How to Spend a Perfect Day in Napa Valley, California
There’s no place in the world quite like Napa Valley. It’s reminiscent of Tuscany, but with its own Californian vibe. And if you only have a limited time in Napa, you’re going to want to make the most of it. You really don’t want to miss a thing!
Your perfect day may vary from someone else’s, so you’re going to want to spend some time planning to make the most of your trip.
With that said, there are a few things you should know before you begin writing your itinerary.
Understanding the Napa Valley layout
When you start making lists of the wineries you want to visit, you’ll notice that the Napa Valley area encompasses quite a few towns. It actually spans from the town of Napa all the way up to Calistoga. But even though there are a few notable towns, the entire region only spans about 30 miles.
It’s best to explore Napa over a few days, but you can still get a lot done within one day.
How to pace your Napa trip
As you read reviews, you may want to plan multiple winery tours and visits. And even the thought can feel overwhelming. But if you only have one day, don’t attempt more than one tour. Winemaking really doesn’t vary much from winery to winery, so decide on one place for a winery tour and designate a few other wineries for tastings.
How to decide which Napa wineries to visit
There are a few wineries in the area that are known for their world-class varietals. And if you’re a true wine connoisseur, you’re going to want to add these to your list.
But if you’re just a casual wine drinker, don’t go by what other people enjoy. You really can’t go wrong with wine in Napa, so your day will be spent enjoying the scenery and beautiful tasting rooms.
Bottom line: Regardless of your level of wine snobbery, don’t feel pressured to limit your trip to the more famous wineries. Choose one winery for its winemaking reputation, another for its views and a third (and maybe fourth) for its unique and/or beautiful tasting room.
And in order to find the best wineries for your tastes, always do your research in advance. If you leave your visits to a whim or a spontaneous recommendation, you may not have the best experience. After all, we are looking for the “perfect” day here.
As you create your itinerary, find out which wineries require advance reservations. Some of the more popular ones do, and you don’t want to get turned away at the door.
How to travel in Napa Valley
You’re definitely going to want to take a scenic drive, so if you don’t have a car with you, rent one. Your route will depend greatly on the wineries you’ve chosen to visit, but try to avoid the main highway. Silverado Trail is less busy and a much better drive.
If you’re coming in from San Francisco, be very wary of traffic. You definitely don’t want to spend your day in a gridlock situation. Set out early to avoid rush hour and check the car racing schedule at Sonoma Raceway. If there’s a race going on, you’re going to want to take a detour on Interstate Highway 80.
Where to eat in Napa Valley
Napa Valley is as well-known for its amazing eats as it is for its vino, so you have a lot of great options to choose from. But with many options and a limited time to explore, it’s natural to deal with some level of FOMO (fear of missing out).
If you’re traveling the entire Napa region, you’ll probably stop for lunch somewhere in the middle, which would bring you to St. Helena.
Try the Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch or Burger Tray Gourmet.
Non-wine Napa entertainment
Even with just one day in Napa, there’s a good chance you’re going to be looking for a break from wine tastings. Good thing there’s a lot more to do in Napa than taste great wine.
For one, you should definitely plan a stop at Sonoma Cheese Factory in Sonoma Square. Here, you’ll get a free cheese tasting, and you can even pick up some food for an evening picnic. The scenery in Napa is so breathtaking that you’ll want to spend as much time as possible outdoors.
Another fun and iconic thing to do in this area is to book a hot air balloon ride. These typically only take an hour, so you can easily fit one into your perfect Napa Valley day. You’ll quickly see why this activity is so popular here as you take in views of the rolling hills and vineyards.
If you have any extra time, the sky is really the limit. There are many award-winning spas here so you can schedule a massage. You can also spend time outdoors on a hike or bike ride. Take a relaxing stroll in downtown Napa or do some shopping.
No matter what you decide to do during your day in Napa Valley, you’re not going to be disappointed. But if you want to make the most out of your trip, you should definitely plan everything out in advance. You should know exactly where you’ll go, how you’ll get there and how much time you’ll spend in the car.
Are you excited for your trip to Napa Valley yet? What’s going to be on your itinerary?
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Rachel is a freelance writer and a self-proclaimed “Travelholic” and she is currently writing for various companies. She enjoys traveling to parts unknown, sampling local cuisines, and sharing her experiences with the world. In her free time, you can find her planning her next trip, playing with her daughter, or heading to the closest farmers’ market.