Yosemite and Napa with kids

Feb 23rd, 2007, 05:11 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2004
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Yosemite and Napa with kids

Late May we will be driving from Southern California to Napa for my brother's wedding. It will be the four of us (2 adults, a 4 year old, a 1 year old), my sister and my dad. We are planning a four day stop in Yosemite, followed by four days in Napa.
The N.P. hotels were booked so we have a reservation at Tenaya Lodge (the reviews seemed mostly positive).
I am not sure how to plan the time in Yosemite. I imagine some easy nature trail type hikes. We have a backpack that converts to a stroller. I love local crafts (pottery, art, woodwork etc) but I am not sure where to find or what to buy. I also love photography, and I'd like to visit the Ansel Adams gallery. I would like to see the Ahwahnee and understand that I should try to reserve a meal? Any suggested activities for Yosemite (with small children)? Dining recommendations?
In Napa we are staying at the Harvest Inn. We will have two days mostly free. We've been to Napa many times but not with kids. Any wineries kids might enjoy? I think we are getting a car to drive us to wineries one day and the other day is free until rehearsal dinner. Any kid oriented activities? We'll probably get a babysitter one night to go out for an over the top wine country meal - my brother is trying to get a reservation at The French Laundry.
Thank you for your suggestions.
POlson is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 06:24 AM
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In my experience wine tasting with kids is mostly a disaster. You can maybe sneak in one winery a day but the kids will be restless and mostly kind of unwelcome. There is a really nice playground in Napa called Playground Fantastico, here is a link: http://www.playgroundfantastico.com/info.html
MonicaRichards is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 06:39 AM
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Thank you for the playground info - always a big hit.

I kinda figured wine tasting would not be the best activity for them but it is hard to be in Napa and not do some tasting. I planned to be pretty selective about the wineries we visit, and I thought I would trade off with my husband (and other family) - one of us can taste and the other can explore (the grounds, the gift shop, the picnic area - whatever is available). I think we are getting a car and driver for a few hours so that should make things a little easier on us all.

My husband may go golfing with my brother on our other free day - any non-wine tasting suggestions for the rest of us that day?
POlson is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 08:25 AM
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The Tenaya Lodge will be great for your family. They have an indoor pool and jacuzzi, also a nice outdoor pool that is gorgeous, two restaurants and a gorgeous lobby. Great choice, here. Yes, definitely try to get into the Ahwahnee for a meal, we were there on New Year's Day and enjoyed our time there very much.

We have also stayed at the Harvest Inn, it's very nice. There is also a great swimming pool there for the kids and the grounds are spacious with little bridges and koi ponds around the property here. It is in St. Helena. If you don't get into the French Laundry, you may want to consider Thomas Keller's new venue, Ad Hoc. We will be trying it soon, I'll let you know how we like it! ***kim***
kimamom is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 08:39 AM
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We've stayed at the Tenaya Lodge, and it is really good. The only draw back is that the drive into the valley takes about 45 minutes, but since lodging in the valley is booked up, it is a great choice. They have a couple restaurants there and a deli - good food, a little overpriced, but very convinient, so it evens out.

In Yosemite Valley, there is an open air tram tour that is good - it is ranger-led, so you get a lot of good information. And the kids would probably like it too. Another thing you can do is rent bikes - they have kid trailers you can rent too. The Valley is flat and has paved bike trails, so really easy riding.

If the weather is warm, walk up to Mirror Lake which has a nice sandy bottom and is good for swimming. The Merced River will be too cold that time of year for swimming, but there are some nice trails along for hiking.

For eats in Yosemite Valley, there is a cafeteria type place near the lodge - the food is pretty good and since it is cafeteria style you can get as little or as much as you want - great with kids. There is also a deli where you can get sandwiches and a small grocery if you want to get picnic stuff.
J_Correa is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 08:51 AM
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The kids might enjoy a ride on the tram at Sterling. It's been so long since I've been on it, though.... I can't remember, do you have to pay the tasting fee to ride it?
beachbum is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 04:46 PM
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A co-worker just reported that the fee to take the tram at Sterling was recently $20 per person!!
At ages 4 and 1, parks are your best bet. You could try out them all! The Bale Grist Mill is a pleasant park, the city parks are fun for kids - spend a little time at Lyman Park in St. Helena and then the city park in Calistoga. Playground Fantastico is unusual - and kids helped with the design. It is in the town of Napa on Old Sonoma Road.
You might enjoy strolling along the walking/biking pathway along the Napa River. Start at the river crossing on Trancas Ave. in Napa. You could rent bikes at St Helena Cyclery (or maybe Harvest Inn has some for you to use).

Kid food places that adults love, too: Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena (old drive-in restaurant, eat outdoors), Pizzeria Tra Vigna, Rutherford Grill...
elnap29 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 05:19 PM
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We took, our then 18month old, to Yosemite a couple years ago. The nice thing about Yosemite was there were a lot of paved trails up to the waterfalls etc. So we didn't need a stroller but could have had one. We did a hike up through Mariposa Red Woods and that was nice. The end of May is a good time to go because the snow should be melting and the watefalls gushing (although not sure how much snow they have recieved this year).

Overall is was a great trip and I'd like to do it again! Make sure to bring your camera!!
alliegator is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 05:46 PM
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Plan on walking with your kids and riding the tram just looking around. They will find small rocks on which to climb! Let them... for years the "slogan" at Yosemite was "Go climb a Rock!" And although the river will be too cold to swim in, you can float sticks in the river... or make boats from leaves and sticks... this will keep your 4 year old and the male adults happy for hours! Yosemite has something for everyone! Have fun watching the squirrels, birds and enjoy.
moneygirl is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 06:44 PM
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As has been said, Tenaya Lodge is a good alternative to staying on the floor of the valley. But keep trying on park reservations. There are constant cancellations and changes, don't give up. I called daily for about a month once, sometimes twice a day, and was rewarded.
Late May, early June is prime for the falls. They will be really roaring. The famous tunnel vista will be stunning for you. Be prepared to stop just after you exit the tunnel for photo op. Many of the famous pics of Yosemite are from there.
Be aware, there is so much water coming down the falls at this time, you will get wet walking up the paths to the falls. Bring rain gear. At Yosemite Falls on some days, the mist extends out 1/2 mile or more.
It is about 4 hours from LAX to Fresno, but could go to 6 hours depending on traffic on the 405/5 in LA. From Fresno, its about 1.5 hrs to Tenaya, and 2.5 hrs to the floor of the valley. Hiway 41 from Fresno is mostly 2 lane and winding.
I doubt that Tioga Pass road will be open that soon, but it is possible. That goes out the east side of the park to Lee Vining and Mono Lake.
Oakhurst is not far from Tenaya and has pretty good restaurants.
Definately plan a lunch or brunch in Ahwahnee. At least go there and stroll the grounds. Their buffet brunches are world famous. Lots of kids, very casual.
Have fun!
BillJ is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 09:25 PM
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Get over to Sonoma and take the kids to Train Town--they will LOVE it--then up the road to the plaza--great park. Have the kids collect corks or labels when you go to a winery (it keeps their hands busy).
TrvlMaven is offline  
Feb 24th, 2007, 06:12 AM
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Thank you for all your great suggestions. I agree parks may be the best bet for the kids. I think we are going to go to calistoga one of our free days (Old Faithful, Petrified Forest, playground, Sharpsteen Museum - has anyone done?) and maybe hit Silverado too. The bridal party (girls) are looking at maybe going to a spa that day in Calistoga - any recs?

Taylor's Refreshor sounds just right as we are staying in St. Helena and need a casual first night meal. I feel like I've been there before but don't specifically recall (maybe too much wine?) We are going to Cindy's Back Street Kitchen for the rehearsal dinner and hoping (fingers crossed) to have an adults only meal at French Laundry.

I love the idea of collecting corks and/or coasters. My daughter loves collections. Can you get wine labels at the winery?

Thank you also for the great Yosemite tips. I'm getting really excited (originally I was going to have us do the prewedding half in Tahoe but we have a timeshare there and have been many times before).

I will take lots of memory for my camera, I may even bring some black and white and use my sadly neglected film camera. I've ordered a book on photography in Yosemite.

Tioga Pass Road/Lee Vining/Mono Lake is a good suggestion but we'll probably skip on this trip. I remember stopping at Mono Lake on a 395 road trip when the water was very very low and you could see the tufa towers, I understand that it is now full again.

POlson is offline  

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