Napa Valley is best known as a booming wine region, serving up some of the top vintages outside of France (and arguably, some of the best wines in the world). The rolling hills and sunny skies make the region a picturesque spot for a quick getaway. And while wine is the main draw, there’s plenty to the region worth exploring — all just a two-hour drive north of San Francisco. By Sean Patrick Flynn
Throughout the valley, there are a number of towns filled with quaint shops, Michelin-starred restaurants, luxurious hotels, and unique spa experiences. And with over 400 wineries in the region, Napa Valley is definitely a destination worth revisiting again and again. So whether you’re looking for a romantic retreat, a getaway with friends, or a trip for the family, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Here, we’ve put together the best of what Napa Valley has to offer. Cheers!
Pacific Daylight Time
Best Time to Go
The tourist season in Napa corresponds with the annual grape harvest from August to October, but that also means that prices are at their highest and travellers should expect wait times and the need for reservations when out exploring. Late spring is a great alternative because the weather is just as nice and crowds are more manageable. And in late May, the area hosts the annual three-day-long BottleRock festival with dozens of acts from some of the world’s top musicians, drawing in crowds of over 1,00,000.
In the summer, temperatures can get a bit hot during the day, but there are plenty of wineries to explore where you can dip into air-conditioned tasting rooms or take a seat on a covered patio. The area also hosts its annual Napa Wine Fest each July, and showcases some of the region’s top vintners and wineries, plus others from surrounding wine regions like Sonoma and Lake Mendocino.
The area really gets into the holiday spirit during the late fall and early winter months, and it just so happens to coincide with cabernet season (which runs from November through April). Crowds are at their lowest, but so are the rates. And while the temperatures are a bit frosty, that’s nothing that a glass of wine or two can’t fix.
Things to Know
Due to the region’s geographic spread, it’s best advised to explore the region by car (just make sure to have a designated driver while visiting wineries). While there’s public transportation available, it’s easiest to go at your own pace instead of navigating bus routes or paying out for a taxi.
And while temperatures can peak in the 30s during the summer months, the nights can get surprisingly cold, dropping as much as 4 degrees in a single day. So it’s best to pack a variety of outfits to make sure you’re comfortable at all times.
How to Get Around
Trains: Amtrak San Joaquins takes travellers from the Bay Area straight to the heart of downtown Napa. The ride takes anywhere from two to three hours, depending on whether you’re leaving from Emeryville or Salesforce Plaza.
Buses: Napa Valley’s public bus system is called The Vine and runs from El Cerrito Del Norte all the way up to Calistoga.
Taxis: There are a handful of taxi services in Napa that can easily be arranged for quick pickup and drop-offs wherever you need to be. Vern’s Taxi Service and Yellow Cab Napa are the highest-rated, but both Uber and Lyft also operate in the area.
Car service: Napa Valley has plenty of private car and limousine options, perfect for those who don’t want to worry about getting around if they’re out wine tasting. Napa Valley Limousine Services and Napa Sonoma Wine Tasting Driver are the two highest-rated. For those looking for a ride to various attractions and tastings with a guide who can help plan the itinerary and share some Napa history along the way, consider booking with Bohemian Highway.
Auberge du Soleil
Address: 180 Rutherford Hill Rd, Rutherford, CA 94573
Phone: (707) 963-1211
For those looking for expansive views paired with a luxurious stay, Auberge du Soleil is just what you’re after. The property has 27 rooms, 19 one-bedroom suites, and two private maisons, plus an outdoor pool, and a relaxing spa. Guests can also opt for in-room massage treatments if they’d prefer to revel in the comfort of their private maison.
Address: 900 Meadowood Lane St. Helena, CA 94574
Phone: (877) 963-3646
After being heavily impacted by the 2020 fires, Meadowood has opened its doors once again to welcome guests to the 250-acre (one square km) property. The 85-room estate features a spa, five tennis courts, and three pool areas.
Hotel Villagio at The Estate Yountville
Address: 6481 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599
Phone: (707) 927-2130
Situated on 22 acres (0.09 square km) in the heart of Yountville, the estate offers everything you need for a relaxing getaway. At the centre, you’ll find Hotel Villagio with 112 guestrooms and 22 suites, sporting gas fireplaces and private terraces that make for a romantic and relaxing escape.
Address: 492 Randolph St, Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (707) 596-5168
Housed in a turn-of-the-century manor that’s been thoughtfully restored and updated, The George is centred in the heart of downtown Napa. The grand Victorian home offers nine totally original guest rooms that blend modern amenities with the building’s old-world charm.
Archer Hotel Napa
Address: 1230 1st St, Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (707) 690-9800
The Archer Hotel is situated in the heart of downtown Napa surrounded by restaurants, shops, and tasting rooms. The boutique hotel’s First Street location puts it right in the centre of the action. For unbeatable views, head to the hotel’s Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar, which happens to be the only open-air bar in town.
Bardessono Hotel & Spa
Address: 6526 Yount St, Yountville, CA 94599
Phone: (707) 204-6000
The Bardessono Hotel & Spa was specifically designed with relaxation in mind. Each of the 62 guestrooms act as a personal spa with in-room massage tables, steam showers, and soaking tubs. But for those looking to spend at least a few hours outside of their room, the hotel is also home to the area’s only rooftop pool with stunning views to boot.
Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection
Address: 755 Silverado Trail N, Calistoga, CA 94515
Phone: (707) 266-7534
Situated on the outskirts of Calistoga, Solage capitalises on the beauty of its natural surroundings with ample outdoor space. The hotel just completed a transformation of the pool area with a new restaurant and private cabanas that can be rented out for the day. Inside, you’ll find a 20,000-square-foot spa and 89 guestrooms and suites, each with contemporary furnishings and open floor plans.
Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley
Address: 400 Silverado Trail N, Calistoga, CA 94515
Phone: (707) 709-2100
The Four Seasons Resort in Napa Valley is the newest kid on the block, officially opening its doors in November 2021 after much anticipation. The 85-room property boasts unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains and includes 20 residences on-site (all fitted out with luxe details like five-piece bathrooms, 90+ bottle wine storage, and outdoor terraces) for those who want a bit more than a temporary stay. And because you’re in Napa Valley, the resort has its own winery — with its vineyard surrounding the entire property.
Address: 6640 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599
Phone: (707) 944-2380
Thomas Keller’s three-Michelin-star restaurant is considered one of the top in America for its innovative take on classic French dishes. The late Anthony Bourdain dubbed it “the best restaurant in the world, period.” Seatings start at USD 350 (INR 26,013) per person for the nine-course dinner and there are two set menus that change daily, The Chef’s Tasting of meat and seafood and The Tasting of Vegetables. Due to its cult status in the culinary world, reservations are necessary.
Address: 587 St Helena Hwy, St Helena, CA 94574
Phone: (707) 967-0550
Chef Philip Tessier uses local ingredients and innovative culinary techniques to highlight regional cuisine in a way no other restaurant in the area does. But their commitment to the area doesn’t stop there as they house the largest collection of Napa Valley wine anywhere in the world with more than 1,700 bottles. Reservations encouraged.
Address: 7377 St Helena Hwy, Napa, CA 94558
Phone: (707) 944-2749
For over 25 years, Brix has been a local staple serving up imaginative dishes that highlight regional ingredients. The farm-to-table restaurant sits on 16 acres (0.06 square km) with stunning views in all directions, and has an expansive outdoor seating area to soak it all in. Owned by the Kelleher family, of the namesake winery, the restaurant offers an expansive list of local wines to pair with your meal. Reservations recommended.
Address: 1300 1st St #312, Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (707) 492-8150
Situated on First Street in the centre of downtown Napa, Compline dishes up savoury bites in a relaxed, casual atmosphere that’s perfect for people watching. Executive chef Jammir Gray’s imaginative dishes are both elevated and crave-worthy — think: smoked trout rillettes with fattoria bread and squid ink capellini. What makes this spot extra unique is its expansive wine store, which offers premium bottles from all over the world. It’s a great place to grab lunch or dinner, as well as a quick souvenir (just make sure to leave extra room in your checked bag). Reservations recommended.
Address: 7399 St Helena Hwy, Napa, CA 94558
Phone: (707) 944-2424
This casual eatery, just a few minutes-drive north of Yountville, offers an expansive menu that’s bound to have something for even the pickiest of eaters. The restaurant uses fresh produce from their on-site, two-acre (8093 square m) organic garden to complement their savoury dishes — the baby back ribs are a must. Be sure to grab an outdoor table if possible, next to their garden, and soak in the sights of the rolling vineyards in the distance.
The Charter Oak
Address: 1050 Charter Oak Ave, St Helena, CA 94574
Phone: (707) 302-6996
Owned by chef Christopher Kastow of the famed, three-Michelin-star The Restaurant at Meadowood, The Charter Oak offers a family-style dining experience that highlights regional wines and seasonal ingredients, with produce sourced from their own farm. The dishes are simple but are packed with flavour and the cocktails are unbeatable. Reservations recommended.
Address: 6476 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599
Phone: (707) 944-2487
Chef Thomas Keller opened Ad Hoc in 2006 as a homage to his favourite childhood dishes. The eatery offers casual American fare with an upscale touch. The four-course menu changes daily and dishes are served family-style as a way to encourage customer interaction. Reservations recommended.
Things to Do
California Brandy House
Address: 1300 1st St Suite 309, Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (707) 732-1200
If you’re looking to mix up your tasting experience, then California Brandy House is worth the visit. The property opened in 2020 in the heart of downtown Napa and offers a host of premium brandys, all of which can be sampled on-site. You can also get your bottles personally engraved as a thoughtful souvenir.
Napa Valley Balloons
Address: 4086 Byway E, Napa, CA 94558
Phone: (707) 944-0228
If you’re looking for a different perspective on Napa, why not take it all in from above? Napa Valley Balloons takes visitors on a once-in-a-lifetime trip high above the picturesque rolling hills and vineyards, offering stunning views as far as the Bay Area. And better yet, you take off at sunrise for your hour-long trip, so you still have the rest of your day for tastings.
Napa Valley Wine Train
Address: 1275 McKinstry St, Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (707) 253-2111
Step back in time with a luxurious homage to train travel on the Napa Valley Wine Train. The restored 20th-century train takes oenophiles on a 36-mile (60km) round-trip tour of the region, all the way to St. Helena and back. Guests will enjoy a five-star meal, accompanied by the region’s finest wines, of course.
Napa Valley Bike Tours
Address: 6500 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599
Phone: (707) 251-8687
Yountville is perfectly situated at the centre of dozens of wineries that branch out from the town’s centre along quiet country roads. So what better way to explore the area than by bike? You can easily hop from one winery to the next, or leisurely explore surrounding trails to take in the unbeatable views.
There are over 400 wineries in Napa Valley alone so narrowing down the list can be a bit daunting. But we’ve picked a few of our favorites to get your list started. Mayacamas Vineyard is tucked away in the Mayacamas mountains and offers stunning views of the valley and all the way up to the Bay Area. With plenty of outdoor seating and great wine and cheese pairings, Ashes & Diamonds Winery is a good option for a laid-back hang. For a more boutique winery experience, compared to all of the mega wineries in town, head to B Cellar Winery. The team specifically crafted their menu to perfectly complement each of their vintages. And better yet, you can enjoy your tasting on their covered outdoor patio taking in the sights of the surrounding vineyards.
Oxbow Public Market
Address: 610 1st St, Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (707) 226-6529
Set on First Street in downtown Napa, the Oxbow Public Market is a 40,000-square-foot marketplace with food vendors, cafes, and produce from local farmers. After a long afternoon of exploring, be sure to grab a cup of coffee from one of the cafes and relax on the outdoor patio overlooking the Napa River.
Spice Islands Marketplace
Address: 2555 Main Street, St. Helena CA 94574
The Spice Islands Marketplace is a haven for any culinary fanatic. With over 1,700 cookbook titles, cookware, bakeware, and kitchen tools available, you should be sure to leave plenty of extra room in your bag (or just bring an empty suitcase to fill up). Next door, you’ll find the Ghirardelli Chocolate Discovery Center, where you’ll learn the ins and outs of chocolate making.
Address: 1321 1st St, Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (707) 252-4228
Since 1991, Anette’s Chocolates has been serving up truffles, brittles, caramels, and mouth-watering chocolates from their First Street location in the centre of Napa — you can find their second location while strolling through Oxbow Market. After shopping your way through downtown, be sure to stop by for a scoop or two of their hand-crafted ice cream (only served at their First Street location).
First Street Napa
Address: 1300 First Street, Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (707) 257-6900
This collective of restaurants, shops, and tasting rooms is centred right in the heart of downtown Napa making for a perfect location to spend an afternoon. Located just across from the Archer Hotel, First Street is where you’ll find over 40 businesses, all within walking distance of one another.
Address: 1300 1st St Suite 398, Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (707) 252-8002
Copperfield’s Books is a local institution, having served the community for over 40 years. The bookstore has thousands of books on offer and regularly hosts authors for readings and conversations.
Address: 1240 1st St, Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (707) 927-3303
Foodies lovers will feel right at home at Napastäk, a culinary boutique in the centre of downtown Napa. Owners Arthur and Lusine Hartunian, who also own Napa Valley Distillery, have crafted a unique shopping destination for foodies — selling everything from jams and jellies to olive oils, mustards, and wines.
Neighbourhoods to Know
While there are several towns scattered around the Napa Valley, a few stand out with great dining, hotels, and things to do. Here are the top cities and towns to check out.
Napa: Downtown Napa is where you’ll find much of the action and is the first stop for those coming up from the Bay Area. First Street is at the heart of it all with a host of stellar restaurants, tasting rooms, and boutiques. Surrounding the commercial area you’ll find tree-lined streets filled with quaint Victorian homes that have been remarkably preserved.
Yountville: Mostly notably the home to Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry, which holds three Michelin stars, Yountville is filled with a host of great restaurants, shops, and galleries. The town abounds with opportunities to get out into nature, whether that’s hiking trails, biking to and from wineries, or taking a hot air balloon ride over the valley.
St. Helena: St. Helena is a charming town filled with shops and restaurants that line its Main Street. Home to The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, visitors can partake in cooking demonstrations and tours, or sample some wines from the on-site Christian Brothers Winery.
Calistoga: Calistoga is the final stop for those making their way through Napa Valley, and it’s the perfect spot to fully unwind before heading back to reality. The area’s mineral-rich waters have led to the town becoming a wellness destination with a number of spas that feature natural spring pools. Once fully relaxed, visitors can peruse the shops, restaurants, and tasting rooms that line Lincoln Avenue.
Due to the fact that Napa Valley is within, well, a valley, the weather fluctuates pretty drastically from sunup to sundown, so it’s best to pack a mix of cold-weather and warm-weather outfits. The area averages 27 inches of rainfall per year, mostly during the winter months from December through March. Fire season, which runs from June through November, has hit the region particularly hard in the past few years with record-setting fires in 2017 and 2020. The combination of high temperatures with low rainfall makes the region susceptible to fires.
The average temperature in Celsius is listed below for each month of the year.
January 1.6 – 12.7
February 2.7 – 15
March 4.4 – 17.7
April 5.5 – 21
May 8.8 – 25.5
June 11.6 – 30.5
July 13.3 – 33.8
August 12.7 – 33
September 11.6 – 31
October 8.3 – 25
November 4.4 – 17.7
December 1.6 – 13.3