Napa Valley is one of the world’s greatest destinations and the embodiment of beautiful countryside scenery and famous award-winning wines. It is a region in California that has more than 400 hillside vineyards that you can visit. The place is perfect for lovers of great wine, fantastic foods, and beautiful views. It also features the Napa Valley Wine Train which is a vintage locomotive and travelling restaurant running through the valley.
Though it’s known as a wine region, tasting their wines is only the beginning. There are a lot of other things you can do when you visit Napa Valley such as staying in lavish resorts, charming bed and breakfasts, or in modern hotels, trying out lots of restaurants where you can find top-rated chefs that will cook good food for you, and riding a hot air balloon. Isn’t that the perfect relaxation and vacation especially when you want to disconnect from your busy life?
If you want to experience and taste the great wine that Napa Valley offers, we will help you in planning your trip. Here are some tips on how to plan a visit to Napa Valley.
The Perfect Time to Visit Napa Valley
Most of the tourists visit Napa Valley during the summer season. However, during that time, the place is crowded with a lot of people. It will not be a great experience for you especially when you’re not patient about standing in lines and fighting for a spot at the tasting bar.
The perfect time that we can recommend you to visit Napa Valley is in the fall or from September to October. This will allow you to see a winery in action because it is their “crush” time or the time when they harvest the grapes.
You can also go there during the spring season because that’s the time when the mustard plants are all in bloom. Everywhere you go and look, you will see brilliant bright mustard plants in eye-popping color. However, there will be no grapes on the vines during this time.
How to Travel to NaHow to Plan a Visit to Napa Valleypa Valley
You have two choices to get to Napa Valley. It can either be through a road-trip vacation or through an airplane. The place is located in about 40 miles south of Sacramento and 50 miles north of San Francisco. If you want to take the plane, the nearest airports to Napa Valley are Sacramento, San Francisco, and Oakland. They all have rental car facilities which can take you to Napa Valley. From Oakland and San Francisco, you can simply ride a shuttle bus going to the region.
Where to Stay
When we travel, we tend to book hotels online because it’s hassle free. However, if you’re visiting Napa Valley, don’t be fooled by the cheap hotel prices you can find online because most of the time, they are far away from the real Napa. To guide you on choosing where to stay, here are four nearby areas you can choose from.
- Downtown Napa: This is a trendy old town where you can find a lot of restaurants. It is also the least expensive place to stay. Some of the hotels you can try are River Terrace Inn, Embassy Suites and Western Elm House. If you love bed and breakfast, you can choose to stay in Napa Inn.
- Yountville: If you’re a foodie and you want to try a lot of restaurants when you visit Napa Valley, it’s best that you find a place to stay in Yountville. All of the best restaurants in town are here such as Bouchon, Bistro Jeanty, French Laundry, and many more. Some of the hotels you can stay in here are Villagio, Vintage Inn, Yountville Inn, and Napa Lodge.
- St. Helena and Rutherford: If you want to stay in a beautiful hotel, then this is the best place for you to stay. Some of the wonderful places you can stay in are Auberge du Soleil and Meadowood. However, they are a bit pricey. If you want to spend less, you can choose Harvest Inn or Rancho Caymus if you want something unique.
- Calistoga: This place is located at the north tip of Napa Valley. It is a town famous for their mud baths. One of the famous motel there is Dr. Wilkerson. You can also find other higher end options like Calistoga Ranch, but it’s a bit expensive.
What Wineries to Visit
Your main goal when you go to Napa Valley is to visit wineries and taste the wine they offer. For first timers, it’s best that you visit their major wineries such as Beringer, Mondavi, and Stag’s Leap. There are small fees for tasting but there’s no reservation needed. There are also smaller and family owned wineries in Napa but you’ll have to phone ahead to know if they’ll be open. Here are some major wineries in Napa Valley that we can recommend.
- Domaine Chandon: This winery features sparkling wine or champagne, which is a great introduction to Napa Valley. If you’re visiting wineries in the morning, it’s best to go here first.
- Robert Mondavi: This was the first commercial winery that was bought by the Mondavi family from Charles Krug in 1943. If you want to taste high quality wines from Mondavi, then you should visit this winery.
- Beringer Vineyards: This is another historic winery that was founded by two German immigrants in 1876. More than wine tasting, it also features lush landscaping, the ornate Rhine House, the historic farm house, and the stoic stone winery.
- V. Sattui Winery: A lot of tourists love this winery because they have huge picnic grounds with Italian deli. Aside from wine tasting, it’s also a great place to have your lunch. It is a family friendly winery, therefore, if you will be taking your kids with you, you should visit this place.
Aside from these big wineries, there are also lesser known ones that can be great as well. Some of them are Cakebread, Frog’s Leap, St. Supery, Hall, and Frank Family.
When you visit wineries, it can get really expensive, therefore, you should share your tastings to cut the cost. You don’t have to worry because that is acceptable. Remember to take notes as well on what you liked and didn’t like at the various wineries you will visit to avoid confusion at the end of the day.
As stated earlier, there are a lot of other activities you can do in Napa Valley aside from visiting vineyards and wine tasting. Some of the other attractions and activities you can try are:
- dining aboard the Valley Wine Train
- ride a hot air balloon over miles of vineyards
- trying out their spas as well as hot springs and volcanic mud baths
- sampling gourmet goodies at Katz and Company and the Culinary Institute of America
Napa Valley is indeed a wonderful region to visit with your friends, family, or loved ones. We hope the tips we shared will help you in planning your visit to Napa Valley.