There is a famous welcome sign in the Napa Valley that features a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson. It reads, “… and the wine is bottled poetry.” Wine is often the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the Napa Valley, and there is no doubt that the story of grapes has shaped the valley into what it is today.
In addition to world-class wines, Napa has a variety of fun things for visitors to do. Located about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, Napa Valley is a great day trip or weekend getaway. Visitors come from worldwide to see the beautiful valley, taste the world-famous wines, enjoy fine dining, shop the boutiques, and get pampered in the spas.
1. Downtown Napa
Highway 29 runs through the Napa Valley, from the town of Napa in the south to Calistoga in the north. The town of Napa, located in the southern part of the valley, has a charming downtown filled with unique boutiques and beautiful old homes.
2. Napa Mill
There is a walkway along the Napa River downtown that is a pleasant stroll and will take you to the historic Napa Mill Building. The Mill features a variety of restaurants, a bakery, and a few boutiques. The Napa River Inn anchors the mill building and is a good choice for a base camp while exploring the valley. Website.
3. Oxbow Public Market
On First Street, east of Soscol Avenue is the Oxbow Public Market, which features various artisan food stalls and restaurants. You can pull together items for a picnic for your trip up the valley: 610 1st St. Napa, California. Open 7 days a week. Website.
4. Yountville Napa Valley
Your first stop just north of Napa, off of Highway 29, is the town of Yountville. This village is home to California Veterans Home, Domaine Chandon, and V marketplace, formerly known as Vintage 1870. V Marketplace is a collection of shops, galleries, and food purveyors. Be sure to stop by Kollar chocolates inside the V marketplace and pick up some delicious artisan chocolates. 6525 Washington St. Yountville, California.
5. Bouchon Bakery Yountville
Yountville is a small town but has much to offer. It is pedestrian-friendly, and you can catch the vineyards in your peripheral vision at almost any time. Highly-rated restaurants of Thomas Keller are in Yountville, including The French Laundry, Bouchon, and Ad Hoc. There is a stand-alone Bouchon bakery where you can pick up delicious bread, sandwiches, and sweet treats if you don’t have time for a full meal. Website.
6. Oakville Napa Valley
Continuing to head north on Highway 29 is Oakville, home to some very well-known wineries, including Dolce, Far Niente, Groth Vineyards, Opus One, and Robert Mondavi. Daily winery tours and tastings are available, except for Opus One, where an appointment is necessary.
7. Oakville Grocery
Oakville Grocery is a great little place to get picnic fixings. Picnics are as commonplace in Napa as the fresh air and beautiful scenery, so you can be sure that Oakville Grocery can fill your picnic basket beyond your wildest expectations. Then, off you go! You will find many nice places to enjoy your picnic in the Napa Valley. 7856 St Helena Hwy, Oakville. Website.
8. Rutherford Napa Valley
Not far from Oakville is Rutherford, which offers another array of famous wineries such as Mumm Napa Valley and Caymus Vineyards. There are B&Bs and inns for lodging and if you are up for a great meal, visit Rutherford Grille. They offer both inside and outdoor seating.
9. Helena Gott’s Roadside
Further north on Highway 29 is the second largest town in the valley, St. Helena. This town is filled with quaint shops, more wineries, and plenty of dining opportunities. A popular spot is Gott’s Roadside, formerly Taylor’s Refresher, a St Helena institution serving burgers, fries, and shakes.
10. Bale Grist Mill Historic Park
Learn about the history of the Napa Valley at Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park. Built-in 1846, this restored water-powered mill is still operational. The park is located 3 miles north of St. Helena. Tours are available on weekends. You can pick up a bag and flour ground at the mill for $5.00. There is also a hiking trail from the mill to Napa Valley Park. 3369 Saint Helena Hwy North. Website.
11. Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
This park contains the farthest inland coast redwoods in a California state park and one of the few places in the valley where you can camp for a modest fee. The park features a spring-fed swimming pool, picnic areas, yurts, cabins, and campsites. 7 trails are leading from the campground ranging from easy hikes to an 8-mile trek. 3801 St Helena Hwy, Calistoga. Website.
12. Calistoga Napa Valley
The last stop on the valley floor is Calistoga. Here you will find Hurd Beeswax Candle Factory and retail outlet, art galleries, bookstores, and a chance to experience first-hand why Calistoga is dubbed the spa capital of the world. Natural hot springs occur in Calistoga, which means you can soak in a mineral bath or mud bath at one of the local spas.
13. Old Faithful Geyser Calistoga
Suppose you have kids with you while visiting Napa Valley, a must-stop Old Faithful Geyser. Located 2-miles from downtown Calistoga Old Faithful erupts about thirty minutes and sends a stream of hot mineral water up to 75 feet into the air. Also on site is a herd of fainting goats. Yes, it’s a roadside attraction, but kids love this place.
14 Napa Valley Wine Train
If you are a rail enthusiast, the Wine Train is a fun way to enjoy a meal and the scenery. The Wine Train makes a round trip from Napa to St. Helena. The nice sights of the vineyards and enjoyable food and atmosphere make this a popular attraction for visitors. A typical trip on the wine train takes about three hours and travels from downtown Napa to St. Helena and back.
15. Napa Balloon Rides
Hot air balloons are a common sight in the early morning, and getting to see the valley from a bird-eye-view is a special opportunity indeed. It is a romantic and adventurous way to start the day, as long as you are not afraid of heights. Napa Valley Balloons one-hour balloon rides over the valley from Yountville. Website.
16. Outdoor Activities
You can rent a bike for the outdoor enthusiast or bring your own and pedal your way up and down Highway 29 or Silverado Trail. Kayak rental is available in Napa, and you can enjoy the scenery and wildlife from the Napa River. Several outfitters rent bicycles in the valley, including Napa Valley Bike Tours & Rentals in Yountville. Guided and self-guided bike tours are offered.
Getting to Napa Valley
If you have not been to Napa, now is a great time to plan a trip. Year-round you can find fun things to do in the valley. The town of Napa Valley is 50 miles north of San Francisco.
Napa Valley is one of California’s most popular tourist attractions, and traffic can really slow down on Highway 29 during the summer. If you arrive after ten in the morning on a weekend or holiday, you can avoid much of the traffic on Highway 29 by taking the Silverado Trail.
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