Just the mere name, Napa Valley, conjures up visions of sun-filled days and rolling, vine-covered hills. This unique clime, located north of San Francisco, has long been known for hundreds of hillside vineyards creating some of the best wines in the world. So, where do we begin?
The Napa River extends some 55 miles throughout Napa County. So does St. Helena Highway, also known as Highway 29. Dozens of these smaller valley towns with acres of farmland make up California’s wine country, each with its own flavor and flare.
Up-valley near Clear Lake are Calistoga and St. Helena. Further south is Rutherford, home to Rutherford Hill Winery. And slightly northwest of downtown Napa is Yountville, a town known for high-end restaurants and sparkling wine.
Napa Valley’s flagship city, Napa, is at the southern tip of the Valley. In downtown Napa, the Oxbow Public Market is a busy spot. It features regional gourmet food paired with excellent local wine.
The Napa Valley Wine Train, a vintage locomotive and traveling restaurant, regularly runs through the Valley and provides scenic views with a perfectly prepared four-course meal and local vintages.
But Napa Valley, California, is more than just wine. It offers a little something for everyone. Napa Valley is known for its art galleries and museums. It is also home to the Napa Valley opera house and numerous independent playhouse theaters.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Napa Valley is a dream. Hiking trails crisscross the Valley for exploration, with complementary fresh air and ever-gentle sunshine. One of the most popular walking and hiking trails in the US is the Napa Valley Vine Trail, a roughly 20-mile walk parallel to Highway 29 from Napa that connects many of the wineries.
There are also dozens of places to stay for a long weekend or a welcomed retreat, fitting almost every budget. Vacation rentals dot the Valley, and there are numerous smaller inns for inexpensive impromptu nights.
Many vineyards provide posh guest rooms with in-room conveniences, gourmet wine, food experiences, or tailor-made spa days for a long weekend getaway. Regardless of what you are looking for, Napa Valley is one of the best places to stay in northern California.
Embark on a guided wine tour in the renowned Napa Valley, the most celebrated wine region in North America. Discover boutique wineries that are hand-picked by your guide, learn about the wine-making process from your knowledgeable tour guide, enjoy a tasty picnic lunch served at a winery, and take in panoramic and unforgettable views of Napa Valley.
Enjoy a day in the Napa Valley with good friends and wine. With all tasting fees included on this exclusive small group tour, you will visit three estate wineries and learn the art of wine making. After tastings, travel through picturesque valleys of California’s coastline.
Discover the secrets, history and scenic beauty of the Napa Valley while kayaking on this guided tour. Whether you're a beginner or an advance outdoor adventure enthusiast, you will love learning about what makes the Valley so unique. This adventure is suitable for all skill levels, making it ideal for both beginners and advanced adventure seekers alike.
TL;DR Our Favorite Accommodation in Napa Valley
- Best Luxury Hotel in Napa Valley: Westin Verasa Napa
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in Napa Valley: Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery
- Best Budget Hotel in Napa Valley: The Bergson
- Best Vacation Rental in Napa Valley: This Charming Victorian House
- Best Pet-Friendly Hotel in Napa Valley: Wine Country Inn Napa Valley
- Best Resort in Napa Valley: Bardessono Hotel and Spa
- Best Campsite in Napa Valley: Safari West
- Best Family-Friendly Hotel in Napa Valley: Hampton Inn & Suites
Best Areas to Stay in Napa Valley
- Best Area for first-timers/tourists: Napa
- Best Area for budget travelers: Calistoga
- Best Area for luxury travelers: Yountville/St. Helena
- Best Area for safety: Calistoga
- Best Area for families: Napa
- Best Area for food: Yountville
- Best Area for nightlife: Napa
Where to Stay in Napa Valley, California
1. St. Helena – For wine enthusiasts
Address: St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA 94574
St. Helena sits in the heart of California Wine Country, north of San Francisco in the North Bay region, and is the best place to stay for wine enthusiasts. The region around St. Helena is home to roughly 150 wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms.
Names such as Beringer Vineyards, Duckhorn Vineyards, Clif Family Winery, and Freemark Abbey Winery make this a small town home. And not to be outdone, the area boasts many impressive boutique luxury hotels.
St. Helena is also known as Napa’s Main Street, with dozens of trendy boutiques, creative dining experiences, and a posh aesthetic – often matched with a posh price tag. St. Helena is among the most walkable towns compared to other Napa Valley cities, with wide sidewalks lining Main Street.
Countless iconic vineyards and distilleries surround the small up-valley town. While sampling each one may take several years, one perfect way to enjoy all the town offers is through the numerous half-day and full-day wine tours.
If you are planning to visit Napa Valley and are looking for modest accommodation, the Spanish Villa Inn is located in the heart of St Helena. Wine Country Inn Napa Valley comes to mind for something more upscale, with a view of the vineyards for you and your beloved pet. And Harvest Inn is one of the many posh hotels in the quiet town that will allow you to relax and unwind.
Things to do in St. Helena
- The Napa Valley Wine Train is the perfect combination of a relaxing activity that drives to the heart of Napa Valley. This historic train has been impeccably restored and offers a scenic wine-country tour while riders dine on a locally sourced four-course meal with wine pairings and tastings.
- The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum sits in downtown St. Helena. It is a collection of items and works that detail his amazing life of exploration, all on permanent display. The Museum also houses a collection of dozens of artists. Famed Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson owned some of the curated works here, while some indicate his extensive travels.
- St Helena Skate Park is located in the city’s Crane Park. This unique, 18,000-square-foot concrete skate park is a popular hangout and opens daily from dawn until dusk.
- The St. Helena Farmers Market, held each Friday morning from March–October, is one of the best places to enjoy the Valley’s fresh offerings and a great place to take the kids for a meander.
Places to stay in St. Helena
- Best Budget Hotel in St. Helena: Spanish Villa Inn
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in St. Helena: Wine Country Inn Napa Valley
- Best Luxury Hotel in St. Helena: Harvest Inn
- Best Rental in St. Helena: This Charming Victorian House, just opposite the Clif Family Winery
See Related: Most Exotic Places in California to Visit
2. Calistoga – Great for natural hot springs & wine
Address: Calistoga, Napa Valley, CA 94515
If you are planning a visit to Napa Valley and want to combine a relaxing getaway with a bit of wine, history, and culture, Calistoga is one of the best places to visit. Set on the banks of the Napa River, the small up-valley town of Calistoga is known for natural mineral pools, outdoor soaking tubs, and mud baths. There are also some of the American wine world’s most respected names, including Joseph Cellars and Sterling Vineyards.
While Calistoga is known for its smaller-town charm, there is still plenty to do. There are several iconic landmarks in Calistoga, including the Castello di Amorosa. An architectural design marvel, this recreation of a 13th Century castle is simply breathtaking. The Castello di Amorosa Winery in Calistoga takes advantage of the area’s unique climate, perfect for growing the less well-known Sangiovese grape and the prized Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.
These climate variations allow for the production of a more Italianesque blend. Tours of the castle and tastings of these unique Italian-inspired wines are offered daily. Or opt to sample the local varietals through a hike and wine tour of the northern Napa Valley.
In downtown Calistoga, the Ca’toga Galleria D’Arte, in the Villa CA’ TOGA, houses the breathtaking works by international muralist Carlo Marchiori. Tours of the Villa and Marchiori’s work are available to the public upon request.
If you and the kids are looking for an awesome outdoor experience near Calistoga, the Petrified Forrest and the Safari West, both west of the city, is great for the whole family. And both the glamping sites of Safari West and the vacation rental, SSS Ranch Napa, allow you to stay nearby.
In addition to hot springs, Calistoga is filled with Napa Valley hotels, inns, and lodges to fit almost any budget. The upscale Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley caters to all luxurious needs for an unparalleled stay.
For those traveling with family and friends, The unique Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery or Embrace Calistoga are great options, while The Bergson provides an excellent location for those on a budget.
Things to do in Calistoga
- Another fascinating attraction sits just north of town – the Old Faithful Geyser of California. This unique feature erupts at regular intervals, every 15 to 30 minutes, and is open to the public. The Vincent Arroyo Winery and the budget hotel Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, which claims an original spring-fed hot tub and tennis courts, are both located nearby.
- Less than a 30-minute drive away is the Silverado Trail, a 30-mile historic country road that parallels Highway 29. The trail can be walked, biked, e-biked, or even driven. And between Napa in the south and Calistoga in the north, travelers will find roughly 40 vineyards.
- There are dozens of trendy eateries throughout Calistoga. But for upscale New American fare, try the Sam’s Social Club in the heart of Calistoga. A stone, private patio, and minimalist open seating make this an excellent choice for lunch or dinner.
- Robert Louis Stevenson State Park is a California state park located in Sonoma, Lake, and Napa counties. The park offers a five-mile hike to the summit of Mount Saint Helena. On clear days it is possible to see the peak of Mount Shasta, roughly 200 miles away.
- Southeast of Calistoga is the Bale Grist Mill State Historical Park, complete with an 1846 water-driven mill.
Places to stay in Calistoga
- Best Budget Hotel in Calistoga: The Bergson
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in Calistoga: Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery
- Best Luxury Hotel in Calistoga: Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley
- Best Campsite in Calistoga: Safari West
3. Napa – Downtown Napa – The heart of the action
Address: Napa, Napa Valley, CA 94558
Napa Valley is one of the world’s central wine regions, with more than 400 wineries. And the flagship city, Napa, sits on estuaries of the Napa River and San Pablo Bay, an hour north of San Francisco. This lively town is a food and wine lover’s paradise, but that is not all there is to do.
The sun-filled days and picturesque surroundings have created a hiking and biking paradise. With more than 96 trails covering 767 roughly miles, you’re bound to find a perfect trail. Napa is also home to the trailheads for the Napa Valley Vine Trail, the Silver Trail, the Napa River Trail, and the Oxbow Preserve Trail.
Because of its proximity to the estuaries, the city is also a popular spot for kayaking and paddle boarding, which are great ways to see the local birds and wildlife up close. There are numerous walking and self-guided audio tours and historical scavenger hunts for a leisurely introduction to the vibrant city. And for a bit of shopping, try the Napa Premium Outlets in the west of the city.
But if you want to visit a cross-section of some of the most notable wineries, complete with wine tastings, the easiest way is through a Private Wine Tour. Some of the most recognizable names in the Napa area include Etude Winery, Cuivson Winery, and Touchard Vineyards.
Napa city is home to an ever-growing art community and houses dozens of galleries and museums, such as the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art. This unique museum houses over 1600 landscapes and fine art with a separate outdoor sculpture garden. These beautiful pieces depict the unique perspectives and talents of northern California artists such as Robert Arneson and William T. Wiley.
There are also countless places to stay in Napa, from RV parks to upscale luxury. One of the best places to stay in Napa with kids is the Napa Valley Expo RV Campground. Or if you need a kid and pet-friendly hotel with a roof, the Hampton Inn & Suites Napa.
But if you are a solo traveler on a budget, then the Andaz by Hyatt is within walking distance of downtown. The Napa River Inn is great for couples looking for a cozy rustic getaway, but try the Westin Verasa Napa for luxury.
And for one of the best places to stay in Napa city, the Stanly Ranch, part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, can not compare. Most Napa visitors, whether it is their first-timer or they are long-time fans of the city, is easy access to all of downtown’s activities and excellent dining.
Things to do in Napa
- One of Napa’s best tourist attractions is the Ace and Vine Casino on the banks of the Napa River. Play table games, Craps or Poker. And afterward, grab a gourmet burger, a glass of local wine, or microbrews.
- Napa is not just for wine lovers. In fact, there are over dozen breweries in the Valley. So why not choose an outdoor experience such as the Downtown Napa Guided Wine and Brewery Tour on an Electric Bike? Let the bike work as you gain a new perspective on Napa’s biggest export.
- With all that Napa has to offer, sometimes it is best just to sit by the river and enjoy a burger or a hot cup of coffee. Downtown Joe’s in Napa is the best place to grab a bit and have a microbrewed pint or hot cuppa joe.
- Instead of looking at the breathtaking scenery around Napa, opt for a Private Farm Workshop in Napa Valley. For anyone interested in viticulture, this is a fantastic educational tour. And in Napa Valley, there is some of the most fertile soil on the planet.
- Southeast of the city is the Skyline Wilderness Park, which offers hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. It also affords basic campsites and is great for fun in the Napa Valley sun.
Places to stay in Napa
- Best Budget Hotel in Napa: Hampton Inn & Suites
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in Napa: Cambria Hotel, Napa Valley
- Best Luxury Hotel in Napa: Westin Verasa Napa
See Related: Best Things to do in California & Places to Visit
4. Yountville – A gourmand’s delight
Address: Yountville, Napa Valley, CA 94599
Yountville, nestled between St. Helena to the north and Napa directly to the south, is home to some of the biggest names in food and over a dozen wineries and tasting rooms, including Joel Gott Winery and Domaine Chandon. You can check out some of their wares on this trolley tour!
Countless tours and tastings are offered regularly. And experts guide you through vineyards and barrel rooms for a behind-the-scenes look at the magic of wine production.
Yountville is also on every gourmand’s wishlist. Home to Michelin Starred restaurants, gourmet establishments abound. The French Laundry, famously known for impossible reservations, and Ad Hoc or Bouchon Bistro in downtown Yountville may fit the bill as alternatives. All three eateries are run by celebrated Chef Thomas Keller.
This vibrant California town is also known for dozens of bike trails. Yount Mill Road Bike Trail in the north and the Napa River Trail to the east of town, both with easily accessible trailheads, are two of the most popular. If you prefer, you can rent an e-bike to tour the trails around Yountville.
While most folks are satisfied with exploring the area on the ground, many area visitors opt for a colorful hot air balloon ride for a loftier view of Napa Valley. Balloon rides aren’t exactly cheap, so you might need to budget a bit. One of the best places to stay on a budget in Yountville is the charming Napa Valley Lodge. If you want to stay in the area, dozens of lodges and upscale resort-style options exist.
The five-star Bardessono Hotel and Spa is an unforgettable experience with luxurious amenities. The Bardessono Hotel also provides wine experiences at its adjoining property, the Cliff Lede Vineyards, for a complete Napa Valley wine experience. But, if convenience is important, the Hotel Yountville is easily accessible from nearby vineyards.
Things to do in Yountville
- The famous Welcome to Napa Valley sign is just a few miles north of Yountville along the St. Helena Highway. Immediately on the side of the road with adjacent space to park for that perfect photo op.
- Napa Valley Museum, located in the Veterans Home of California, features the history, culture, and viticulture of Napa Valley. It also houses the work of local artists, which highlights the region. This small Museum is a great place to spend a leisurely afternoon.
- Housed in a quaint stone farmhouse, The French Laundry is one of California’s most legendary restaurants. With Chef Thomas Keller at the helm, making refined meals from locally sourced ingredients, draw diners worldwide.
- The Armistice Chapel is a Yountville institution. This small white active church was constructed during the last days of World War I and is located in the Veterans Home of California.
- Napa Valley Performing Arts Center, known to most as the Lincoln Theater Napa Valley in Yountville, sits on the 900-acre grounds of the California Veterans Home. The 1214-seat theater houses the Napa Regional Dance Company and is the home of Symphony Napa Valley.
Places to stay in Yountville
- Best Budget Hotel in Yountville: Napa Valley Lodge
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in Yountville: Hotel Yountville
- Best Luxury Hotel in Yountville: Bardessono Hotel and Spa
What is Napa Valley known for?
Without a doubt, Napa Valley is known as the premier wine country in North America. With a generalized Mediterranean temperate climate, the Valley is perfectly suited to wine cultivation.
There are also over 15 sub-regions or microclimates, small changes in climate due to terrain or elevation, which extend Napa Valley’s growing season. These near-perfect growing options have given rise to over 400 wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms.
And Napa’s continued cultivation of the prized Cabernet Savignon grape has thrust the region to the forefront of wine production.
What is the best area to stay in Napa Valley?
If you are visiting Napa Valley for the wineries, Yountville is the best place to stay in Napa Valley. It is a smaller town with more of a winery ambiance. Eclectic boutique shopping complements some of the best restaurants in the world.
The downside of proximity to wineries, onsite spas, outdoor swimming pools, phenomenal food, and unparalleled shopping is that Yountville is higher priced than other towns in Napa Valley. If cost is an issue, head north to Calistoga or nine miles south to downtown Napa for more lodging choices, such as the Archer Hotel Napa.
Where is a good place to stay in Napa Valley near Castello di Amorosa?
Castello di Amorosa is a 13th Century styled castle and winery in up-valley Calistoga. This exquisitely detailed structure houses an Italian winery and is worth the time for a tour and wine tasting.
There are several excellent places to stay near the Castello di Amorosa including the mid-range Embrace Calistoga or the Indian Springs Resort.