8 Best Things to do in Napa Valley

  • Napa Valley
  • by HANA-LEE SEDGWICK
  • on SEPTEMBER 26, 2021
  • 1003
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Courtesy of RD Winery
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Napa Valley may be small in size, at 30 miles long and only five miles wide, but with over 400 wineries and tasting rooms to visit, several unique towns, amazing scenery, and enough illustrious, Michelin-starred culinary spots to keep even the choosiest of foodies happy, there’s no shortage of incredible things to do in Napa Valley. Quite frankly, the hardest part of your visit will be narrowing down which activities to fill your days with!

To help, we’re sharing our picks of the best things to do in Napa Valley, so all you have to do is pack your bags and get ready for some world-class Wine Country fun.

Go Wine Tasting

The Terrace at Round Pond Estate, Courtesy of Round Pond Estate

Napa Valley is California’s most famous wine region, and for good reason. This iconic destination has built a reputation for producing refined, age-worthy wines — most notably cabernet sauvignon — from throughout its 16 distinct AVAs, so it’s only natural that you’ll want to prioritize wine tasting while visiting. To make the most of your experience, it’s best to stick to one or two regions per day, such as Oak Knoll and Stags Leap, or St. Helena and Calistoga, so you aren’t spending all your time in the car.

Check out the multigenerational family-owned Groth Vineyards & Winery, home to the first 100-point U.S. wine from critic Robert Parker. At their Oakville estate, you’ll taste sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon while surrounded by vines and centuries-old oak trees. Nearby, Round Pond Estate draws visitors for its Bordeaux-style wines and estate olive oil, which can be enjoyed from the winery’s serene terrace overlooking its sustainably-farmed vineyards.

At the hilltop Rutherford Hill Winery, tastings of Bordeaux varietal wines, including some exclusive to the winery, are accompanied by spectacular views overlooking the valley, while at nearby Conn Creek, cabernet sauvignon from nearly all of Napa’s sub-appellations can be sampled from the garden setting of this Silverado Trail estate.

Cabernet fans will also want to make a point to visit Larkmead Vineyards. Originally founded in 1895, Larkmead remains one of the oldest, family-owned grape growing estates in Napa Valley, known for its organic and sustainably farmed wines and personalized service.

Of course, cabernet sauvignon isn’t the only Napa wine to seek out. Some producers, such as Domaine Carneros, Mumm Napa, and Frank Family Vineyards, are known for both their still and sparkling wines, including acclaimed chardonnay and pinot noir-based wines from the cool Carneros region.

While fancy wineries overlooking vineyards are hard to beat, definitely don’t discount a visit to an urban tasting room or two, like Cami Art + Wine and Tank Garage & Winery in Calistoga, Jessup Cellars in Yountville, and Outland in downtown Napa, which each offer a different slice of Napa Valley.

See Napa Valley By Rail

Courtesy of Napa Valley Wine Train

Looking for a one-of-a-kind way to experience Napa Valley’s stunning scenery? Then hop aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train, an antique train with refurbished vintage cars designed to bring you back to the elegant days of rail travel. Whether you’re embarking on a quick scenic ride or a full-day excursion with winery visits, you’ll get to see some of Napa’s most iconic vineyards. And, since the Wine Train is somewhat of a gourmet restaurant on wheels, expect to indulge in plenty of seasonal food and locally-made wine while enjoying the views.

Experience a Thriving Downtown Scene

JaM Cellars Wine & Music Studio, Courtesy of JaM Cellars

While each of Napa Valley’s main towns have their own unique appeal, downtown Napa is certainly the place to be for a thriving wine, arts, and nightlife scene. Situated along the Napa River, this burgeoning area is home to boutique hotels, urban tasting rooms, hip wine bars, top restaurants, theaters, art, and beautiful river walks. The best part? It’s all within walking or biking distance.

Head to First Street Napa, where you’ll find a wide variety of shops and boutiques, as well as wine bars and tasting lounges, such as Cadet Wine + Beer Bar, known for its fun and diverse beverage menu, Mayacamas Vineyards, where acclaimed wines can be tasted in a chic downtown space, and JaM Cellars, the unique wine and music venue that hosts regular live music shows.

Peruse the urban exhibition of public artworks, known as the Napa Art Walk, before checking out the historic Uptown Theatre, a renovated art-deco theatre from 1937. If venturing out on two wheels is more your speed, rent bikes for a scenic riverside ride along the paved Napa Valley Vine Trail, which runs 12.5 miles from Napa to Yountville.

When hunger strikes, you’re in the right place. Don’t miss checking out the Oxbow Public Market, where over 20 merchants offer gourmet grub, wine, and picnic provisions under one roof. If you’re looking for something a little more intimate, head to the romantic Angèle, a renowned spot for upscale French country cuisine, or dine al fresco at The Grove at CIA, located at the food and beverage hub that is the CIA at Copia.

Soar Above Vineyards

Courtesy of Bob McClenahan Photography

When you’re ready for a once-in-a-lifetime Napa experience, don’t miss booking a hot air balloon ride at sunrise with Napa Valley Aloft or Napa Valley Balloons. As you soar 3,000 feet above the valley, taking in the stunning vistas from all directions, you’ll be reminded just how special this region truly is. Just don’t forget to bring your camera and warm clothes, as the light during this early morning adventure is epic, but the weather can be quite chilly.

Picnic at a Winery

Estate Picnic Lunch at Profile Estate, Courtesy of Merryvale

When envisioning a visit to Wine Country, an idyllic picnic at a winery may come to mind, and we don’t blame you. Given the area’s picture-perfect weather and pristine surroundings, who wouldn’t want to enjoy an al fresco lunch while surrounded by Napa’s famous vineyards? Head to Pine Ridge Vineyards, located in the heart of the iconic Stags Leap District, to picnic in the garden while enjoying bottle service, or visit Ashes & Diamonds, where members and guests can enjoy picnic provisions and family-style spreads among the mid-century modern surroundings. For something truly special, look into booking the Charles Krug Taste of History tour, which ventures from Charles Krug Winery to Markham Vineyards and includes a picnic lunch at Beringer Vineyards in between.

Also worth mentioning are the unique picnic and tasting experiences offered through WineCountry Media Experiences. Try the Estate Picnic Style Lunch at Merryvale’s exclusive Profile Estate, which takes place on a picturesque ridge 800 feet above the valley floor, or the Signature Wine Tasting & Picnic at Tamber Bey, which includes a tour and tasting at this Calistoga horse ranch and winery, plus a picnic lunch.

Eat Well in Yountville

Courtesy of Facebook: Ad Hoc & Addendum

Known as the culinary capital of Napa Valley, Yountville is a must if you want to experience the best of the region’s dining scene. Start your day with a tasty brunch of garden-inspired fare at Lucy, at the LEED Platinum-certified Bardessono hotel, which is also noteworthy for dinner. Or, plan to grab a mouthwatering pastry at Bouchon Bakery, the popular French-style boulangerie from Chef Thomas Keller, who also owns Michelin-starred The French Laundry down the street. Widely known as a foodie’s bucket-list destination, The French Laundry draws visitors from all over the world for its meticulously crafted food and top-notch service. If you’d like to continue your tour of Thomas Keller eateries, be sure to check out Ad Hoc, his casual, family-style restaurant featuring a menu of American comfort food that changes daily.

Also worthwhile in Yountville is Bistro Jeanty, a classic French bistro with tasty fare and a cozy ambiance, and for Italian, Bottega, from celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello, which lures with housemade pastas and hearty yet elevated poultry and beef dishes.

Visit a Spa & Soak in Healing Hot Springs

Spa at Dr. Wilkinson’s, Courtesy of Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs

To indulge in some pampering in Napa Valley, look no further than the quaint town of Calistoga, where relaxing spas and soothing mineral pools have what you need to feel rested and rejuvenated. At Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs, there are eight new mineral baths and three mineral-rich pools to enjoy before or after a spa treatment, or you can stay at the luxurious Solage Calistoga to experience mud treatments, a geothermal pool, and mineral bath rituals at their 20,000-square-foot spa.

Calistoga is also home to one of the largest mineral pools in California, located at Indian Springs Resort and Spa. The Olympic-sized mineral water pool, fed by on-site geysers, is reserved for hotel guests, but a limited number of day passes are available to spa guests, as well.

Experience a Wine & Food Pairing

Pan-Asian Food & Wine Experience, Courtesy of RD Winery

Wine and food go hand-in-hand, which is why it’s not surprising that Napa Valley is home to some of the best wine and food experiences in Northern California. Enjoy a wine and culinary experience at Trefethen Family Vineyards, where guests can nibble on expertly-crafted bites (made by the winery’s own chef), each pairing designed to highlight the special nuances of the wine. At Louis M. Martini, you can taste their acclaimed wines alongside Italian-inspired bites through a Cabana tasting, but be on the lookout for their new four-course wine pairing experience in the underground cellar.

For something a little different, book the Pan-Asian Food & Wine Experience at RD Winery, featuring a lineup of Asian dishes served alongside a flight of the winery’s Fifth Moon wines. Or, book the uber-popular Five-Course Farm-to-Table Experience at Brian Arden Winery, a guided culinary journey of wine and seasonal food pairings, cooked in front of you by their estate chef.


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Author

Hana-Lee Sedgwick

Hana-Lee Sedgwick is a writer and editor based in her hometown of Santa Barbara, California. A Certified Specialist of Wine and Sommelier, Hana-Lee specializes in all things wine, food, and travel, and her work regularly appears in publications such as The Tasting Panel, Edible, and Food & Home. Whether for work or play, she never tires of exploring California wine country. Follow her on Instagram at @wanderandwine or visit her blog, wanderandwine.com.

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