|Clayton and Bella at Castello di Amorosa.|
The Napa Valley in California isn’t the first place you would think of when considering places to vacation with your toddler. After all, the area is better known for it’s wine, hot springs and spas -- none of which screams good times with your kid. But with a little research and planning, a trip to Napa Valley can be enjoyable for the whole family. Here are some tips to consider when traveling to wine country with your toddler:
1. Do you plan on visiting a winery with your kids? Call ahead and ask if the winery allows children. And if the answer is yes, ask if the winery provides grape juice, crayons and/or a place to sit for your kids while you sample wines.
2. Visit wineries that offer a fun, unique experience that your toddler could enjoy like wandering around a castle at Castello di Amorosa or taking a gondola ride at Sterling Vineyards. (And don’t forget to ask whether the winery offers a military discount! Sterling Vineyards, for example, offered a 10% discount on our admission tickets when we were there.)
3. Consider visiting wineries that let you explore at your own pace. There’s nothing more stressful than trying to coax your toddler into following a tour filled with constant stops and starts.
4. Bring backup. The opportunity to color at wineries only kept my toddler occupied for a few minutes. Thankfully, I had visited a party-supply store before heading to the Napa Valley and put together little activity bags full of stickers, bubbles, necklaces, etc., that my daughter Bella could dive into when she got bored. I packed three bags -- one for each winery we visited. Also, bring extra snacks and drinks for the kids.
5. There are more activities your family can enjoy in the Napa Valley than just wineries. You can have a picnic while watching steaming-hot water shoot into the air. Go for a walk and check out petrified trees. Or gawk at giraffes and cheetahs while on safari. You can even visit museums such as the Napa Firefighters Museum or Calistoga’s Sharpsteen Museum.
6. Regardless of what activities your family chooses in the Napa Valley, make sure you respect the sanctity of your kids’s nap time -- if they still take them. My husband Clayton and I learned this the hard way. There we were in the middle of the Sharpsteen Museum, surrounded by things my daughter would normally enjoy like a full-sized carriage, a gorgeous dollhouse and a diorama filled with miniature horses. But instead of oohing and awing, she flung herself to the floor with tears streaming down her face. We went back to the car puzzled and defeated. And when my husband turned on the car and the clock flashed the time, I realized we had taken Bella to the museum during nap time. Silly parents. Lesson learned.
Hope this helps!