Calistoga’s charm comes in many forms. The quiet streets, friendly people, quaint boutiques, spa treatments, excellent weather, and fabulous wine and cuisine are a few reasons it holds a special spot in so many hearts.
For a girlfriend getaway, the logistics are always perfect as everything from spas, boutiquing, and fine wine and dining is all within an easy three block stroll of downtown. It’s hard not to overindulge in Calistoga’s offerings when you are finally cut loose without the kids, but if you do, a walk back to the room or spa is easy.
For busy moms and anyone who comes to Calistoga for a respite, Mud Baths at Doc Wilkinson’s are a cornerstone of what makes Calistoga what it is today.
To not partake in one of California’s best traditions where Mark Wilkinson and his family have been providing rest, rejuvenation, and tranquility for generations, should simply be illegal. Mark’s dad was a famous Chiropractor who began offering the slice of heaven to visitors many decades ago at Doc Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort. A mud bath and massage, fondly called “The Works,” is an experience that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Soaking in hydrotherapy pools, being wrapped in warm, aromatic linens, soaking in mineral hot springs/mud/and peat moss, and finishing off with an incomparable massage are some of what brings locals, visitors, and stressed and fatigued moms like us back year after year.
Whenever we visit, my girlfriends and I join other relaxing moms after a luxurious day of “spa-ing” at Doc’s. Sitting outside in the courtyard sipping local wines and tasting local cheeses offers a perfect chance to plan an evening stroll and dine in downtown. It’s always enjoyable to chat and share girl talk at Doc’s.
Once our relaxing mood of perfect bliss has been achieved at Doc Wilkinson’s it’s time to experience the best wine and dining in Calistoga. We always stop in Barolo for some wine and appetizers. This sassy, retro wine bar and restaurant is an object of textures and sensory experiences—from the walls to the food. Barolo boasts an excellent full dinner menu that will surprise. But save room for Brannan’s, the dining treasure of Calistoga since 1998 is a block away.
Spectacular, elegant and ranchy atmosphere and stellar service never change but the offerings do from time to time, as if there weren’t enough reasons already to return again and again. We enjoy sitting at the original 19th century Branswick & Co bar to sip a cocktail or try some local artisan cheeses while soaking in the stunning craftsman interior and frequent live music by accomplished musicians known the world over.
It’s always fun to see what’s new on the menu. This visit, some new favorites on the menu included a bucket of steamers prepared with Manila clams, garlic, white wine, parsley and drawn butter.
Recently added entrees include Herb Roasted Chicken with Fingerling Potatoes, Braised Kale, and pan jus, Grilled Pork Chop, brined for 3 days and served with winter squash, pancetta, and apple hash, and finally Salmon filet with a Citrus-Kumquat farro and Swiss Chard.
Brannan’s Chef Joey Lentz pulls out the stops with his creative, elegant, American comfort food, and he is a graduate of the South Central Culinary School in Minnesota and has worked with Meritage Resort in Napa.
Brannan’s is the largest restaurant in Calistoga and is perfect for accommodating large groups or intimate gatherings of girlfriends or multi-generational family travelers.
Excellent food, an award-winning wine list, decadent home-made desserts, outstanding wait service, impeccable management, and live music all add to the greatness. The owners, in addition to being locally and globally active humanitarians, also own an award-winning local winery, so visitors must take time to sample something from their winery as well.
Calistoga is a very dog-friendly town with most establishments offering water and treats for well behaved doggies.
Whether you and your pals are needing a weekend getaway or a quickie shopping and wine-tasting fix, Calistoga has something ever traveling mom can savor and appreciate without the overt commercialism of other parts of Napa Valley.