When it comes to planning a visit to Napa Valley, the array of options can be both exciting and overwhelming. From lodging choices to winery visits and activities, the possibilities seem limitless. To help streamline your experience, we’ve curated a selection of top recommendations to consider during your Napa Valley excursion.
To begin, let’s orient ourselves with the region. Napa Valley ranks among the United States’ premier viticultural areas, boasting over 400 wineries distributed across its landscape. Situated about 50 miles north of San Francisco, this wine-rich haven encompasses several towns including Calistoga, St. Helena, Yountville, Napa, and American Canyon, as well as the regions of Rutherford and Oakville along the valley floor.
Given Napa Valley’s expansive 790 square miles, planning is crucial to make the most of your visit. Opting for a centrally located lodging is recommended, as it reduces travel time and increases your vacation enjoyment. Having a mode of transportation is essential for getting around, and incorporating non-wine-related activities into your itinerary is wise to maintain a balanced day.
Here’s a curated compilation of must-visit places to enhance your Napa Valley experience:
Where to Stay
- Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley: This recent luxury addition, inaugurated in 2021, offers 85 rooms and suites alongside private residences overlooking vineyards and a central pool. Dining options like Auro and Truss cater to various culinary preferences.
- Auberge du Soleil: Perched atop Rutherford Hill, this choice offers unparalleled vistas over a 33-acre olive grove. Renowned for its fine dining and recent revamp, it provides an exquisite Napa Valley experience.
- The George: Located in the town of Napa, this intimate retreat occupies a Queen Anne Victorian mansion, combining historical charm with modern amenities and a future speakeasy for wine tastings and movie nights.
- Carneros Resort and Spa: A 10-minute drive from Napa, this resort features cottages with private gardens. Its renovated Farm restaurant and Boon Fly Cafe offer dining experiences not to be missed.
Where to Eat
- Press: Situated on the outskirts of St. Helena, Press stands out with its extensive collection of Napa wines and a menu highlighting seasonal ingredients. A martini at Press is a recommended indulgence.
- The French Laundry: Helmed by Thomas Keller and boasting three Michelin stars, this iconic restaurant offers two tasting menus, each featuring 12 courses spotlighting California-centric ingredients.
- La Taberna: Drawing inspiration from Spanish pintxos bars, this downtown Napa eatery, led by Chef Armando Ramirez, artfully blends Northern California ingredients with Latin flavors.
Things to Do
- Hot Air Balloon Ride: Begin your day with a bird’s-eye view of Napa and Sonoma through a hot air balloon ride. Companies like Aloft offer a range of packages for group or intimate experiences.
- Wine Tastings: Essential to the Napa experience, select from an array of wineries, such as B Cellars, Duckhorn Vineyards, and Tres Sabores. Mayacamas Vineyards, nestled in the Mayacamas Mountains, offers a charming French estate-like ambiance.
- Wineries with Culinary Pairings: Elevate your wine tasting by visiting wineries that offer expertly paired dishes. Clif Family Winery, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, and Cakebread Cellars stand out for their culinary experiences.
- ATV Tour: For a hands-on adventure, embark on an ATV tour of the vineyard at Hess Persson Estates. The journey culminates in a delectable meal with wine pairings.
- Exploring Small Towns: While Napa Valley is synonymous with wine, its towns offer unique shopping experiences. Woodhouse Chocolate in St. Helena, Makers Market in Napa, and Compline for curated wine selections are prime options.
With these carefully curated suggestions, your journey through Napa Valley promises to be a memorable blend of delectable dining, scenic exploration, and exceptional experiences.