Regardless of what season it is, many of us will be planning wine travel and winery visits, maybe even as part of a family vacation. But as Winetraveler Somm Adam Sweders mentioned in his article, wine travel as a family in Napa can be challenging at best. So what are wine-loving parents to do?
Well, as a Winetraveler with two children in tow, I can tell you it is possible. Although we’ve left the kids at home for our Napa adventures, we have managed to visit hundreds of wineries in at least 25 US states, Canada and all over Europe with our kids. In fact, it has often been a lot of fun with some of our most memorable conversations, friendships, meal times and family games transpiring at wineries.
- Yes, You Can Wine Travel with Children
- 10 Tips for Visiting Wineries with Children
- Research Wineries Ahead of Time
- Prepare Kids For Appropriate Behavior
- Do Not Leave Your Children Unattended
- Choose Places With Large Outdoor Areas, Kids’ Activities or Restaurants
- Take a Tour or Schedule a Private Visit
- Have Something For The Kids To Do
- Limit Your Time At The Tasting Bar
- Ask the Winery if Sparkling Grape Juice is Available For Tasting or Purchase
- Thank Your Host
- Leave it As You Found It
Yes, You Can Wine Travel with Children
I want to start by saying, we don’t recommend planning a weekend evening with friends at a winery with the kids in tow (unless it’s a private event for families), best to consider a babysitter for this scenario. We also don’t suggest spending hours drinking the day away at a winery with your children and we certainly don’t condone drinking and driving while intoxicated under any circumstances and many countries in Europe have a zero-tolerance policy. Plan to travel smart! However, if you’re looking for a relaxing lunch stop, enjoyable evening sunset, or are truly interested in learning about wine and viticulture, then visiting wineries with your kids is perfectly acceptable, and can be a lot of fun.
10 Tips for Visiting Wineries with Children
Research Wineries Ahead of Time
While many wineries are family-friendly, some are also reserved for visitors aged 21 and older. Do your research before arriving, check the website, call the winery and plan your visits accordingly. Some wineries will mention kid-friendly areas, games or even outdoor walking paths on their websites. Hikes are a great way to get the kids outdoors, exploring and off the beaten path (just make sure to stay out of restricted areas and do not touch grapes or vines!).
Prepare Kids For Appropriate Behavior
What is winery behavior? It’s much like you would want your children to behave in restaurants, museums, stores, etc. Ask your children to stay with you, or in an area you designate as kid-safe, ask that they don’t touch things that don’t belong to them, keep their voices lower, not to run and of course, to be polite. You’re the best judge of your own kids and can determine what they can handle. For me, this typically means we select the few wines we want to try, make a purchase and leave. Other times, this means we have a few minutes to enjoy a tasting, ask the host questions and savor a glass.
Do Not Leave Your Children Unattended
Wineries are not designed for children. That’s not to say that children aren’t welcome; however, wineries are intended to be adult establishments. Wine hosts and other patrons will not appreciate your child running through the gift shop or in the vineyard, no matter how cute you think they are. This is not a time to let them test their independence. Keep them close, entertained and behaving.
Choose Places With Large Outdoor Areas, Kids’ Activities or Restaurants
Consider places that you know have restaurants or large outdoor areas. Restaurants are great places to enjoy your tasting while feeding the kids, and large outdoor areas can give the kids room to run. Some wineries even have kid’s activity areas that include games, toys, coloring, etc.
Winetraveler Tip: One of our favorite stops post hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park is in Estes Park, Colorado. Snowy Peaks Winery has some great Colorado wines and a playroom visible from the tasting area where kids can play while you taste.
Take a Tour or Schedule a Private Visit
Many wineries will only offer private visitations, so when reaching out, let them know you have children and ask if it’s appropriate to bring them along. As my children have gotten older they have found these experiences to be most valuable, discovering caves, ancient ruins, learning about prohibition and sometimes even enjoying a tasting designed for them. It’s a great opportunity to share lessons in history, culture, science and sometimes even mythical literature!
Have Something For The Kids To Do
Obviously, not all wineries will have playrooms. In this case, come prepared. Bring small games, books or electronics – iPods, iPads, etc. – to keep the kids occupied. If you plan to have a glass of wine after the tasting on a veranda in the sun or to watch the sunset, never underestimate the power of a deck of cards and a good game of “Go Fish” or “Cheat” if they’re older.
Limit Your Time At The Tasting Bar
This is one of those where you need to follow your kids’ and the host’s lead. If the kids are entertained, occupied and content, you can enjoy your tasting a little longer. Perhaps ask the host about the grape varietals, where they’re grown, how they got into the business, etc. Wine hosts and owners are generally very passionate about their wine and wineries and appreciate when people want to learn about what they do. Alternatively, if you want to stop and enjoy a tasting, but also spend some time with the kids, sample a few of your favorites and purchase a glass to sit outside and enjoy some snacks together, or if you know you’re on borrowed time with the kids, sample a few of your favorite wines and make a purchase to enjoy later.
Winetraveler Tip: If possible choose a place at the end of the tasting bar with your kids, or if they’re old enough find a table (outside if possible) within view where they can sit with their activities.
Ask the Winery if Sparkling Grape Juice is Available For Tasting or Purchase
Some wineries will have both red and white sparkling grape juice, always a thrill for the kids. Have them do a “tasting” and pick which one they want to purchase. It’s a great way to make the kids feel involved and an easy way to keep them entertained.
Thank Your Host
If you enjoyed your experience and your wine, we believe it’s important to purchase a bottle (or two or three). Wineries don’t make a fortune at the tasting bar (in fact many offer free tastings), but rather their income is generated from selling their wine. Purchasing a bottle is a great way to bring a part of your trip home, and most importantly, it’s a way to thank your host. They also make great gifts for family and friends.
Leave it As You Found It
If your kids have a snack or are playing with their toys, make sure to clean up the space before you leave. Wipe away the crumbs, put away any toys or games provided by the winery, make sure your kids’ personal belongings are accounted for, and throw away any trash.
Winetraveler Tip: Head to a park to let the kids run out some energy in between stops or if possible picnic at the winery and play some active games.
Truthfully, it really is all about quality family time. Whether doing something mom and dad enjoy, something the kids love, or something everyone will have fun with, it’s about being together, learning, making memories, meeting people, discovering culture and history, and seeing the world. So whether you’re heading to the shores of Lake Michigan, sightseeing in Rome, or even hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, as parents stopping into a nearby winery is absolutely possible and even a great way to make incredible memories. Happy travels!