Just north of San Francisco, Napa Valley is one of North America’s most famed (and awarded) wine regions. Fill with heaps of vineyards, gorgeous scenery and cute little towns, it’s the type of place that’s well worth visiting when exploring the best places in California. Trust me, you’ll be spoilt for choice with so many of the best things to do in Napa Valley.
It’s a gorgeous area of California.
Now, to help you get the most out of your stay, I wanted to share some of the top places in Napa Valley (and the surrounding area) that we love. This way, you can focus on the all-important wines, balloon flights and rambles that make this area so special.
Take a look, below, at some of the best things to do in Napa Valley. Bottoms up!
1.) Happened at the Winery, St. Helena
Now, we all know that Napa Valley is iconic for its delicious wines, right? Well, even if you’re not technically into your wines, or unsure of what you like, there are heaps of places where you can perfect your skills with the help of in-house sommeliers.
For us, you’ll want to make sure you visit the Happened at the Winery which has a history dating back to the 1800s. Visiting is one of the best things to do in Napa Valley, especially if you want to visit a well-established and historic vineyard that’s easy to reach.
To make things easy, book this day tour from San Francisco to experience some gorgeous vineyards in Napa Valley. You’ll get to three of the most prestigious wine estates and even get to stroll around the vineyards themselves.
Plus, you’ll have plenty of time for a tipple, too.
In St Helena, you can also do balloon tours, bike tours, walking tours, plane tours, culinary tours, private tours, and many other types of tours to help you know more about the place and explore them.
Love a good foodie experience whilst on vacation?
Then get yourself over to Yountville in Napa Valley. Honestly, it’s one of the best things to do in Napa Valley if you’re fancying a day away from the vineyards.
Starting the day with an amazing breakfast, you must head to Bouchon Bakery. The homemade pastries are so good, so catch them before they sell out.
If you miss them, head across the street for Mini Model instead. They have some tasty English muffins that are so yummy.
Finally, head over and book a table at The French Laundry. It’s one of Thomas Keller’s yummy, fine-dining, spots in Napa Valley. Opt for the chef’s tasting menu and you’ll be in for a treat.
3.) Napa Valley Wine Train
Look, we love a good train trip… especially if it includes award-wimming wines!
If that sounds like fun to you, head over for the Napa Valley Wine Train that’s easily one of the best things to do in Napa Valley whilst in the region.
The experience is so special and well worth the ticket price. Just be sure to book online before heading to Napa Valley. Spaces are limited and this can be very popular.
As you ride the historic train, multiple meals and award-winning Napa Valley wines are served for you to enjoy. Departing and ending in St. Helena, the roundtrip is over 30 miles and a lovely way to see the wider area.
We love the ‘Legacy Experience’ ticket they offer. You spend around 3 hours on the train and 3 hours in different wineries. Plus, it includes your 4-course meal and oodles of wines to taste.
4.) Napa Valley Museum
Now, I know I’ve already mentioned Yountville, but I had to give the Napa Valley Museum a dedicated point to visit. It’s such a special place to see in the region and one of the best things to do in Napa Valley if you want to learn more about historical artefacts.
You see, this spot isn’t about wines and although small, it’s a lovely way to break up the day if you’re having a little ‘vineyard fatigue’.
Once inside, you’ll get to see historical artefacts, photos, and paintings from the wider region. Different exhibitions are featured in the museum, too, which showcase local, regional, and national artists and private collections. It’s a great little spot for 45 minutes.
5.) Skyline Wilderness Park, Napa
In the picturesque foothills of Napa Valley, the Skyline Wilderness Park is one totally stunning place to visit whilst road-tripping the area. In fact, it’s right on the city fringe of Napa itself.
Perfect if you’re looking for something other than wine, the Skyline Wilderness Park is perfect for picnics, camps and trails, too. We loved the Buckeye Trail.
Trust me, with 800+ acres to explore, you can easily spend a sunny afternoon rambling here. You might even spot some of wild turkeys, geese and deer. So keep your eyes peeled!
Don’t forget, there’s also an Archery Range, Martha Walker Gardens, Lake Marie and the Caldwell Vineyard that’s just shy of the park itself.
6.) Oxbow Public Market, Napa
Okay, if you’re anything like me, you will love Oxbow Public Market. It’s one of the best things to do in Napa Valley, especially if you’re spending some time in the city of Napa.
Once here, you’ll get to try some of the best farmers and local foods that make this area so special. Of course, you’ve got the fresh produce and bread but what makes Oxbow Public Market so special is the other dining spots that are so yummy.
You can get everything from Sushi, wood-fired pizzas, and local honey and wine-tasting spots (if you’re not venturing into the valley itself).
Afterwards, be sure to book in for a hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley at sunset. Now, be sure to book your ride before you visit Napa Valley and always be prepared for last-minute changes for your hot air balloon ride. After all, it’s all weather dependent.
Now, there are a few companies to choose from; some of the most popular and reliable are; Napa Valley Aloft, Balloons Above the Valley or Napa Valley Balloons, Inc.
All organise seasonal balloon flights and it’s a great way to see Napa Valley from a different perspective.
7.) Napa Art Walk
Done with all the wine? How could you! Ha!
Jokes aside, if you fancy a little time away from the grape varieties, head over and ramble the Napa Art Walk.
In 2009, the first Napa Art Walk exhibition started, and it became a biannual event that’s a totally great way to explore the city.
Free maps on the Napa Art Walk are available in different locations like 600 Main Street, Napa River Inn, and Napa Valley Welcome Center (and onlineobviously).
Plus, you can also experience the Napa Art Walk audio tour which was recorded by the artists themselves.
8.) Safari West
Promoting conservation and environmental education activities, Safari West has a great aim to share knowledge and empower people to think about sustainability and what they can do to help the environment, right in the heart of Sonoma.
Around a thousand animals are currently living in Safari West and even stay overnight. Well worth a little gander if you’re heading across with younger members of the family. After all, vineyards can only be so interesting to kids!
Afterwards, and along your drive across Napa Valley and the surrounding region, make sure to stop off at Ledson Winery.
Perched near Santa Rosa, the estate is totally beautiful and it’s one of the best things to do in Napa Valley as you’re around Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.
9.) Palmaz Vineyards
One lovely winery in Napa Valley is the Palmaz Vineyards. Not only that, they serve up some tasty Cabernet Sauvignon and it’s well worth visiting whilst in the valley.
With over 50 acres of land, it’s a pretty expansive but cosy winery that has some tasty wines to try on your route around Napa Valley’s top spots.
Not only that, Palmaz Vineyards has a cool (and practical) subterranean wine cave. The impressive underground dome is used for fermentation and the wine-making process that is totally unique to Pamaz. We love it!
Also, don’t forget, you’ve got the Shadybrook Estate Winery that’s just down the road, too. You can easily partner both (or more) in one visit.
10.) Castle of Amorosa
Now, one of my favourite wineries in Napa Valley has to be Castle of Love. With its castle, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that you’ve arrived in the rolling hills of Tuscany.
For an easy way to visit, book this guided tour to Castello di Amorosa which departs from San Francisco. It’s such an easy way to visit and the wine tours are just out-of-this-world.
The whole history behind the castle and the winder vineyards is just incredible. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the best vineyards to visit in Napa Valley that you really shouldn’t miss.
Just be sure to book this tour in advance. Tours fill up fast at peak times in Napa Valley. Honestly, photos don’t do this vineyard justice.
Fancying a little break from the vineyards (who’s ever said that)? Then get yourself over to the Petrified Forest. It’s totally easy to visit on a day trip from Sacramento or San Francisco and well worth stopping by if you’re in the Napa Valley area.
Open daily, it’s one of the best things to do in Napa Valley to see some of the largest petrified redwood trees. Over millions of years, the trees fossilised and, in turn, almost look like rocks.
Once here, be sure to check out some of the small hikes and rambles around the park. Some take around 20 minutes and are pretty easy for families.
11.) Bale Grist Mill and Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
Oh, and don’t forget, just shy of Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Bale Grist Mill State Park is one of the best things to do in Napa Valley whilst after exploring Castello di Amorosa.
Here, you will find the 36-foot water wheel and grist mill which was initially built back in the 1800s. Long ago, before the wine arrived in Napa Valley, the mill was used to help grind local corn and wheat crops for the flourishing area of California.
To learn more, you can head on historic tours and milling demonstrations that are held most weekends.
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