great American road trips | chapter 1

road in Napa (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

It seems like the entire world is on lockdown. Italy has closed for business. Cruise lines have cancelled entire cruises. Hotels are relaxing cancel policies. And while aircraft flying with low load factors may be a boon to passenger comfort, airlines are grounding planes and cutting flights.

What to do? Travel local. In that vein, I'm starting a series of occasional articles I'm calling Great American Road Trips. I'll be exploring boutique resorts in bucolic destinations within easy driving distance of the cities where most of us live. There won't be a single big hotel on my list, and nothing located within a city or town with streets and sidewalks. The whole idea is to explore wide open spaces. In the words of the classic folk song of the American West
Home, home on the range,
where the deer and the antelope play,
where seldom is heard a discouraging word
and the skies are not cloudy all day.
By the way, I invite my hotel partners in secluded, rural settings to pitch me their best offers. If you can include a promotion exclusive to readers of Travel Horizons — and to my followers on Facebook — I'll feature it on this blog!

Four great ideas for the Napa Valley... I've stayed at — and loved — each of these. You can drive from San Francisco to any of these resorts in about 2 hours (depending on traffic, of course). Whether you love tasting great wine, enjoying Michelin-star cuisine, hiking on beautiful trails, or luxuriating in decadent spas, Napa is an ideal destination. If you travel mid-week, you'll benefit from lower prices.

Meadowood Napa Valley

St. Helena is a small town, population about 4,000, with tree lined streets. Ten minutes away (2.3 miles) by car is Meadowood. Located in its own mountain valley, Meadowood is far from the stress of city life. Its 85 rooms and suites are scattered across a 250 acre estate filled with Live Oak trees indigenous to the area. The entire resort has a light, informal New England feel. You can read about my latest stay here.

Carneros Resort and Spa

Carneros Resort is literally in the middle of the Carneros vineyard region, and many of its cottages have direct vineyard views just over the fence. I spent a Thanksgiving weekend at Carneros Resort in 2016; you can read about my stay here. Each of its 100 rooms is a 450 sq ft cottage that brings to mind the cottages in which vineyard workers used to live during the harvest (except, of course, for the cherry floors, gas fireplaces, and soaking tubs that today's guests enjoy). We loved our Thanksgiving dinner at Boon Fly Café!

Calistoga Ranch, an Auberge Resort 

Calistoga is a small town, population just over 5,000, known for its hot springs. Calistoga Ranch is five miles from the town. Located at the northern end of the Napa Valley, this is the most remote of the four resorts in this article. Its 157 acres of woodlands are dotted with 50 stand-alone guest cottages. Floor-to-ceiling windows let in the outside in — you'll feel immersed in nature. What my wife loved best about Calistoga was its spa. Located at the top of the mountain valley, the spa has a casual woodsy feel. After your treatment, be sure to relax in its Healing Waters soaking pool, reserved for guest use only. Click here to read about our 2015 stay.

Auberge du Soleil

An adults-only resort, Auberge du Soleil was created due to the success of the successful Provencal restaurant opened by Claude Rouas in the Napa Valley. Restaurant guests would drive up from San Francisco, enjoy fine dining and a bottle (or two) of fine wine, and then what? It made sense to create a resort so that tired and buzzed diners would not have to drive back to the city in the dark. Out of that need came Auberge du Soleil. You should choose this resort if you're after a more elegant, less rustic feel. Only 50 rooms, I definitely recommend that you reserve one with a Valley View. Though it's not Virtuoso, Virtuoso guests will receive an upgrade at booking if available and an additional welcome amenity (i.e., a very nice bottle of wine); breakfast is included. Both Calistoga Ranch and Auberge du Soleil are featured in this 2015 article.

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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