Wine Country Travel Guide
Insider Travel Tips - Part 1
by Courtney Cochran
Tips locals know and savvy Wine Country visitors can use. Consider it our gift to you, and happy travels!
- Never make your first visit a single day and preferably not a Saturday or Sunday. In general, Wine Country cannot be comfortably covered in a single day.
- Get an aerial view of Wine Country at some point during your stay to grasp the "lay of the land". In Napa Valley, Auberge du Soleil offers a stellar vantage of the valley from its dining terrace (and a great burger, we might add).
- Best airports for Northern California wine country visits: San Francisco (SFO), Santa Rosa (STS) and Sacramento (SMF).
SEASONS & PLANNING AHEAD
- Visit Wine Country during the winter season. You are likely to book lodging packages with many more "extras" included and experience less crowded tasting rooms. You might even have the opportunity to meet the owner or winemaker.
- Winter months bring cold weather and rain. Be sure to pack an umbrella, warm coat and layers.
- In warmer months, pack sunscreen and light layers along with hats to protect you against the sun. Sometimes summer highs spike to 100° F, but Napa Valley and Sonoma generally have great all-round sunny weather.
- If you're in Wine Country around a holiday, inquire about any special themed events or tastings – e.g. wine and chocolate pairings around Valentine's Day.
- No matter what time of year you visit Wine Country, there's almost always a festival of some sort going on! Check our event calendars when planning your trip.
- Specifically visiting Napa Valley or Sonoma? See our more in-depth guide for these wine regions HERE!
DRIVING & TRAFFIC
- Avoid Saturdays – they bring the longest wine tasting lines and the most traffic (i.e. more waiting, less tasting).
- Trying to make a left turn on Highway 29 is NOT recommended; getting across is difficult and you will anger drivers behind you who are waiting for you to make your turn. Try to plan out your itinerary so you are making right turns for the bulk of the day. (The same goes for Highway 12 in Sonoma.)
- Add 45 minutes to your travel time when driving on Hwy 29 past Rutherford towards St. Helena between 2 pm and 4 pm on weekdays and from 11am on Saturday & Sunday.
- There are no gas stations on Napa's Silverado Trail – have a full tank of gas.
- Parking is plentiful and mostly free in Wine Country, but limos and tour buses should only go where they’ve verified in advance parking can accommodate them.
- Recommended tipping for tour cars/limo ($100.00 a day)
- Most properties require 2-night stays if you check in on a Friday or Saturday night.
- Unlike those in other parts of the country, Wine Country B&Bs almost ALWAYS have private bathrooms.
- Book a stay during midweek; you're likely to net deals on lodging rates.
- Book a room with a kitchenette or full kitchen. It's a great way to save money and create a home-away-from-home vibe.
- Be sure to check out ALL of the amenities offered at the place you are reserving a room. Some hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and/or resorts offer breakfast each morning, wine, coffee, and tea reception in the afternoon, and a host of other delights included with your stay.
CLICK HERE for Part 2 of Insider Travel Tips in Wine Country.