October and November are prime times to visit the Napa Valley, both for wine tasting, and for the spectacular fall color. At this time of year, the poplars shine with bright yellows, the oaks are a dusky gold, and the grape leaves are every shade from orange to scarlet to a red so deep it seems almost black.
However, as popular as the Napa Valley is, few tourists go as far up the valley as the gem of the region, the charming resort town of Calistoga. As does nearby St. Helena, Calistoga sports a compact downtown, with a variety of enchanting shops, bakeries, and restaurants. But, unknown to many, Calistoga also is a hot springs resort, with around half a dozen spas offering a variety of services from simple hot pools to full spa treatments with mud baths and herbal rubs. Some of the facilities are day only, while others have full motel services, with the soaking and swimming pools as part of the package. As the nights (and soon, the days) become cooler, breaking up a day of auto touring and winery visiting with a soak in rejuvenating hot mineral water becomes an ever more attractive idea. (Even in winter, with the leaves long gone, sitting in hot water while looking at the nearby snowcapped hills has a charm all its own.)
Calistoga is pretty hard to reach on public transportation, but it is an easy ride by car from San Francisco. Many students at EC San Francisco visit the Napa Valley, either by rental car or tour, but if you choose to go, don’t forget Calistoga. You won’t be sorry.