Known for its bohemian spirit and artistic personality, Calistoga keeps the theme going with public art and murals throughout downtown, wineries renowned for their architecture and art collections, and festivals throughout the year that celebrate film, music, theater and the visual arts; Calistoga is a haven for both artists and art lovers.
With an eye on art, here’s a snapshot of a few days in Calistoga to connect with your inner artist:
Check in at one of the artist cottages of the Mount View Hotel equipped with an easel, paint, and brushes at your disposal. Before you check out, be sure to create your own keepsake painting of a special stop in Calistoga, if not a rendition of a loved one.
Stroll the downtown and familiarize yourself with the Calistoga art gallery scene. Sofie Contemporary Arts features exhibits of contemporary artworks by California artists, providing commentary on current events, art history and more. Down the street a stretch is Lee Youngman Galleries filled with the work of landscape and portrait artists. At Yӓger Galerie, you can view the work of renowned Bay Area Figuration painter, Ira Yeager, as well as antiques and furniture from the artist’s personal collection.
As you wander through town, you’ll find a number of murals created by world-renowned artist, Carlo Marchiori. These murals showcase imagined life in Calistoga near the time of the town’s founding in the 1860s, as well as Marchiori’s more traditional, Italian style. Marchiori’s downtown gallery, Ca’Toga Galleria d’Arte, is where you can view and purchase paintings, ceramics, sculptures and more.
Turn the afternoon into a scavenger hunt of Marchiori murals, with a rest stop to enjoy a wine tasting at Romeo Vineyards & Cellars or Vermeil Wines. Make a stop at Enoteca Wine Shop to purchase a bottle of Old World or New World wine to enjoy with dinner. All of these downtown locations are host to murals.
Enjoy dinner at Bosko’s Trattoria where the art of Italian dining is brought to life!
Savor breakfast at Solbar and surround yourself in a landscape filled with contemporary sculptures. On your way out, stop by the nearby Calistoga Beverage Company water plant to snap a selfie and include the fun and whimsical sculpture of the old water truck – driver and dog included.
If your visit falls on a Saturday in May through October, sign up for a tour of Villa Ca’Toga, Carlo Marchiori’s fanciful replica of a Palladian-style home found in Veneto, Italy. Inside and out is a showcase of architectural elements and sculptures crafted from ordinary and recycled building materials. Marchiori created a captivating, fantastical fusion of Italian Renaissance art, mythological personalities, and contemplative gardens.
After an exhilarating tour of Villa Ca’Toga, head up Highway 128 just north of Calistoga for a casual stop to meet artist, Paul Block, at Wine Barrel Furniture. You’ll be amazed by Paul’s creations made from wine barrels, reclaimed grape vines and more. A few doors down, stop in and taste delicious wines at Bennett Lane Winery where you can take in both the spectacular scenery and art collection.
Make your way downtown to meander through a few more local art galleries. Stix & Stones Gallery is filled with an assortment of goods, from glass and ceramics to jewelry and furniture handcrafted by American artisans.
You’re so close to happy hour by now, so why not grab a drink inside the bar at Sam’s Social Club and check out the contemporary mural meant to capture the spirit and history of Calistoga. Stay for dinner inside or by the outdoor firepit.
Get your zen on and walk the river rock labyrinth near Indian Springs Resort & Spa as the sun rises. Go with the flow and allow this meditative and reflective mood to linger with you into the rest of your day.
Pick up a cup of local-roasted coffee and pastry for breakfast at Yo El Rey Roasting. As you sip your favorite brew, browse the current art exhibit at this hip coffeehouse.
Check out the Sharpsteen Museum to learn about the history of Calistoga and about the founder of the museum, Ben Sharpsteen. Admire the sprawling diorama of 1800s Calistoga, as well as one of the Oscars Sharpsteen was awarded for his work as a Disney animator and producer.
Sign up in advance for a workshop with the local Calistoga Art Center and let your creative juices flow. Choose between plein-air or studio painting, ceramics, drawing and more, with professional teachers in place. If you visit on a weekend when one of the local resorts or wineries is hosting a Paint ‘n’ Sip Party, you can even learn to paint with a glass of wine in hand!
Enjoy a casual lunch at Café Sarafornia, a local staple decorated with fun paintings and facts about the history of the restaurant and Calistoga, (which received its portmanteau-style name when the town founder, Sam Brannan, drunkenly proclaimed he planned to make the area the “Calistoga of Sarafornia” instead of the “Saratoga of California”.)
Post lunch, finish your trip with one final wine tasting at Tank Garage Winery. This quirky winery is located in a 1930s-designed gas station and focuses on unusual, limited edition red blended wines, each with its own, custom-designed label.
Just across the street from the tasting room, be sure to peek in Calistoga Pottery, a 30-year landmark of the Calistoga art scene. Watch husband and wife team, Jeff and Sally Manfredi, practice their craft. You’ll no doubt be tempted to take home a handmade bowl, dish or pitcher as a souvenir of your visit to Calistoga.
Noteworthy Arts Events:
SARAFORNIA is held the first full weekend in April. A four-day grassroots celebration of Calistoga’s bohemian spirit, featuring visual arts exhibits, musical performances, spoken word performances and more.
Calistoga Concerts in the Park runs every Thursday in the summer for 10 weeks. Experience live music, wine by-the-glass and an authentic, community vibe.
Napa Valley Film Festival takes place the second weekend in November and features theater venues throughout the Napa Valley, including Calistoga. Its focus is to showcase independent filmmakers.
UpStage Napa Valley is the Calistoga- and St. Helena-based theater company that produces periodic performances at local venues.