"Calistoga of Sarafornia" Top 5 Page for this destination Calistoga by karenincalifornia

Calistoga Travel Guide: 62 reviews and 184 photos

Muddy the waters

Calistoga is located at the northern end of Napa Valley. It's my favorite part of the valley. It sits right on top of thermal hot springs, so it has become famous for its mud and mineral baths. Its nearest neighbors are some of the finest wineries in California, yet it also has the largest collection of seedy spas and mudbaths in California.

Four reasons why I'm a big fan of Calistoga:

1. Less likely to get fog if the rest of the Bay Area is fogged in (I am really, really sick of the fog this summer!)
2. Fewer wineries that charge for tasting
3. Not as crowded as the town of Napa (to the south)
4. Countryside is prettier, hillier and more forested than the rest of Napa

The thermal hot springs have attracted dozens of spas. This was all started by Sam Brannan, an entrepreneur who grabbed up all the geyser lands in the area to build a resort-spa in the 1860's. Dozens of other spa-developers quickly followed suit. I've never "taken the waters" here or jumped into a mud bath so I can't give you any recommendations on that front. Notwithstanding my lack or recommendations, if mud or mineral baths are your thing, this is the place to come.

Brannan opened Hot Springs Hotel in 1860, promoting it as the "Saratoga of California." Legend has it that one evening after having a few too many, he declared instead, "I will make this place the Calistoga of Sarafornia." The name stuck and Calistoga became the name of the town.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful, quaint, home of top wineries, great weather, cute town
  • Cons:Many spas are dated and rundown - do your research!
  • In a nutshell:A popular town desperately hanging onto its 19th century demeanor
  • Last visit to Calistoga: Sep 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (7)

Comments (4)

  • riorich55's Profile Photo
    Dec 6, 2010 at 8:11 AM

    Just started writing my California tips and was working a little bit on Calistoga and wanted to see what others had said. Didn't know about the origin of the name. Funny!!

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo
    Jul 29, 2009 at 4:26 AM

    I have a bottle of that "Nestle" water in front of me right now as I tap. Just think of all of that plastic ....

  • atufft's Profile Photo
    Feb 18, 2007 at 11:52 PM

    Nice work on Calistoga Karen. Your page needs to be in the top 5 here too.

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Sep 8, 2005 at 8:07 AM

    Great story of how Calistoga got its name! You say you had "only a few road rage psychopaths" on your bicycle trip -- I guess there are always a few of those, wherever cyclists have to share a road with motorists.


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