Napa Valley is a world-renowned destination, drawing tourists and locals alike with its picturesque vineyards, rolling hills, and world-class wineries. Beyond the wine scene, Napa Valley is a diverse region with many activities to keep you entertained.
We visit Napa Valley every time we travel to California; Napa is located just north of San Francisco and is one of America’s most renowned regions for wine. We’ve heard great things from friends who have visited, so we couldn’t wait to explore the area and share our top things to do in Napa.
Most of the wineries in Napa are family-owned, so it was great knowing we supported local businesses during our visit. Since we were visiting during the off-season, it was quieter, so we could take our time visiting the wineries without feeling rushed.
As with all our destination reviews, we always try to share highlights from our experience and some top tips to help you maximize your trip.
- Fun Things To Do In Napa Valley
- 1. Visit The Wineries
- 2. Go Hiking
- 3. Go On A Culinary Adventure
- 4. Enjoy The Andaz Napa
- 5. Take A Bike Tour
- 6. Hot Air Balloon Ride
- 7. Wine Tasting
- 8. Olive Oil Tasting
- 9. Explore The Art & Culture
- 10. Sit Back & Enjoy The Scenery
- Tips For Enjoying Your Trip At Napa Valley
- 1. Use Ridesharing Services To Hop Between The Wineries
- 2. Plan Ahead
- 3. Use The Toll Roads
- 4. Research Wineries And Make Reservations
- 5. Go Off The Beaten Path For Some Great Photo Opportunities
Fun Things To Do In Napa Valley
Napa Valley is a beautiful wine region in California that offers visitors a wide range of activities to explore. Napa Valley has something for everyone, whether you’re a wine enthusiast, a foodie, or an outdoor adventurer. Here are some of the fun things you can do during your visit:
1. Visit The Wineries
No surprises here. When visiting Napa, the top thing to do is check out the wineries. There are so many to choose from, most just off the SR-29, the main highway that runs through the region.
Domaine Carneros and Sequoia Grove Winery were two of our favorite wineries from the trip. Domaine Carneros is a larger winery founded by the family behind Taittinger Champagne and specializes in delicious sparkling wines.
We tried four different varieties of sparkling wines for $30 and enjoyed sitting on their patio, which overlooked some beautiful countryside views and vineyards. After our wine tasting, we flew our drone nearby, so check out our video to see the aerial footage.
The Sequoia Grove Winery is a smaller winery with a 110-year-old barn and tasting room beneath gigantic trees. This winery stood out to us because we had a great experience at Sequoia National Park last year, so we were excited to check it out.
We tried four of their wines for $25, which included their specialty Cabernet Sauvignon. We loved the ambiance of this winery and enjoyed the personal attention they gave during the tasting.
These are just two of the many options available in the area. Please comment below if you have any suggestions or recommendations on wineries!
2. Go Hiking
When traveling, we always enjoy the outdoors and must walk off all the wine tasting. We hiked in Skyline Wilderness Park, a short distance from Downtown Napa.
Napa Valley offers many hiking trails, such as the Skyline Wilderness Park and the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. You can enjoy the beautiful scenery and wildlife while exploring the great outdoors.
Entry to the park is only $5, which covers parking, a map of the trails, and use of restroom facilities at the trailhead. It was a quiet place to hike and offered 25 miles of different trails that were easy to navigate. It also allowed us to try out new features on our Mavic Air drone!
3. Go On A Culinary Adventure
Napa Valley is a foodie’s paradise. The region is home to numerous restaurants, cafes, and gourmet markets.
On our first night in Napa, we found La Taberna, a cozy tapas place in Downtown Napa. This place was perfect for what we were looking for. It offered an awesome selection of small dishes and course, lots of wine!
We loved the patatas bravas and the Spanish omelet and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.
The next morning, we decided to try the Farmers Table at the Andaz, known for its fresh and locally sourced ingredients. We enjoyed a nice breakfast which we needed before starting a day of wine tasting.
The Farmstead in St Helena was great for a midday stop and quick meal. The property has a few dining options, including a cafe, an upscale restaurant, and an outside terrace bar. We chose the outside bar. The staff was super friendly, and the restaurant offered great lunch options. We decided to go with a couple of appetizers, which were delicious and a great way to break up the wine-tasting.
The highlight of our trip (and really, our top food experience for the year so far) was Ad Hoc in Yountville. Ad Hoc is owned by Thomas Keller, who you may have heard of from his upscale, renowned Napa restaurant, The French Laundry.
This is a more casual and low-key restaurant than The French Laundry, but the food and ambiance were outstanding. The restaurant has a fixed four-course menu for $55 and is served family-style.
The quality was the best we’ve tasted in a while, and the casual dining experience made you feel at home. If you are interested in going, make a reservation since the place gets booked quickly during the weekends.
4. Enjoy The Andaz Napa
We stayed in the Andaz Napa, which is located in Downtown Napa. I have to admit, we love the Andaz brand and picked the hotel without paying too much attention to the different areas where you can stay in Napa.
Downtown Napa has a lively vibe and is full of restaurants, bars, shops, and many art galleries. We did notice a few Bachelor and Bachelorette parties, so it’s well-suited for a younger crowd.
Though if we were to visit again, we’d pick a more laid-back area like Yountville or St Helena.
Maybe we’re just getting old, but I think these seemed more our style, being relaxed but offering some excellent food and drink options within walking distance, with less of a college party vibe.
The three towns are within 15-20 minutes of each other and close to all the wineries. You really can’t go wrong staying in any of these places!
5. Take A Bike Tour
If it’s your first time in Napa Valley, one of the best ways to explore its beauty is to take a bike and explore smaller towns or popular landmarks near you.
Biking through Napa Valley is an experience like no other. You can rent a bike from various shops and stop at wineries and vineyards. The trail is mostly flat, making it easy for people of all ages and fitness levels to enjoy.
Rent a bike and take a leisurely ride along the Napa Valley Vine Trail; you can stop at various wineries to sample wines and enjoy the stunning scenery. If you don’t know your way around, small companies offer guided bike tours around the valley and teach you about the wines and history of the surrounding landscape.
6. Hot Air Balloon Ride
If bikes are not your thing, you can take your adventure to the next level and have a hot-air balloon tour of the entire valley. You’ll rise above the vineyards and take in the amazing views from above. You’ll be amazed at how much beautiful everything looks from up there! It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Take a hot air balloon ride and enjoy the stunning views of Napa Valley from above. Balloon rides are perfect in the early morning when the air is cool, and the light is just right for breathtaking views of the vineyards.
You can also book in the evening. Evening rides are the best ways to spend time with someone special.
7. Wine Tasting
If there’s one thing that makes Napa famous, it’s wine! There are many wineries where you can sample some great wines while enjoying the beautiful landscape.
There are over 400 wineries in Napa Valley, ranging from small, family-run establishments to large, well-known brands. Tasting rooms are a great way to experience the best of Napa Valley’s wine culture. You can sample wines, learn about production, and chat with winemakers.
To sample their delicious wines, you can visit some famous wineries, such as Robert Mondavi Winery, Beringer Vineyards, and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.
Some wineries even offer tours where they explain how they make their wines and teach you about the different types of grapes used to make them.
8. Olive Oil Tasting
Napa Valley is not just about wine but is also famous for its olive oil production. The region produces some of the best olive oils in the world.
If you’re in Napa Valley, you’ll likely come across a few olive oil-tasting rooms. Most facilities have a knowledgeable staff or in-house experts who can walk you through the different olive oils available. You’ll also learn about their different flavors and why some are better for certain dishes.
You can visit places like Round Pond Estate or Long Meadow Ranch to learn about the production process and different sample varieties of olive oils and pair them with bread, cheese, and other delicious snacks.
9. Explore The Art & Culture
Napa Valley is not just about wine and food; it also has a rich arts and culture scene. The Napa Valley Opera House, the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, and the Napa Valley Museum are some of the top cultural attractions.
Check out the Napa Valley Museum if you want to experience some of the local cultures. This cultural center is dedicated to showcasing the history and art of the region. The museum has many exhibits, from contemporary paintings to historical artifacts, to suit all interests.
In addition to the museum, there are also many galleries and studios throughout the valley where you can view and purchase works by local artists.
10. Sit Back & Enjoy The Scenery
One of the most enjoyable things to do in Napa Valley is to take in the breathtaking scenery. The valley is surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards, making it a great place for a leisurely drive or bike ride.
You can also hike in the nearby mountains or take a hot air balloon ride for an aerial view of the valley. You don’t need to break the bank to enjoy your stay. The valley is an Eden that you can enjoy without doing much.
Tips For Enjoying Your Trip At Napa Valley
Napa Valley is one of California’s most popular tourist destinations, offering breathtaking scenery, delicious food and wine, and various outdoor activities. As always, Here are some tips to help you make the most of your trip to this beautiful region:
1. Use Ridesharing Services To Hop Between The Wineries
There were plenty of rideshare options available in the area. Both Lyft and Uber are active in the Napa region. Unless you have a designated driver, we recommend making the most of the reasonably priced services to get around the wineries.
Most wineries are within 15 to 20 minutes of Downtown Napa, which makes ridesharing an inexpensive option. And you’ll get to relax and enjoy all the great wine that Napa has to offer without having to worry about driving.
2. Plan Ahead
Napa Valley is a popular destination, and it’s always a good idea to plan to ensure you get the most out of your trip. Book your accommodations, tour reservations, and dining experiences in advance to avoid disappointment.
Oakland Airport is the closest large airport to Napa and is less busy than San Francisco airport. This made it easy to pick up our rental car and get straight on the road. Door to door, you can expect to reach Napa in an hour and 30 minutes, depending on the traffic.
3. Use The Toll Roads
When we landed in Oakland, Waze showed a 40-mile trip but estimated the drive to be 2 hours and 30 minutes. This seemed crazy, and we were confused about why we were being given such a strange route.
We selected the “avoid toll roads” option in Waze. When we unchecked this option, our drive time was reduced by an hour. While we had to pay a small fee for the toll, arriving at our destination an hour earlier was well worth it!
On the way back to Oakland, it didn’t seem to make a difference as there weren’t any toll roads on the return trip.
4. Research Wineries And Make Reservations
We highly recommend doing your homework before heading to Napa. While we don’t consider ourselves wine experts by any means, we enjoy sampling good wine, and honestly, we weren’t sure where to start. We searched some of the top wineries listed on Trip Advisor and noted some interesting ones. We also got some great recommendations by talking to the wine specialists throughout the day.
It’s a good idea to make reservations for the “newer” wineries, as they have a cap on the number of people they can accommodate daily. Domaine Carneros was an example of a newer winery we booked in advance. The older wineries generally don’t have restrictions and will take people on a drop-in basis, but it never hurts to check in advance.
Also, if you plan to transport any wine home, check out our tips on packing wine and recommendations on useful gear.
5. Go Off The Beaten Path For Some Great Photo Opportunities
As you might have noticed, we love taking photos and capturing videos of our trips. Everywhere we looked, there were great photo opportunities.
However, some more popular stops along the main Napa road were pretty crowded, especially the poppy fields. So we decided to get off the beaten path and head down some of the smaller country roads. We managed to get some great photos and drone footage while avoiding many of the crowds.
No matter what you choose to do in Napa Valley, you’re sure to have a fun and memorable time. So grab your friends or your significant other and head to this beautiful region for a relaxing weekend getaway.