Napa and Sonoma with Kids
The Wine Country isn't a particularly child-oriented destination. Don't expect to find tons of activities organized with kids in mind. That said, you'll find plenty of playgrounds (there's one in Sonoma Plaza, for instance), as well as the occasional family-friendly attraction.
Choosing a Place to Stay
If you're traveling with kids, always mention it when making your reservations. Most of the smaller, more romantic inns and bed-and-breakfasts discourage or prohibit children, and those places that do allow them may prefer to put such families in a particular cottage or room so that any noise is less disruptive to other guests. Larger hotels are a mixed bag. Some actively discourage children, whereas others are more welcoming. Of the large, luxurious hotels, Meadowood tends to be the most child-friendly.
Unless your kid is a budding Thomas Keller, it's best to call ahead to see if a restaurant can accommodate those under 12 with a special menu. You will find inexpensive cafés in almost every town, and places like Gott's Roadside, a retro burger stand in St. Helena, are big hits with kids.
One especially family-friendly attraction is the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. Its intelligent exhibits generally appeal to adults; younger kids may or may not enjoy the level of detail. The sure bets for kids are the play area outside and the education room, where they can color, draw, and create their own cartoons. Another place for a family outing, also in Santa Rosa, is Safari West, an African wildlife preserve on 400 acres. The highlight is the two-hour tour of the property in open-air vehicles that sometimes come within a few feet of giraffes, zebras, and other animals. You can spend the night in tent-cabins here. At Sonoma Canopy Tours, north of Occidental, families zip-line through the redwoods together. A mile south of Sonoma Plaza, Sonoma TrainTown Railroad dazzles the under-10 set with a 4-mile ride on a quarter-scale train, a petting zoo, and amusement rides.
At the Wineries
Children have become a common sight at many wineries, and well-behaved children will generally be greeted with a smile. Some wineries offer a small treat—grape juice or another beverage, or sometimes coloring books or a similar distraction.
When booking a tour, ask if kids are allowed (for insurance and other reasons, wineries sometimes prohibit children under a certain age), how long it lasts, and whether there's another tour option that would be more suitable. Robert Mondavi Winery welcomes children to its 30-minute Discovery Tour—it's a good length for little ones.
A few particularly kid-friendly wineries include Calistoga's Castello di Amorosa (what's not to like about a 107-room medieval castle, complete with a dungeon?) and Sterling Vineyards, where a short aerial tram ride whisks visitors from the parking lot to the tasting room. In Sonoma County, Benziger conducts vineyard tours in a tractor-pulled tram, and its picnic grounds are kid-friendly.
You'll find plenty of kids poolside at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, and Honig Vineyard & Winery in Rutherford prides itself on making sure kids enjoy a visit as much as their parents do.
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