Things to do in Napa Valley, CA

Get Your Bearings in Napa Valley

See & Do
Stay
Eat
Party
Shop

Things to See

One of the negative sides of being a popular place to visit is, well, too many people. Nothing can drag a Napa trip down faster than getting stuck in traffic on winding, hot roads. To elevate your trip, make that hot air your friend and visit Balloons Above the Valley, a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience that will offer an unbeatable view of Napa's stunning scenery.  It's also a great way to take in all of the other attractions from above.

Avoid:

Small highways during construction.

Hot Tips:

The first-ever Bottle Rock Festival in 2013 was a huge success.

Where to Stay

Say the word 'Napa' and wine springs to mind. What should also spring to mind, though, is hot springs. Besides producing some of the world's best wines, Napa's geography also fissures delightfully warm and invigorating hot springs. Napa is loaded with fantastic hotels, but we recommend Calistoga Ranch because they offer the best of both Napa worlds: savory wine and rejuvenating mineral springs.     

Caution:

Mixing too much wine and too much mineral springs can lead to dehydration.

Avoid:

Long waits for wine tasting - there are too many excellent wineries to have to wait.

What to Eat

The world-famous French Laundry is the easiest pick in the restaurant category, but it's months-long waiting list might not make it practical. We want to recommend Gott's, a truly Californian take on the old take-out menu. Gott's does what California does best: take an ordinary meal and make it better, just by using the best California ingredients around. You can spend an arm and a leg at most of Napa's restaurants, or you can keep all your appendages and have a quality meal at Gott's. Gott's puts the country in wine country.

Avoid:

Snooty service - if servers feel the need to be rude, they're wine country posers.

Hot Tips:

California chantrelle mushrooms are a tasty bite of land and sea.

Be Sure to Sample:

Niman Ranch beef

Places to Party

After a long day of wine-tasting, why drive all the way back to San Francisco for the nightlife when Napa Valley has plenty of its own? Our best recommendation is the Uptown Theatre in Napa, a gorgeously renovated art-deco venue and historical landmark. Started as a movie theatre in 1937, the theatre underwent a major transformation in 2000 and can now host the biggest and best live music acts in the country. Loved by locals and visitors alike,  the Uptown Theatre offers a truly Napa nightlife experience. 

Avoid:

Excessive cover charges at night clubs.

Where to Shop

Let's be honest: Napa Valley's main purpose is to gently remove the money from your wallet but leave you happy in return. From St.Helena to Yountville, the valley has been flooded with quaint gift shops desperate to sell you that perfect trinket or bottle of wine to take back home. If you want one central place that offers a grand selection, we recommend the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa. From the inaptly named Poor House gift shop to the extensive Oxbow Wine Merchant, this charming market offers treats and treasures so attractive they might not make it to your suitcase.

Hot Tips:

Some wine merchants offer great deals on bulk shipping.

Best Local Souvenir:

Still has to be wine, but the locally made hand soaps are delightful, too.

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Napa Valley Neighborhoods

Things to do in Napa Valley


Napa Valley is known for...

Five of Napa Valley's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Wine:

It's no secret that Napa is the center of wine production in the United States. With plenty of daytime sunshine and cool nights, it's the perfect terroir for growing perfectly quaffable wines. With over six-hundred wineries and vineyards in Napa Valley (and that doesn't even include any in neighboring Sonoma!) they run the spectrum from small and family-owned (like Neyers Winery) to massive (think Mondavi). Unlike some of the older wine-making regions in France and Italy, Napa has nearly every kind of varietal, making it the perfect place to taste and learn.

2. Michelin Stars:

The same climate that allows Napa to grow excellent grapes makes it possible for the region to grow nearly anything, all year round. This good fortune has drawn many notable chefs to the valley (along with the Culinary Institute of America) to make it one of the best places in the world to eat, period. Two restaurants, Thomas Keller's The French Laundry and the restaurant at Meadowood have both been awarded three Michelin stars, while eight other restaurants in Napa have one star. Whether you prefer to call it 'farm to table,' or 'field to fork,' the great ingredients mean that even the simplest food is top notch.

3. Outdoors:

Rolling hills and acres of picturesque vineyards make Napa Valley a destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It's common to see cyclists clad in bright spandex zipping through the serene stretches of green, and less intense peddlers ambling their way from one winery to the next. Surrounded by the Mayacama Mountains to the west and north and the Vaca mountains to the south, there's no shortage of hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails that afford great views of the Valley. For the more adventurous, hot air balloons regularly take to the skies. 

4. Relaxation:

The combination of Napa's Mediterranean climate, the easy-going pace of wine tasting days and decadent, leisurely meals and many, many outdoor fire places already makes it the perfect place to get away from the bustle of the city. Add in quietly luxurious hotels with Frette-sheeted beds and award-winning spas featuring wine-inspired treatments and mud body masque bars and it's the perfect place to turn off the phone, forget about the internet and simply unwind for a few days. 

5. Art:

Drawn to the area by the beautiful scenery and peace and quiet, Napa Valley is home to numerous artists, many of whom draw inspiration from the landscape and light. Local galleries (there seem to be more and more of them popping up all the time), wineries and vineyards in each one of Napa's towns feature the paintings, sculpture and handcrafted furniture of these neighboring artists and artisans as well as others. Additionally, the former di Rosa estate, now turned museum, has arguably the world's most important collection of Northern Californian artists throughout the twentieth century.