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17 Fun & Best Things to Do in Napa Valley, California

17 Fun & Best Things to Do in Napa Valley, California

Located in California wine country just north of San Francisco, Napa Valley is known for its beautiful rolling hills and local wines. With over 400 Napa Valley wineries, including the O’Brien Estate Winery, Hess Collection Winery, and Oakville Winery, it’s impossible to visit all of them in one trip.

The first commercial winery opened in Napa Valley in 1861; roughly 25 years later, there were more than 140 wineries in the area. Unfortunately, the growth halted in the early 20th Century with an infestation of grape phylloxera, destroying 80% of the area’s grape crops. To add insult to injury, Prohibition began in 1920, closing the wineries for 14 years.

Thankfully, vintners returned to Napa Valley after the repeal of Prohibition and established Beaulieu, Inglenook, Mondavi, and Louis Martini vineyards. And now, 90 years after the end of Prohibition, Napa Valley has become a premier destination for fine wine.

It’s almost impossible to think of Napa Valley without thinking about wine. And while there are plenty of wine tastings available, a Napa Valley trip can also include a visit to natural hot springs, a trip to the French Laundry for gourmet food, or a spa treatment at one of many Napa Valley hotels.

Napa Valley is for wine lovers and those who like to explore art, play golf, hike outdoors, listen to music, go shopping, and eat delicious food.

sonoma valley wine trolley
1. Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley Including Lunch Top Recommendation

Welcome to the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley! Join us for a unique wine country experience aboard our historic trolley. Our full-day tour takes you through Sonoma’s picturesque winemaking region, with stops at three different wineries. You’ll learn about the history of Sonoma from your spirited guide as you roll past a handful of historic landmarks throughout the day.

wine country tour san fran
2. San Francisco: Small-Group Sonoma Wine Tour with Tastings

Looking for an intimate and unique wine-tasting experience in Sonoma Valley? Our San Francisco: Small-Group Sonoma Wine Tour is perfect for you! You'll visit three carefully-selected boutique wineries, enjoy tastings at each one, and learn about the history of California wine. Plus, you'll get a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Don't miss out on this one-of-a-kind tour!

wine country hot air balloon
3. Wine Country Hot-Air Balloon Ride from Yountville, CA

Looking for an unforgettable way to see Napa Valley? A hot-air balloon ride from Yountville is the perfect way to take in the stunning scenery of Wine Country. You’ll float above the vineyards, following ideal weather patterns for an unparalleled view of the area. And your pilot will be happy to share their expertise on the art of ballooning. It’s an experience you’ll never forget!

TLDR

If you find yourself in Napa Valley and you’re overwhelmed with so many fun things to do, this short list might get you started:

  • Most significant landmark – Castello di Amorosa
  • Best park – Skyline Wilderness Park
  • Best trail – Napa Valley Vine Trail
  • Best free activity – Napa Art Walk
  • Best activity for kids – Connolly Ranch
  • Best activity for adults – A Hot Air Balloon Ride from Yountville
  • Best food – The French Laundry
  • Best nightlife – The Napa Valley Wine Train Gourmet Express for Dinner
  • Best all-around accommodationInn on Randolph

Best & Fun Things to Do in Napa Valley, California

1. Napa Valley Wine Train

Napa Valley Wine Train

Address: 1275 McKinstry St, Napa, CA 94559

While the Napa Valley Wine Train has been in operation since 1864, it didn’t begin as a gourmet dining service until 1989. Originally, the train was used to take tourists from San Francisco to the resort town of Calistoga.

The original Pullman railroad cars have been restored with luxury armchairs, brass accents, and mahogany paneling, evoking the spirit of early 20th Century rail travel.

The Napa Valley Wine Train is one of the few historic passenger trains still active in the United States. As a passenger on the train, you’ll receive gourmet food and world-class wine while watching the beautiful rolling hills of Napa Valley.

The luxury train trip begins in downtown Napa and takes guests on a 3-hour, 36-mile trip through Napa Valley to St. Helena and back. Not only is the train a luxurious throwback to the early 20th Century, but the food is of decadent quality.

With four kitchens onboard, the chefs have mastered the ability to create gourmet cuisine on an antique moving train. In addition to gourmet appetizers, have a glass of sauvignon blanc or cabernet sauvignon to celebrate.

While you may be tempted to leave the kids behind, the Napa Valley Wine Train actually welcomes children. However, if the kids won’t appreciate the gourmet cuisine, you can check out the Silverado car for a more kid-friendly menu.

There are a few Wine Train tours worthy of your time. Here are a couple of our favorites!

If you want to rest your head close by after a long day, look at the beautiful B&B Inn on Randolph.

2. Castello di Amorosa Winery

Castello di Amorosa Winery and Vineyards
From Adobe Stock

Address: 4045 St Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515

In the middle of California’s wine country lies a medieval castle. Most people recognize the Castello di Amorosa Winery because of its royal-like setting, with a 13th Century-styled castle as the tasting room.

Although the winery may appear centuries old, Castello di Amorosa was built in 2007. The family-owned winery took more than 15 years to build and used more than 8,000 tons of stone. In addition, the castle is built with almost one million antique bricks to give it a more authentic Tuscan appearance.

The owners took just as much pride in the interior as the exterior, with over 200 boxes of old European furnishings shipped all the way to Napa Valley.

This winery doesn’t just look like an authentic Tuscan castle- it has all the elements of a medieval masterpiece. When you visit, you’ll notice over 100 uniquely styled rooms. There is also an authentic torture chamber, so be wary not to skip your bill.

The owners built a legitimate moat and drawbridge with ramparts and five towers. In addition, you can enjoy their world-class wine while walking through their beautiful courtyard or loggia.

As if this wine experience wasn’t unique enough, there are also stables and an armory.

The Castello di Amorosa Winery is no doubt one of the most unique experiences in Napa Valley and is likely one of the top experiences in California’s wine country. If you’re going to do a Napa Valley trip, don’t hesitate to put this on your itinerary. Enjoy your wine tasting with a glass of a local Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet Sauvignon, and enjoy your medieval experience.

Don’t want to worry about driving? Consider this small-group winery tour.

See Related: Most Exotic Places in California to Visit

3. Napa Valley Museum Yountville

Napa Valley Museum Yountville building
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Address: 55 Presidents Circle Yountville, CA 94599

The Napa Valley Museum is located in Yountville, centrally located between Napa and St. Helena. It was established in 1972 by dedicated citizens who recognized that Napa was one of the few areas in California lacking a historical museum focusing on regional heritage.

When it first opened, the museum’s original intent was to preserve Vintage Hall in St. Helena. However, the museum’s mission grew to focus on Napa Valley’s culture, history, and environment.

After 26 years in St. Helena, the museum moved to Yountville, where a competition took place to design the new Napa Valley Museum. Berkley-based architects Fernau and Hartmann were awarded the job, using bold colors and a modern design.

The museum showcases the valley’s rich local history with exhibits about the contributions of Native Americans in addition to Italian, German, and Chinese immigrants.

You can also learn about the valley’s unique geology, making it a premier wine destination. Local and regional artists also exhibit their photography, paintings, and sculptures.

The museum is a destination for adults and children alike, with interesting Napa Valley history and local art. Check the museum’s website for more information on hours and admission.

Want to stay close to the museum? Look at the Silverado Resort and Spa, an excellent family-friendly resort with a golf course and spa.

See Related: Best Museums in the US You Need to Visit

4. Robert Louis Stevenson Museum

Robert Louis Stevenson Museum Exhibit
image by Adrian W/TripAdvisor

Address: 1490 Library Ln, St Helena, CA 94574 

Opened in 1969, the museum was established to display and honor the works and life of beloved author Robert Louis Stevenson. A decade after its opening, the museum moved to the St. Helena Public Library Center with more space for its collections.

While the author never lived in Napa Valley, he and his wife honeymooned in the area in 1880, after which he wrote the Silverado Squatters travelogue. Today, visitors can see some of the remaining sites that Stevenson featured in his book.

The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum is fantastic for all ages, with information and exhibits about his famous books like Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The museum is dedicated to showing the life, the works, and the times of Robert Louis Stevenson. Although he lived a fairly short life, his collection of 21 books and various other writings have inspired generations of young readers.

The museum has free admission. However, if you have a large group and want to request a guided tour, go to the museum’s website for more information.

5. di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art

Sculpture in di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Address: 5200 Sonoma Hwy, Napa, CA 94559

The di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art is much more than a museum. The Napa Valley museum spans 200 acres with the freedom to explore, have a picnic lunch, or relax under the shady trees.

Many people like to walk the two-mile loop through the center, but a convenient shuttle is also available.

The museum includes two large indoor galleries with hundreds of contemporary art pieces. In addition to the galleries, the museum has an outdoor sculpture garden. Sculpture Meadow is a winding 1/3-mile trail with 34 sculptures on display.

Similarly, the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art has a Courtyard that houses 32 contemporary art pieces and a Lakeside section with 11 sculptures.

Winery Lake is between the indoor galleries, aptly named for the Napa Valley area.

Admission grants self-guided access to the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art. However, public tours are available Friday through Sunday at no additional cost. To purchase tickets ahead of time, visit the museum’s website.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Venice Beach, California

6. Napa River

Napa River and Napa Valley Cityscape
From Adobe Stock

Address: 500 Main St, Napa, CA 94559

Many people visiting Napa Valley for the first time don’t realize there is a river in the middle of the city. However, the Napa River is 50 miles long, traveling from San Pablo Bay to St. Helena. This often overlooked river provides endless options for outdoor family fun in Napa Valley.

The Napa River is fantastic for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, with several companies offering guided tours and rentals. Local wildlife such as otters, beavers, Great Blue Herons, and Snowy Egrets can also be seen. If you are near the tidal section of the river, you may even see a porpoise!

With a few different options for river access, boating is also a popular choice on the river. Several trails wind around the river, including the Wetlands Edge Trail in American Canyon and the Oxbow Preserve.

Lastly, the Napa River is a great spot to fish if you’re hoping to catch native species such as Chinook salmon, sturgeon, or trout. The best way to admire this gorgeous river is from the water itself. Rent a kayak and explore the river with a guided tour, or do a full experience of kayaking, biking, and wine-tasting tour!

7. Napa Valley Vine Trail

Biking in Vine Trail Napa Valley
image by Vine Trail Napa Valley/Facebook

Address: 3299 Claremont Way #4, Napa, CA 94558

You might think the Napa Valley Vine Trail is another chance for wine tasting, but it’s actually a hiking and biking trail. The trail will eventually be 47 miles, but only 12.5 miles have been completed between Yountville and Kennedy Park.

The idea behind the trail happened in 2008 when the Vine Trail Coalition was formed. The coalition aimed to connect Napa Valley from the Vallejo Ferry to Calistoga. Although the trail will connect the two cities physically, they also wanted to use the trail to connect the area culturally and artistically.

The trail will wind through the wine country from historic Vallejo (at the ferry terminal) to Calistoga (at the Silverado Trail and Highway 29). With its start in Vallejo, the coalition hopes to bring visitors from the San Francisco Bay area.

Divided into 10 sections, the trail will be named according to the city or American Viticultural Area (AVA) the trail goes through. Some planned sections include American Canyon, St. Helena, and the City of Napa.

This trail is a fantastic option for people of all ages for walking, hiking, or biking in Napa Valley.

For more information on the trail, check out their website. Want to see the Vine Trail, but not on foot? Rent an electric bike for extra fun!

See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in California to Visit

8. Napa Art Walk

Sculpture in Napa Art Walk
image by Napa Art Walk/Facebook

Address: downtown napa near city hall, napa, CA 94558

The Napa Art Walk is a self-guided art tour through downtown Napa. The biennial art walk is currently showcasing 10 sculptures by seven artists. The regional artists were chosen by a jury of local artists and instructors of art.

The current theme is Play! which means the sculptures have a playful appearance. This City of Napa program aims to promote public art downtown while giving the artists a chance to sell their sculptures.

This art installation will change again in 2023, so it’s best to check out the current sculptures before they are removed. Grab a glass of your favorite Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc while you’re downtown, as there are several tasting rooms!

Need a little extra info or context during your walk? Download the free Otocast app on your phone to listen to the Art Walk audio tour. When you come upon a specific sculpture, you can learn more about it by selecting that piece on the app. The artists recorded most of the audio, giving it a personal touch.

9. Calistoga Hot Springs

Calistoga Spa Hot Springs Pool
image by CalistogaSpa  is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Address: 1006 Washington St, Calistoga, California, 94515

Calistoga Hot Springs is a unique spa and hotel retreat located in Napa Valley.

Enjoy 104-degree water temperatures in the hotel’s healing mineral water pools with the mountains in the background. The four mineral pools are under a covered patio and offer relaxation, healing, and rejuvenation.

Many ancient civilizations found mineral hot springs to be a source of healing. Thousands of years later, the ancient beliefs still hold true.

At the source, the mineral water is elevated to a temperature of 180 degrees using geothermal forces but is cooled to just over 100 degrees for a less intense experience in the actual pools.

After your session in the hot springs, you can get a mud bath with volcanic ash and then a massage.

This is a family-friendly experience, so don’t hesitate to bring the kids if you wish.

Visit the hotel’s website to book your stay or get more information.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Monterey, California

10. Napa Valley Fly Guides

Napa Valley Fly Guides Fishing
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Address: located on Putah Creek, the Yuba River, or the American River, Napa, CA

Although you’re in wine country, don’t think you’re limited to wine tours and wine tasting all day.

Napa Valley Fly Guides is your go-to service for Fly fishing. Starting in 2013, the guide service has taken all levels of fly fishers out on guided excursions, including beginners who didn’t know a thing about fly fishing before their trip.

The guides are licensed with extensive knowledge of the Northern California rivers. The most common locations include the American River (usually in April or May), the Yuba River, and Putah Creek. However, upon request, the guides will take you to other rivers.

They can accommodate you, whether by yourself or in a group. The guide service provides all related gear, including rods and reels. If you don’t already own waders and boots, they offer a selection for rent at $25 per person.

Fly fishing is a catch-and-release sport, so don’t plan on bringing your prized catch back to your Airbnb to cook.

Day fishing licenses must be purchased by the customer at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Visit their website Napa Valley Fly Guides, for more information.

11. Oxbow Public Market

Inside the Oxbow Public Market

Address: 610 1st St, Napa, CA 94559 

Located in downtown Napa, the Oxbow Public Market is a 40,000-square-foot destination for delicious food and wine.

The marketplace features offerings from local farmers, artisan cafes, and local food vendors. Oxbow Public Market focuses on sustainably-produced vegetables and fruits and high-quality products.

You might find local red wine vinegar, olive oil, or other homemade goods at this downtown Napa marketplace.

You can sit outdoors along the river while eating wild Atlantic cod and drinking a glass of Pinot Noir.

Visiting Napa Valley is an amazing experience with many wining and dining options, but the Oxbow Public Market is a great place to support local farmers and artisans.

Lastly, a few different wine tasting tours begin at Oxbow Market, so why not start with some fresh food and shopping before heading out on a wine tour? Our recommended favorite is an open-air trolley tour, similar to the trolleys of San Francisco.

See Related: Best Places to Travel in Your 20s in the US

12. Historic Napa Mill

Historic Napa Mill and Napa River Inn
image by winecountrymedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: 500 Main Street, Napa, CA 94559

When you visit Napa Valley, the options for entertainment and fun are so endless that they can be overwhelming.

If you’re looking for one place for lodging, shopping, and dining, Historic Napa Mill is it. Located in downtown Napa, the Napa Mill is close to everything.

Stay at the Napa River Inn, a four-star Michelin hotel with only 66 rooms. Accommodations are comfortable and relaxing with the right amount of luxury.

Shopping includes Napa Valley souvenirs, local gifts like olive oil and red wine vinegar, wine, and locally-made chocolates.

Dining options at the Napa Mill include Angèle, a French country restaurant, and Celadon’s Restaurant, a place for comfort food from around the world.

The convenience of the Historic Napa Mill makes it an extra delight, with restaurants and shops right next to luxurious accommodations.

In the middle of it all lies a beautiful mosaic fountain attempting to capture Napa Valley’s history, both good and bad.

Put on your walking shoes to explore over twenty downtown Napa locations in this fun scavenger hunt!

13. Napa Valley Opera House

Napa Valley Opera House Building
image by Prayitno is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: 1030 Main St, Napa, CA 94559

When the Napa Valley Opera House opened in 1880, Napa only had around 5,000 residents. However, the theatre thrived with various musical and variety acts. Before it closed in 1914, the theater featured John Philip Sousa and his brass band, heavyweight boxer “Boston Strong Boy” John L. Sullivan, and author Jack London.

Unfortunately, the decline of vaudeville and damage from the San Francisco earthquake caused the opera house to close in 1914. Over the next seventy years, the theater’s space was used for various commercial offices. In 1973, the opera house’s building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1985, a non-profit group was formed to gather donations for restoring the former opera house building. Local vintner Robert Mondavi and his wife Margrit donated over $2 million toward the project, hoping to spur other large donations.

After the fundraising effort was complete and the Napa Opera House was restored, its grand re-opening was on August 1, 2003, with a special performance by Rita Moreno.

Unfortunately, the theater has a long history of dramatic changes, and as of 2021, the building was sold to a local couple, John and Michele Truchard and as of writing is still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the venue does not yet have any planned events, a visit to see the historic architecture of the building is well worth the trip.

See Related: Best Vacation Planners & Templates for Your Next Trip

14. Connolly Ranch

Connolly Ranch
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Address: 3141 Browns Valley Road, Napa, CA 94558

Connolly Ranch is the best place in Napa for a family-friendly outing. Children can learn about natural science and stewardship with the chickens, ducks, miniature horses, sheep, and donkeys on the ranch.

The ranch also aims to use their farm-fresh eggs in Farm-to-Table cooking projects and using fiber from the goats and sheep for all sorts of crafts.

Children particularly love the outdoor play space in the educational garden, where they can explore roly pollies, worms, and lizards.

The ranch also prides itself on its “wild spaces” where visitors can hike through a live oak habitat, meditate with Grandmother Oak, or learn about waterfowl at the Duck Pond. It’s fun to bring a picnic and enjoy the natural beauty in their natural play space, the Grove. After lunch, kids (and adults) can learn woodcraft skills at the Village while fort building!

The Ranch offers weekend and annual events as well as a virtual classroom. Are your kids interested in exploring nature at a Saturday camp while in Napa? Check out their website for information on events and open farm times.

15. Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride!

Napa Valley Hot Air Balloon

Address: Vintners Golf Club, 7901 Solano Ave, Yountville, CA 94599, USA

What better way to view this simply glorious part of the world that from a bird’s eye view? trick question, there just isn’t!

Literally, one of my most life-changing experiences, one that really made me fall in love with travel, is the hot air balloon flight I took over Napa Valley right after college. Being able to snap pics and gawk at the rolling hills and countless vineyards is utterly spellbinding.

There are quite a few opportunities and operators to choose from when looking for the right balloon flight. This hot air balloon tour in Yountville offers hot drinks, (or even booze!) to accompany the stellar views!

See Related: Best Holiday Destinations for Couples

16. Skyline Wilderness Park

Trail in Skyline Wilderness Park

Address: 2201 Imola Ave, Napa, CA 94559

As you will have no doubt figured out by now, with almost constantly perfect weather and gorgeous landscapes, Napa Valley is best enjoyed outdoors. Few places can embody this better than Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa.

Great pains have been taken to preserve the natural surroundings of this stunning expanse, consequently, there is a small entry fee (with annual passes available too). But it’s well worth it!

There are around 25 miles worth of hiking and biking trails to explore as well as rolling green spaces to enjoy all manner of outdoor activities including bird watching, fishing, and picnicking.

There’s also a stunning 18-hole disc golf course, as well as several sites to go camping and pitch a tent or park your RV. You can even test your aim at the Silverado Archery Club!

It’s worth noting that while you can drive through the park, and even enjoy horseback riding, dogs are not permitted.

17. The French Laundry

French Laundry Building
image by Peter Bond from Cincinnati, USA is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: 6640 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599

The French Laundry almost needs no introduction – but I will do it anyway because this renowned restaurant is simply fabulous and one of the most sought fine-dining restaurants in the country.

Chef Thomas Keller sources the absolute best produce Napa Valley can provide (including the many, many wines) to create mouthwatering meals and expert wine pairings. Thanks to his hard work and vision, this globally famous restaurant holds not one, not two, but three(!) Michelin Stars.

Interested yet?

The restaurant, located in a charming farmhouse setting amidst beautiful surroundings serves two tasting menus per day. Reservations are essential!

See Related: Most Beautiful Valleys in the US

Getting around Napa Valley, California

Napa Valley has plenty of transportation options, but you’ll find that it’s also a pedestrian and bike-friendly town.

While many hotels offer free bike rentals, there are also bike rental companies such as Fat Tire Bike Rentals, Napa Valley Bike Shop, and Napa Valley eBikes. Some companies will even deliver bikes to your hotel or Airbnb. This map might be helpful when traveling Napa Valley by bike.

The Vine is the fixed-route bus system in Napa County. Daily routes go the length of Napa Valley and go to the Vallejo Ferry terminal.

The Napa Valley Transportation Authority website includes additional transportation options in Yountville, St. Helena, Calistoga, and the American Canyon.

Should you want the flexibility of having your own car, you can rent through Enterprise, Avis, or Budget. Getting it sorted ahead of time with someone like Kayak is a great idea.

If you’re looking to take a tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled automatic rickshaw, to explore the wineries of Napa Valley, contact Laces and Limos for information.

If you have a large group, you may consider a private shuttle for transportation, including We Drive, Apex Limousine, or Napa Tours and Chauffeur.

FAQ

What is Napa Valley, California, known for?

Although Napa Valley is primarily known as a wine destination, Napa Valley’s hot springs are a great way to relax after a long day of hiking or wine tours. There are many hot springs in the area, including Indian Springs and Calistoga Springs.  

Is Napa Valley, California, worth visiting?

Absolutely! Napa Valley is a premier destination for wine tasting, such as at Round Pond Estate, but also for dining at gourmet restaurants such as The French Laundry. For a more casual experience, have lunch at Hog Island Oyster Bar at Oxbow Market for fresh oysters and seafood.

Head home from visiting Napa Valley with fresh olive oil and maybe even a piece of fine art from local artists. So yes, please visit Napa Valley.

What are the best places to visit in Napa Valley, California?

Not only are there some fantastic places to visit in the area, but there are also many free things to do in Napa Valley, California, that are amazing. Drive the Silverado Trail between Napa Valley and Calistoga and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Walk downtown Napa and find the art sculptures. Visit the Tuscan-style castle at the Castello di Amorosa Winery.

What are the best things to do in Napa Valley, California?

There are so many Napa Valley, California, tourist attractions that are fun for visitors- whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned Napa Valley tourist. You can take a hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley and see the sights of Northern California from 3,000 feet in the air! You can also relax in a hot tub in one of the area’s many vacation rentals after a long day of wine tastings.

What are the best things to do in Napa Valley with kids?

If you’re wondering what to do in Napa Valley, California, with kids in tow, there are plenty of amazing options. If they are not afraid of heights, take them on a hot air balloon for an afternoon of high-flying adventure.

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