Renowned for its hot springs spas, deluxe resorts and world-class wines,
the Napa Valley town of Calistoga also knows when to let its hair down and kick
up its heels.When looking for a night out beyond fine wine and a delicious meal,
locals and visitors alike have an abundance of entertainment options. We’ve
rounded up the best places to hear music or other live performances, from
bars and restaurants to festivals and parks.
Calistoga is home to the Napa County Fairgrounds and the annual Napa County
Fair and the Fourth of July blowout, with fireworks, live music and a parade.
That’s followed in August by the Mexicana Fiesta and Jaripeo, a celebration of
Latino music, food and culture. Activity at the Fairgrounds isn’t limited to the
summer months, though; there’s a lot going on all year long. During the holidays,
you can look forward to the annual New Year’s Eve bash, with its live music
and premium bar, and in spring, the Engage Art Fair every April. The
Fairgrounds also operates an RV park on-site, convenient for overnight
stays or weekend getaways.
A friendly neighborhood watering hole, The Hydro Bar and Grill has a melting
pot of food and drink choices, offering Mexican, Italian and just about everything
that could be considered an American favorite on the menu – plus a full bar
providing mojitos, cosmos and Manhattans. Various weekend nights might
feature live music (call to confirm, there’s no set schedule) and there’s no cover
charge. Classic rock is usually featured on Saturdays and swing bands on
Sundays, which still have people talking (and dancing!) all week long.
When craving a taste of something a little spicier in their food or their music, diners
should head to Pacifico Restaurante Mexicano on Friday nights. That’s when
their live, seven-member Mariachi band accompanies the always-popular
burritos, tacos and quesadillas, along with more elaborate dishes such
as mole poblano chicken, chile rellenos Pacificos and enchiladas Suizas.
Local musicians Mariachi Jalisco perform in the bar area year-round, adding
ambience and festivity to an already fun dining scene.
A Star Is Made
For those not content with the role of audience member, celebrated dive bar
Susie's has an open mic night every Wednesday, so anyone who's ready to
provide their own entertainment (and everybody else's) is welcome to strut
their stuff. Not ready for prime time yet? Come on in anyway and cheer on the
“entertainers.” Get there early for the happy hour specials, and once you're
sufficiently happy, stay to spread the joy around. DJ Joey Emery plays Top
Forty tunes every other Saturday, and there are live bands once a month,
usually blues or rock and roll. Other nights you can unwind by listening to the
jukebox and taking a turn on the pool tables or dart boards while sampling
one (or more) of the 18 beers on tap.
Once your career is launched, perhaps it’s time to pursue top billing. As a
headliner, you’ll want to find the right venue, and one’s available at
Tucker Farm Center, an event space for weddings, receptions, meetings
and private parties that also hosts children’s and adult theater along with
Heat the Beat
The summer season offers an even greater bounty of musical performances in
beautiful settings. Enjoy the natural spectacle of the Old Faithful Geyser of
California, which is on view during the site's Music Under the Star Series
held every Saturday evening from mid-June to early September. The program’s
emphasis is on acoustic, world and roots music; you bring the wine and the picnic.
One ticket price gains entry to both the grounds and the concerts.
Pioneer Park plays host to the free Calistoga Concerts in the Park series every
Thursday night, and a number of local restaurants prepare boxed dinners for
the weekly occasion. Even better, local wineries offer their wares on-site.
Past seasons have included a gratifying range of wine, food and musical
styles, the latter encompassing classic rock, cajun/zydeco, jazz, blues,
traditional country, swing, soul – even a tribute to the Beatles!
In addition to weekday tours of their brewery (founded in 1987 and producer of
blue-ribbon winners), The Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery has live music
on the weekends in their two bars throughout the summer, plus great daily specials.
Around the World in Calistoga
Calistoga also hosts performances as part of the sprawling Music in the Vineyards Festival, a chamber music festival that features events at venues throughout Napa
Valley. Festival del Sole is another Napa Valley-wide music extravaganza
happening every year since 2006, a chance to enjoy musicians, vocalists,
dancers, actors, speakers and chefs from near and far.
Whether you like to rock out, groove with jazz or dance to world beats, you’ll find
plenty of entertainment options in Calistoga – the problem is deciding which one
—By J. Eric Miller
J. Eric Miller is one of those Bay Area treasures that’s easy to miss, but well worth
seeking out. His greatest virtue is being able to spot little-known must-sees, and
he can be persuaded to share them. Feed him and you’ll never get rid of him.