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Hot air balloons operate year-round, creating a postcard image each morning shortly after sunrise, when as many as a dozen balloons are aloft.
Napa Valley
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MaryAnn Worobiec

Despite what outsiders might think, there are moments in Napa Valley during which people do things other than sip wine. There are plenty of other activities to feed the soul. Some are cultural, some adventurous, some informative, and many relaxing.

What makes Napa Valley a great destination is entwined with what makes it an ideal place to create great wine: good weather, beautiful scenery and a population of folks who know how to blend the rural, laid-back atmosphere of wine-country living with sophisticated tastes.

Luxury shopping experiences abound, and the Napa Valley Wine Train would be a hit with any railway aficionado. But we're more interested in directing you toward activities that allow you to mingle with locals and absorb their experience and knowledge firsthand. Once you get a glimpse of Napa Valley the way the Napans see it, you'll be hooked.

If you need to take a break from the swirling and sniffing, notice how the love of wine easily splashes over into art, as Clos Pegase, di Rosa and the Hess Collection demonstrate. The world-class art collections at each are nestled among grapevines that create a lovely backdrop for art viewing.

Napa Valley continues to attract people with an interest in the wine-country lifestyle, and if you need to brush up on how to incorporate that style into your own way of life, head to the Culinary Institute of America. You can improve your spatula skills or beef up your confidence in pairing food and wine. Plus, it is an excellent location for lunch.

If you crave some entertainment, the historic Napa Valley Opera House is one of the most exciting venues in downtown Napa. The reborn Uptown Theatre, an Art Deco feast for the eyes and ears, hosts major music acts year-round.

To soak up the scenery, consider checking out the views from the basket of a hot-air balloon at dawn. Wine-country weather makes Napa Valley one of the more reliable places to experience ballooning. If golf is your game, the area offers several options, whether you want to hit the driving range or play a full 18 holes. And of course, there are luxury spas for when you're looking to truly relax and surrender to the serenity of wine country living.

Please note that prices, hours of operation and other details can often change, and we recommend that you call ahead before you go.


Clos Pegase
1060 Dunaweal Lane
Calistoga, Calif., 94515
Telephone: (707) 942-4981
Website: www.clospegase.com
Open: Daily, 10:30-5; tours at 11:30 and 2
Cost: $20, including tasting of two wines

Clos Pegase is a joy to visit for the architecture alone. Architect and designer Michael Graves is responsible for the plan—his sole winery design—a simplified and elegant homage to classical architecture with repeating columns and clean lines. Founder Jan Shrem's passion for art really comes across in the sculpture garden and mini-gallery, which includes nearly 1,000 works by Jean Dubuffet, Richard Serra, Henry Moore, Robert Morris and Francis Bacon, among others. Many of the paintings and sculptures feature images of Pegasus or Bacchus, echoing the classical architecture, mythological namesake and love of wine.

Di Rosa
5200 Sonoma Highway 121
Napa, Calif., 94559
Telephone: (707) 226-5991
Website: www.dirosaart.org
Open: Wednesday - Friday, 9:30-3; Saturday by appointment only
Cost: Tours, $10 or $15; Gatehouse Gallery, free

Part nature preserve, part eclectic art collection, the di Rosa is jam-packed with contemporary art to make you smile. Boasting more than 2,000 pieces in various media, the collection is composed entirely of works by artists from the Bay Area. Besides paintings and photographs, there are hundreds of sculptures, their forms ranging from a car hanging in a tree to a 65-foot-high stack of file cabinets. Tour lengths vary throughout the year, with most lasting about two hours. This is an informal and anti-museum setting in which to view the art without nameplates. You're encouraged to wander the various buildings and sculpture gardens, among wild peacocks and grapevines.

The Hess Collection
4411 Redwood Road
Napa, Calif., 94558
Telephone: (707) 255-1144
Website: www.hesscollection.com
Open: Daily, 10-5:30
Cost: Free

The Hess Collection visitor's center, perched on Mount Veeder, is a beautiful and serene spot that includes a tasting room, gift shop and world-class art museum. The collection, acquired by winery owner Donald Hess since 1966, encompasses modern paintings, sculpture and multimedia works by Francis Bacon, Frank Stella, Georg Baselitz, Franz Gertsch and others. Hess seems drawn to highly textural pieces of sculpture, such as Surface Tension, from British artist Andy Goldsworthy, and Goldsworthy's Rock Pools, an assembly of stones melted in a kiln. Also on display is Magdalena Abakanowicz's Crowd, an army of life-size, headless figures in burlap and resin. Throughout the center are stunning views of the tank room, bottling room and vineyards, cleverly framed as art.


Calistoga Bikeshop
1318 Lincoln Ave.
Calistoga, Calif., 94515
Telephone: (866) 942-2453; (707) 942-9687
Website: www.calistogabikeshop.com
Open: Daily, 10-6
Cost: Rentals start at $10 an hour or $35 per day

St. Helena Cyclery
1156 Main St.
St Helena, Calif., 94574
Telephone: (707) 963-7736
Website: www.sthelenacyclery.com
Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 9:30-5

Not everyone drives a car, much less hires a limo, when touring Napa. Because of its beauty and varied terrain, the region is favored by cyclists both amateur and professional. "You can smell the smells and see the sites at a much slower pace," says Jake Scheideman, owner of St. Helena Cyclery. Scheideman's shop is located in the heart of the valley. Also consider Calistoga Bikeshop, which is located in north valley where the roads are less busy, and which offers a winery-focused package that includes a wine-tasting primer, waived tasting fees at Calistoga wineries, and a pickup service for wines purchased along the way.

Cooking Classes

Culinary Institute of America
2555 Main St.
St. Helena, Calif., 94574
Telephone: (707) 967-2320 for classes; (707) 967-1010 for restaurant reservations
Website: www.ciachef.edu/california
Open: Daily, please call for specific hours
Cost: Demonstrations, $20; Flavor Bar tastings, $10 - $15; classes start at $95 for a 2 1/2 hour class

If you always wanted to go to culinary school, you'll probably be drawn to the castle-like Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Here, you can mingle with students in chef's whites as they complete their associate degrees at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant, so named because the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation has donated more than $1 million to the school (although Wine Spectator is not involved in its operation). It's a great stop for lunch, as you can watch the students cooking from the open kitchen. CIA offers a variety of non-professional cooking and wine classes and demonstrations, with classroom time ranging from two hours to a week. You'll receive a copy of the recipe or, for some classes, your own copy of The Culinary Institute of America Cookbook and, most important, sample the food and wine as you learn. The CIA also has a gift shop filled with all things culinary, from bakeware to books, and a Flavor Bar for guided sensory evaluation experiences, which include chocolate and olive oil tastings.

Camp Napa Culinary
3960 Hagen Road
Napa, Calif., 94558
Telephone: (707) 252-9773; (888) 999-4844
Website: www.hughcarpenter.com
Open: Camps run 1 week per month; call or check website for specifics
Cost: $2,490

Hugh Carpenter runs a weeklong wine-and-food camp for adults that includes hands-on cooking classes led by Carpenter and various guest chefs from the area, dinners, winery tours and tastings, visits to private Napa estates and even the occasional crocquet tournament. Class size is limited to 16 attendees, and Carpenter, a Napa-based author and chef who offers several sessions a year, keeps things fun and lively.


Eagle Vines Vineyards & Golf Club
580 South Kelly Road
American Canyon, Calif., 94503
Telephone: (707) 257-4470
Website: www.eaglevinesgolfclub.com
Open: Sunrise to sunset
Cost: Adults, $36 to $88

Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park
2295 Streblow Drive
Napa, Calif., 94558
Telephone: (707) 255-4333
Website: www.playnapa.com
Open: Sunrise to sunset
Cost: Adults, $18 to $45

Vintner's Golf Club
7901 Solano Ave.
Yountville, Calif., 94599
Telephone: (707) 944-1992
Website: www.vintnersgolfclub.com
Open: Sunrise to sunset
Cost: Adults, $15 to $40

In addition to the private golf courses in Napa—including Meadowood and Silverado Country Club (which are open to guests of the resorts) and Napa Valley Country Club—there are several public courses to choose from. Located south of Napa city is Eagle Vines, a challenging public course set amid vineyards, with an island green at the 6th hole. Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park is the municipal course and offers 18 holes, with water coming into play on 16 of them. Finally, the covered driving range and nine-hole course at Vintner’s are among the best in the valley.

Hot-Air Balloons

Balloons Above the Valley
603 California Blvd.
Napa, Calif., 94559
Telephone: (707) 253-2222; (800) 464-6824
Website: www.balloonrides.com
Open: Daily, 8-5
Cost: Adults, $230

Bonaventura Balloon Company
P.O. Box 150
Oakville, Calif., 94562
Telephone: (707) 944-2822; (800) FLY-NAPA
Website: www.bonaventuraballoons.com
Open: Daily, 9-6
Cost: Adults, $225 to $249

Napa Valley Aloft
6525 Washington St.
Yountville, Calif., 94599
Telephone: (707) 944-4400; (800) 627-2759
Website: www.napavalleyaloft.com
Open: Daily, 8:30-5:30
Cost: Adults, $225 to $295

Napa Valley Balloon Inc.
6795 Washington St.
Yountville, Calif., 94599
Telephone: (707) 944-0288; (800) 253-2224
Website: www.napavalleyballoons.com
Open: Daily, 9-4
Cost: Adults, $240

Nothing compares with the views of Napa from a hot-air balloon floating above the valley. Rides are amazingly gentle—a peaceful sensation of standing still even though you're constantly moving with the air currents. Weather permitting, the balloons operate year-round, creating a postcard image each morning shortly after sunrise, when as many as a dozen balloons are aloft. Most rides start at about $225 per person; the price often includes a continental breakfast before taking off and a sparkling-wine brunch upon landing, although packages vary. It's standard to get started before sunrise, and the whole excursion lasts between three and five hours, including about an hour of flying time. Balloons vary in size; capacities range from a handful to nearly 20 people. Bring a camera.


Calistoga Spa Hot Springs
1006 Washington St.
Calistoga, Calif., 94515
Telephone: (866) 822-577; (707) 942-6269
Website: www.calistogaspa.com
Open: Tuesday-Thursday 8:30-4:30; Friday–Monday 8:30-9
Cost: Spa treatments start at $45

A pampered body is a happy body, and Napa is the place to indulge. The natural mineral springs in Calistoga have made it a popular destination since the 1860s. Calistoga Spa Hot Springs has four naturally heated mineral pools for swimming, wading and soaking, and yoga, Pilates and other fitness classes are offered several times per week. The spa has 57 on-site guest rooms for those who wish to make the spa their home base in Napa. Treatments include a one-hour massage with volcanic ash mud bath for $149.

Indian Springs Spa and Resort
1712 Lincoln Ave.
Calistoga, Calif., 94515
Telephone: (707) 942-4913
Website: www.indianspringscalistoga.com
Open: Daily, 9-9
Cost: Spa treatments start at $70

Indian Springs has been operating continuously since 1861, when early California entrepreneur Sam Brannan built a spa, pool, mudbaths and racetrack on the site. Today Indian Springs offers 41 guest rooms, an Olympic-size mineral pool, a "Buddha Pond" for quiet meditation and a covered fireplace lounge for chilly days. Among the many spa treatment options, guests can choose a three-hour treatment that includes a facial, a body scrub or polish and a massage for $380.


Napa Valley Opera House
1030 Main St.
Napa, Calif., 94559
Telephone: (707) 226-7372
Website: www.napavalleyoperahouse.org
Open: Performances average three per week
Cost: Varies per performance but generally $12 to $60

When the Napa Valley Opera House was built in 1879, it was named to distinguish it as a more respectable institution than some of the burlesque stages in the area. Today, opera is just one of the performance genres here, which also include dance, theater, music and comedy. After narrowly avoiding the wrecking ball in the early 1970s, the opera house was renovated and restored before reopening in 2002 after nearly 90 years of darkness. The second-story, 450-seat main hall attracts both local and international acts.

Uptown Theatre
1350 Third St.
Napa, Calif., 94559
Telephone: (707) 259-0123
Website: www.uptowntheatrenapa.com
Open: Performances average two per week
Cost: Varies per performance but generally $37 to $115

Located in the newly thriving historic downtown Napa, the reborn Uptown Theatre is a feast for the eyes and ears. Originally a film venue, the 73-year-old theater now draws major music acts. The opulent Art Deco interior and exterior are now true to the original style and architecture after undergoing a decade-long restoration. The elaborate ceiling is visually stunning, due to meticulous repainting of the intact original murals, which were discovered under layers of paint. With a state-of-the-art sound system, the acoustics are excellent. Also for the music lover's enjoyment are two lobby bars, serving wines from local producers such as Silver Oak, Mumm, Clos du Val and Artesa.

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