There are so many things to do in Napa Valley that I could have easily thought of more than 30. Napa Valley has a lot to be proud of. In addition to truly beautiful scenery, this small area of Northern California boasts some of the world’s best wine and food. The combination of excellent soil and weather conditions makes fertile ground for olives, nuts, fruit, and of course wine, including all the French varietals and the region’s prized grape, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Update: I have a 3-day itinerary for Unanchor Travel Guides, which has everything you need to plan a wonderful stay in Napa Valley: maps, winery and restaurants suggestions, walking tours…all for just $4.99. And check out my 7 tips for wine tasting.
More resources for Napa Valley are at the bottom of this post. These good guidebooks for Napa Valley can also help:
During my last few trips to Napa Valley, I discovered so much great wine, food, natural beauty, and more worth sharing that I decided to put them together in one big post. So, here you go, my favorite things to do in Napa Valley, starting with the whole valley first and moving to the city of Napa second:
Things to Do in Napa Valley:
1. Leave the driving (and planning) to others: Because there are so many wineries to choose from, and no one likes to worry about driving while wine tasting, I suggest taking a wine tour through Napa Valley with Napa Wine Tours. They can plan the day for you, or you can create your own plan for the day and tell them where you want to go. Napa Wine Tours is a fast and easy online wine tour booking site–you can create custom tours in just a few clicks right from your computer. Tours start from just $52!
2. Enjoy the views from a hilltop winery. This one is Signorello Estate, right off the Silverado Trail outside Napa, which is appointment only, but you can also try nearby Silveado Vineyards or Darioush for views.
3. Visit Clos Pegase. This unique winery showcases modern architecture, sculpture, and a drought-resistant garden.
4. Eat at Tra Vigne. Conveniently located right on Highway 29 between V. Sattui and Beringer, this restaurant is a convenient stop–it serves delicious Italian-inspired food at reasonable prices and has plenty of outdoor seating. Looking for something more upscale? Try Redd or Mustard’s Grill.
5. Stop at V. Sattui on Highway 29 just before St. Helena. This winery has an amazing deli. Try some cheeses before buying, choose a chutney or spread to go with it, grab a baguette and chocolates, and you have a great picnic. If you are really hungry, try one of their gourmet sandwiches.
6. Experience Napa Valley in the fall. Napa Valley’s grape vines have some of the most striking fall colors anywhere (each varietal turns a different color) and makes it definitely worth a visit in November.
7. Take a winery tour. Choose a winery that has a tour that appeals to you. If you love caves, visit one. If you enjoy white wines, go to a winery that advertises whites in its tour. Even at the big wineries like Beringer, a tour is a great way to learn about the area and how wine is made. If you want a first-class tour, try Jarvis or Palmaz Vineyards.
8. See some of the valley’s unusual and striking architecture. Wineries like Darioush (below), Opus One, and Castello Di Amorosa will blow you away with their architecture. Unless the winery is open to the public only by appointment, it’s usually OK to walk around and look without tasting, so if you’ve had enough wine for the day, go ahead and stop at some wineries just to see the architecture and gardens.
9. Drive or bike the Silverado Trail. This small highway winds up the valley; its scenery makes the perfect place to explore wineries. It’s much prettier and less busy than Highway 29, but small roads conveniently connect it to Highway 29, which you may need to access for food and other wineries.
10. Try Napa Valley’s boutique wineries
Places like Bennett Lane Winery outside Calistoga have excellent wine, generally made with extra care in small quantities from estate vineyards.
And now: things to do in Napa (the city):
I’ve loved Napa Valley since my first trip there years ago but, like most visitors, bypassed the city of Napa on my way up the valley. There didn’t use to be much worth stopping for, but the city has transformed through an extensive revitalization project, and, despite the state’s economic woes, is thriving. I really enjoyed the city’s mix of hip, upscale restaurants and wine bars with small-town community activities like Shakespeare in the local park. There really is so much to do in Napa, yet you will feel totally at home.
12. Have lunch at Ca’ Momi in the Oxbow Public Market. This restaurant specializes in authentic Italian food, including Neapolitan pizza, paninis, and organic pastries like bignes with chocolate and sea salt.
13. Stop at Anette’s Chocolates to get vanilla ice cream with chocolate cabernet sauce and splurge on their fantastic chocolates and brittles.
14. Have breakfast at the homey and very popular Alexis Baking Company. These lemon ricotta blueberry pancakes were so, so good.
15. Eat tapas at ZuZu, an intimate restaurant with lots of character and great food made from authentic Spanish ingredients, like this perfect salad of local peaches, arugula, garroxta cheese, and orange blossom honey.
16. Treat yourself to the day spa experience at Spa Terra, in a beautiful cave at the Meritage Resort and Spa just outside Napa.
17. Explore the hills of Napa Valley. One easy place to hike is the vine-covered hills of the beautiful Meritage Resort and Spa.
18. Stop at Bounty Hunter. Eat fantastic BBQ while choosing from their extensive list of rare wines available by the glass at this popular tasting bar.
19. Take the Napa Art Walk. Walk the streets of downtown Napa and see the sculptures that make up the Napa Art Walk, a fun outdoor display of Northern California artists that changes every 18 months.
20. Have fun and learn something while tasting wine at Back Room Wines. This wine shop and tasting bar has special themed tastings every day, including, as shown below, rare wines and comparison tastings of wines from various regions.
21. See a show at Uptown Theater or the Napa Valley Opera House. With acts like Wynton Marsalis and Ani di Franco, these beautiful venues have first-class offerings right in downtown Napa.
22. Have a drink at the bar at Morimoto. This restaurant is run by Iron Chef Morimoto. As you would expect, the food is excellent, but with so many great food options in Napa, you might opt for having a drink at the bar in this gorgeous restaurant.
23. Stay at Andaz or the Napa River Inn. Both of these hotels offer something unique, are beautifully decorated, and are located right in the heart of downtown Napa, within walking distance of everything.
24. Sit at the bar and watch the cooks at Tarla Grill, a Mediterranean restaurant that I loved for its friendly atmosphere and delicious food, including a chocolate crème brûlée!
25. Buy gifts at the Oxbow Public Market. On my last visit, my favorite was the Olive Press, where you can try locally made olive oils and vinegars. The fig balsamic vinegar and kalamata olive spread are both excellent.
26. Walk the new Napa Riverfront. With the city’s ongoing flood control project, the riverfront is now a really nice place to walk.
27. Watch live jazz at Silo’s. Napa’s nightlife scene is not big but with places like Silo’s, 1313 Main, and even a couple of tasting rooms staying open late, you will find plenty to do.
28. Eat at Grace’s Table. I had the best breakfast I’ve ever had there, but they also serve lunch, dinner, and Happy Hour. The owner values food so fresh that he picks ingredients from his garden before coming to work. Local, sustainable, organic, and totally delicious!
29. Check out Napa’s funky, hip boutiques and art galleries.
30. Last but definitely not least, take the Napa Wine Train! From good food to beautifully preserved historic rail cars, the Wine Train is a relaxing way to get an introduction to Napa Valley.
What would you recommend, or what would you like to do when you visit Napa Valley?
(This post includes one sponsored link. Some of these ideas resulted from when I visited Napa as a guest of the Napa Downtown Association and the Napa Wine Train. As always, all opinions are my own.)
More about Napa Valley:
Clos Pegase photo credit: The Napa Wine Project