Uncork & Unwind: Explore All That Napa Valley Has To Offer
When you think about the quintessential location for vino in America, Napa Valley probably comes to mind. As one of the most popular wine regions in the world, Napa’s fertile soils are known for having some of the finest cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay grapes.
In addition to its beautiful countryside filled with rolling vineyards, the Napa Valley area also has many other fun and relaxing activities. Napa Valley is made up of several towns, which include Calistoga, St. Helena, Oakville, Rutherford, Yountville, Napa and American Canyon.
Fly into San Francisco International Airport and pick up your Hyundai Elantra or Toyota Camry from the rental car counter, then drive less than an hour-and-a-half north to Napa Valley and spend a few days in California’s wine country.
Tip: Napa Valley can be extremely busy during the weekend, so the best time to visit is during the week when you should be able to avoid traffic jams and crowded tasting rooms.
In Vino Veritas
Napa Valley boasts more than 400 wineries and what seems like nearly as many options to get to them. Take a tour (with a designated driver!) — by limo, bus, luxury car or SUV, classic convertible or Napa Valley Wine Trolley. If you prefer to get a little exercise while you’re at it, cycle your way through the vineyards or take a hike through the hills and forests.
Tip: While many of the larger wineries don’t require an appointment for tastings, some of the smaller ones do. Make sure you check the tasting room hours for each of the wineries you’d like to visit and plan accordingly.
Since the Napa region is renowned for its cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays, be sure to treat your palate to these grapes’ juices.
For cabernets, try Louis M. Martini Winery, Hewitt Vineyard, Crosby Roamann, Salvestrin Winery, HALL St. Helena, Stags’ Leap Winery or Robert Mondavi Winery.
For chardonnays, try St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery, Grgich Hills Estate, Beaulieu Vineyard, ZD Wines, Inglenook Vineyard, Peju Province Winery, Robert Mondavi Winery or Elizabeth Spencer Winery.
Or, tickle your tongue with sparkling wines from Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon, Mumm Napa or Schramsberg Vineyards.
Other popular Napa wineries include Opus One Winery, V. Sattui Winery, Sterling Vineyards, Frog’s Leap Winery, Castello di Amorosa and Cakebread Cellars.
By Air, Land & Sea
Get a bird’s-eye view of wine country from the basket of a hot-air balloon. Napa Valley Balloons has been flying for more than 31 years and has FAA-certified pilots and aircraft. Start your adventure before sunrise with coffee, teas, pastries, fruit and juice, followed by orientation. Then listen to the burners roar, inflating the balloon and lifting you off the ground as you peacefully drift over the vineyards and mountains across the valley.
Climb onboard the Napa Valley Wine Train for fine dining, delicious private-label wine and gorgeous scenery. Relax in beautifully restored, century-old Pullman railcars, featuring Honduran mahogany paneling, etched glass partitions, velveteen fabric armchairs and brass accents. Choose from a variety of dining journeys, day trips and winemaking tours. The train also offers special events, such as its Rock the Rails music series, Murder Mystery dinner theater and Santa Train.
See Napa from a different perspective aboard the Napa Valley Wine Yacht. Cruise along the Napa River on a 50-foot power catamaran while enjoying a four-course meal by Tarla Grill’s Chef Kadiye. Plus, Aum Wine Cellars’ owner and winemaker personally pair each course with his wines. While pleasing your taste buds, take in views of the valley’s vineyards, as well as the Mayacamas and Vaca mountain ranges.
Napa Valley isn’t just for adults. The area has plenty of family activities, too. Visit a 400-acre wildlife sanctuary at Safari West, where you can ride in an open-air safari vehicle and get up close and personal with African mammals, such as giraffes, zebras and wildebeests, among the more than 800 other animals. Or, experience life on a farm at Connolly Ranch, which offers a variety of children’s and family programs.
Check out the public art on display in downtown Napa Valley along the Napa Art Walk, which also offers an accompanying audio tour. Let the kids get creative in an art class at Nimbus Arts. Stop by the Robert Louis Stevenson Silverado Museum and check out the homage to the Scottish-born author of “Treasure Island” and other classic works. If it’s a hot day, take in a movie at the century-old Cameo Cinema.
Hop in a kayak or on a paddleboard for a quiet journey down the Napa River. Take a family bike ride down the Napa Valley Vine Trail. Or, let the kids practice their ollies at the Napa Skatepark or play on the playground at Crane Park.
In Calistoga, watch one of only three regularly erupting geysers in the world, Old Faithful Geyser of California, where you can also enjoy the gardens, play bocce ball, and see Tennessee Fainting Goats, Jacob’s Four-Horn Sheep and Guard Llamas on the property’s farm. Journey back more than 3 million years to admire majestic, petrified redwood trees that were turned to stone by a local volcano in California’s Petrified Forest.
For a more low-key day, relax and rejuvenate in geothermal springs or a mud bath at Napa Valley spas, such as Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, Golden Haven Hot Springs, Indian Springs Resort and Spa or Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort. Or, stroll through the various shops and restaurants at Oxbow Public Market.
Whether you have a day or a week to spend in Napa Valley, this region of California wine country has plenty of vino for tasting and lots of activities for the kids and non-wine lovers, too.
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Written By: Angie Lewis