ride is one ticket. I rode the ferris wheel with the twins. Let's just say that once I got to the top I realized why I wasn't so keen on riding with two wiggly two year olds! But S had been dying to ride the ferris wheel since she saw one on the Fox and the Hound 2 and when she couldn't ride the ferris wheel at the Alameda County Fair because she was too little, she was devastated.

The girls then rode a Dumbo-like airplane ride. There was also a carousel and a little roller coaster. Thomas the Train Engine fans will love the little depot where all the trains are housed.
Summary: Good for little kids (under 5 is best, but kids up to 10 would probably like it). Not too expensive at $4.50 each to ride the train (babes under 1 year are free). You can see everything in about an hour or two.

We left the Train Town and picked up some Slurpees at a 7-11, then headed towards Sonoma's town square. There's a playground and a little duck pond. The town square is my favorite thing about Sonoma. It is so cute with fun shops and restaurants, although I wouldn't take my little kids into any of them!

Another day we headed up to the tiny town of Glen Ellen to swim in Morton's Warm Springs. It is a bit of a drive, but the layout of the "resort" is nice. There are three pools: one about 6 inches deep for babes. It is big enough for lots of little ones. The second pool has a shallow end about 2 1/2 feet deep and the deep end is about 3 1/2 or 4 feet deep. One of my twins went in there with Husband and loved that she could stand up in the water. The third pool is big and deep enough for the big kids.
They have a little snack shack with your regular "shack" fare of hot dogs, pizza, and ice cream. I forgot to pack swim diapers and they had them for sale there.

Summary: It is a little bit expensive ($8 for adults, $7 for children over 1 year), but if you were going to spend the day there, it would be worth it. It is a lot less than the other natural springs pools (Calistoga is $25 per person over $1). This would be super fun for a big group with the picnic area and different pools: something for everyone at Morton's.
Other places on my list that we didn't get to this time...
  1. Napa Firefighters Museum in downtown Napa. I actually walked past this when it was closed and it looked pretty cool, though not for my under 3 crowd. I think I would wait until the kids are 5 to take them here, unless they listen when you say "don't touch". It is a very small museum, so it would be fun to stop in if you are exploring downtown with your little ones.
  2. John F. Kennedy Memorial Park. I didn't get to see this, but it sounded cool. The park supposedly has lots of picnic tables and playground equipment with a trail that winds along the Napa River.


  1. Old Faithful Geyser. We didn't hit this one for two reasons: (1) it would have been $8 per adult and (2) we were worried about keeping our little ones far enough away from the spewing hot water. Maybe in a few years.
  2. Sharpsteen Museum. A cool museum for little ones about the history of the Napa Valley with exhibits that change often. Admission is free.
  3. Pioneer Park is across the street from the museum and has a gazebo, picnic tables, and climbing structures. There is also a stream to play in. It just sounded so quaint to me.

Santa Rosa:

A bit of a drive, but still considered part of wine country, we wanted to visit Santa Rosa as Husband had briefly considered a job opportunity there. We didn't get to make it this time, but I really want to check out Howarth Memorial Park. Apparently they have a playground, pony rides, petting zoo, merry go round, and miniature train. They also have a splash pad and ice cream shop, which sounds perfect for the summer time! What sounded really fun were the teepee huts and an "extensive kid-sized Old West town". We're definitely going to try to work that one in next time!

Have any of you found a great place to take kids in the Wine Country?

Tune in next week for more on where we stayed and what we ate in Wine Country!

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