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While we're not lushes, my husband and I are big wine enthusiasts. What's not to love? Every glass is crafted into complex flavors using a combination of science and art.
We love visiting California Wine Country, not just because of the wine, but also because of the beauty, history, and culture of the region. Napa and Sonoma are, in my opinion, two underappreciated treasures of the U.S., with their unique terrain and Mediterranean climate, charming wineries, and family farms.
Though we wanted to continue to visit even after we had kids, enjoying all wine country has to offer with small children in tow seemed like an impossibility. I couldn't imagine that we could have fun and find fun things to do with our kids in California Wine Country. But what I neglected to understand, until I started really digging into it, is that the wine-making culture of Napa and Sonoma are steeped in family history and tradition. They're a celebration of methods and processes that have been passed down from generation to generation. As such, many vineyards go out of their way to make your wine tasting experience also a family affair. They offer many amusements to distract kids while you enjoy their varietals. These are our family favorite wineries and the fun things they have to do for kids in both Napa and Sonoma counties.
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Frog's Leap Winery
Located just north of the actual town of Napa, in between the idyllic hamlet of Yountville and the bustling town of St. Helena is Rutherford, CA, home to Frog's Leap Winery. Known for their cabernet sauvignons and merlots, Frog's Leap is more than just a vineyard - it's actually a working farm, complete with orchards, vegetable gardens, and animals. It's both kid-friendly and dog-friendly, with tons of room to play and explore. After sampling some of their wines in their tasting room, you can enjoy a stroll around the grounds and visit the chickens and sheep.
Tastings and tours are by appointment only, and some do require participants to be 21 or older.
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V. Sattui Winery
Just up the road in St. Helena is V. Sattui Winery, founded in the late 1800s by two Italian brothers. The winery focuses on small-batch, small-lot wines that are both organic and sustainably made. With their Artisan Deli and Marketplace, BBQ food truck on the weekends, and plenty of lush grounds perfect for a picnic, this winery is ideal for families who want to get out and enjoy the good food and picturesque setting of Napa. They also offer self-guided tours of their estate gardens, underground wine cellars, and museum caves, an ideal option for families with small children who might not make it through an entire guided tour.
Long Meadow Ranch
Also located in St. Helena is Long Meadow Ranch, a sprawling winery with a restaurant and general market outpost called Farmstead, in the heart of downtown St. Helena. Farmstead is the perfect place to go, kick back, and enjoy fantastic food as a family. With plenty of outdoor seating, areas for lawn games, and fire pits for those cool valley nights, it's truly a great spot. We also loved walking through the on-site gardens, pointing out the different vegetables and herbs that we eat everyday, but don't really think about where they come from. It's a fantastic learning experience for kids.
Long Meadow Ranch also has a winery located on the "winery strip" just outside of downtown St. Helena on Highway 29. Between the winery and Farmstead, they host several family-friendly events throughout the year, including Easter egg hunts, pumpkin carving, and cookie decorating.
If you're not able to make it to the winery, at least swing by Farmstead, play some cornhole (or bags as some know it), and pick up some Long Meadow Ranch olives, honey, or wine from their general store.
Honig Vineyard & Winery
Honig Vineyard & Winery is family-owned and operated, certified organic and sustainable, and powered by solar energy. As if that isn't enough, they're one of the more family-friendly establishments on our list. It's not worth it to go to a winery if you can't have a little quiet time to enjoy the fruits of its labor, am I right? At Honig, they not only welcome kids, but they work hard to keep them entertained with puzzles and coloring books while you enjoy a glass or two of their cabernet sauvignon or sauvignon blanc. Kids also get their own tasting menu of Goldfish crackers and juice boxes.
PRO TIP: For a fun and educational experience, make sure to call ahead and see if you can reserve one of their eco-tours, which takes you on a tour of their vineyard and introduces you to the sustainable growing practices they implemented in their farms, including a visit to the Honig bee hives!
Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa is definitely one of the more interesting winery destinations on our list, one that is sure to enchant both parents and kids alike. Though the winery itself has a history dating back to over a century in the Napa Valley region, it was relocated in the late 2000s to a newly built but totally authentic replica of a 13th century Tuscan castle in Calistoga. Complete with turrets, a moat, stone courtyard, ornate dining room, and suits of armor, your family will have a blast exploring all this winery has to offer. There are even goats and peacocks that roam the winery grounds.
Kids over five are welcome on the guided tours and even receive their own glass of grape juice to swirl and sip. If you're in the mood for more of a leisurely tasting, there are also spaces for the kids to hang out and color or enjoy a show on their tablet while you relax.
Alpha Omega is a beautiful winery located on Highway 29 in St. Helena, and it's both kid and dog friendly. For kids of the human variety, they provide crayons and "Exploring the Napa Valley with Traveler Teddy" coloring book and a kid-friendly guide to Napa. For your fur kids, they offer dog biscuits and fresh bowls of water. And with a wide selection of acclaimed Malbecs, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Chardonnays for those of drinking age, it's a winery sure to please the whole family.
If you're looking for a down-to-earth, personable winery experience, look no further than ACORN Winery in Healdsburg, CA. Famous for their Zinfandels, Syrahs, and Cab Francs, ACORN is owned and operated by Betsy and Bill Nachbaur. All of their tastings and tours are by appointment only and are done by Betsy and Bill themselves, so you're guaranteed to have a private and very personal experience. Kids are welcome to join on vineyard tours and even have the opportunity to taste grapes during harvest. During tastings, there are LEGO bricks, crayons, and cornhole to keep kids entertained so Mom and Dad can enjoy some quiet time.
The winery also has expansive grounds perfect for picnicking. Reservations are required for all tastings and tours.
While we're not lushes, my husband & I are big wine enthusiasts. After kids, we had to find wineries in Sonoma & Napa with things to do for our kids while we enjoyed our experience. Here are the best ones.
Belden Barns Farmstead & Winery
Belden Barns Farmstead & Winery has consistently been ranked as one of the top family-friendly wineries for several years, and there's good reason for it. Not only does it offer a basketball hoop, corn hole, and fun family events like their Fall Grape Stomp and Spring Cork Hunt, but they also welcome kids and present them with a Belden Barns backpack to use for the day. Inside the backpacks, kids can find field guides to local wildlife, magnifying glasses, binoculars, crayons, and scavenger hunts. It's a fun (and educational!) way to keep kids entertained while you're having a glass of vino. And the best part is the backpacks are totally free!
PRO TIP: They're available to borrow on a first come, first served basis, so make sure to call ahead to reserve one!
If you're thinking of planning a trip to California Wine Country, but are wondering what to do with your kids, hopefully, this list will help you realize you can have your cab and drink it too. Happy tasting!
When You Go
Sonoma to Napa is located between Northern and Central California. From Southern California, you can drive up the I-5N to Napa County. It's 413 miles from downtown Los Angeles or 455 miles to Sonoma county. You can also fly into Oakland International Airport which is 50 miles from Napa. There is also a small airport in Napa.
We use CheapOAir to find the least expensive flights. The interactive bar below will help you compare the most affordable options of getting to California Wine Country.
If you'd like to make a weekend trip to California Wine Country or stay close to any of these wineries, you can use the interactive map below to find either an AirBnB or hotel close to the area in which you want to stay. We also use TripAdvisor to compare reviews of local hotels and find more prices to suit our budget.
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