Several years ago, before our daughter was born, I surprised my wife with a trip to Napa Valley. We always wanted to go and explore the wineries, take in the beautiful countryside, and savor the great food and wine. “This will be a different kind of vacation—quiet and serene—rather than the typical beach or mountains get away,” I thought to myself. It was all of that, and a whole lot more. If you haven’t been to Napa Valley to experience it for yourself, it’s definitely one for the bucket list.
Located just 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, Napa Valley is home to more than 400 wineries, 150 restaurants, and more Michelin stars per capita than any other wine region in the world. With all of this wining and dining comes some tremendous options for overnight accommodation—over 130 of them, in fact. There is something for everyone from resort hotels, to country inns and bed and breakfasts.
On our trip, we stayed at Wine Country Inn, located in St. Helena. Set in the midst of a working vineyard, Wine Country Inn and Cottages was a comfortable and truly authentic experience. Romantic and secluded, this boutique hotel delivered the quintessential wine country experience. We felt as though we landed right in the heart of Napa Valley. While hotel guests enjoy luxurious accommodations with private decks, we chose to stay in one of the more private 800 square foot residential style cottages right on the vineyard. It was amazing. The hotel offers daily country breakfasts, in-room massages, weekend wine tastings, and a refreshing swimming pool and a hot tub. The staff was friendly and attentive and helped us a great deal when it came to finding wineries, plotting our day trips and evening dining excursions.
At only 35 miles long by five miles wide, Napa Valley is easy to explore and full of the unexpected. The valley is home to five towns, each with its own personality and distinct character, and 16 distinct grape growing regions.
You’ve probably heard that Cabernet Season (now through April) is one of the best times of year to enjoy the Napa Valley — it is less crowded, rates are lower and, while the temps are certainly lower than in summer and fall, even California’s winter climate is usually pretty mild.
Each of Napa Valley’s more than 400 wineries has its own unique style, setting and history. The valley offers something for everyone. You’ll enjoy unforgettable wine tastings, stunning views, and behind-the-scenes tours of wine cellars and caves. Plus, 95% of Napa’s wineries are family-owned and operated, which means nearly every spot will feel like home.
It's always a good idea to schedule winery appointments well in advance of your visit. Some wineries are so small that they need to know when you are coming. Other wineries have permit restrictions that limit the number of guests that can visit each day. Also, many wineries have sit-down tastings that start and end at specific times.
When you're compiling an itinerary for your visit to the Napa Valley, be sure to leave plenty of time for shopping. You've come to the right place to shop for everything from fine art to fashion in locally owned boutiques and everything in between. Plenty of new shops have popped up in the valley recently. From locally-owned boutiques and luxury home decor shops to popular name brand stores and the Napa Premium Outlets, you're sure to find amazing gifts for everyone on your list.
Finally, while the Napa Valley may be best known for its world-class wineries and restaurants, it is also an ideal destination for families. Year-round mild temperatures and more than 53,000 acres of protected land allow visitors of all ages to fully enjoy the outdoors. The myriad educational adventures, full-service hotels, and family-friendly restaurants result in itineraries that appeal to every family member. From bike rides through the hills, hiking, and hot air balloons over the Napa Valley to adventures through the numerous state parks in the area, visitors have an abundance of recreational opportunities.
The Napa Valley Welcome Center is located at 600 Main St. along the riverfront in downtown Napa. The Center provides visitors with expert Concierge services from Napa Valley Ambassadors who offer complimentary Napa Valley magazines, maps, brochures and winery tasting passes. The Welcome Center, open daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., also offers complimentary Wi-Fi and a mercantile shop featuring locally sourced gift items.
World-class wine tours and tastings are at the heart of Napa Valley’s allure. With more than 400 wineries scattered throughout the region, the options are endless. You can visit small, boutique wineries or the large, brand name producers. The Napa Valley Welcome Center can direct you to private wine tours, group tours, and transportation options.
Napa Valley is home to 125 restaurants and has more Michelin stars per capita than any other wine region in the world. Here the farm-to-table culinary scene meets the creativity of some of the world’s best chefs. Kitchens mix seasonal, local, and organic produce, so menus change constantly to reflect the best available ingredients.
Get an altitude adjustment by hiking in one of Napa Valley’s many protected outdoor areas. Hike through rugged mountain ranges, redwood-covered creeks and beautiful lakes all bursting with diverse foliage and wildlife. With state parks and local trails surrounded by vineyard views, there are experiences for all ages and skill levels.
Napa Valley is a premier golf destination, with some of the most beautiful championship golf courses you'll ever see. Silverado's two championship golf courses stand as the hallmark of the Napa Valley Golf experience. Redesigned by PGA Hall of Famer Johnny Miller, both courses feature dozens of water crossings, elevation changes and routing through historic oak trees.