10Best Spots for Your Napa Valley Sightseeing List – Wine Not Required



With more than 400 wineries, there’s no denying it is wine that makes Napa Valley famous. Most visitors’ itineraries are packed tight with sipping and swirling, but forget to save time for traditional sightseeing. It’s understandable - most wineries are attractions in their own right. But wine country is also home to a number of spots worth checking out that, surprise, don’t involve wine. Warm summers and mild winters make being outside part of day to day life here. Whether it’s hiking at Skyline Wilderness Park or enjoying a picnic in front of a working water wheel at Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park, winter days can involve sunny skies. Park the car and take in some of Napa Valley’s famed scenery aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. Take a cooking class at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, or see a fainting goat in action at Old Faithful Geyser of California. You won’t miss the wine. It’ll be waiting at dinner. Maybe even lunch too.



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Located on Main Street in St. Helena, Greystone is the original CIA campus in Napa Valley. For anyone who likes to cook, or eat, Greystone is a must visit. Cooking classes cover everything from Spanish and Italian food to grilling and healthy cooking. It's not just about dessert in the baking classes, students can learn the art of making bread and gluten-free goodies. There's also chef demonstrations if you don't want to get your hands dirty. If you have the luxury of extra time in wine country, Greystone offers culinary boot camps that run anywhere from two to five days.


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Whether you're looking for a place to hike, have a picnic, or even camp, Skyline Wilderness Park delivers. 850 acres strong, the park is popular with locals in the know, but with so many trails, you could spend hours wandering without seeing another person. Keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife like deer, wild turkeys, and geese. When you enter the park there's a small kiosk. Make a quick stop there to pick up a map and pay the $5 admission that includes parking. Volunteers are typically happy to answer questions about the trails, and help folks decide where to go based on how much time they have to spend in the park. Skyline Wilderness Park is also home to the Martha Walker Habitat Garden. Easily accessible from the parking lot, it boasts three acres of native plants that are a popular spot for birds, butterflies and other critters.


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Old Faithful Geyser of California
Photo courtesy of Old Faithful Geyser of California


 

The Old Faithful Geyser erupts approximately every 30 to 40-minutes. Eruptions vary and can last two to six minutes, with heights averaging about 60 feet. Hundreds of gallons of water are released during an eruption. Estimates from Old Faithful Geyser of California are 250 to 400 gallons for a short eruption of about 90 seconds, and 400 to 1,000 gallons for an eruption lasting longer more than four minutes. Some visitors notice a rotten egg smell. The smell comes from trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas. The small concentration in the steam is not considered harmful. Old Faithful Geyser of California is open seven days a week, 365 days a year.


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Calistoga's Petrified Forest is home to the world's largest petrified redwood trees, known as Sequoia langsdorfii. It's estimated the trees were petrified in a volcanic eruption that occurred 3.4 million years ago. (It's believed the crater of the volcano was located within a mile radius of Mt. Saint Helena.) The trees have essentially become fossils. Now mainly composed of quartz, the petrified trees are said to as hard as rocks or even steel. All of the petrified trees can be seen from the Main trail. It's just a half-mile in length. Docents lead 90-minute walks on the trail daily at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. Self-guided walks are also an option.


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Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park
Photo courtesy of Brian Welsh


 

This out of ordinary state park is home to partially restored 36-foot water wheel and grist mill that was built in 1846. Back in the day it was where Napa Valley settlers came to have their corn and wheat ground into meal or flour. Owned by Dr. Edward Turner Bale, the mill was used until the early 1900s. Today, milling demonstrations and historic tours are offered every weekend, and select Monday holidays including July 4th and Memorial Day. Bale Grist Mill offers a long list of milled goods including spelt, buckwheat, rye, polenta, cornmeal, and whole-wheat flours. All are organic and stone ground in the mill.


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Napa Valley Wine Train Excursions


 

Choo, choo! It's hard not to feel pampered when riding the rails in wine country. Roll through Napa Valley and take in the scenery aboard restored Pullman rail cars from the early 1900s. While onboard you'll enjoy lunch or dinner. Thanks to three onboard kitchens, all meals are prepared on the train. In addition to regularly scheduled dining journeys, there are a number of themed options to choose from including winery visits, murder mystery adventures and "Rock the Rails" evenings that include live musical entertainment. Located near Oxbow Public Market, the Napa Valley Wine Train is an easy walk from anywhere in downtown Napa. If you need to drive, parking is free and plentiful.


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Napa Art Walk
Photo courtesy of Israel Valencia - Infinity Visuals

 

See some smile-inducing sculptures without ever walking through the door of a museum on the Napa Art Walk. The first Napa Art Walk exhibition debuted in 2009; the biannual, rotating sculpture exhibition is created using the work of artists from the Western United States. The 2017-2019 Napa Art Walk is entitled "Shifting Perspective." It showcases nine sculptures from nine artists. Free maps are available at the Napa Valley Welcome Center, 600 Main Street, and Napa River Inn, located just across the street at 500 Main Street. Save the paper and download Otocast for free through the Apple Store or Google Play. Much of the Napa Art Walk audio tour has been recorded by the artists themselves. Though not part of the Napa Art Walk, The 9/11 Memorial Garden, by local artist Gordon Huether, is also worth a visit.


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Gordon Huether Studio and Gallery
Photo courtesy of Gordon Huether Studio and Gallery

 

Get your first taste of Gordon Huether's work at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia. Along with a tribute to Margrit and Robert Mondavi, his eye-catching 18-foot Fork, covered with roughly 8,000 forks is on display. Afterward, make time to visit his nearby Gallery and Studio. Born in New York, but raised in Napa, Huether specializes in large-scale works of art. He also created The 9/11 Memorial Garden in downtown Napa. Since much of his work is created at his studio in Napa, there's always something fun to see on a tour. Everyone, including families and dogs, are welcome to visit.


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The Culinary Institute of America at Copia
Photo courtesy of Phil Mansfield


 

The well-known culinary college isn't just for those hoping to become professional chefs. CIA at Copia offers a wide range of options for the public including hands-on cooking classes, baking classes, chef demonstrations, and wine tasting classes. Visitors of all levels are welcome. Sundays are known as Family Fundays, offering kid-friendly classes the likes of Mac & Cheese, Cool Condiments and Hidden Vegetables. In addition to classes there's a store offering cookware, books, and gifts. The Restaurant at CIA Copia is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Brunch is served on Sundays. In addition to two sculpture installations by local artist Gordon Huether, there are a number of art collections open to the public and free to visit, including The Chuck Williams (of Williams-Sonoma fame) Culinary Arts Museum.


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A non-profit public trust, di Rosa features three galleries, home to what's considered the foremost collection of Bay Area art in the world. Set on 217 acres, surrounded by vineyards, di Rosa boasts nearly 2,000 pieces created by 800 artists. Along with multiple galleries, there is a sculpture park, 35-acre lake and a wildlife preserve. The Gatehouse Gallery welcomes drop-in visitors, but in order to view the other galleries and grounds a guided tour is required. All di Rosa galleries are closed every Monday and Tuesday, and a handful of holidays, so plan accordingly. Large bags and backpacks must be checked at the front desk.


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Meet Dana Rebmann

Dana Rebmann moved from San Francisco to Wine Country in search of sunshine. Amazing wine and food was a delightful bonus.

A former television producer for NBC News, Dana is a regular...  More About Dana

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