11 fun & awesome things to do in fabulous Napa Valley

California is undoubtedly one of the most diverse places on Earth. We’re fortunate enough to have beaches, mountains, redwood forests & wineries alike. Napa Valley is Califonia’s world renowned wine country: it’s a haven for wine lovers & gourmet foodies alike.

Napa does rack up a reputation for being snooty & snobby, a lot of wine snobs will pooh-pooh certain wineries over others; some gourmet restaurants here have a wait time of several months, and a whopping price tag of $250 per person. SAY WHAT?!?!

Some of us are just looking for booze & a good time with our friends, you know?

There are pockets of Napa that are fun, affordable & relaxing! Here’s a few insider tips & what us locals like to do on a weekend getaway to Napa:

Hangout at Oxbow Market

Fabulous hangout spot in downtown Napa, you can’t go wrong with the indoor farmer’s market-style Oxbow Market. My favorite spots here are Gelato at Three twins (try the cardamom flavor gelato!), Annette’s chocolates (the tequila lime habanero brittle is insanely delicious), and Whole Spice – a world spice market, with herbs & spices used in French, Indian, Moroccan, Thai, Italian cooking. Needless to say I love this store! There’s a ton of cute little shops, bars & cafes. You cannot go wrong with brunch at the excellent Kitchen Door.

Napa Wine Train

All aboard!

This is great idea for a date or anniversary celebration! Travel through Napa’s vineyards on an old school train, with coaches & compartments styled from the 1900s. You can pair with lunch/dinner or even wine flights. If you want a more fun activity, they also offer murder mystery game nights on the train.

Explore wineries

Pardon the pun, but You can’t wine about this…

Napa gets a lot of flack for being pretentious & snooty, I won’t disagree with this assessment. There’s a lot of wineries I’ve found to be overpriced; I love discovering the little hole in the wall places that leave you mind-blown. One of my personal favorites here is Hagen Heights Vineyard – it’s a tiny, cosy place with a backyard & cornhole/bean bag toss boards. And oh, the Riesling & Gurwitzaminer are very, very good and <$25 for a bottle. Equally good is Cakebread Cellars.

Cool Architecture at Wineries

Would you believe this is a winery?

Part of the fun of going to Napa wineries is the beautiful scenery and stunning architecture. Here’s some of our favorite, coolest looking wineries in Napa – each has a unique look; I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the wines here (overpriced & IMHO, not as great), going here is more of an experience.

  • Darioush Winery: Tall pillars & greek architecture
  • Del Dotto Winery: Winery in an underground cave
  • Castello Di Amorosa: The Castle Winery. Literally, a castle. With the works. The riesling, Moscato & white wines in general are really good here.
  • Behringer Winery: Chateau, with excellent Pinots & Malbecs.
  • Sterling Vineyards: Has a gondola, and good rosé.
  • Domaine Carneros: Sprawling estate on a hill, I liked the cheese here way more than the overpriced wine.
  • Chateau Montelena Winery: French chateau, with sweeping views & a charming feel.
  • Silverado Vineyards: One of Napa’s most popular wineries.
  • Opus One: Contemporary & Modern architecture; they produce only one wine in a year.

Directory of Napa wineries to plan your trip (with addresses, phone numbers & websites included)

Del Dotto Caves

Darioush Winery

Take a mud bath in Calistoga
Calistoga is known for it’s hot springs and mineral baths; taking a mud bath in Calistoga is worth the experience! Now I’ll level with you & tell you I personally did not enjoying getting mud in ahem places one should not have mud, & I found it too hot! But friends I went with, loved it – give it try and see how you feel!

Biking by vineyards

It’s well worth renting a bike and meandering through the vineyards & valley. You can even lock your bike by wineries and hop one place to another. I will warn you about heat in the summer! We bought a wine bottle we ended up chucking, cuz the heat ruined it during our biking 🙁

Stop by on the way back to take in Golden Gate Bridge

Should I Stay Or Should I Go? Umm, go in this case, cuz u paid the toll, dude!

If driving south on your return, you’re bound to see the golden gate bridge – some of the best views are on the way into the city, especially through Robin Williams tunnel. Stop by the vista point, past Sausalito for pictures.

Dining at a fancy pants restaurant, like French Laundry

Kitchen Door at Oxbow market, which us normals can afford 🙂

If you’re feeling like splurging, like REALLY splurging… I’m talking spending $250/person for a mega level splurge, there are gourmet restaurants that cater to this, French Laundry in particular. I personally can’t recommend any, because I can’t justify the expense myself. I’ll save that for my next plane ticket, thank you very much!

Music festivals
During summer, Napa valley hosts several music festivals & concerts – Napa Bottle Rock & Jazz festival are the most popular. During harvest season as well, some wineries will host concerts & musical performances from artists like Ed Sheeran, Lifehouse etc. Check Napa Events for listings.

Napa Annual Hot Air Balloon festival

Photo Credit: Sebastien Gabriel

Every July 4th weekend, Napa hosts this fantabulous hot air balloon festival. Arrive super early though! Like 4:30 AM early. It’s a beautiful to see all the hot air balloons in the sky, with the valley views below.

Explore neighboring Sonoma

Sonoma…after you’ve had a few glasses of wine

For more low key, less snooty & less expensive wineries, head on over to neighboring Sonoma!

Whatever you try, Napa does inspire a good deal of Mojo, us locals certainly think so 🙂

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Also published on Medium.

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stephanie July 28, 2017 at 6:35 PM

Never been on the Napa Wine Train. Next visit!

Stephanie Eiler July 29, 2017 at 8:09 AM

My husband and I are actually trying to plan a trip to Napa next year! These pictures just make me want to go there even sooner! It looks like such a beautiful experience. Thank you for your recommendations! I will definitely be bookmarking this post and coming back to it again when our trip gets closer!

Jyo July 31, 2017 at 11:14 PM

So glad to hear Stephanie! I’m excited for you & your husband’s trip… we’ve celebrated a few anniversaries & bdays here and it’s definitely a place for great memories 🙂


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