Indian Springs: family-friendly resort in Wine Country

Bunk beds, Cottage 8.

Bunk beds, Cottage 8.

People assume that because California’s Wine Country is all about wine, it’s not a destination for families. I live here, and let me tell you – this could not be farther from the truth.

My wife and I were reminded of this again this past weekend when we spent a night at Indian Springs Resort & Spa, a Bohemian paradise at the north end of the Napa Valley. The resort dates back to the late 1800s and currently is at the tail end of a multimillion-dollar expansion and renovation that basically tripled the size of the place. Another benefit of all the construction: The place now is more family-friendly than ever before.

Our accommodations—Cottage No. 8, for those of you scoring at home—reflected this perfectly. When the cottage was built, in the 1930s, it was a one-bedroom/one-bathroom with a kitchen. Today, the cottage still has the main bedroom (with a queen-sized bed), the bathroom, and a sitting room. But as part of the upgrade, the kitchen was converted into a second bedroom with bunk beds.

The bunks, from Restoration Hardware, were a great design: queen on bottom, twin on top. As part of the rehab, the resort also covered one of the windows with a chalkboard on which kids could draw. (ICYW, the resort provided a little basket of chalk.)

Elsewhere in the cottage, in the main sitting room, we found a mini-fridge, and plates and silverware.

The cottage would have been great for our family of five. Though Powerwoman and I appreciated escaping with Baby G, we lamented that we hadn’t brought our big girls to experience it, as well.

We thought of L and R at other moments during our stay. Near the main pool, which is fed by a natural spring and has waters that are always somewhere between 92 and 102 degrees, the resort has set up two kid-sized picnic tables with cups of colored pencils. Near the main spa building, there’s a Gratitude Tree on which guests of all ages can write down what they’re grateful for and hang the tags on the tree.

The resort also has shuffleboard, ping pong, and bocce. And a restaurant with a killer kids’ menu (and churros flavored by candy-cap mushrooms). For the grown-ups, there’s an amazing spa, and an adults-only pool.

In short, if I were visiting Wine Country with young children, Indian Springs would be one of the first resorts I called upon to inquire about availability. Not only do I recommend the place, but I can’t wait to get back (with big girls in tow). Maybe we’ll see you there.

There’s Something About Nothing

L, surveying the scene at a Connemara beach.

L, surveying the scene at a (chilly) Connemara beach.

We’ve just returned to London from six days in a rural stretch of County Galway in Ireland. In short, they were the best six days in a long, long time.

And we did copious amounts of nothing. The whole time.

Sure, there were moments of wonder—I’ll write about those over the course of the next week or so (Hints: They involve pubs. And castles.). But, for the most part, we just were.

Our base for the week was a three-bedroom cottage on Gorumna Island in a tiny town called Leitir Moir—basically in the southwest corner of the Connemara region. The name of the cottage was Sonas, which means “peace” in Gaelic. Donkeys and cows and horses outnumbered our human neighbors by a ratio of at least 3:1.

For those of you who’ve never been to this part of the world, I’d describe the topography as Coastal Maine on steroids. Lots of tidal inlets. Lots of bays. Lots of granite. And, every now and again, a house or two.

In this environment, we encouraged the girls to let their imaginations run wild. This meant daily walks along the one-lane road to and from the house—with the express purpose of getting into staring contests with the local animals. It meant journeys to harvest the tiny “flowers” that grew from the rocky hillsides. We also a) caught raindrops with our tongues, b) watched the sun rise and set, c) collected a carry-on suitcase full of shells, and d) engaged in rock-throwing contests toward the sea.

These, of course, were just the outdoor diversions.

Inside, we spent our time making fires out of turf (apparently, that’s what the industrious people in this part of the world burn), playing Ker-Plunk (yes, the board game from the 1960s and 1970s; they had it at the house), and listening to the rain plonk on the roof of the conservatory.

Perhaps most important, L and R became BFFs. Our daughters always have gotten along, but after this trip, it is safe to say the duo is inseparable.

Over the course of six days, they had tea parties with their stuffed animals (a Doc McStuffins for L; a kitty for R), used the markers to draw rainbows and “cooked” tasty—and imaginary—treats they called “flower snacks.” By the time we left for the airport this morning, L even was “translating” what her sister said when we couldn’t understand.

Our experience in Leitir Moir proves that sometimes, especially when it comes to family travel, less is more. Put differently, there’s something about nothing that works wonders for a wandering pod.

Don’t take my word for it; try it for yourselves.

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