California is home to many of the most popular tourist cities in the United States. From Hollywood to Los Angeles, the state is flourishing with tourists year-round. Although those cities are great, a Napa Valley holiday is much calmer and more scenic.
Napa Valley is known as the wine capital of California. Within its 30-mile area, there are over 400 vineyards that decorate the hills. In addition to the wineries, Napa is famous for its stunning views and endless attractions.
Whether you’re interested in wine tastings, local art, or experiencing California nature, Napa Valley is sure to impress. To help you create the perfect holiday itinerary, we’ve listed 16 of the best things to do in Napa Valley.
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16 Fantastic Things to Do in Napa Valley
1. Wander at the Skyline Wilderness Park
Although Napa Valley has built-up sections of shopping malls and attractions, it is still surrounded by nature. Visiting the Skyline Wilderness Park is a great way to explore the natural areas around the bustling valley.
The park was founded in 1979 after citizens of Napa Valley were concerned that the land was sold to a private organisation. They worked together to turn the area into a park for everyone to enjoy.
The park features over 25 miles of trails for hiking and gardens blooming with local plants. Camping sites and an RV area are also open to visitors. If you’re looking for a break from the city, checking out the Skyline Wilderness Park is a perfect thing to do.
2. Ride the Napa Valley Wine Train
The Napa Valley Wine Train is a modern experience rooted in the area’s history. The 100-year-old trail cars that used to lead to Calistoga, California, have been converted into luxurious spaces that take guests on a 30-mile trip to the city of St. Helena and back.
There are multiple different experiences offered on the Napa Valley Wine Train. A full-day 6-hour ride features stops at some of the best wineries in the area and a 4-course meal created with local meats and produce.
Many 3-hour experiences are also available. These can include complementary wine, meals with up to 7 courses, and stops at local vineyards. With great food and excellent views, riding the Napa Valley Wine Train is a must for any holiday.
3. Take a Kayak Tour
Guided kayak tours on the Napa River are a great way to learn about the history of the area and have fun doing it! The tours are led by experienced guides that ensure everyone is safe and staying in the group.
The kayak tours are designed for all skill levels and last up to 2 hours. As the group paddles along the river, the guide provides information and history about Napa Valley. From stories about local legends to details on the best vineyards, there is so much to learn.
4. Explore the Castello di Amorosa
Regarded as one of the most stunning structures in the Napa Valley area, Castello di Amorosa is a winery inside an authentic 13th-century Tuscan castle. Made from over 8,000 tons of Californian stone and 1 million bricks imported from Europe, it is a must-see attraction in Napa Valley.
Inside the castle, tastings and tours are available with a reservation. Each tasting includes 5 wines from the vineyard and the opportunity to explore the castle on a self-guided tour. Handmade chocolates and charcuterie boards are available to complement the wines.
For an even more exquisite experience, guided tours of the castle are a great option. In addition to the wine tasting and treats, groups are led through the building by a wine expert. The production area, cellars, and even the castle’s torture chamber are part of this tour.
5. Take a Bike Tour
One of the best ways to explore Napa Valley and the excellent local wineries is to take a bike tour. More intimate than a road trip, bike tours are a great way to bond with your travel partners. The push bikes and eBikes help you get around Napa and make the journey a fun experience for your group.
Self-guided bike tours allow you to go at your own pace as you traverse the countryside. These tours include tastings at local vineyards, a gourmet picnic lunch, and a pick-up service for any purchases you make along the way.
Guided bike tours are another option for those wanting to pedal around Napa Valley. These tours range from 4 to 7 hours, including visits to local wineries and breweries. A gourmet lunch is included in the experience, and your guide will tell you all about the area’s history.
6. Attend an Olive Oil Tasting
There are only 2 olive oil mills in Napa Valley, but quantity does not equal quality! Round Pond Estate sources its olives from trees imported from the Mediterranean to produce delicious, high-quality olive oil.
The tastings can last up to 90 minutes as their experts tell the stories and history of the estate. A selection of olive oils, red wine vinegar blends, and pieces of bread is available to groups as they learn about Round Pond Estate, its unique production methods, and how they’ve brought a Mediterranean speciality to the USA.
7. Go Paddleboarding
Another great way to explore the Napa River is on a paddle board. Self-guided paddle board tours can last up to 3 hours as you make your way down the river. GPS audio guides are available to give you insight into the area, wildlife, and history as you explore.
Guided paddleboarding tours are also a great way to spend a day in Napa Valley. One of the most popular guided tours is the Full Moon Paddle. Starting just before dusk, groups paddle along the river to watch the sunset and moon rise over the California hills. It is a beautiful view that you’re sure to remember.
8. Explore the Bothe Napa Valley State Park
Established in 1960, Bothe Napa Valley State Park is home to the farthest inland redwoods within a state park. The park is open daily from 8 am to sunset and is a perfect place to explore and enjoy the natural scenery.
Activities at the park range from hiking and cycling to horseback riding and swimming. The park has nearly 10 miles of trails to explore across 12 different loops. Camping areas are also available for anyone wanting to spend a night under the redwoods.
9. Visit the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art
The di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art has been inspiring locals and visitors of Napa Valley since it opened its doors in 1997. The museum aims to combine art and nature through its multiple galleries, sculpture gardens, and lake.
The museum hosts exhibitions for local artists, as well as a permanent collection of mid-20th-century and early-21st-century pieces created by artists from Northern California. The art is continuously rotated to allow for all the pieces to be on display.
Guided tours are offered at the museum twice a day. These tours take guests through the galleries and provide information about each work of art. Guided hikes through the sculpture garden and around the 35-acre lake are also popular with visitors.
10. Ride in a Hot Air Balloon
With a unique sky-high view of Napa Valley, hot air balloon rides are an unforgettable experience. The flights take off at sunrise and give guests the opportunity to admire the rolling hills and deep valleys that the area has to offer.
There are many different hot air balloon ride options to choose from. The base package includes the flight and a guide detailing the area’s history. Other options include wine tastings, bike tours through Napa Valley after landing, or even a large basket that can accommodate 10 or more passengers.
11. Adventure at the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park
Although the mill was first built in 1846, the area did not become a state park until the 1920s. Today, the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park takes visitors into the past to explore what life was like for early Napa Valley pioneers.
The park’s main attraction is the original 36-foot water wheel used at the mill. Restoration of the water mill was completed in 2020, allowing visitors to finally see it in action. The mill is of enormous historical and current significance for the area. It served as the social centre of Napa Valley as settlers came to use the mill.
In addition to the water wheel, hiking trails are also available at the park. The trails lead visitors through the forests of Napa Valley. Along the way is the Pioneer Cemetery, the first church built in Napa Valley, and local wildlife.
12. Explore Haunted Napa Valley
If you’re interested in exploring the most haunted areas in Napa Valley, check out the Napa Ghost Tours. These tours last 2 hours and take guests on a nighttime walk through the city streets. The tours begin at 8 pm and are sure to be hair-raising.
During the tour, each guest is given ghost-hunting equipment to help them explore and connect with the spirits in Napa Valley. The tour leads through the old Red Light District of the city and features stories about those who worked there and of patients in the old Napa Asylum.
13. Go on a Horseback Tour
Horseback riding tours are a great way to explore the natural hills and scenery of Napa Valley. The guided tours take groups through wine country, up mountains, and down to the beautiful lakes in the area.
The tours range from 1 to 3 hours long, depending on which areas are visited. As the horses take the group through the trails, the tour guide gives information about Napa Valley and tells stories about its history. Horseback tours are a splendid way to spend a day around Napa.
14. Check out a Distillery
Although Napa is known as wine country, it also has some of the best distilleries in the USA., The family-run Napa Valley Distillery was the first to open after Prohibition ended in the United States.
The owners’ goal at the distillery was to create something different from their competitors. This goal resulted in the creation of unique and rare spirits made in small batches using exquisite ingredients and generations-old techniques.
Tasting tours are hosted 7 days a week at Napa Valley Distillery. Guests are invited to try flights of their award-winning spirits and enjoy an educational tour of the distillery grounds. These events are a must-do for anyone interested in fine spirits.
15. Soak in a Natural Hot Spring
Napa Valley is home to some of the largest hot spring pools in the United States. In fact, the hot springs mineral pool at the Indian Springs Resort is Olympic-sized, making it perfect for swimming, bathing, and enjoying.
The mineral water is fed into the pool by 4 on-site geysers and stays around 35°C year-round. In addition to the hot spring pool, the resort also offers a spa, restaurants, picnic areas, and more to explore.
16. Go on an Art Walk
Enjoying the beautiful weather is easy to do in Napa Valley. One of the best things to do while out and about is to visit the Napa Art Walk. The Napa Art Walk is a programme designed to showcase public art from local artists.
The art walk is constantly changing. Each year, a new theme is selected, and new works of art are chosen to be on display. In addition to being fascinating to look at, some of the art on display is also for sale. The sales proceeds go towards funding the following year’s art walk.
A downloadable app is available to provide more information about each art piece on the walk. Users can choose which statue they want to learn more about on the app. Audio giving insight into each piece has been provided by the artists themselves.
Napa Valley is Full of Exciting Things to Do
For anyone visiting California, Napa Valley is a must-visit destination. Just 1 hour outside of the capital city of Sacramento, it is in a great location and features attractions and places to explore.
Napa Valley has something for everyone, from high-up sights to gourmet olive oil tastings. No matter which locations and attractions you include on your itinerary, a trip to the wine capital of California will be one to remember.
If you’re planning a trip to California, check out our list of the 15 best beaches in San Diego.
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