There’s a particular emotion sure to embrace your senses as you pull into the Calistoga hillside driveway of Aurora Park Cottages, and that feeling is one of peace. Beginning with the narrow, tree-lined drive, it’s clear this place is an escape from everyday life. As the drive leads to a cozy collection of six pastel yellow-painted bungalows, you begin to notice the details: spacious verandas, private lawns and gardens, and thoughtful touches like chaise lounges with shade umbrellas.
Inside the cottages, the theme of relaxation continues. Rooms are designed with soothing earth tones brightened with splashes of red, plush feather beds, overstuffed armchairs and Egyptian cotton towels. One of the cottages is actually a house, spanning two bedrooms with a full kitchen, dining nook, and large living room with gas fireplace.
“I like my guests to feel like they’re home, even when they’re traveling,” says innkeeper Kate Hegre. “Our guests come from all over the world, and I want them to have every comfort.”
In fact, this high level of pampering can be surprising to some guests, she says. The price to stay in some of the cottages begins at just $159 a night, depending on the season. Yet, the amenities are upscale, offering complimentary bottled water, free WiFi, high-definition TV with HBO, fluffy robes, and Essential Oils Bath & Body Works products. The unparalleled views from the room are also a nice amenity — the Palisades Mountains and oak hillsides do not disappoint.
Guests receive complimentary breakfast with reservations booked directly through Aurora Park, and the service is over and above: Hegre hand delivers morning baskets to each cottage. A peek inside the basket might reveal croissants, muffins, bear claws and/or cinnamon rolls with fresh fruit, juice and Calistoga Roastery coffee.
It helps that Hegre previously worked for the luxury Joie de Vivre hotel brand, she explains. “So I’m concierge driven.”
Personal experience begins before guests arrive. Hegre likes to chat with her visitors while they’re making reservations and to learn about their plans. Perhaps they’re eager to try Calistoga’s famous charbono wine – she can recommend wineries. If they’re avid bicyclists, she can offer them maps and loan them bikes. She clues folks in on the easily walkable shortcut to downtown Calistoga for its shops, restaurants and art galleries.
With her invested years in the industry, Hegre has become an expert on often overlooked things, as well. A guest may want picnic supplies, including a cooler and ice packs. If they have special diets, she stocks bites like gluten-free granola and almond milk. She prepares packets designed for their interests, including information on Calistoga history, details on local wineries and restaurants, and even a guide to tasting room etiquette.
Ultimately, Hegre wants her guests to have a magical, memorable experience, much like the aurora borealis, those mystical northern lights and namesake of the cottages. Hegre hopes that through their stays, her guests are able to disconnect with the busy world outside and discover some magic of their own.
“I always remind guests that they’re here to enjoy, and do whatever they want,” she says. “So have that coffee or wine on the deck – you don’t even have to get dressed. Just relax in your bathrobe.”