Indian Springs Resort: A Step Back in Time, A Great Leap Forward
By Kathy Chin Leong

It’s hard to imagine that the Indian Springs Resort in Calistoga could have been the home of Stanford University. When Leland Stanford purchased this property in 1880 with this intention, he had a change of heart, and he left the original hot springs to itself as a resort with a spa, mud bath, pool, and racetrack.   Today this 17-acre hotel and hot springs is owned by Pat and John Merchant, and thankfully, they have kept the original owner's desire to offer a respite for relaxation and reflection.  

The race track is long gone. Since then, the space has been replaced with plantings and updated hotel rooms with a modern Napa sensibility.  In addition splashing lazily  in the warm hot springs of the Indian Springs Resort is an opportunity not to miss. Anyone going to the Napa Valley must make a visit to this classic hotel resort that is so complete with amenities that you don’t have to go anywhere else all weekend. The lush grounds, the spa, the restaurant, and the luxurious rooms all score a home run. For families with little kids, it is one of the few in the wine-centered, adult-focused valley that really welcome children and don’t mind if they run, skip, or play on the grounds. 

Indian Springs Resort was founded in the 1861, and it served as one of the first resorts in Calistoga where the wealthy San Franciscans came to spend their summers. As time went along, and Napa Valley became a wine tourist destination, Indian Springs became even more popular. It added a spa, it expanded the number of rooms it had on the property, and it revamped the pool to become two pools- one for families, one for adults only. The hot thermal waters are a natural phenomena, and for years, folks have been coming here to enjoy the pool to soothe muscles and to ease mental tensions. The original Main Pool, is Olympic-sized, and one of the largest in the state.

When we stayed here, I couldn’t resist being a little kid, and grabbed a noodle and bent it around me to float around in for the afternoon. The smaller adult pool is ideal for those who like peace and quiet. Both are kept at a warm 82-102 degrees Fahrenheit. The pools are both open late and feature a connecting pool bar and snack bar for everyone’s comfort.The pool is comfortably situated next to the spa, and you can be sure that this facility offers the full complement of services: massage, body treatments, facials, and mud and mineral baths, too.  

These days, the hotel has undergone a complete renovation and it is even more upscale than ever before, but just as welcoming. On site are various room options: single budget rooms, suites, upstairs rooms, downstairs rooms. We are looking at a span between $199 and $800, and when you come off season, the rates will drop by 20-30 percent, and the rates are even cheaper during the weekday.  Rooms are comfortable and chic. When you go to Napa, gone are the days of heavy draperies and deep purple and brown hues, dated wine country motifs that were typical of Napa inns all over town. Today, especially at the Indian Springs Resort, the palette selection of orange, green, and yellow evoke visions of citrus fruit and fresh herbs.  In fact, in the lobby, you’ll find fresh water infused with ice and fruit.

On the day we came, on the entry deck we were greeted with a small tower of water filled with limes and lemons. Our room on the second floor featured a pillow-topped bed with crisp, high thread count sheets, views of the gardens and pond from the balcony, flat-screen TV, and a bathroom with patterned yellow tiles in the shower, and simple white tiles on the floor. Free wi-fi, in room mini-fridge, and spa robes are a great touch. There are a variety of accommodation options to meet various budgets. On one side of the campus, you have The Lodge, a 1930s Mission Revival building that was renovated in 2005. There are 24 rooms in this adults-only lodge. Rates run from $199-$359.

And The View rooms in three new buildings were unveiled in 2014, a cluster of rooms with exquisite views of the palms, the geyser and the hills.  Rooms run from 468 sq. ft. to 500 sq. ft, and run from $319 for a king, $369 for king with fireplace, and $419 for a double queen. The Cottages, built in the 1940s, are part of the original resort. Families and friends have chosen these 14 cottages for decades. These comprise of single studios and duplexes, and two-bedroom units with garden spaces and porches. A duplex two-bedroom runs $589 per night and features two queen beds and two twins. Similarly, the two-bedroom duplex family unit offers a living room, front porch, and can hold up to four adults or two adults and three kids.  The Bungalows, at three units, are also part of the new 2014 revamping of the premises. These are larger than the cottages, and feature indoor and outdoor living space with as much as 1,200 sq ft. at $600 to $1,200 per night.

And when you want to splurge with the family, check out the single-family homes for rent at $849 per night. The Hill House is a two-bedroom, two-bath house several lminutes away fromt eh poperty. It requires a two-night stay, and you get cool amenities like a fully-stocked modern kitchen, patio furniture, and a balcony view overlooking the pool. DiningWhere to begin? Sam’s Social Club has become The Place for locals to come for a drink after work, but for the hotel guests, the restaurant is excellent in showing off what it can do come breakfast time. Sublime are the candy cap mushroom churros, a specialty only at breakfast. Dine on freshly squeezed juices, egg dishes laced with crunchy, savory greens. Named after Sam Brannan, the resort founder and California’s first millionaire, the restaurant is open for daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and Happy Hour on Monday through Thursday.

The renovated surroundings, all of 17 acres, are resplendent with a pond, palm trees, meandering pathways, and low-key games such as bocce ball, shuffleboard, croquet, and giant checkers. As downtown Calistoga is within walking distance to the hotel, and you can also check out a bicycle if you are in the mood to explore. Bottom line? Situated in the heart of town, this sublime property is ideal for families with an enormous swimming pool, lawn games, and a brilliant restaurant that easily offers the best breakfast in all of Napa Valley. Come for the pool and stay for the candy cap churros. 

Indian Springs Resort
1712 Lincoln Ave.

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