The Urban Dictionary defines the term “Having a ball” as “old-people-speak for ‘Having fun.’ If you’re under 30, then you’ve probably never said this (unsarcastically).” Yeah, whatever. It just so happens that there are plenty of ways to have fun in the valley that involve balls, no matter what your age. Consider, for example:
Napa Bowl is a classic bowling alley (since 1946!) with 32 lanes, the requisite old-school bar, and league players wearing team shirts. If it’s a traditional bowling night (or day) you’re looking for, come here and bring the family. (494 Soscol Avenue, Napa; 707-224-8331; open daily)
The Crush Ultra Lounge at the Meritage Resort and Spais at the other end of the spectrum. Six lanes, a full-service bar – even a bowling concierge – are at your disposal. Reservations are recommended, especially for large parties, and only those 21 or older are admitted after 8:30 pm. (875 Bordeaux Way, Napa; 707-251-3066; open daily)
Billco’s If you’re serious about pool, this is your place. Billco’s features ten billiard tournament tables as well as seven steel-tip dart boards, and a pro shop with billiard and dart supplies. They also offer 60 microbrews and imported beers on tap. (1234 – 3rd Street, Napa; 707-226-7506)
The Crush Ultra Lounge at the Meritage Resort and Spa also has a pool table, with the same amenities as its bowling area, including a full bar that will bring your drinks and food to the gaming area, so you can eat and shoot uninterrupted. (875 Bordeaux Way, Napa; 707-251-3066; open daily)
Pancha’s I feel compelled to mention this place because they do have a pool table. However, be forewarned: Come here only if you’re seeking a truly dive-bar experience. Just go on Yelp! to read the polarized reviews of Pancha’s – people either love the unpretentiousness of it (just a few blocks from the French Laundry) or they absolutely loathe it. Whatever you do, don’t bring your children! (6764 Washington Street, Yountville; 707-944-2125)
Pizzeria Tra Vigne has a pool table and sports-bar TV, but it also serves some of the best pizza in the Napa Valley. This is a terrific place for dinner with the whole family. (1016 Main Street, St. Helena; 707-967-9999)
Ana’s Cantina is another local dive bar with a pool table, but friendlier and more customer-service oriented than Pancha’s. Still, it’s a bar, so no children allowed! (1205 Main Street, St. Helena; 707-963-4921)
In case you haven’t heard, bocce ball is a much-loved sport in the valley. Both Yountville and St. Helena have active leagues, with teams playing every night of the week except Saturday. If you’d like to see the sport in action, wander over to Veterans’ Park in Yountville or Crane Park in St. Helena after about 6 pm. Or, if you have your own balls, you can use these courts yourself when league teams aren’t playing.
Another great way to enjoy the culture of bocce ball is at a local restaurant or winery. Farm at the Carneros Inn and SolBar at Solage have courts for the use of their guests. And the number of wineries with bocce courts are too numerous to mention them all. Some include:
- In Carneros – Ceja Vineyards.
- In Yountville: – Bell Wine Cellars.
- In Rutherford: Piña Napa Valley.
- In St. Helena – Ehlers Estate, Nichelini Winery, Tudal Family Winery, and Raymond Vineyards.
- In Calistoga – Chateau Montelena, Summers Winery, and Dutch Henry Winery.
- In Pope Valley – Pope Valley Winery.
Bear in mind that some wineries’ courts are reserved for wine club members only, and some charge a fee. In most cases, courts are available first-come, first-served. Be sure to call ahead to confirm availability.
The French version of bocce ball, petanque has yet to take hold in the valley with as much popularity. However, there are courts at Fuller Park and Clos du Val Winery (Napa), St. Supery Estate (Rutherford), and Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch(St. Helena). For information on tournaments and courts, check out Napatanque, the Napa Valley Petanque Club, online.