Napa Valley Travel Guide
Napa is best known as a booming wine region, serving up some of the top vintages outside of France (and arguably, some of the best wines in the world). The rolling hills and sunny skies make the region a picturesque spot for a quick getaway. And while wine is the main draw, there's plenty to the region worth exploring—all just a two-hour drive north of San Francisco.
Throughout the valley there are a number of towns filled with quaint shops, Michelin-starred restaurants, luxurious hotels, and unique spa experiences. And with over 400 wineries in the region, Napa Valley is definitely a destination worth revisiting again and again. So whether you're looking for a romantic retreat, a getaway with friends, or a trip for the family, there's something for everyone to enjoy.
Here, we've put together the best of what Napa Valley has to offer. Cheers!
Pacific Daylight Time
Best Time to Go
The tourist season in Napa corresponds with the annual grape harvest from August to October, but that also means that prices are at their highest and travelers should expect wait times and the need for reservations when out exploring. Late spring is a great alternative because the weather is just as nice and crowds are more manageable. And in late May, the area hosts the annual three-day-long BottleRock festival with dozens of acts from some of the world's top musicians, drawing in crowds of over 100,000.
In the summer, temperatures can get a bit hot during the day, but there are plenty of wineries to explore where you can dip into air conditioned tasting rooms or take a seat on a covered patio. The area also hosts its annual Napa Wine Fest each July, and showcases some of the region's top vintners and wineries, plus others from surrounding wine regions like Sonoma and Lake Mendocino.
The area really gets into the holiday spirit during the late fall and early winter months, and it just so happens to coincide with cabernet season (which runs from November through April). Crowds are at their lowest, but so are rates. And while the temperatures are a bit frosty, that's nothing that a glass of wine or two can't fix.
Things to Know
Due to the region's geographic spread, it's best advised to explore the region by car (just make sure to have a designated driver while visiting wineries). While there's public transportation available, it's easiest to go at your own pace instead of navigating bus routes or paying out for a taxi.
And while temperatures can peak in the 90s during the summer months, the nights can get surprisingly cold, dropping as much as 40 degrees in a single day. So it's best to pack a variety of outfits to make sure you're comfortable at all times.
How to Get Around
Trains: Amtrak San Joaquins takes travelers from the Bay Area straight to the heart of downtown Napa. The ride takes anywhere from two to three hours, depending on whether you're leaving from Emeryville or Salesforce Plaza.
Buses: Napa Valley's public bus system is called The Vine and runs from El Cerrito Del Norte all the way up to Calistoga.
Taxis: There are a handful of taxi services in Napa that can easily be arranged for quick pickup and drop offs wherever you need to be. Vern's Taxi Service and Yellow Cab Napa are the highest rated, but both Uber and Lyft also operate in the area. Car service: Napa Valley has plenty of private car and limousine options, perfect for those who don't want to worry about getting around if they're out wine tasting. Napa Valley Limousine Services and Napa Sonoma Wine Tasting Driver are the two highest rated. For those looking for a ride to various attractions and tastings with a guide who can help plan their itinerary and share some Napa history along the way, consider booking with Bohemian Highway.
Things to Do
Neighborhoods to Know
While there are several towns scattered around the Napa Valley, a few stand out with great dining, hotels, and things to do. Here are the top cities and towns to check out.
Napa: Downtown Napa is where you'll find much of the action and is the first stop for those coming up from the Bay Area. First Street is at the heart of it all with a host of stellar restaurants, tasting rooms, and boutiques. Surrounding the commercial area you'll find tree-lined streets filled with quaint Victorian homes that have been remarkably preserved.
Yountville: Mostly notably the home to Thomas Keller's famed French Laundry, which holds three Michelin stars, Yountville is filled with a host of great restaurants, shops, and galleries. The town abounds with opportunities to get out into nature, whether that's hiking trails, biking to and from wineries, or taking a hot air balloon ride over the valley.
St. Helena: St. Helena is a charming town filled with shops and restaurants that line its Main Street. Home to The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, visitors can partake in cooking demonstrations and tours, or sample some wines from the on-site Christian Brothers Winery.
Calistoga: Calistoga is the final stop for those making their way through Napa Valley, and it's the perfect spot to fully unwind before heading back to reality. The area's mineral-rich waters have led to the town becoming a wellness destination with a number of spas that feature natural spring pools. Once fully relaxed, visitors can peruse the shops, restaurants, and tasting rooms that line Lincoln Avenue.
Due to the fact that Napa Valley is within, well, a valley, the weather fluctuates pretty drastically from sunup to sundown, so it's best to pack a mix of cold-weather and warm-weather outfits. The area averages 27 inches of rainfall per year, mostly during the winter months from December through March. Fire season, which runs from June through November, has hit the region particularly hard in the past few years with record-setting fires in 2017 and 2020. The combination of high temperatures with low rainfall makes the region susceptible to fires.
The average temperature in Fahrenheit is listed below for each month of the year.
January 35 - 55
February 37 - 60
March 40 - 64
April 42 - 70
May 48 - 78
June 53 - 87
July 56 - 93
August 55 - 92
September 53 - 88
October 47 - 77
November 40 - 64
December 35 - 56