A 1947 roadside motel renovated in midcentury-modern style, the family-friendly, dog-friendly Calistoga Motor Lodge recalls the past while simultaneously escorting its guests into a pleasant and reasonably affordable present. Hula hoops and jump ropes in the rooms evoke midcentury fun, with quirky touches like the framed samplers admonishing "No Selfies in the Bathroom" bridging the gap between then and now.
YOU SHOULD KNOW New construction scheduled for completion in 2019 will add a restaurant, bar, and a dozen rooms mid-property.
Shades of blue predominate in the rooms, which come in three categories. Camper Kings sleep two people, and Camper Queens and Camper King Suites accommodate four. The suites have a separate room with a dining area whose cushioned benches and white Formica table riff off a 1960s Volkswagen camper. Kids love it because it converts into a fun bed unlike the one back home, but it's big enough for most adults, too. Updated amenities include comfortable Beautyrest beds, free Wi-Fi, and flat-screen HDTVs that get major cable stations and HBO. All rooms have refrigerators stocked with complimentary beverages that are replenished daily, as are the snacks laid out nearby. Coffee and tea, also complimentary, are high-quality organic.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Typical of its era, the motel sits right on the road, a stretch of Calistoga's main drag a few blocks north of downtown's shops, restaurants, and wine-tasting rooms. Especially if traffic noise bothers you, ask for a quieter room in the back.
The bathrooms all have floors with small ceramic tiles. Even the bathrooms in the suites seem small, and though they could use stronger lighting and more space for toiletries, they're supplied with good bath products and are generally sufficient to the task.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The rooms have showers with rain heads but none have tubs.
Natural light streams into the lobby/registration area courtesy of skylights and two curved glass-brick walls, illuminating a living room–like space complete with board games families might have played back in the day. Groups sometimes hang out at the long rough-hewn table that bisects the space to play them.
Hot springs on the property supply mineral water for the two open-air pools and nearby covered whirlpool tub. The temperature of the main pool, 20 feet by 40 feet and open year-round, fluctuates between 82ºF and 88ºF, while the heat in the smaller wading pool varies from 90ºF to 96ºF. The temperature in the spacious whirlpool tops out at about 104ºF. Lounge chairs and beds are placed around the pools.
YOU SHOULD KNOW On a busy weekend when the lodge is full up (and there's often a pool party), places to recline can be at a premium.
The designers of the Moonacre Spa and Baths had a cheeky good time conjuring up frothy signage like the message NO DIVING—2'–0" tiled in the floor between the bathhouse's chrome-claw-footed vintage-style soaking tubs or, in the lounge, the throwback suggestion (apparently with adherents to this day) to "Try Cocaine for Digestive Health." All levity aside, serious healing and relaxation take place in the form of massages that include one with hot stones; several facials and peels; and "body cures" involving salt-infused baths and sessions with muds and clays.
When the weather's warm you can partake of the Cake and Bake, for which patrons don a layer of mud and lounge in the sun.
No meals are served at the lodge and the planned restaurant won't open before 2019 at the earliest, but guests can purchase yogurt, crackers, cheeses and similar items in the lobby.
There's no bar now, but one is planned for 2019. Wine and beer are available for purchase in the lobby.
The lodge is located on Lincoln Avenue (also signed as Highway 29) about ½ mile north of downtown Calistoga. Most guests walk or use the lodge's complimentary bikes to visit nearby shops, spas, tasting rooms, and restaurants. VINE Bus 10 and Bus 29 serve downtown Calistoga from other Napa Valley towns. With short notice, the free on-demand Calistoga Shuttle (schedule varies depending on the day and time of year) will take you anywhere downtown, and a few spots beyond.
Sam's Social Club (7-minute walk) at the Indian Springs resort is a good stop for breakfast, lunch, bar snacks, and dinner. A block closer to town, casual Sushi Mambo (8-minute walk) serves traditional and unconventional country-Japanese dishes. For a splurge, head to the Solage resort's Solbar (2-minute drive, 15-minute walk) for sophisticated Modern American or Evangeline (2-minute drive, 13-minute walk) for clever reboots of bistro classics. Try Lovina (3-minute drive, 15-minute walk) for homey farm-to-table dishes like spicy beef Bolognese and chicken and dumplings.
Sam's Social Club (7-minute walk) makes its own beers, pours superb Napa Valley and other wines, and features signature cocktails like cask-aged Manhattans and The Girl’s Getaway (vodka, St. Germain, grapefruit, lime, and agave) along with Sazeracs and other classics. The bartenders at Solbar (2-minute drive, 15-minute walk) restaurant serve up a seasonally changing lineup of "farm-to-bar" cocktails. Susie's Bar (2-minute drive, 12-minute walk), the town's jolly dive, has good beers on tap and by the bottle, plus top-shelf spirits at reasonable prices.
WHY WE LIKE IT
With a new restaurant and bar and additional rooms scheduled to come online in 2019 and an outdoor event space that should be completed by Summer 2018, the lodge is still in the process of fulfilling its potential. That said, amenities that include the pools, hot tub, and the Moonacre Spa make it a sweet upvalley option for travelers seeking a little style in their budget(ish) accommodations.