Calistoga Resorts: Modern Chic with Nostalgic Charm

By Emma Krasov. Photography by Yuri Krasov

The city of Calistoga, California, is located in the northern part of Napa Valley, between the Mayacamas Mountains to the west, and Vaca Mountains to the east. The geologically young, sill active volcanic zone is rich with soils, highly beneficial for wine production, as well as mineral geothermal springs, and healing volcanic ash and mud. 

Californians always knew that they would find a welcome respite from the hardships of motor travel here, in Calistoga, and in the mid-20th century the city experienced a boom of wellness resorts based on hot springs, attracting weary travelers from near and far with warm pools and mud baths.  

Two unique resorts recently opened up again after extensive restauration, renovations and improvements, offering a chic contemporary design with nostalgic references to the 1950s, comfortable accommodations, exquisite dining, and an array of spa services, still based on those timeless mineral springs.

Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa
If you’re doing your wine tasting in numerous wineries along Silverado Trail, the main drag of the Valley, eventually you’ll reach this quiet corner in the Mayacamas foothills. The sprawling hotel campus includes various types of lodging, from one-story cottages to second-floor main building rooms with a view of blue mountain ranges and lush green vineyards.

Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa has a full service MoonAcre Spa with a wisteria-covered outdoor rest area, and three warm mineral pools, ranging from 82 to 104 F; one of them shallow, for wading and soaking (or just day-dreaming). The pools are open until very late, so you can venture for a sunset swim, and continue crawling under the stars. A fire pit is lit in the dark, attracting guests with kids who love to enjoy their marshmallow sandwiches—all the necessary accoutrements are sold at the hotel lobby. There you can also buy some useful miscellanea and various necessities, from gourmet snacks to swimsuits.

You’ll find your room clean and cozy, with a comfy bed, good shower, and a freshly ground coffee from a popular local Calistoga Coffee Company. Brew it with a help of a fancy gooseneck coffee pot and a ceramic filter, poured over in an enamel cup for an added rustic (camping) appeal. 
Everything in this resort is directed toward creating maximally healthy conditions for the guests’ physical and moral wellbeing. You can book a pet-friendly room and bring in your four-legged companion, and to take a break from driving, you can get a free of charge two-hour bicycle rental.

Fleetwood Restaurant with an entrance at the hotel lobby is a quintessential California eatery, serving Italian-inspired cuisine with the use of fresh seasonal ingredients from local farmers and purveyors.

There’s a spacious dining hall with an exhibition kitchen and a wood-fired pizza oven, plus an outdoor seating area with multiple tables under old olive trees. Chef Drew Glassell’s menu includes quite a few masterpieces, like Burrata with grilled peaches, Wood Oven Roasted Meatballs, Piadini Pizza with garlic cream, mozzarella, grilled chicken, onion, and arugula, and Sirloin Steak with gnocchi, roasted garlic, king trumpet mushrooms, baby peppers, and truffle balsamico.

Restaurant Manager Neil Robinson compiles an enticing beverage list of original cocktails, like Areo di Carta, Liviero, and Tuscarita, to name a few, and a new bottle program with a rotating collection of high quality affordable wines from local winemakers.

Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa is located at 1880 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga. (707) 942-0991,

Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs

This uniquely warm, pastel-colored, and absolutely charming resort some fans compare to a good wine, which only improves with age. The original wellness hotel in Calistoga, focused on strengthening the guests’ health through geothermal waters and volcanic mud, Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs was founded in 1952 by John Wilkinson, who offered and actively promoted water and mud treatments in time when no one have yet heard of alternative medicine. 

A blue-tiled hot hydrotherapy pool at the hotel spa has an oval shape, and is much larger and slightly deeper than your usual round hot tubs. You can actually make a few swim moves in it—as soon as you accustom yourself to a penetrating healing warmth of the charming water. It is located under a roof, and opens into a serene garden with flower beds and outdoor furniture under garden umbrellas, and a few curtained massage tents.

Right outside the spa there are two large swimming pools, one hotter, another cooler, surrounded by lounge chairs and little side tables under striped umbrellas. There are festive swim-themed murals under tall palm trees, and a painted blue stream leads to an open shower with a giant rain showerhead.   

You can easily spend a day here, alternating between warm and cool pools, lounging in the shade, and enjoying drinks or lunch from the hotel’s new healthy food restaurant, House of Better

Chef Trevor Logan reins here, offering an intriguing menu of health-conscious Southwestern and Mexican dishes, most of them prepared with delicious green chilis, including an amazing housemade apple pie.

A skilled pizzaiola from the Chef’s able kitchen team operates an outdoor pizza oven producing a few kinds of flatbread.  

Staying at one of the hotel’s well-appointed guest rooms or cottages, besides cleanliness, coziness, utmost comfort, and an occasional full size four-pawed bathtub, you’ll enjoy a mid-century modern details of the interior design, like a turquoise mini-fridge, oatmeal-colored teapot, and powder-pink water bottles to fill out at any of the mineral source faucets, found throughout the property.

Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs is located at 1507 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga. (707) 942-4102,