While Calistoga has more than a few claims to fame, many locals cite winning the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting as the most notable. Local vintner, Chateau Montelena, took that honor and was largely to thank for putting Napa Valley's wine country on the map.

Calistoga also maintains some of its 19th century traditions, from back when the town's natural hot springs first attracted visitors and residents. The first American settlers had heard of the "healing powers" of the waters, and the first resort spa was built in 1862 to rival Saratoga Springs in New York. That was the beginning of Calistoga, Hot Springs of the West, the dream of Samuel Brannan. Brannan and a few of his colleagues built a railroad connecting San Francisco to the upper Napa Valley, and today's Wine Train recreates that nostalgic trip from St. Helena to Calistoga. Another fun fact: Popular Nestlé brand Calistoga Sparkling Water comes from a geyser here, with bottling dating back to the 1920s.

Wining and dining are definitively local experiences that augment the charm and allure of this colorful little hideaway. Located about 27 miles north of Napa (or a bit more if traveling the scenic Silverado Trail), Calistoga is at the far end of Napa County but well worth the drive.

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