Want to achieve the ultimate life balance? Run a wine-fueled half marathon (the wine comes after the race, of course). Destination Races organizes a series of half marathons in the most-renowned wine destinations in North America – from Napa to Virginia to British Columbia – each culminating in a post-race wine and music festival where you’ll get to “rehydrate” by sampling wines from local appellations and celebrate with other runners from around the world. Most Destination Races Wine Country Half Marathons sell out, so you’ll want to plan ahead.
We figure if you’re going to run 13.1 miles, you might as well do it amongst a stunning, Wine Country backdrop, right? So we’ve rounded up all of the race destinations, including where you’ll want to stay, play, and rejuvenate during your active Wine Country weekend.
The Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon in British Columbia, Canada, is the first Destination Races event held outside the United States and with good reason. Kelowna is at the center of the beautiful Okanagan Valley wine region, which is just starting to get worldwide recognition for its mostly-white wines.
This course offers five-star scenery and is also fast – after a quick ascent, it drops more than 500 feet to the finish – with not just a Wine Country backdrop, but also mountains and the 84-mile long Okanagan Lake as well. Starting at the 60s-themed The Vibrant Vine tasting room, you’ll end at Waterfront Park and beach, and because this region is also known for ciders and craft beers, you’ll get to taste some of that too at the post-race party. If you’re already 13.1 and travel ready (i.e. you have a passport), you could still technically register for this year’s race, held June 23. Otherwise, it’s a great one to plan for next year.
Kelowna really likes its parks, with numerous spots to hike, bike, swim, and more. Before the race, get the blood flowing (or maybe just meditate) at places like Stuart Park, Bear Creek Provincial Park, Knox Mountain Park, or Myra Canyon Park. You can also spend the day on Lake Okanagan. Rent a kayak, canoe, or stand up paddleboard from Okanagan Beach Rentals.
You may not want to leave The Delta Grand Okanagan Resort, complete with a spa, casino, two pools, and beach access. The massive resort is also located just steps away from the half marathon finish line and Destination Races has secured a special runners rate. Also right on the shores of Okanagan Lake, Manteo Resort has plenty of activities to keep you (or the family members you dragged to the race) busy: indoor/outdoor pools and hot tubs, a kids water park, saunas, movie theatre, putting green, tennis court, private beach, and more.
Unsurprisingly, Destination Race’s most popular half marathon, slotted this year for July 15, has sold out for the 11th straight time. This means you’ll need to jump on registration early for next year’s race (but if you really want to avoid having FOMO, here’s how you can still race Napa-Sonoma in 2018). What’s really special about this race, and separates it from most other California Wine Country races, is that it combines both Napa and Sonoma. You’ll start in Napa’s Carneros region at the incredibly scenic Cuvaison Winery and finish at the historic Sonoma Plaza. Along the way, you’ll enjoy a variety of views: rolling hills, vineyards, farms (and animals), marshes, and the San Pablo Bay.
Since the race ends in Sonoma, spend the day before exploring Napa. You can get some leisurely exercise in by walking around downtown Napa and the Riverfront, or along the Napa Valley Vine Trail, ideal for walkers, runners, and cyclists. The race expo is held at Oxbow Commons, next to the popular Oxbow Public Market. You’ll also find the Culinary Institute of America at COPIA, where Destination races will host a pre-race dinner on Saturday, July 14th, 2018. The di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art is a great wine-free activity to do pre-race. We bet you’ve never been to a museum like this, completely surrounded by vineyard vistas.
After the wine festival, walk out your sore muscles while window shopping around the Sonoma Plaza. If you anticipate wanting wine, reserve tastings for excellent pinot noir at Sojourn Cellars and WALT Wines, both right off the square. You’ll also probably be starving, so eat all the carbs at the Depot Hotel Restaurant, which specializes in Northern Italian fare.
You can’t get much closer to the start line of this race than the Carneros Resort & Spa. Spend the day before the half marathon relaxing and enjoying the resort’s pool and spa amenities. There are also plenty of lodging options right on the Sonoma Plaza, so that you’ll only have to hobble a few feet to your room after the race. The luxe Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is offering complimentary runners breakfast on race morning, plus free Spa Bath House passes to use after — score! If you’re looking for something that will leave you with some extra spending money for wine, check out the Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn. It’s ideal for race day transportation and also has a pool and sauna for a post-race soak.
How does Labor Day Weekend in Oregon Wine Country sound? Spend the holiday weekend in the heart of the Willamette Valley. This isn’t Napa; Willamette is less-populated, slower, quieter, and a favorite destination of pinot noir lovers. Limited to just 2,500 runners, you’ll want to jump on this event faster than you can finish a glass of wine. The race kicks off at Stoller Family Estate – where the tasting room architecture, hillside vineyards, and sunrise over Mt. Hood are not to be missed – and you’ll run pass all kinds of beautiful scenery, until reaching the tasting room-centric town of Carlton, buoyed by Ken Wright Cellars.
Oregon’s Willamette Valley is just an hour drive from Portland, so spend some time in Portlandia before heading to Wine Country. Try to resist visiting the city’s many breweries until after the race and instead get lost among local landmarks like Washington Park and Powell’s Books, which claims to be the world’s largest independent bookstore. The race ends in the small town of Carlton, where there are a number of urban wine tasting rooms you can visit after the post-race festival, like Carlton Cellars and Gypsy Dancer Wine, where the vibe is as fun as their name suggests.
Local hotels in this small town book up quickly, so Destination Races recommends checking Home Away to find a house you can book for the weekend. If you can snag a spot, The Vintages Trailer Resort offers a fun and memorable stay. The 14-acre, luxury trailer park is just two miles from the start line and features rows of unique, vintage trailers, plus vineyard views, a pool, lawn games, and a long list of amenities.
Experience California Wine Country during arguably the most beautiful time of year: fall. With a race slotted this year for October 27, the grapes will be freshly picked from Harvest and the vines will dot the Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys in hues of red, orange, and yellow. Adding to the fun, the Healdsburg race is Halloween-themed, so dress in costume (extra points if you run as a grape cluster). This race begins at the famed Francis Ford Coppola Winery and is limited to just 2,500 runners, so register early.
The day before race day, head to downtown Healdsburg’s historic square and take a leisurely stroll, stopping in any shops that catch your eye. It’ll be tough to resist the temptation pouring from the many urban wine tasting rooms, but a fun, alternative option is The Taste of Tea, where you can order up a marTEAni and indulge in a mini green tea spa treatment that’ll get you ready to run. Carbo-load at PizZando, which serves up wood-fired pizzas.
After the race, visit some of Healdsburg’s stunning winery estates to sip on primarily pinot noir and chardonnay, like Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery (epic gardens and views) and Landmark Vineyards, which is housed in a 1905 stone hop kiln and has picnic-perfect grounds. Celebrate your finish with an epic dinner at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, or a five-course wine and food lunch in the fancy Bubble Room at J Vineyards & Winery.
Take advantage of a discounted runners rate through the recently-renovated, Tuscan-themed Best Western Dry Creek Inn, which is just minutes from downtown Healdsburg. The hotel also offers complimentary breakfast and boasts two outdoor pools and spas, a steam room, and sauna for all your pre and post-race care. If you want to stay right on the plaza, check out Hotel Healdsburg’s urban paradise or the ultra-chic and environmentally-conscious h2hotel.
Does running run in your family? Held on Mother’s Day weekend, this half marathon is an epic mother-daughter or son event. It’s also a great excuse to not run a whole 13.1 miles, as this course can be run family-style, split equally into a two-person relay. The Santa Barbara area offers a little bit of everything – Wine Country, rustic farms, the beach, and adorably-idyllic towns – and this race is no different. Starting in downtown Santa Ynez, the course winds past vineyards, farms, and orchards backed by the Sierra Madre Mountains, through the quaint town of Los Olivos, and all the way into the historic town of Solvang.
Explore adorable Solvang (45 minutes from Santa Barbara), known for its Danish-style architecture. Pre-race, you can get your culture on. Dig deep into Danish heritage at The Elverhøj Museum of History & Art, visit the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, and then the Mission Santa Inés. Want something awesome for your Instagram? OstrichLand USA has the goods in the form of photo-ops with, well, ostriches.
Hotel Corque will put you within stumbling distance of the finish line. It’s a comfortable and modern boutique hotel with views of the Santa Ynez hills that you’ll soon be running by and plenty of on-site dining options. The Wine Valley Inn & Cottages architecture fits in with the rest of Solvang’s Danish influence; cottages, chateaus, and towers sit among actual windmills, but inside, the rooms are modern and updated.
You just missed the 2018 Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon, but you’ll want to plan for this one in 2019 as it’s a great opportunity to explore one of the hottest, up-and-coming wine regions in North America. The race’s starting line begins at Doukenie Winery – quite possibly the most beautiful winery you’ve ever visited – passing vineyards, farms, ranches, historic byways, and gorgeous estates along the way.
The starting line in Leesburg, VA is just one hour west of Washington D.C., so why not take the opportunity to check out the sites in our Nation’s capital? It’s a great way to stretch your legs, but take it easy and save them for race day. You could also fly into Baltimore (roughly 75 minutes from Leesburg) and spend the day strolling the Baltimore Waterfront Promenade and eating the city’s famous crab cakes.
When you’re done running, you’re going to want to spend some time chillin’ by Doukenie’s lake at the wine and music festival. Want to sample more of the local terroir? Check out Hillsborough Vineyards, where you can sip on varieties you may have never heard of out on their super-scenic terrace.
Book a room at Lansdowne Resort, where the Race Expo is held and you can hop on race day transportation. The resort sits on just shy of 500 acres and you’ll have everything you need here: spa services, an impressive fitness center and aquatic complex for a little light exercise before race day, five – yes, five – pools, and dining. There’s also easy access to some hiking trails to get those legs warmed up.