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Napas Top 7 Secret Travel Gems

Destination(s): Napa Valley

Everyone has a favorite winery in Napa. But not everyone knows where to get the best ice cream in town (organic, too!) or the location of an amazing hand-built playground for kids that will keep them happy for hours. Here, my top 7 hidden travel gems in Napa. The kinds of places we tell our friends about, but hope the tourists never discover. read more about Napas Top 7 Secret Travel Gems

Playground Fantastico

Playground Fantastico

One of those awe-inspiring projects built entirely with community energy and support, Playground Fantastico is unbelievably fun and cool. From the minute you spot the shiny rocket-shaped towers designed by architect Matt Eisenberg, you can see this is no ordinary park. There are stone geysers, castles, swinging ramps, and sculptures that give off strange sounds. Everything was designed with kid and community input and it's all whimsical and fun. The only issue is shade -- it gets hot in Napa in the summertime and the lot feels a little bare. The community is trying to address this with a fundraising effort to plant shade trees.
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Ceja Vineyards Wine Tasting Salon, Lounge and Art Gallery

Ceja Vineyards Wine Tasting Salon, Lounge and Art Gallery

A little bit gallery, a little bit pouring room, a little bit family salon, Ceja Vineyards' new "tasting salon" in downtown Napa is just a lot of fun. A lively, "let us show you a good time" atmostphere prevails, courtesy of the good humored Ceja family members themselves. One of the only Latino families to own and operate a vineyard and winery, the Cejas are, like many of the Latino families in Napa, among the founding generation of the valley's winemaking industry. Proud of their Latin American heritage, the Cejas bring a bit of fiesta to liven up the pouring process. A block away is Ariel Ceja's new Bistro Sabor, offering a great "small plates" menu consisting of specialties from all over Latin America. (Don't miss the salmon ceviche tostadas or the churros.)
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Bistro Sabor

Bistro Sabor

This hip, lighthearted bistro is the brainchild of Ariel Ceja, and it's a perfect incarnation of what the younger generation of Cejas wants to bring to Napa. One of the founding families of the Napa wine industry and one of the only Latino families who ended up founding and owning their own vineyard, the Cejas are deeply involved in all aspects of downtown Napa's recent resurrection. "Thank god someplace in Napa is now open til 2 a.m. for us nightowls!" someone recently posted on their Twitter page, and the sentiment is echoed all over town. (Downtown Napa hasn't exactly been known for its nightlife.) And now, with Saturdays featuring a live band playing salsa, meringue, cumbia, and more, Bistro Sabor is becoming a beacon for those who want to cut up a little when the tasting rooms close. But fun isn't the only reason to go; the food's fantastic too. Sort of a savory romp through Latin American street food, Bistro Sabor serves up favorites with a twist.  Not to be missed are the light and lime-y salmon ceviche tostadas, but come on Thursdays and you can have homey, filling pozole as well. Top off whatever you choose with an almond flan or a chocolate and cinnamon tart. And best of all, few dishes top $10 in price, so there's no excuse not to have dessert.
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Three Twins Ice Cream

Three Twins Ice Cream

Now with a stand open in the Oxbow market, Three Twins brings its local, incredibly creamy organic ice cream to Napa. With fun flavors like cookie jar (with three types of cookies mashed in), mint confetti, and Dad's cardamom, Three Twins has instantly made a name for itself among gourmet afficionados. There's a flavor for everyone, and of course they change with the seasons, but perennially beloved are Madagascar Vanilla and the Chocolate Project, which features chocolate ice cream bedecked with chocolate cookies, flecks of dark chocolate, chocolate nibs and chocolate chips.
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Balloons Above the Valley

Balloons Above the Valley

  • 5091 Solano Avenue
  • tel:+1 707 253 2222
  • Visit website
  • Napa, 94558

A hot air balloon ride over the Napa Valley is an unforgettable way to commemorate your visit. And the Facebook photos will certainly be memorable! Several packages are available; a typical adventure includes an hour-long balloon ride followed by a garden champagne-brunch. The pilots are well-informed locals who tell you all about the history and culture of the Napa Valley while you soar above it. Launches begin at sunrise. Enjoy incredible aerial views of Napa vineyards. Wind conditions are a factor; if it's too windy, balloons can't take off, but that's fairly rare.
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di Rosa Preserve (The)

di Rosa Preserve (The)

  • 5200 Carneros Highway 121
  • tel:+1 707 226 5991
  • Visit website
  • Napa, 94559

Give yourself a couple of hours to immerse yourself in modern art, indoors and out, at the Di Rosa preserve. Created and curated by San Francisco art afficionados Rene and Veronica Di Rosa, the 217-acre preserve today showcases 2,200 works of art by more than 900 contemporary artists, most from northern Californi. Indoor galleries are well lit and organized, but the most fun is to be had wandering the trails through the meadows, where works of art pop out of you in surprising places. The art gallery and lawn area are available for rental for weddings and other special events.
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