An Easy Day Trip to Napa Valley, California

Northern California in the fall | This Is My Happiness

One thing I love about living in Sacramento is everything that surrounds this valley city. The day-trip opportunities are almost endless. One of my favorite quick getaways is Napa Valley. I’ve been there many times, and though it is beautiful at any time of the year, the best time to visit is fall. Here are my suggestions for an easy day trip to Napa Valley.

Some people prefer Napa Valley’s neighbor, Sonoma County, because it’s slightly less pretentious, less crowded, and less expensive, but in a way I actually like the pretension of Napa Valley. The castles, vine-covered hills, and over-the-top beauty make me feel like I’m somewhere special, far away from home. At the same time, I have always found the people to be friendly and helpful, offering for us to share tastings and happily answering questions.

The Silverado Trail

For a more authentic and peaceful experience, get to the Silverado Trail as quickly as you can. It is a small highway on the eastern side of Napa Valley. Not only is it more beautiful than Highway 29, it’s also less crowded. It is also the best place to bike in the area. We connected to it just outside of the city of Napa.

Easy Day Trip to Napa Valley

Easy Day Trip to Napa Valley

 Easy Day Trip to Napa Valley

The Visitor Center in Napa provides a great map of all the wineries along the Silverado Trail and adjacent roads. We used it as a guide and made our first stop at the quiet Signorello Estate Winery just because it looked pretty. As you drive north, it’s on the right side several minutes past Napa.

Easy Day Trip to Napa Valley

We weren’t disappointed. The small hilltop winery is beautiful and includes a lovely area for sitting outside. Like most wineries in Napa Valley, tastings are about $20 per person, but the winery now requires reservations for one of its three special tasting experiences.

From the parking lot, go through the little opening in the shrubs to walk around the vines and take in views like this:

Napa winery

Back on the Silverado Trail, we drove just a bit more and stopped at Silverado Vineyards. This friendly winery is crowded and more touristy than I usually like, but it’s worth it for the views.

Stick your head in this storage room– the smell of the barrels is amazing!

wine barrels

We continued north on the Silverado Trail and cut west across Zinfandel Road towards the busy Highway 29.  You can stop and buy fresh local produce on the side of the road. Stands like these are common around rural California– take what you like and put your money in the box.

California fruit stand

After just a few minutes on Zinfandel Road, we turned north onto Highway 29, the main highway that runs through Napa Valley, and pulled into V. Sattui, which is famous for its wine and outstanding deli.

Easy Day Trip to Napa Valley

Despite the crowds, visiting the deli was worth it. There were cheeses available to taste. We bought picnic supplies and enjoyed a delicious lunch. Gourmet sandwiches are also for sale, but if you want a sit-down meal, there are nice restaurants just down the road.

We wanted to  continue north on Highway 29, but we soon gave up because there was too much traffic; it was a weekend, after all. We went back to the Silverado Trail and headed toward home but made one last stop at the unique Cliff Lede Winery.

Easy Day Trip to Napa Valley | This Is My Happiness

The winery has sculptures scattered in its gardens, including work by the famous 20th-century artist Jim Dine.

Napa art

So, there you have it, an easy day-trip in Napa Valley. Add more Napa Valley wineries to your day, including Stags Leap (on the Silverado Trail), Cairdean Estate (near Calistoga, a convenient stop with a cafe and cave tours), Beringer (for its great reds), Clos Pegase (for its art), or one of the many smaller wineries.

Have you been to Napa Valley? 

P.S. Much more about Napa Valley:

 Napa guidebook

My travel guidebook for Napa Valley with a complete 3-day itinerary, available on Amazon

And more blog posts about Napa Valley:

Build the Perfect Day Trip to Napa Valley

The Napa Wine Train

30 Things to Do in Napa Valley

Where to See Art in Napa Valley

Budget Travel Tips in Napa Valley

49 Comments

  • Call me one of those who love the less pretentious, less crowded Sonoma area! 🙂

    Napa is beautiful but I love going to places away from the crowds. No matter which one you prefer, they are both beautiful and offer plenty of wine!

    • Jenna says:

      I agree about the crowds. That’s why I try the smaller wineries and stick to the Silverado Trail.

  • I live in the Sonoma Valley & love a quick getaway to Napa. I always find myself at Oxbow where artisanal and local foods are sold. Each time I go I try a different purveyor. So far, my favorite is C Casa? The best tacos I’ve ever had!

    • Jenna says:

      I haven’t been to Oxbow yet! I have been wanting to go for a while but never have enough time to do everything when I’m there. However, your comment sealed the deal– I will go there next time! And try the tacos!

  • Pretentious or not, Napa or Sonoma, wine is wine! I would love to go to both when I could but the things you’ve mentioned here about Napa Valley have convinced me enough to go visit. V. Sattui is my favorite out of all these places.

  • The day we planned a picnic at Sattui it rained nonstop. We ate in the car! We also took the Napa Valley Train. The food was very good, it was a lovely experience.

    • Jenna says:

      The rain doesn’t sound too fun, but the train sounds great! I have been wanting to take the Wine Train for a long time!

  • Jessica says:

    I just taught an art lesson on Jim Dine for Valentine’s Day. Love the sculpture!

  • Laurel says:

    Wineries are one of my favorite type of day trips, I’m jealous that you have so many available to you.

    • Jenna says:

      Have you explored many in Germany? I haven’t but have heard that there is lots of wine made there.

  • Lisa says:

    That looks like a lovely day trip! I think I’ll have to plan trips to both Napa and Sonoma and then get back to you on which I prefer. 🙂

    • Jenna says:

      Great idea! I have a post about Sonoma, too, in case you’re interested in getting some ideas. There’s a link above in the post.

  • Perfect for a weekend too. Great shots, Ellen!

  • Beautiful photos and some nice recommendations. I really should go in the Fall because the colors here are fantastic. We just had a girlfriends’ getaway in Napa last April. We loved Castello di Amorosa and touring its castle gerounds. It almost felt like Italy. We all preferred the smaller wineries compared to the big name ones. Although, V. Sattui has been a favorite of mine and we always liked stopping by.

    • Jenna says:

      I will have to go to Castello di Amorosa. I agree with you, some of the places do make you feel like you’re in Europe. That’s part of the reason I love it so much. 🙂

  • Sophie says:

    I really enjoy visiting wineries, but never been to one in America. Napa looks very pretty in autumn. Good wine, too, is it?

    • Jenna says:

      Yes, great wine! I enjoyed the wine scene in Europe as well but would like to explore it more.

  • You can’t go wrong with day trips to either Napa or Sonoma. Nice choices for your post. I love the small wineries along the Silverado Trail, but I’ve also enjoyed Sterling for the fun tram ride, nice tour and great views.

    • Jenna says:

      I mentioned Sterling at the end of the post based on everything I’ve seen and heard, but I haven’t been there. I planned to go there last time but there was too much traffic.

  • Sonja says:

    I like it there too. Love to spend a weekend overnighting in one of the wineries! Such fun!

  • Can you believe it—I’m a California native but have never been to Napa Valley! Great photos, I definitely need to go there sometime!

  • Nancie says:

    What a great day out! I want to visit that deli.

  • What a great day trip. We hope to hit Cali wine country in the summer. Haven’t decided between Napa or Sonoma yet…

    • Jenna says:

      Maybe you could do both since they’re right next to each other. However, try to go to Napa on a weekday because it might be quite crowded in the summer.

  • Anwar says:

    Very cool post and photos. I don’t drink so I never really thought to stop anywhere when I was driving through Napa, but it is a lovely place indeed.

    • Jenna says:

      I have been thinking about taking my older son there to the state parks. I think there is enough to do even without drinking wine.

  • charu says:

    Jenna, I’ve never visited Napa but I have done several trips up in Michigan and locally. It’s definitely next on my cards, I love that Clos Pegas has art as well as wine, and it think more wineries would do well to stand out from the crowd. Good stuff!

  • Jackie says:

    Have you ever checked out the wineries in Lodi, CA? It’s a lot closer to you than Napa and we have some lovely wineries and great wine. You should check out ZinFest in May at Lodi Lake. http://www.zinfest.com : )

    • Jenna says:

      I will go to the ZinFest this year if I’m here! Actually, I know quite a bit about the wine in Lodi because my mom lives there, and I drive down there, through the winery-lined Turner Rd., pretty often. I love Gnarly Head wines. Which wineries do you recommend visiting in the area?

  • Sabrina says:

    Beautiful! It really looks like a lot of fun. Kind of reminds me of Tuscany. Would love to sip on some wine out there. And the fruit stands? How awesome is that?!

    • Jenna says:

      The fruit stands are awesome indeed. We actually have them all around California. I love Tuscany, and to me Napa is the second best thing, at least here in the U.S.

  • Sounds like a wonderful way to spend a Californian Day my friend. I’ve only been to Simi Winery many years ago but remember it most vividly!! Your pictures really capture the essence of this region and loved the pics of the food as well!

  • monique says:

    thnx for the great suggestions. Living in Davis, I love being so close as well. We went recently with kids and did the touristy geyser in calistoga, oakville grocery for a picnic and amorosa winery (not worth it, didnt pay the outrageous fee, so walked the grounds, a little too disneyland / castle for us) ! will def. check out your spots next time we are up there. (PS I just wrote up something on the benefits of living in a university town for a travel lover….if you are not thrilled with sac – as we weren’t, you may want to consider..:)!.:)
    monique recently posted..3 reasons why I love living in a university townMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      I haven’t been to Amorosa but don’t think I will after what you said 🙂 Did you live in Sacramento before moving to Davis? I love Davis but it would be hard for me to leave my job here, and I don’t think I would like the commute.

      • monique says:

        yes, our first stop when we returned to california was sacramento (I lived and worked there right out of college). I went back to work for a period and worked on capitol mall, while my husband re-started his business. (we rented in land park for about 3 years) .
        my husband does the commute to midtown – not bad. we moved here when my daughter was going into her second year of preschool and my son was just born. (now she’s in 3rd and he will start kinder in sept. she attends the spanish immersion public school as will he.)
        monique recently posted..3 reasons why I live in a university townMy Profile

        • Jenna says:

          Spanish immersion school is wonderful. How fortunate for you that you have that there. The ones in Sac are too far from my house. If I lived in Davis, I would have to commute to South Sac, down 99. It would be far, but I haven’t ruled it out yet!

  • monique says:

    p.s. another place in napa I’m really wanting to visit is di rosa – art, sculpure, outside. have you been?
    http://www.dirosaart.org/
    monique recently posted..3 reasons why I love living in a university townMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      I have not but have had it on my “list.” I will try to get there this spring. I love any place that includes art.

  • jade says:

    The endless day trip opps are why we love living in California too. I can’t believe we haven’t been to Napa yet- it is so up our alley- but we really need to make at point and go already. Your pictures are making me want to jump in the car right now!
    jade recently posted..A Perfect Afternoon with Malibu WinesMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      I am sure you will love it when you do go. You should let me know and maybe I could come for part of a day for lunch or something 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    I’ve never visited this part of California before, but it looks like a great place to slow down and relax!
    Jessica recently posted..Penn Farm Agricultural History CenterMy Profile

  • Beautiful pic i love California!

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