Tag Archives: Napa Valley

Five of Napa Valley’s Best Study Breaks

By Sarah Tanner 

The Napa Valley is known best for luxury living, fine dining, and watercolor sunsets set against the dark green of its surrounding mountains. For college students with limited budgets and even less time, while the area is gorgeous to take in, it is not always easy to find inexpensive activities to relieve the stress of classes. Luckily, the valley has much to offer, and discovering your next favorite study break location is easier than you think!

Lake Berryessa

Adventurous students with a love for the outdoors can head to Lake Berryessa for a variety of activities including kayaking, fishing, hiking, and a number of water sports. Less than a forty-minute drive from PUC’s campus, this lake makes for a fun weekend hangout location. It’s also the perfect spot for hot weekends early in the fall quarter, when students can pack a picnic lunch and spend the day surrounded by nature, and still make it back to the dorms in time for nightfall.   

St. Helena Farmer’s Market

The St. Helena farmer’s market is a lovely Friday morning activity just a few minutes’ drive down the hill. This event is open from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. each week and features the valley’s favorite artisan products. Located in Crane Park from May through October, fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as a number of baked goods are available for purchase. Grab a coffee, and wander the stalls for a quick morning get away. 

Bocce Ball

St. Helena features a number of parks that include bocce ball courts. This easy afternoon activity pairs best with a handful of friends and a large pizza. Take in the sunshine and let your competitive spirit run wild as you compete on the court. With a little skill and some luck, this game is relatively simple to master, and a great way to fit outdoor activity within a busy schedule. 

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park

A favorite area of its namesake author, and located just north of Calistoga, this state park includes a number of hiking trails and cycling opportunities. It encompasses Mount St. Helena, as well as a number of scenic viewpoints. With hiking options ranging from short jaunts to a ten-mile round-trip, Robert Louis Stevenson practically begs for return visits.

Bouchon Bakery

Tucked between restaurants lining Yountville’s main street is Bouchon, a local bakery known worldwide for their award-winning desserts. What better way to treat yourself after a long week of classes, quizzes, and studying? Pick up a house-made macaron, pain au chocolat, or take a loaf of fresh-baked bread to go, and enjoy a well-deserved break from the stress of the quarter. 

Whether you prefer to wander the streets of Calistoga, fit in an early morning hike, or sample your favorite baked goods, the Napa Valley has a number of budget-friendly activities practically made for busy college students. With a wide variety of options and locations, the valley offers something fun for virtually everyone. 

 

Faces of PUC: Crista Peterson

Crista Peterson graduated from PUC in 1983 and five years ago decided to come back to our favorite ‘College on the Mountain’! Crista is the executive assistant for Student Life as well as the international student advisor which means she gets to work very closely with lots of current students as well as incoming students. There’s a great chance you’ll see Crista around campus so let’s get to know a little bit about her!  

What brought you to PUC? How/Why did you decide to work here? 

I arrived in this area when I was 9-years-old with my family. I attended PUC Elementary, Prep, and college. When I graduated from college, I left to pursue work in my field. I then went on to pursue a master’s degree at another university. After 20 plus years living and working in the U.S. and internationally (SE Asia),  I returned to Napa Valley to be closer to my family. Because of my international experience, I had an interest in working with international students. I have always had fond memories of my time at PUC and wanted to give back in some way.

 What is the best thing about being a part of the Pioneers family? 

It’s wonderful to connect with the students and provide some support in their life and career journey. There is so much individuality and diversity on this campus, and it’s special to be a part of this. The campus and surrounding areas are beautiful and inspiring. The spiritual component is also a huge blessing.

 Where is your favorite place to eat in the Valley and why? 

Himalayan Sherpa Kitchen in St. Helena. I’ve adopted a vegan, plant-based diet and this restaurant has some delicious cuisine options in the “plant-based” category.

Crista What is something you can do/want to do that might be surprising for people to learn? 

I have traveled extensively, but I have not visited the Bible lands and have not been on an African Safari. I would like to do this.

 What is one song you’re listening to on repeat lately? 

Lauren Daigle – “Rescue” and “How Great Thou Art”

 Who is someone you admire and why?

General Colin Powell. He was present at an international conference I attended. He has had an amazing career and is a person of high integrity. I bought one of his books and plan to read it.

 Finish this sentence: On Sunday mornings you can find me …  

Sipping ginger tea, cooking, and juicing. I like to start the day off with a substantial meal.

 

 

15 Things to Do in the Napa Valley as a PUC Student

There’s a lot to do during your first year at PUC. While you’re settling into your program and making new friends, there’s also plenty of sights in the Napa Valley to see! You may think Napa is stuffy and only for rich people looking to go wine tasting, but there’s so much more to Napa than you know. There’s plenty to do that doesn’t involve wine, or requires a lot of money. So whether you’ve visited PUC every year you’ve been in academy or you’re on campus for the first time, it’s time to get out of your dorm room to explore everything Napa has to offer, and have a lot of fun too!

Eat a macaron from Bouchon Bakery
Photo from thomaskeller.com

There’s are many reasons why this bakery is world famous, and one of them is their absolutely delicious macaron. The first of several, Bouchon Bakery in Yountville makes about 300,000 of them every year, with the most popular one being pistachio, and has been churning out delicious treats since 2003. Stop in to pick up one of their seasonal flavors or find out which one will be your tried-and-true go-to.  

Catch a movie at the historic Cameo Cinema
Photo from afar.com

In operation since 1913, the Cameo Cinema is a charming single-screen theater in the heart of downtown St. Helena which features state-of-the-art technology in sound and projection, including Dolby 3D and Dolby Atmos Sound (it is one of just a few theaters in the country to have this). The Cameo is the perfect place to take a date or go with a group of friends, with ticket prices clocking in at just $8.

Be amazed by Castello di Amorosa
Photo from napavalley.com

Did you know the Napa Valley has the only authentic medieval 13th-century castle in the U.S.? It’s true! The impressive Castello di Amorosa is over 136,000 square feet and has 107 rooms. There’s the Great Hall with 2-story replica Tuscan frescoes painted by Italian artists, a drawbridge, a dungeon, and a medieval church; spread across eight levels—four above ground and four below. Even if you only drive up to take an Instagram photo, it’s a sight worth seeing! There are also chickens, goats, sheep, and even peacocks that wander the grounds.  

Wander the Sculpture Meadow at the di Rosa
Photo from dirosaart.org

The di Rosa Center for Contemporary Arts houses a significant collection of notable works, exclusively by Northern California artists. There’s also a 1/3-mile Sculpture Meadow trail that winds its way past dozens of outdoor sculptures. It’s a beautiful place to visit on Sabbath afternoon!

Stuff your face at Giugni’s Deli
Photo from winnie.com

A PUC favorite for decades, stop by Giugni’s in downtown St. Helena and eat the sandwich of your dreams. Choose from a variety of delicious bread options and customize it with avocado, horseradish, chipotle mayo, and too many cheeses to even list. Make sure you get your sandwich with Giugni juice, a top secret family recipe that will take your sandwich to the next level.

Eat an English muffin from Model Bakery
Photo from yelp.com

For almost 100 years, Model Bakery has been a Napa Valley staple. Specializing in breads, pastries, and desserts, there’s plenty of things to make your mouth water. Their English muffins are literally world famous, with Oprah and chef Michael Chiarello counted as huge fans. Stop by in the morning when they’re fresh from the oven!

Enjoy the vistas at the top of Mount St. Helena
Photo from sacbee.com

The hike up the majestic Mount St. Helena in nearby Calistoga is a 2,068-foot climb over 5.1 miles to the summit. Once you’re at the top though, your hard work is rewarded with breathtaking views of the valley terrain below. On clear days, Mt. Tamalpais in Marin and Mt. Diablo near Walnut Creek can be seen, and some have even claimed to see Mt. Shasta, 192 miles away. Put the second-highest peak in the Bay Area on your list of Sabbath afternoon hikes!

Admire the artwork at the Fine Art Photography Gallery at Mumm Napa
Photo from napavalleynow.com

Take a stroll through this small but impressive fine art photography gallery. Currently on display is the “Poetry of Light” collection by famed photographer Ansel Adams, comprised of 27 gelatin silver prints, including several of his most famous photographs from Yosemite National Park.

Explore the Napa Art Walk
Photo from napaartwalk.org

The Napa Art Walk is a rotating exhibit of public art sculptures displayed throughout downtown Napa featuring artists from the western U.S. The featured sculptures change on a bi-annual basis, so keep a lookout for different pieces of art to pop up during your years at PUC. See if you can Instagram them all!

SONY DSC

Learn about Napa’s history at the Napa Valley Museum
Photo from napavalleymuseum.org

This small, cozy, educational museum always has a rotating schedule of exciting exhibitions, which typically focuses on local and regional artists and student showcases. On permanent display is a collection of approximately 15,000 items on the story of Napa Valley’s history, including geological specimens, Native American artifacts, and other items of cultural significance from the mid-1800s to the present. Currently on display in the main gallery is “Walt Disney’s Trains,” a family-friendly exhibition presented in partnership with San Francisco’s Walt Disney Family Museum that explores the influence railroad trains had on Disney‘s life. Watch their calendar for other exciting upcoming exhibitions!

Paddle down the Napa River
Photo from yelp.com

Spend an afternoon kayaking or paddle boarding down the Napa River. Grab some friends and see things from a different perspective as you paddle by river flora, fauna, and wildlife. You might even see a dolphin or two, which are occasionally spotted in the river!    

See our very own Old Faithful Geyser
Photo from calistogaspa.com

Yes, it’s cheesy, but put visiting the Old Faithful Geyser in Calistoga on your to-do list! While it’s not quite as prestigious as Yellowstone’s geyser, you can still enjoy this natural wonder nevertheless. Besides watching the geyser erupt, you can also visit the on-site petting zoo, home to mountain goats, sheep, and llamas. Use your PUC ID card for a discount.

Wander the stalls at Oxbow Public Market
Photo from oxbowpublicmarket.com

Oxbow Public Market just might be the go-to place for locals and visitors alike. There’s so much to see and do; from browsing local gifts and products, sampling artisanal goods, plenty of restaurants, and even a market for fresh produce. Everyone has something to choose from! Our personal recommendation? Stop by Kara’s Cupcakes for a mini cupcake to go along with a latte from Ritual Coffee. If your sweet tooth is still craving something, get a scoop of ice cream from Three Twins Ice Cream.

Eat a piadine from Pizzeria Tra Vigne
Photo from yelp.com

On any given night, if you walk into Pizzeria Tra Vigne you’re bound to see someone you know from PUC. A favorite spot for both students and faculty alike, you have to make sure you try their infamous piadine, which is essentially a giant Italian version of a taco. It’s delicious!

Catch a show at the Napa Uptown Theatre
Photo from sfgate.com

A beautifully restored historic landmark from 1937, the Uptown brings in a wide variety of music and comedy acts. Besides admiring the luxurious art deco decor, you can also appreciate that no matter where you sit, it will be a great seat, since the distance from the last row to the stage is just 98 feet. Keep an eye on their calendar for upcoming events.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start exploring!

A Visitor’s Guide to St. Helena

We often hear from students that there’s “nothing to do” around PUC, or the Napa Valley doesn’t offer the same amenities found in larger towns. However, it’s completely the opposite! You just have to look a little harder for things you’re interested in as opposed to having them as conveniently right outside your front door.

At first glance, St. Helena, the town closest to PUC—a mere eight miles away—can seem like nothing more than a playground for the rich, lacking a price friendly environment. There are places hidden throughout the valley, however, that offer a good time without breaking the wallet. Here are some popular spots PUC students like to go for a break from studying and experience sophisticated Napa Valley culture in nearby St. Helena!

If you want something to eat …

It’s no secret the Napa Valley is known for its incredible, Michelin star restaurants, but there are also plenty of casual places to grab a good bite to eat in St. Helena, depending on what you’re craving:

  • Mexican food: Whether it’s Taco Tuesday or you just want a good burrito, both Azteca Market and Villa Corona offer great food at a great price.
  • A good sandwich: If you talk with any PUC alum, one of the things they may tell you they miss the most about being at PUC is the iconic sandwich joint, Giugni’s. It’s a local favorite for sandwiches and “Giugni juice.” This place is a classic, although you won’t want to forget to bring cash!
  • Italian food: Another PUC local favorite is Pizzeria Tra Vigne, where you will most likely find PUC students, faculty, and staff on any given day!
  • A burger, fries, and milkshake: If you watch the Food Network, you’ve probably already heard of Gott’s, which has been famous in the Valley since 1999 but is now a must stop for tourists after being featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.”

If you want a cup of coffee or a snack …

For students looking for a place to sip on a hot beverage or smoothie, nibble on a pastry, or enjoy a sandwich or gelato, there are several different coffee shops in town available to spend time studying or to just relax take a break. There’s the Napa Valley Roasting Company, lovingly referred to as the “RoCo,” offering excellent drinks and patio seating; the Model Bakery, which is your go-to spot if you’re looking for fresh bread and pastries; and Sogni Di Dolci, a student favorite due to its delicious, authentic Italian gelato.

If you want to watch a movie …

Built in 1913, the Cameo Cinema is one of the oldest running single-screen theaters in the United States. Don’t let its age fool you, though—the Cameo boasts the most technologically innovative projection system in the area, and has Dolby 3D capabilities. The Cameo hosts current movies, art films, concerts, and the annual PUC Diogones Film Festival in the spring, and has also hosted special community screenings of Francis Ford Coppola’s films. The ticket price for students with a school ID is just $7, making the Cameo a perfect place to come on Saturday nights with friends or even a date!

If you want to shop …

Lolo’s Consignment is where you can find relatively new designer clothes as well as discounted furniture, books, and home decor items. College students are always looking for creative ways to stretch their budgets, and Lolo’s is a great place to look for great deals. You can often find items with the tags still on for a fraction of original cost.

Tip: Ladies, be sure to stop by Lolo’s the third Wednesday of every month for “Girls’ Night Out” where the store stays open late and clothing and accessories are an extra 20 percent off.

If you want a good book …

Main Street Books is a charming little bookstore right on Main Street (obviously) offering a large selection of used books, and a modest amount of new books sprinkled in. All used books are half off, and it’s a great place to find classic literature books for some of your English classes, often at an even cheaper price than on Amazon.

Pro tip: Be sure to check out the piles of books in front of the counter—that’s where you will find used books yet to be shelved.

If you want somewhere to relax …

A little off the beaten path, Crane Park is a lovely spot if you’re looking for outdoor relaxation and the perfect place to absorb some vitamin D! The park consists of eight lighted bocce ball courts, six lighted tennis courts, two Little League baseball fields, one lighted volleyball court, a playground, skate park, horseshoe pits, and picnic tables. It’s a great space to hang out, and on Friday mornings you can also enjoy the St. Helena Farmers Market (7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., May through October), featuring local produce, delicious food vendors, and artisanal goods.

Tip: Bring your Giugni’s sandwich to the park for the perfect afternoon picnic!

There are many other amazing places in St. Helena and within the Napa Valley; these are just a few of our favorites. We invite you to visit Pacific Union College and come experience our college and the Napa Valley for yourself! Fill out a visit request at puc.edu/visit, or call (800) 862-7080, option 2 to schedule your personalized tour.

My Favorite Places: The Authoritative Edition

By now you’ve heard Dana and Brennan give you their top five(ish) places to spend time around here. And they’re both wonderful people, but I know you’ve been craving another perspective: My perspective. So without further ado, here are my five favorite places around PUC.

1. Napa Riverfront

I’m a free spirit. I like to have options when it comes to my spare time. So when I heard about a place where I could find authentic gelato, mouthwatering tri tip, stage plays in the park, and an opera house within walking distance of each other, I was sold. Even if you’re broke, Napa’s Riverfront is a beautiful place to walk around, whether you’re down by the river or on the lawns by the courthouse. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the mood for grub, culture, or a simple afternoon at the park; the riverfront is the place to be. Feed the geese at your own peril.

2. San Francisco

Mels

I may have been born in Los Angeles, and Southern California will always be the best.  But I have to admit that San Francisco is a great place to visit. (Please don’t tell my family.) If you’re a diehard chocolate fan, Ghirardelli Square deserves a pilgrimage. From there, you can walk down to Pier 39 to get food, play some arcade games, and see a bunch of harbor seals tanning on the docks. If I’m itching for a day at the museum, the Exploratorium and the Academy of the Sciences are a blast. And there’s always the Warfield Theater if you’re in the mood to catch a show. In short, San Francisco has something for everyone, and it’s right in our backyard. Catch the BART train into Union Station if you don’t want to hassle with traffic or parking.

3. Albion Retreat and Learning Center

Albion

PUC owns a marine research facility up near the Mendocino coast, with cabins lined up along the river. Students are welcome to reserve cabins or camping spots for a weekend. “But Jordan,” you say, “I have virtually no knowledge of tide pools or marine ecosystems. What will I do at a research field station?” Fear not! The Albion Retreat and Learning Center is open to all, even if you can’t tell a turtle from a tortoise. You can take a kayak up the river and see all kinds of wildlife along the way. Downtown Mendocino is a short drive up the road, with dozens of old shops to duck into. The bookstore and the toy shop are mandatory stops for me whenever I’m in town. Or you can just pick a spot on the beach and enjoy the rugged beauty of the Northern California coast. Albion is a bit of a commute at about two and a half hours away from campus, but even the drive is spectacular, since it takes you through the Redwoods and along the cliffs by the sea. If you can spare a weekend, I highly recommend a trip up to our little field station.

4. Himalayan Sherpa Kitchen

I was skeptical when I visited this newer restaurant on Main Street St. Helena, mostly because I fear the unknown and am uncomfortable with change. I’d always thought the Himalayas were a place where people went to get frostbite and have a hard time breathing, not a destination for fine dining but my cultural ignorance was crushed by a stack of buttered naan. I may not be able to pronounce all the dishes I like, but I have yet to be disappointed. It’s an authentic Himalayan experience without the expensive air fare and risk of death from exposure.

5. Cameo Cinema

The Cameo Cinema is tucked between the storefronts of Main Street, Saint Helena. It’s easy to miss in passing but I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve spent the afternoon at this 140-seat movie theater. They play all the hits, and they also show a lot of cool movies you might not see at the franchised theaters. There was one week during my senior year when we saw The Avengers, and then followed it up with an award-winning independent film the next day. After all the years I’ve been up here, the Cameo is still my go-to place to catch a movie.

There’s more stuff do around here than you could ever hope to accomplish in four years, but these are the five places I keep coming back to above all the others. I’m sure you’ll develop your own list of favorite places after visiting PUC and the beautiful Napa Valley.

The Places I Have Come to Love the Most

Author’s Note: These are my top five(ish).

Mendocino/Sonoma Coastline – Quick fact: It seems counter intuitive to pack warm clothes when going to the beach but, I assure you, northern California’s coast doesn’t care about your intuition. Whatever the temperature is in the valley, it is guaranteed to be 20 degrees cooler on the coast. Several parks and campsites provide day and weekend getaways for the outdoor enthusiast or mariner. Cliff side paths offer lookouts over sheer drop-offs and sprawling views of the Pacific Ocean.

Sonoma Coastline

College tends to bring stress levels up to dizzying heights and the solution: take a drive. The numerous easy-winding roads and small towns that inhabit the coast are worth the gas money.

Sonoma Coastline 2

Farmstead/Ike’s Place – I am often asked, “What makes PUC so special?” I’ve heard this question so many times, I can pretty much tell when it’s coming. Without realizing it, I just awkwardly blurt out the word “food”, interrupting the individual midway through their question. For me, it’s hard to think of a time when food isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but I digress. Given the chance, I normally recover and elaborate my original involuntary yap about why I have stayed at PUC.

Although the area is home to so many quality eateries, I’m lucky (you’re lucky) to have narrowed it down to two. Farmstead is housed in a revamped barn and features a farm-to-table menu with food foraged locally and cooked in a southern style method. (i.e. wood burn grilling and smoking) If you’re looking for something more casual, Ike’s Place has you covered. After perfecting the art of sandwich making in San Francisco, Ike’s spread its delicious footprint to the neighboring Sonoma Valley. Ike’s bread is freshly baked and packaged with their “Dirty Secret Sauce” which has me drooling as I write this at 6:22 a.m.

AT&T Park – The spring time has a polarizing effect on me. On one hand, spring means baseball season, and on the other, crippling allergies. Even if it feels like I’m breathing through a straw, baseball always tips the scale in favor of spring. AT&T Park happens to be the home of my beloved Giants but even if you’re a casual fan it’s a place you should consider visiting. Ranked as one of the better ballparks in the league, AT&T offers land and cityscape views of the San Francisco Bay and surrounding metropolis. Prepare to have your attention fought over as what happens in the water, at times, will rival what’s happening in the stadium. Also, garlic fries.

AT&T

Fox Theater – I had not heard of this venue nearly my entire college lifetime, which was strange since I was road tripping to a show nearly once a week. After nearly four decades in disrepair, Fox Theater, which resides in downtown Oakland, was restored in 2009. Its interior is a medley of the Art Deco Period mixed with Middle Eastern grandeur. This combination of ill-fitted architecture presents a unique and charming home to several concerts throughout the year and remains a favorite venue of mine.

Fox Theater

Each year may see new adaptation to my list. I’ve spent seven years in this area but I’m constantly discovering new places within reach. Yours will undoubtedly differ from mine but that’s what is great about this territory – there is something for everyone.