Everyone complains there’s nothing to do in Napa for kids, or everything is too expensive. Claudette Shatto found some fun things to do with her kiddos that won’t break the bank.
1. Pack a picnic lunch and head over to Oxbow Commons. Bring your bikes, scooters, and helmets. Take a walk/ride along the path and skip rocks along the river.
2. A hidden gem along the Napa River is the Oxbow Preserve. It is located on McKenzie Dr. off Silverado Trail near the First St. Bridge. Unpaved trails through trees lead to the Napa River. The park is also a popular fishing spot.*
3. Another favorite fishing spot is at the Napa Yacht Club dock located at 100 Riverside Dr.
Tip: Go at dusk and watch the sunset over the Napa River! The Napa Valley Yacht Club is home to the Napa Valley Lighted Boat parade which is also a family favorite!
4. The Napa Valley Marina is a fun outing for all ages! It is located at 1200 Milton Rd. off Cutting Wharf. Follow the signs from Hwy 121 West (near Carneros Inn.) The Marina has great river views, but more impressive is the dry storage boat yard featuring old ships and seaplanes!
5. The Napa River Bay Trail is located on Wetlands Edge Road and Eucalyptus Drive in American Canyon. Kids & adults will enjoy abundant wildlife and bird viewing along the trail. It’s an easy hike for children that is also suitable for biking and horseback riding. The park boasts a “glass beach” although the last time we were there we saw very few glass remnants.
6. The Napa Valley Vine Trail is a great family adventure. You can also enjoy Napa’s art movement Rail Arts District Napa (RAD Napa) which begins near the Oxbow and continues northward for 2 miles along the bike trail.
7. Hike up West Wood Hills Park located near Browns Valley. The view of the valley floor is spectacular, but the incline can be difficult for younger children. The Napa Park & Recreation hosts “Read with a Ranger” the first Saturday of the month. Park Rangers read a nature story and then go for a short-guided hike. In inclement weather children can participate in ranger lead arts & crafts.
8. While there, be sure to visit Carolyn Parr Nature Museum. The museum features plants and animals found in Napa County. Also, on display are various rocks and minerals on loan from the Napa Valley Rock and Gem Society.
9. Many dog-lovers are familiar with Alston Park. The popular park is home to off-leash hiking trails alongside rolling hills and amazing views of vineyards. However, many locals are unfamiliar with the SECOND entrance to Alston Park off Dry Creek Rd. The entrance is about 1 mile north of the main entrance. Dogs must be on a leash, so it’s not as crowded. It’s a perfect hike for kids. Be sure to pack water and snacks. Quench your thirst and relax while taking in the views from several park benches. Kids love to get their feet wet in the small creek that runs alongside the mountain.
Easy Day Trips
11. Many locals don’t know you can visit the outside of Castello di Amorosa for FREE. It’s worth the 35-minute drive north up Hwy 29. The kids can wander outside the castle grounds, feed chickens, take scenic pictures near the draw bridge and mote all while pretending they are a king or queen! If you choose to tour the inside, there is a fee. However, kids are welcome. They have a family room where kids can color while parents wine taste. Kids are also offered grape juice.
12. Speaking of castles… build a sand castle at Ninth St. Park in Benicia. Another secret gem! Pack a lunch and your beach gear. The park is located along the Benicia Bay. Kids can build sandcastles, splash in the gentle waves, watch cargo ships pass by, speeding trains in the distance and on sunny days watch windsurfers. The park also has a play structure and BBQ pits. Why drive to the coast when we have a beach a half-hour away!
Just for fun
13. Head over to the Napa Airport on busy weekends such as BottleRock, Auction Napa Valley, Nascar Race weekend, the Safeway Open or the Napa Valley Film Festival. The airport gets busy with private planes coming in & out. Kids enjoy watching planes land & take off from the small indoor viewing area.
14. “Take a book, return a book” at one of Napa’s many free libraries. Keep a supply of books your children no longer read in your trunk. As you pass a free library, pull over and let your kids exchange books!
15. Visit the Grape Crusher statue at dusk. The kids love rolling down the grassy hillside, while parents can take a mindful moment watching the sunset over the Napa Valley.
* Any person who is 16 years of age or older must possess a valid sport fishing license when taking any fish, shellfish, reptile, or amphibian in California (Fish and Game Code Section 7145).