How to Plan a Family Trip to Wine Country — That's Fun for Both Kids and Parents

Wine regions around the U.S. are becoming increasingly family-friendly, offering visitors of all ages plenty to see and do. Here are some tips for planning the perfect long weekend.

Kids running on a beach, with seagulls
Exploring Goat Rock Beach, in Sonoma County, California. Photo: Courtesy of Sonoma County Tourism

It’s about time. These days, wine regions are broadening their appeal with activities beyond the tasting room. That makes the idea of a family-friendly tasting weekend all the more appealing. Here are our top travel-tested tips to keep everyone happy.

Do More Than Just Taste Wine

Scenes from Sonoma County, showing hot air ballooning and river kayaking
From left: Wine regions are broadening their appeal with activities beyond the tasting room; paddling on the Russian River is the ideal early morning adventure in northern California’s wine country.

From left: Mariah Harkey/Courtesy of Sonoma County Tourism; Courtesy of Sonoma County Tourism

Even the most impressive tasting rooms can feel cramped with kids, but a growing number of wineries offer outdoor activities, too. In Mendocino County, California, for example, Pennyroyal Farm is a vineyard, creamery, and farm all in one, meaning parents can sample killer sauvignon blancs while young ones pet goats and nibble on cheese. In Sonoma, families are welcome, with reservations, at the pool of the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. In Napa, getting there is part of the fun with an aerial tram ride to Sterling Vineyards. In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the sprawling Stoller Family Estate has games such as oversize Jenga and cornhole.

Pick a Home Base With Space

In California, new resort properties, such as the Montage Healdsburg and the Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley, offer families more indoor and outdoor space, with oversize suites, pools, and kids’ clubs. Glamping-style stays also provide room to roam: check out Vintages Trailer Resort, in the Willamette Valley; Wildhaven, in Sonoma; and Firelight Camps, in the Finger Lakes region of New York. And several wineries are opening their own on-property vacation rentals, such as the beautiful farmhouse on the grounds of HammerSky Vineyards, in Paso Robles, California.

Make Time for Everyone

Horseback riding in Sonoma Country wine country
Riding at Jack London State Historic Park, in Sonoma County. Tom Deininger/Courtesy of Sonoma County Tourism

That classic rule of family travel — each day, pick one activity for adults and one for children — holds true for wine getaways, too. Balance tasting time with activities like apple picking and hayrides at orchards such as Avila Valley Barn, in San Luis Obispo, California. Another option: ride electric bikes along old rail tracks — or take a scenic train ride — through the redwood forests surrounding the Mendocino Railway. On rainy or chilly days, look to attractions like the Willamette Valley’s Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum or the Corning Museum of Glass, in the Finger Lakes.

Don’t Waste the Morning

Set out early for a family-friendly hike in Sonoma’s 805-acre Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve or marvel at the 19 waterfalls along the 1.5-mile Gorge Trail in Watkins Glen State Park, in the Finger Lakes. (An app such as AllTrails can help you pick out age-appropriate hikes.) Many wine regions are also rich in history, and a museum visit can be a great way to round out a trip. Families might opt for the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, one of the 21 Spanish missions built during the late 18th and early 19th centuries along California’s coast; the Harriet Tubman Home, in Auburn, New York; or the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, in Seneca Falls, New York.

Stay Nimble at Mealtime

Yes, part of the appeal of wine country is the food, but high-end dining with young ones can be a tough sell — for parents and restaurant staff alike. Instead, arrange takeout from restaurants and bakeries that embrace the bounty of their surroundings. In Healdsburg, spots such as Quail & Condor and Little Saint, a casual café from the team behind the fine-dining restaurant SingleThread, are prime for picnic provisioning, as are pop-up farmers’ markets, which often post hours with wine-country tourism organizations like Visit Napa Valley and Finger Lakes Wine Country.

A version of this story first appeared in the November 2021 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "Navigating Wine Country with Kids? It’s More Fun than Ever."

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