There's more than just wine in the valley. Here are things you've probably never done in the Napa Valley.
The rolling hills of Napa attract wine-lovers and bougie travelers from all over the world. And it deserves the hype. I went to Napa during springtime and thought it would be way more uptight than it was. I was welcomed by a laid-back, yet upscale wine-making region that held its ground.
As someone who is dating an Italian, I know what good wine is supposed to taste like. Well, Napa exceeded my expectations. From the numerous wineries available in the region, it’s hard to find a bad wine.
However, there’s more to Napa than just wine. Let’s explore what else you can do in the valley besides boozing up on Chardonnay.
Where is the Napa Valley?
Napa Valley is a beautiful wine-making region about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco. Due to its remote location, the best way to get there is by car. I landed at San Francisco (SFO) International Airport, rented a car, and took the hour-long drive to the valley. From San Francisco to Napa, you’re treated to California’s lush natural landscape with a lot of beautiful nature to enjoy for those 60 minutes or so to the town.
When you arrive, you’ll be welcomed by the over 400 wineries open for tastings and 90 urban tasting rooms in the area. The lush farmland and picturesque mansions are all part of Napa Valley’s amazing charm.
The best time of year to visit the Napa Valley
If you choose to visit Napa, the best time of year to go is late summer to early fall. That’s because, during this time of year, the valley isn’t too hot with a pleasantly warm atmosphere. Most importantly, it’s harvest season and you can witness the wine-making process this time of year.
Although summer and fall are excellent times to go, springtime can also be a good time to visit. Especially if you’re a budget traveler and prefer to visit places during low season when hotel and winery rates are more reasonable.
Where to stay in the Napa Valley
There are endless amounts of boutique hotels, villas, cottages, and more to stay in the Napa Valley. But from my experience, I can recommend three great places to stay.
RiverPointe Napa Valley Resort
The Riverpointe Resort features tiny home-style cottages that are an excellent choice for those interested in staying close to the city center but a little bit away as well. These cottages are located right in front of a natural area where many deer and small animals call home. Perfect for animal viewing in a peaceful, low-traffic setting. The cottages are also equipped with full kitchens and ample parking making this accommodation comfortable for longer (one week or so) stays in the area.
The Inn on First
The Inn on First is a charming boutique hotel that’s an excellent choice for easy access to all the things downtown Napa has to offer. It’s also an adults-only accommodation that makes it great for travelers who prefer sophisticated and quiet housing. The Inn is also LGBTQIA-friendly with a warm and welcoming staff.
R Inn Napa
The R Inn Napa is a boutique hotel offering urban and modern European-style accommodations in the heart of Napa. Much like the Inn on First, you can walk to nearly any place of interest in the center of the town giving you ample access to great food, entertainment, and of course, wine. The accommodation doesn’t have private kitchens, instead it touts public spaces where guests can cook communally and socialize. Great for travelers who enjoy an upscale atmosphere but want one where they can connect with other like-minded guests. The hotel also has complimentary wine, breakfast, and parking.
7 Things to Do Besides Drinking Wine in the Napa Valley
Not super interested in the wine-tasting aspect of Napa? Here are 7 other things you can do to enjoy your time in the area.
Take a Hot Air Balloon
What better way to see Napa’s rolling vineyards than from above? Napa Valley Balloons delivers nearly hour-long tours offering the best views in the valley. Hot air balloons tours are available everyday beginning at sunrise. With some serving wine and cheese during flight. It’s a nice thing to do to get above and beyond.
Ride Horses Through the Wine Vineyards
Even if you don’t want to stop and taste the vino, you can at least ride through the vineyards atop an elegant horse. Napa Valley Trail Rides offers 30-minute horseback riding through a private vineyard. Enjoy being on the ground experiencing serene views of the valley’s vineyards and surrounding nature.
Stroll in Downtown
The downtown area of Napa is small yet charming. Each block has fantastic dining options, boutiques, shopping, and easy-to-stroll streets. For those warm late summer evenings, a stroll around town can be a great after-dinner activity with friends, family, and loved ones.
Explore the Napa River Trail
Another great place to enjoy nature is along the Napa River Trail. This miles long path that traverses the Napa River offers a tranquil atmosphere with tons of wild birds, foliage, and peace and quiet. If you’re looking for a place to read a book, take a bike ride, or go for a run, this trail is a great place to unwind.
Visit Hot Springs
Depending on the time of year you visit Napa, a quick visit to a hot spring could be a good choice. The nearby town of Calistoga is about 25 miles north of Napa city proper and is known for its amazing natural hot springs. If you’re in the valley in early fall, pay a visit to the Calistoga Hot Springs and relax in its natural mineral water pools.
Do the Napa Valley Art Walk
Napa isn’t just about wine, it also has a robust art scene. Follow the Napa Valley Art Walk to witness what creations local artists have made in the area. You’ll be treated to incredible sculptures and even murals. No matter your style, you’ll love what local artists are making in the valley.
Eat Your Heart Out
The amount of great dining in Napa Valley is overwhelming. Trust me, I know. So, I’ll speak to my favorite places that offer both fine and casual dining without compromising taste and experience.
For indoor market-style dining offering pizza, burgers, empanadas, cupcakes, plus an entire grocery store inside.
For modern and traditional Japanese fare.
For upscale Mediterranean dining.
For upscale waterfront dining and drinks.
For expertly crafted coffee drinks.
For chocolate truffles and desserts.
What will you do in Napa?
Leave a comment with things you plan to do or see when you visit Napa. Did I miss anything extraordinary? Leave a comment with your recommendations for things to do in the valley besides drinking wine.