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Four Reasons to Head to Calistoga in November

The Napa Valley Film Festival, refreshed spas and restaurants, and hot-air balloon rides await.


The beauty of the Napa Valley Film Festival is that is has everything you could want out of a film festival—previews of Oscar hopefuls, indie films, documentaries, celebrity tributes—right in the middle of wine country. The festival takes place from November 11 to 15, with screenings in four different towns: Yountville, Napa, Calistoga, and St. Helena. Each has its charms, but Calistoga has caught our eye lately for its natural geysers, newly renovated resorts, and recently opened and award-winning restaurants. 

The Festival 

This year’s festival features 125 films, a gala, wine tastings, culinary demonstrations, and tributes to actors like John Travolta, Bruce Dern, and Keegan-Michael Key. Check out the festival’s big-name movies, like Spotlight, which chronicles the Boston Globe’s investigation into the child molestation scandal in the Catholic Church, and Cate Blanchett’s Carol, which follows a May–December lesbian romance in 1950s New York. Calistoga’s screenings take place at the Gliderport at Indian Springs, a converted former hangar for light aircraft. 

Stay (and Eat!) 

Two of Calistoga’s resorts have renovated their facilities and opened—or reopened—their restaurants within the last year. 

Solage Calistoga has poured $2.3 million into its luxurious facility, renovating both its spa and its Michelin-starred restaurant, Solbar. The 22-acre resort’s hotel rooms come equipped with ultra-hip features, like iPads to help you order room service, a pair of Electra bikes parked outside, and even luxury cars that guests are allowed to borrow. If you’re the spa treatment kind, try out their mud slide service. Instead of plopping into a tub of mud, you slide this white clay mud on yourself, then soak in a tub of warm water and relax for 20 minutes while you listen to music in a reclining sound chair. 

In 2014 the Indian Springs Resort added 75 extra rooms and new paths and gardens to its historic grounds, which have existed in one form or another since 1860. The mission-style resort’s mineral pool and steam rooms are fed by the four thermal geysers on the property, and its mud baths are made from the resort’s deposit of pure organic ash. Luxuriate in the spa, or take a walk over to the resort’s restaurant, Sam’s Social Club, which opened in January. Hang out by the fire pit and order dishes like a heritage pork porterhouse with mushroom faro or fusilli with spicy oxtail Bolognese. 

If you you’re in the market for a quick pre-screening lunch, skip the resorts and head to the Palisades Deli Café on Calistoga’s main drag. Pick up one of the deli’s creative sandwiches, from the Pacific torta with carnitas and refried beans to the tri-tip melt with mushrooms and pepper jack. 

Get Outside 

If spending a few days on your posterior watching movies has you itching to get out into the elements, try hiking or biking the historic Oat Hill Mine Trail. The full trail runs 8.3 miles of steady incline, and if you make it to the upper section, you can still see the ruts from old wagon wheels. Enjoy views of the Napa Valley along the lower section, and check out the volcanic formations as you head toward the top. 

Feeling even more adventuresome? With its Old Faithful Geyser, views of Mt. Saint Helena, and acres and acres of vineyards, Calistoga is a beautiful place to go hot-air ballooning. Drop $239 and you can float 2,000 feet above the ground with Calistoga Balloons. Or, if you’re feeling particularly fancy, you can also snag a ride and wine tasting combo from Bennett Lane, the only winery in the valley with its own balloon. Either way, be prepared to get up early: In Napa Valley, conditions are best just after sunrise. 


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