You might assume the best things to do in Napa Valley all involve crushed grapes.
True, when we think Napa, we think wine. And for good reason. This is America’s most celebrated viticulture region. You’ll definitely want to pop some corks while you’re here, and we’ll talk about that.
But if you imagine wine is all there is to Napa, you will be pleasantly surprised by this list of great things to do in the valley.
Napa County Fast Facts
Area: 789 sq mi (2,040 km2)
Major cities: Napa, American Canyon, Yountville, Calistoga, St. Helena
15. Silverado Resort
If you’re looking for a little rest, relaxation, and fun outdoor activities, spend a night or two at Silverado Resort in Napa. For those who want to unwind, there’s a spectacular spa offering flexible packages. For those who prefer to get into the swing of things, you’ll find tennis courts as well as two championship golf courses designed by hall of fame golfer Johnny Miller.
All this in the heart of wine country, where adventure is only a short drive away.
14. The Culinary Institute of America
This is the CIA that won’t take you to a black site and hold you there indefinitely without due process.
The good CIA is quite the opposite: a perfect stop for foodies passing through Napa. Whether you want to take a class yourself or just sample some term projects at an institute restaurant, the CIA is a moderately-priced but high quality option for travelers.
Best of all, there are two locations in Napa County. The CIA at Greystone is in a registered historical building in St. Helena, while the CIA at Copia is conveniently located downtown in the city of Napa. Both have restaurants that are open to the public.
13. Take a bike tour
There are lots of ways to explore the region, but perhaps the best way to do it is by bike. (You’re going to want to burn some calories, what with all the wine and restaurants you’ll be visiting.)
Napa Valley Bike Tours offers diverse options for travelers who want to see the valley on two wheels. You can take a half-day tour, a full-day tour, go riding through the vineyards, or just rent a couple bikes and strike out on your own. They also offer e-bikes if you decide you want to skip out on leg day.
If you’re an avid rider, check out this list of the best cycling routes in Napa.
12. Uptown Theatre
If you’re in the mood for some live music, check out who’s playing at the Uptown Theatre in the west end of the city of Napa. This restored art deco theater books musicians, comics, even authors (David Sedaris will make a stop here in May 2020). The space is intimate, so you’ll feel like you’re part of the action wherever you sit.
For an unforgettable night on the town, check out the lineup to see who’s playing.
11. The Napa Valley Museum
The Napa Valley Museum is an art gallery committed to enriching the cultural fabric of the region, as well as showcasing its history. Its three main collections highlight well-known artists as well as local creators, emerging talents, and works that underscore the traditions of the valley. There are also hands-on exhibits and classes on offer to the public, so you can try your hand at creating a masterpiece of your own.
The museum is in Yountville, and admission is $15 for adults.
10. Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park
The days of the water mill are gone. But at Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park you can see a real working water mill from the 1840s — one of only two still in existence west of the Mississippi. You can even try some baked goods made from flour ground by the mill. On weekends, guides will lead you on a tour and explain how vital mills such as this once were to life in the Napa Valley and beyond.
Admission is only $5. Guests say it’s worth visiting for the smell alone!
9. Oxbow Public Market
All we’ll say is: come hungry, come thirsty. For 10 years, the Oxbow Public Market has been the place to sample some of Napa’s best food, wine, and treats. It’s a 40,000 square foot smorgasbord with scenic outdoor seating overlooking the Napa River — the perfect spot to enjoy some wine. Or beer. Or a burger. Oh, or a charcuterie board. Or cupcakes. Plus maybe some sushi. Or any of the other ten thousand things you’re going to want to try!
Best of all, the Oxbow Public Market is committed to supporting sustainable forming, locally-sourced ingredients, and independent owner-operated businesses. This is an authentic Napa experience for sure.
8. Judd’s Hill Winery and MicroCrush
Okay, how long could we seriously go without talking about some of Napa’s awesome wineries?
Judd’s Hill is definitely one of the best and most interesting. This is a totally green winery, committed to sustainably using the land to produce their vintages. The process is very intimate here, with the family releasing fewer than 3,000 cases annually.
Their MicroCrush program (sort of like a microbrewery for winemakers) also allows smaller growers the chance to press their own wine at Judd’s Hill. So if you have a bunch of grapes lying around… you should give them a call!
7. Napa Valley Brewing Company
Wine isn’t the only thing to drink in Napa. If you’re more in the mood for a brew, you should swing by the Napa Valley Brewing Company in Calistoga. Conveniently located on the grounds of the Calistoga Inn, their beers are primarily served at the inn itself — although you may be able to find some cans elsewhere in the valley.
Of course, if the art of brewing interests you, you can always arrange a tour with the brewmaster.
6. Platypus Wine Tours
Maybe the only bummer about visiting Napa is that there’s so much to see and do. How are you supposed to know where to go?
Taking a small group wine tour with Platypus Tours takes the stress out of planning your itinerary. They will take you to four wineries, plan a picnic for you, and provide you with a knowledgeable guide. And all that for $110! It’s the perfect way to learn more about the art of viticulture and the history of Napa County.
5. Pride Mountain Vineyards
People who have visited Pride Mountain Vineyards absolutely rave about the experience — literally without exception. Many people will tell you this is the best vineyard in Napa, which is really saying something. (Fun fact: It’s also partly in Sonoma, since the county line runs through the property.)
As the name suggests, Pride sits at an elevation of 2,100 feet, which gives their wines a unique flavor. It also ensures that the grounds offer picture-perfect views, so make sure you leave some time to explore! Also, take a tour of the winery and the caves under the mountain.
4. Beringer Vineyards
Beringer is the oldest Napa Valley vineyard still in operation, dating to 1876. The historic Rhine House, which serves as the winery’s tasting room, was built in 1884 and stands out as something of a landmark.
Unlike some others on this list, Beringer is a large-scale winery. But that doesn’t mean you won’t receive a personal touch if you visit. The tour guides are knowledgeable and delight in teaching you more about the aromas that have made Beringer a celebrated brand around the world.
3. Take the train
Looking for an alternative to biking or booking a small group tour? All aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. You can chose from half-day or full-day tours, organized by region. There are also plenty of special events — like murder mystery rides! And don’t worry: this train has dining options as well.
2. Modus Operandi Cellars
Winemaker Jason Moore left Dallas at the age of 24 with the dream of starting his own winery to pass down to his children. The consensus is he more than succeeded.
Modus Operandi isn’t as big as Beringer or some of the other brands, but that’s part of the charm. Guests can’t say enough about the time and attention they received from Moore and his team when they stopped by for tastings. The wine is also critically acclaimed, as good as any luxury vintage but at prices that are actually reasonable.
1. Napa Valley Balloons
Finally, there’s one last iconic way to see Napa Valley: from the air. What could be better than seeing one of America’s most beautiful regions from a bird’s eye view?
For just $219, Napa Valley Balloons will take you on a 45-minute to one hour long ride. Plus you get refreshments beforehand, and a wine toast once you come back down to earth. (If you’re looking for something more intimate, or you want to take a group with you, there are other packages available.)
The balloons launch from Vintner’s Golf Club in Yountville.