Only an hour and twenty from San Fran, Healdsburg, California is everything I dreamed it to be and the next stop on our Girl’s Spring Break trip.
Not only is Healdsburg a picture-perfect, livable walkable town, it’s a great base for visiting wine country. The town is rich with tall citrus trees and flowering foliage. Historic Victorians and charming Tudor-style homes line the streets. It is the only place I’ve visited in the states, other than St. Augustine, that I’d be happy to live. Maybe that is, if I had a few million to throw down on a cottage.
I rented an adorable tiny pink Victorian cottage right in the center of town for three nights.
A couple of mornings we started our day by walking to Costeaux’s French Bakery for fresh pastries and coffee. One morning, we opted for warm donuts at the Flaky Cream. The town has an abundance of great dining options, many with outdoor seating. Dinner at Brava’s Tapas in the back courtyard was a favorite. For dining in, Big John’s Market, a gourmet grocery, sells tons of take-away food and also offers Costeaux’s fantastic bakery desserts. One night we had sushi, burritos, and slices of moist chocolate and almond cakes on our back patio beneath the setting Cali sun.
Healdsburg hosts tons of cute boutique shops, art galleries, and wine tasting rooms. My favorite was family-run Stephen and Walker on Healdsburg Ave. For $20, you sample five of their best boutique wines while nibbling on some great cheeses. When Jordan grew bored of the wine talk, she left to stroll through the nearby shops.
In the evening, we forced ourselves to go to Healdsburg’s World Gym for a miserable, but much-needed workout. *Not advisable after wine tasting.
Surprisingly, finding activities to do with a teen in wine country was easy. We took a daytrip to the Golden Haven Spa in Napa’s nearby hot-springy town of Calistoga. The drive through the valleys was breathtaking. Nearly every property is a vineyard. Calistoga’s town center is small and cute with a Western-vibe. We had a great sushi lunch at Sushi Mambo before our spa appointments—Jordan’s first ever. Spas here are unique and more roadside motel than posh.
We started off swimming in the natural spring pool. Next we were led to a room with a giant L-shaped tub filled with peat, volcanic ash, and mud. We stripped down and burrowed in. Oddly enough, you don’t sink without a lot of squirming.
As the attendant was leaving the room she said, “Don’t touch the bottom or you’ll burn yourself.”
The idea of being naked, half-sunk in mud when she returned was slightly more mortifying than being burned by the hot water at the bottom, so we wiggled and dug ourselves in as fast as we could, laughing and moaning the whole time. All the while, little sulfur-filled air bubbles made their way up through the mud, giving a sensation a lot like crawling bugs. Once the bubbles surfaced, they ruptured leaving a slight rotten-egg smell.
After covering our essentials, the attendant came back to bury us a little more. She rubbed mud across our cheeks and forehead to complete our mud facial. Once we settled in and adjusted to laying in what looked like the bottom of a porta-potty, the bubbles stopped and the experience became relaxing. After ten minutes, the attendant returned and told us to shower and get into the private hot springs Jacuzzi. We drained the refreshing gallon of cold cucumber water left on the edge of the tub for us.
Once Jacuzzi time was up, we were led to a dimly-lit room scented with essential oils and told to lie on the beds and cover ourselves with the thin cooling blankets. With the spa music playing softly in the background and our bodies cooling, we fell asleep. Afterwards we were taken to another room for upper body massages. Jordan’s first words to me when the attendants finished where, “Why haven’t we done this before?”
She was hooked.
We showered, dressed, and played a few games of table tennis before heading back to Healdsburg. The entire spa package was well worth the $135 each (weekdays only).
A day of hiking in Armstrong Redwood Reserve was our next and last adventure in wine country. We were told by our host this is the place to hike amongst the redwoods to be alone with nature. It really is Muir Woods, without the crowds. Warning- if you take the journey from Healdsburg- Do NOT Trust your GPS. I should have been suspicious when my tiny little box of lies showed Armstrong was only nine miles away! Google Maps showed twenty-one. The nine miles took my white knuckles, child, and rental (thankfully and accidentally a 4×4) up, around and around, and down a one lane, rarely-traveled mountain road. The journey took the same time but seemed like an eternity. The park rangers laughed when I told them how we got there.
We hiked the East Ridge trail, which is rated as moderate. A few parts seemed more like strenuous to my flat-Floridian hiking self, but anyway… The trail was a bit more than two miles. Our journey began with layers, jackets, and hand-warmers. We ended back at base sweaty and happy stripped down to tank tops with pants rolled up to our knees. We had a picnic lunch from Big John’s of roasted almonds, hard cheeses and sourdough with ginger and chocolate crinkle cookies for dessert.
Our last evening was spent reading books in bed beneath piles of fuzzy blankets. The weather during our entire stay was perfection—chilly in the mornings and evenings, but sunny and warm during the day. Sadly, I did not tour any of Napa and Sonoma’s 600+ wineries, but I will definitely be back to this beautiful part of Cali’s wine country. And I’ll forever remember this precious time with my girl.
*Weekdays are best as weekends tend to be crowded.