An unusual city with an unusual name, Calistoga, California lies at the crown of the beautiful Napa Valley.
Northern California’s venerable Wine Country is known throughout the world, especially in other wine-producing regions in countries like France, Italy, Georgia, and Spain. However, Calistoga, California? Not so much.
Fortunately, not only is it easy to find but once you do, you’ll be pleasantly rewarded with all that Calistoga has to offer.
The good news is that finding Calistoga is far easier than finding Waldo!
Situated northeast of Santa Rosa and northwest of Napa, most tourists and Napa Valley visitors come to our region by way of the San Francisco Bay Area. Getting from San Francisco to Calistoga, for example, is as simple as driving an hour or so north to the Napa Valley.
The best route to take to Napa Valley from San Francisco depends on traffic, of course, but it is typically best to take I-80 East to CA-20 North. This is the most straightforward and usually fastest drive up to the Wine Country of Napa Valley.
Once on CA-20 North/State Route 128, simply drive 74 miles and then turn left at the third cross street onto Washington Street. This will put you in the heart of Calistoga.
And keep in mind that there are going to be tolls leaving the Bay Area no matter which route you choose.
A Wine Country Vintage: A Taste of the History of Calistoga
Calistoga’s initial claim to fame derived from the multitude of geothermal hot springs that are near and in (actually under) the city.
Calistoga was once home to a significant population of indigenous people, called the Wappo during the Spanish colonial era of the late 1700’s. The Wappo were part of the now extinct Yukian language group.
According to the website VisitCalistoga.com,
“The first American settlers began arriving in the 1840’s, with several taking up lands in the Calistoga area. Samuel Brannan was the leader of a settlement expedition on the ship Brooklyn landing in Yerba Buena (what would become San Francisco) in 1846.
Sam Brannan purchased 2000 acres in 1885 to develop a spa reminiscent of Saratoga, New York. His resort (originally located where Indian Springs Resort is today) opened to California’s rich and famous in 1862. With the completion of the railroad in 1868, Calistoga became not only a destination but the transportation hub for the upper Napa Valley.”
It was 1859 when Brannan first visited the upper Napa Valley in 1859, drawn by tales of hot springs with “healing powers”. It was after he visited the region that he decided to build a hot springs resort to rival that of Saratoga Springs.
The town’s name came from Brannan’s attempt to toast the destination as “the Saratoga of California” after a few too many drinks. Legend has it that he ended up saying it would be “the Calistoga of Sarafornia” instead of the Saratoga of California.
And the name stuck.
Another claim to fame, described on the official city website, relates that,
“In 1920 Giuseppe Musante, a soda fountain and candy store owner, was drilling for a cold-water well at the Railway Exchange in Calistoga when he struck a hot springs geyser. In 1924 Musante set up a bottling line and began selling Calistoga Sparkling Mineral Water. In the 1970’s, Elwood Springer bought the small bottling plant and Calistoga Mineral Water became a popular national brand. Today, the Calistoga Beverage Company bottles its famous Calistoga® Brand Mineral Water from the same natural source.”
Hot Springs, Tasting Rooms, and More – Things to Do in Calistoga
Possibly the two top reasons most visitors come to Calistoga, California is to enjoy the hot springs spas and the wine. And, for many people, those are more than sufficient reasons for visiting.
For others, however, there are several things to do in and around Calistoga that do not necessarily include hot springs or wine, although many things go great with Napa Valley wines!
We looked at 10 top things to do in Calistoga in another post here, but for a brief overview, let’s consider the following:
- Several state and regional parks to enjoy such as the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
- Hiking and sight-seeing trails including the Oat Hill Mine Trail
- Old Faithful Geyser and the Petrified Forest
- The Sharpsteen Museum and galleries like the Indian Springs Art Gallery
- Fine dining and craft beer breweries and brewpubs
- Okay – and plenty of wine tasting to please any palate. (It is the wine country after all…)
For some, simply walking around the city center and visiting the myriad of shops, cafes, stores, and restaurants is an interesting and memorable way to spend the day in Calistoga.
For others, renting bikes and taking a self-guided tour outside of town in the midst of quaint pastures, vineyards, and fields that are towered over by the majestic ridges of Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.
Once You Find Calistoga, California Make a Stop at Cal Mart
Cal Mart has been a “go-to” destination in Calistoga for over half a century.
During those five decades, Cal Mart has been a family-owned and independent grocery store, and we’ve provided a unique and enjoyable shopping experience for all our customers we’ve had the privilege to serve.
We’re popularly known as “Napa Valley’s Finest Grocery” and it’s our love for what we do and our commitment to service that helps make Cal Mart a great shopping experience. Cal Mart is in the center of downtown Calistoga, California, and is a favorite stop for both locals and wine country travelers.
Ready to explore Calistoga, CA, and the surrounding Napa Valley? Then make it a point to visit us first and stock up for your outing. Cal Mart is proud to offer a great delicatessen, a gourmet cheese department, a tantalizing selection of specialty foods items that are unique and hard to find, a wide variety of craft beers, and quality wines.
Looking for that special something to give to a friend or loved one? We offer beautiful gift baskets, and we have a vibrant collection of flowers and plants for any occasion. And much, much more! We invite you to make it a point to stop by and take time to explore all that we have to offer.
And while you’re here, please feel free to talk with our knowledgeable staff and then treat yourself to a visit to our Coffee Bar and one of our refreshing smoothies made with organic ingredients.
So be sure to stop in at Cal Mart in beautiful downtown Calistoga, California where you can always find something that is unexpected, unusual, and uncommon!