Napa Valley is one of the most popular destinations in California and one of the best places to visit in the US. The region is located 50 miles north of San Francisco and 70 miles west of Sacramento.
When you visit Napa Valley, you have entered wine country as it is California’s premier wine region. However, it isn’t just wine that Napa Valley brings to the table there are other culinary delights in production from red wine vinegar, olive oil, and delicious syrup. Napa Valley also offers outdoor adventures and beautiful scenery. This guide will explore the very best things to do in Napa Valley.
Top things to do in Napa Valley, California
Ready to visit Napa Valley California? Great. Whether you want to fill your days with wine tasting at Napa Valley wineries or kayaking the Napa River that flows through Napa from Mt. St. Helena to San Pablo Bay. There are many things to keep you entertained. These are the best things to do in Napa Valley. Let’s dive straight into it.
Get more information on Napa Valley in our article How to Visit Napa Valley on a Budget – Places to Stay, Eat, and Drink Wine
1. Go wine tasting
The Napa Valley wineries are beyond famous, and Napa Valley isn’t called ‘wine country’ for nothing! How could you visit Napa Valley without visiting a winery or two? Napa Valley wineries are scattered generously across the region. You can take a wine-tasting tour or explore them independently using shuttles and public transport.
Domaine Carneros is a landmark California estate winery known for sparkling and Pinot Noir. Domaine Carneros also has some of the finest tasting rooms in Napa Valley. You can experience Pinot Noir wine tasting in the Domaine Carneros Chateau mansion.
This Sprinter Wine Tour is a good option to visit Napa Valley from Francisco, Sacramento or Sonoma Valley and is completely customizable. The day starts with a glass of sparkling wine followed by visits to vineyards of your choice. If you don’t know where to visit, let your driver select a few for a well-rounded experience
Round Pond Estate is another fantastic winery to visit and specializes in cabernet sauvignon, and a hugely popular proprietary left bank blend. You’ll also find delicious sauvignon blanc. The property is over 300 acres and produces world-class wine, making it a fantastic place for wine tasting.
It is no secret that Napa Valley California is home to fine wines, and you’ll want to dedicate at least a few hours to visiting the Napa Valley wineries to tour the vineyards and the grand estates of wine country.
2. Go hot air ballooning
Napa Valley is so beautiful, why wouldn’t you want to see it from the sky? Going on a hot air balloon ride is one of the most memorable ways to experience the valley. You can look down on all the rows of vineyards and rolling hills. Time your flight with sunrise or sunset for the ultimate experience. You’ll see Napa Valley in the prettiest light and also be able to spot other hot air balloons taking off from the valley floor.
You can book this Napa Valley Balloon Ride for a full-day excursion. Fly over Napa Valley’s vineyards and historic towns launching at sunrise. Your day ends with a Napa Valley wine tasting at a chateau winery.
3. Napa Art Walk
Napa Art Walk is one of the best free things to do in Napa Valley. The walk is dotted around Downtown Napa and rotates its art on a biannual basis. Get your camera ready because you’ll be walking around spotting incredible sculptures. The Napa Art Walk gets its sculptures from local artists and artists from the Western US – so you’ll get the chance to spot some emerging talent.
Each time that the art is rotated, the theme changes, and ten sculptures are selected by a professional art jury. You can pick up a free map from the Napa Valley Welcome Center. The map describes each artist and sculpture, plus gives you the all-so-secret directions between each exhibit.
These are our Suggested Tours for Napa Valley!
4. Take the Napa Valley Wine Train
Ready for more wine? Pair wine, gourmet food, and rolling hills when you jump aboard this vintage wine train. Starting from St Helena, the historic train whisks you away on a 36-mile round trip. You’ll tuck into a four-course meal with wine pairings while watching the Napa Valley scenery whizz by.
It’s one of the most luxurious things to do in Napa Valley and one of the best ways to embrace California’s ‘Wine Country’ to the fullest. Napa Valley Wine Train is a perfect way to spend a few hours. Book your ticket here as this sells out pretty fast!
5. Take a kayak tour on the Napa River
Fancy discovering Napa Valley history more uniquely? Take a kayak tour down the Napa River. You’ll paddle down the most iconic stretch of river, accompanied by a knowledgeable guide who’ll educate you on the valley’s history. From the first settlers to the first wineries and even a visit from Elvis Presley, you’ll hear all about the valley and its most exciting stories.
The whole experience lasts under two hours with most tours, and you’ll need a moderate fitness level to complete the kayak. But if combining a fitness challenge with a historical tour and beautiful river views sounds fun, kayaking is one of the most amazing things to do in Napa Valley.
6. Napa Valley Museum
Napa Museum has everything from art to history. The museum aims to enrich ‘ the cultural fabric’ of the Napa Valley community, putting this into action with various exhibits, activities, and programs. The museum is a fascinating, educational place to spend an hour or two.
You’ll find a varied range of temporary exhibits. You could discover local hospitality history through the story of Sally Schmitt, who founded The French Laundry with her husband. Or learn about the region’s First People and geology. Napa Museum takes a broad approach with its exhibits, which is all part of the allure.
7. Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art
After you’ve completed the Napa Art Walk, you’ll probably be excited to see more art and view more works by local artists. To get your art fix, visiting Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art is one of the best things to do in Napa Valley.
The center sits on 217 acres and is a beautiful art park showcasing works from all across Northern California. You can wander between galleries and sculpture gardens and even sit down for a picnic lunch by the 35-acre lake. Napa Valley is a fantastic place to view art outdoors, and we love how the di Rosa Center displays its works.
8. Olive oil tasting
Forget wine tastings; olive oil tasting is where it is at. The experience is different and quite a novelty. Oils are typically categorized into delicate, medium, and intense. Like wine tasting, you traditionally sip olive oil to taste it rather than eating it with another product like bread. Olive oil tasting is easily one of the most fun, unique things to do in Napa Valley.
You’ll find olive oil producers all over the valley. Long Meadow Ranch is a popular spot for olive oil tasting and has impressively low rates that give great value for money. You don’t even need to book in advance.
9. The ‘Welcome to Napa’ sign
This attraction might be short and sweet, but it is definitely a must-do when visiting Napa Valley. The ‘Welcome to Napa’ sign is a prime spot for family photos and Instagram shots. The landmark is iconic in the valley.
Is it touristy? Yes. But in the best possible way. Plus, it is easily combined with other attractions since you just pull over on the St Helena Highway between Yountville and Oakville. Just try to visit early to minimize crowds and avoid queuing for a picture.
10. The Petrified Forest
There are petrified logs dotted all over the US, but Napa Valley’s Petrified Forest is pretty special. You explore the forest via a twenty-minute trail, weaving through giant redwood trees that were petrified by a volcanic eruption over three million years ago.
The fossilized redwoods are fascinating to get up close to, and visiting is one of the most exciting things to do in Napa Valley. Along the way, informative signs explain the fossilization process and point out specific fossils.
11. Catch an opera show move
Napa Valley Opera House has been entertaining guests since 1880. The stunning Italianate-style building is located in the heart of Downtown Napa and is a National Historic Landmark. Catching a performance is a dreamy way to spend an evening and is easily one of the best things to do in Napa Valley. Put on your best clothes and let the performance whisk you away.
You could watch a jazz performance, a theater production, or attend a comedy evening. The Opera House has a diverse entertainment schedule, so you are guaranteed to find one event that takes your fancy.
12. Go fly fishing
Napa Valley isn’t just good for seafood; the rivers also have plenty to catch. Napa Valley Fly Guides run fishing tours to Putah Creek to fish for wild rainbow trout. The experience is fantastic if you want some downtime, expert assistance, and local knowledge.
Another benefit of booking a fly fishing tour is that they provide you with all equipment. It is much more convenient than bringing your own or finding a rental store. You can choose between half-day and full-day tours too, which gives you a lot of flexibility.
13. Old Faithful Geyser of California
Yellowstone National Park might be miles and miles away, but the Old Faithful Geyser of California is a great alternative. The geyser is stunning, and the multi-colored geyser pool makes for a beautiful photograph. Old Faithful is also a regular and explodes multiple times an hour. In fact, the geyser is so ‘faithful’ that periods of inactivity have been used to predict earthquakes.
Visiting Old Faithful Geyser of California is one of the most exciting things to do in Napa Valley. It is also located just outside Calistoga, so it is easily added to an itinerary.
14. Silverado Trail
The Silverado Trail is no mean feat. The trail is over 29 miles long and takes an average of 11 hours to complete on foot. You can cycle or walk the path, providing stunning views of Napa Valley and an exciting fitness challenge.
The trail got its name from the quicksilver mines that once surrounded it. The two-lane country road was the first permanent road ever to link Napa and Calistoga, and it was constructed in 1852. Nowadays, the trail passes wineries and viewpoints galore. There will be plenty to see along the way if you tackle it as a single-day or multi-day hike.
15. Robert Louis Stevenson Museum
You are probably familiar with the novel Treasure Island. Robert Louis Stevenson is a household name, and the museum has the world’s largest collection of Stevenson memorabilia.
You can walk through multiple exhibits – permanent and temporary. You’ll discover Stevenson’s life and get close to some of his personal items, including a weathered-looking terrestrial globe that sat on his desk in Samoa. Visiting the museum is a must for any literature or history enthusiasts.
16. Hog Island Oyster Bar
Ready for locally sourced seafood at a trendy oyster bar? Hog Island Oyster Bar is one of the best places to eat in Napa Valley. Technically, we’ve already covered this venue, as it is located in Oxbow Public Market. But the Oyster Bar is just so iconic that it deserves to be an attraction in its own right.
The oysters are delivered daily from a farm just fifty miles away, so you are guaranteed the freshest produce. You can purchase some to take away or take a seat at the classic bar to eat in – perhaps treating yourself to a cocktail.
17. Jack London State Historic Park
Stevenson isn’t the only famous writer celebrated in Napa Valley. Jack London is also celebrated at the Jack London State Historic Park. The park features over 29 miles of trails spanning some 1400 acres, and it was once Jack London’s home. Jack London State Historic Park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963.
You can still visit the buildings where Jack lived, and the park is also home to his gravesite for those wishing to pay their respects. Not only is the park stunning, but the history behind it and its literary importance is profound. It is one of the best things to do in Napa Valley – especially if you’ve read his works like White Fang.
18. Wetlands Edge Park
Wetlands Edge Park is a massive reserve following the Napa-Sonoma Marsh and Napa River. It is a haven for local wildlife and heaven for birdwatchers, who can spot amazing birds like herons. You may even spot an otter or two. Wetlands Edge Park is popular amongst families and is free to enter. It is a great budget-friendly activity in Napa Valley.
You can easily explore the park by walking Wetlands Edge Trail. The trail is just two miles long and is a great short activity for your itinerary. You could also explore the wetlands from the water, as there is a launchpad for canoes and kayaks.
19. Culinary Institute of America
The Culinary Institute is a hub of food and drink appreciation in Napa. You can sample gourmet appetizers and seasonal dishes, learn to cook delicious food yourself with a cooking class or enjoy local wines with friends. The institute offers lots of things to do and is entirely food-centric; the perfect spot for foodies and those passionate about cooking.
The institute takes its teaching seriously and is considered one of the world’s best culinary colleges. Some people undertake culinary degrees at the Culinary Institute. While that might be hard to do on a short trip to Napa Valley, it’s good to know that you are in professional hands. It is the best spot to be inspired by the culinary arts.
20. Dine at The French Laundry
The French Laundry is Napa Valley’s most famed fine dining restaurant. The restaurant is set in a stunning stone farmhouse. It was one of the first restaurants to offer ‘Californian cuisine’. A husband-and-wife duo, the Schmitts, opened the restaurant. They boosted the venture and the reputation of Californian cuisine to unprecedently high levels. Now, The French Laundry is owned and run by Thomas Keller, an esteemed chef, and author of The French Laundry Cookbook.
You can pick one of two daily tasting menus. Each menu boasts over ten different dishes, and you can purchase wine pairings to accompany the experience. You’ll taste dishes like ‘cuit a la vapeur’; wild Atlantic cod with Brokaw avocado mousse, crispy chickpea Panisse, and olive vinaigrette. It’s an ultra-luxury experience and one of the best things to do in Napa Valley.
21. Get a spa treatment in Calistoga
Calistoga is a hot spot for spa treatments. After a few days of action-packed sightseeing, getting a massage or facial is the perfect way to unwind and rejuvenate. Golden Haven Hot Springs is the most popular, and you can indulge in novel treatments like mud baths.
A hot mud bath experience is bucket list worthy, and you can soak alone, as a couple, or with friends. Afterward, you’ll jump in a hot mineral bath and finish with a cool-down wrap. It is definitely a spa treatment to indulge your senses and have fun. If you fancy trying something new, it is our top treatment recommendation.
22. Napa County Historical Society
Are you interested in Napa Valley’s history? Or research? Napa County Historical Society is a brilliant attraction for academics and history lovers. You’ll find exhibits, lectures, and special events. The society documents various topics, from the history of wine to Jewish heritage. If you book an appointment, you can also visit the Historical Society’s research library, Goodman Library.
Napa County Historical Society was founded in 1948 and was actually a local initiative to preserve Napa Valley’s history. The society is still locally run and entirely not-for-profit, aided by volunteers and interns who run the organization and continue its research.
23. Take a bike tour
You don’t go to a place as scenic as Napa Valley and not maximize your time in nature. In fact, you are probably desperate to get a more authentic and relaxing experience of Napa Valley’s beautiful landscape. And if that’s the case, then take one of the Napa Valley bike tours.
Sightseeing from a bike is a beautiful way to experience Napa Valley. The slower pace is low effort and high reward – perfect for a warm morning. The most popular route to cycle is Napa Valley Vine Trail, a 47-mile track that cuts across the whole valley. You could complete the route in five hours or just pick a section.
24. Hike Mt. Saint Helena
It isn’t just bike tours that allow you to get active and explore Napa Valley. There are also mountains to climb. If you are up for a challenge, Mt. Saint Helena is a great summit to tackle. You won’t need equipment or technical ability – just determination and good fitness levels.
Located in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park the mountain is the tallest in Napa county and a great accomplishment to complete. A hike to the summit has an elevation gain of 2300 ft, so be prepared for a workout and bring plenty of refreshments. However, the views from the summit at 4343ft make it all worthwhile, and you’ll have a stunning panorama of Napa Valley when you reach the top.
The return hike takes around five hours but allow yourself six or seven hours if you want regular breaks and a decent amount of time at the summit. Why rush back down when you have the best seat in the house, right?
25. Visit Linda Falls
Linda Falls is a stunning 50-foot waterfall hidden away in the hills of Angwin. The falls cascade over granite rock, cutting an impressive picture for visiting hikers. The most exciting aspect of the waterfall is that the granite is shaped as steps, with the water falling down – what looks like – a rock stairway.
The waterfall is accessed by a short fifteen-minute hike, just over a mile out and back. Keep your eyes peeled along the trail, as it is home to more than 130 species of native plants. If you want a short hike and an hour in nature, Linda Falls is an incredible addition to an itinerary.
26. China Point Overlook
China Point Overlook is an urban-meets-nature attraction, and the small, paved area is the perfect place for views of Downtown Napa at sunset. The most well-known feature of China Point Overlook is the colossal ring sculpture, which you walk through on a footpath. You can snap photos of Napa through the ring at sunset, using it as a natural frame.
Once you’ve visited the ring, we suggest sitting on one of the benches. China Point Overlook is right next to the river and is a peaceful, beautifully designed spot to reflect and relax. Watch the sunset and allow yourself a few minutes to do nothing at all.
27. Oxbow Public Market
Who doesn’t love a good market? Oxbow Public Market is a fantastic spot in Napa and is a local hot spot for high-quality produce. Wander between artisan stalls and organic produce stands – perhaps picking up a snack or ingredients for a delicious home-cooked meal if your accommodation has kitchen facilities.
Oxbow Public Market is 40,000 square meters and entirely covered (apart from an outside deck). It is the perfect place on a rainy day or just to drop by for a quick bite to eat. You’ll also find plenty of cafes in the market if you want a caffeine fix.
28. Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
Visiting Bothe-Napa Valley State Park is one of the best things to do in Napa Valley. The state park offers accommodations in yurts, cabins, and campground facilities. However, that doesn’t stop you from visiting for just a day, either.
The park is 1,900 acres in total and has over ten miles of hiking trails to explore. Day visitors can also access general facilities like the spring-fed swimming pool and picnic areas. Pack a bikini and hiking boots.
29. Connolly Ranch Education Center
California isn’t all wine and beaches; you’ll also find plenty of ranches. To experience that cowboy and cowgirl lifestyle for yourself, head to Connolly Ranch Educational Center. The not-for-profit working farm takes pride in showing visitors what real farming and agriculture are about.
You can learn about everything – from organic gardening and the role of a healthy diet to meeting animals and hearing about their importance. Connolly Ranch is passionate about sustainability too, which is a huge positive. A visit to Connolly Ranch is excellent for adults and children for a transparent insight into everyday happenings at a working farm.
30. Play golf
Are you a golfer? If so, the good news is that Napa Valley has a lot of beautiful golf courses. The bad news is that you’ll probably have to choose one or two, as there are just so many to try to squeeze into an itinerary.
We suggest Eagle Vines Golf Course, a beautiful 18-hole course on a manicured section of a working vineyard. It is an idyllic place to play and is full of small creeks, lakes, and woodland. Plus, you have the backdrop of Napa Valley’s characteristic rolling hills. Eagle Vines is so beautiful that walking the course will be just as much of an experience as the game itself. You could even go wine tasting once you finish.
31. Take a walking tour around Downtown Napa
A walking tour of Downtown Napa is an easy addition to a Napa Valley trip. Chances are, you’ll visit or even stay in Napa anyway, as the city is a significant destination in the Napa Valley. Typical walking tours last for two hours and cost around $20, so they are relatively budget-friendly. If you choose to stay in Napa, a walking tour is the perfect first-day activity for you to simultaneously get your bearings and sightsee.
There is a mixture of walking tours to book. But, if you are brave, we suggest taking a paranormal ghost tour. This tour covers the dark side of Napa, touring the old red-light district and telling stories of Napa Asylum. A ghost tour is an excitingly spooky and different way to experience Napa Valley’s history.
Napa Valley FAQs
Now that we’ve explored all the best things to do in Napa Valley let’s look at some common FAQs.
How to get to Napa Valley
The easiest way to visit Napa Valley is to fly into San Francisco Airport. From there, rent a car and drive north. This is an excellent option for those who want freedom and convenience. Check out the best prices on car rentals here!
If you don’t want to or can’t drive, there are still plenty of options. You could catch the ferry from the San Francisco Bay area, which takes you on a scenic (slightly slower) journey to Napa Valley. Or you could catch the Amtrak San Joaquins, which is faster and more convenient. Taking the train is best for those who don’t have a car but still want a quick, easy way to reach Napa Valley, while the ferry is perfect for those with more time who want the extra experience.
Of course, if you have a lot more time, you can always road trip to Napa Valley. Napa Valley is ideally suited for a California road trip. You could combine it with some of California’s best beaches, epic places, and cities.
Getting around Napa Valley
Things are a little spaced out around Napa Valley, but while a car is the easiest option, it is by no means the only way. There’s been a massive push for alternative methods of transport, and Napa Valley encourages you to go car-free when you can – even just for a day trip.
The Vine bus is a fantastic fixed-route bus line that runs lengthways through Napa Valley daily. This is the most popular way to get around without a car if you are sticking to visiting popular attractions and places in Napa Valley. Otherwise, you can book shuttles if you want to get to a specific area or at a particular time. It is also worth checking with your hotel about shuttles, as many properties offer complimentary shuttles services.
In some circumstances, cycling can be a brilliant way to get around Napa Valley. As we mentioned, the Napa Valley Vine Trail is a popular biking route. You’ll get the chance to appreciate the valley slowly. You could book one of the many bike tours, which give you a more informative experience. Similarly, you can also find walking tours, particularly in smaller areas like Napa city.
Best time to visit Napa Valley
So, when is the best time to visit Napa Valley? Ideally, in early spring. If you want to visit wineries, visiting Napa Valley in the harvest season between August and October is tempting. Don’t fall into that trap, though, as Napa Valley becomes chaotic with peak season at this time.
Napa Valley offers fewer crowds and slightly cooler, refreshing temperatures in early spring. You’ll often find cheaper hotels and vacation rentals, too. When booking a Napa Valley trip, March to May are the perfect months.
Where to stay in Napa Valley NV
Napa Valley hotels are varied and plentiful, so you’ll have no issues finding one to suit your budget. These are our top three.
Budget: Napa Discovery Inn
Napa Discovery Inn is a great budget-friendly option. Guests receive a complimentary continental breakfast each morning, plus have a microwave and refrigerator in every room – perfect for saving money on eating out. Make use of the free wifi or explore Napa’s attractions, which are just minutes away.
Mid-range: Cabernet House
Cabernet House is a fabulous boutique hotel situated in the middle of Napa. Each room has climate control panels and complimentary toiletries. All guests also receive access to a shared fire pit at the rear of the property. Cabernet House is a great mid-range option in Napa Valley.
Luxury: Indian Springs
Indian Springs is the definition of luxury in Napa Valley. The resort offers a variety of upscale rooms and access to incredible natural hot springs and spa facilities. You are conveniently located in the middle of Calistoga, too, so you will enjoy doorstep access to many attractions.
To conclude NV
There are so many amazing things to do in Napa Valley. Visiting Napa Valley is a Californian trip of a lifetime, and you should try to experience as much of it as possible. You could be trying out the Napa Valley wine scene one morning, then hiking a mountain, or bathing in natural hot springs the next.
Napa Valley is a diverse and exciting destination in the US, and we hope you have an incredible trip.
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