Napa Valley travel guide

Squeezing the last drop out of California wine country

When your best friend’s weekend plans include a nap, you say, “Nope. I’d rather Napa.” We don’t blame you. California’s Napa Valley and its namesake city, is brimming with world-class wine, award-hoarding restaurants, and picturesque hotels. Surrounded by beautiful bike paths and hiking trails, this little slice of paradise is also a destination for adventures—especially adventures that end at a spa or a tasting room! Grab your sunglasses and keep this guide close at hand so you have the inside scoop on where to stay in Napa, popular regional vineyards, family-friendly fun, and where to eat in Napa. Raise your glass to a gorgeous getaway and let’s go!

Best places to eat in Napa

Napa’s local foodies know you don’t want to drink fabulous wines on an empty stomach, especially when you could dine on Michelin-star menus and totally Instagram-worthy brunches. Order some casual cuisine to go, sit down to a chef’s tasting menu, or pack a picnic at the public market. And remember, some of the best places to eat in Napa are winery kitchens.

Napa’s top brunches

First things first. Start your day the gourmet way at Napa’s hottest brunch spots. We’ve found some unique cafes and grills with morning comfort foods, bottomless brekkie cocktails, and extensive breakfast and lunch offerings.

Napkins Bar + Grill—For a full brunch menu with a sports bar feel, wipe the sleep from your eyes and slide into a booth at Napkins. Endless mimosas and bellinis for $15 are an instant win, and the salmon benedict is the perfect pairing.

Grace’s Table—Whether you’re dining light with the fruit and cheese plate or the yogurt and fruit parfait, or chasing yesterday’s over-enthusiastic wine tasting with a hearty quiche or chilaquiles, you’ll love the flavors and ambiance of this global downtown bistro.

Melted—Hot sandwiches on waffle bread? Yes, please! The menu features sassy sammie titles, like I Wear the Gold and Singles Breaking Up. For a waffle-bound take on lox and bagels, order the Good Morning, Captain and wash it down with a hot soup or fruit smoothie. Looking for some hot, melty vegan food? No problem! Melted offers a few vegan options for those who crave the cheesy classic without getting cows involved.

Tarla Mediterranean Bar + Grill—Not your typical brunch, Tarla offers an extensive midday menu with lots of gluten-free options that are clearly labeled. The octopus salad is a guest favorite, and the house-made hummus is a must-eat.

Delicious Napa dinner options

The Central Coast is home to acres of award-winning vineyards, so it should come as no surprise that delectable local fare is always on the menu. Here are a few local favs:

Farm-to-table

Napa Valley Bistro—Vegetarians and pescetarians will love this veggie-forward and seafood-centric menu, where locally sourced ingredients showcase California’s international fusion cuisine. The farm-to-table food isn’t the only part of the menu that’s super local; you’ll have to study the lengthy wine list long and hard to find a bottle that wasn’t born in the Napa Valley.

TORC—You’ll be chowing down on ingredients sourced straight from a nearby farm, but this place isn’t your momma’s hoedown. TORC is all rock ’n’ roll, from the music streaming through the dining room to the unique dishes, like the house deviled eggs.

Fine dining

Morimoto Napa—This fine dining restaurant is an inventive Japanese staple inspired and helmed by chef/owner Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and Chef Sean Massey. Order the impressive chef’s table menu and pairings for seasonal specialties, or opt for the Toro Tartare, which has quite a following.

La Toque—Dress smartly for this colorful fine dining experience. Enjoy an array of Michelin-star cuisine with the seasonal chef’s table menu or the vegetable tasting menu and sip from the award-winning wine list pairings. Dessert is a must here, so save room.

Casual dining

The Fremont Diner—A quirky, vintage setting, fried chicken and waffles, cheesy grits, with wine and draft beer? We’ll meet you there! This place has character and flavor to spare.

Heritage Eats—Fast food doesn’t have to be fried or flat. You can get a quick, flavorful, and healthy meal at Heritage Eats, where world-traveling chef/owner Ben Koenig fuses international flavors. Don’t forget a hibiscus tea with tapioca pearls—it’s perfect for sipping alongside the chicken tikka masala wrap!

Market finds

Take advantage of Napa’s gorgeous weather and artisanal goods and pack your own picnic with flavorful finds from Oxbow Public Market.

Kitchen Door—For ready-made meals that just need a basket, Kitchen Door is a perfect fit.  They offer the menu to go, and you can order ahead boxed lunches for groups, too. Wrap up the duck banh mi and head to the Oxbow Preserve for some fresh air and yummy eats.

Wanna fill your own basket from scratch? Stop by Hudson Greens & Goods for fresh breads and seasonal produce, and stock up on cheese board pairings at Oxbow Wine & Cheese Merchant.

Top things to do in Napa

Wine tastings and vineyard tours are probably at the top of your itinerary, so pace yourself! We’ve rounded up some wineries with resident chefs, in-depth tours, and on-site activities, as well as things you can do beyond these world-class tasting rooms.

Winery tours and activities

The Hess Collection has an on-site kitchen and Executive Chef Chad Hendrickson prepares organic, sustainably grown food pairings. Plus, they offer free winery tours, so stick around.

Reserve your B Cellars experience for a custom food and wine tasting from the chef de cuisine with tranquil garden views.

Sattui Winery offers many food options, including an on-site deli and picnic area, weekend barbecues, and two-hour food and wine pairings.

Ready for more?

Learn about the many stages of winemaking, and hot topics like green winery practices, with the In-depth Educational Tour & Tasting at Cakebread Cellars.

Croquet and wine might sound like a dangerous combo, but it works out just fine at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards in Windsor. Even if you lose a game, you’ll leave a winner, because wine.

Beyond the cellars

ExploringNapa Valley Wine Train follows several routes and themes, including winery tours and day trips, rolling through the valley in style. Many of the fleet’s trains are refurbished 1915 first-class coaches with vintage furnishings and gourmet dining options. Drinking is optional, but wine is definitely the star of the show. Trade the rails for spokes and join the Wine Country Biking Tour with Gears & Grapes Getaways.

Shopping—Treat yourself at V Marketplace in Yountville, home of fine art, clothing, and luxury product boutiques. Find unique clothes for all genders at Sisters Boutique and attend an art show at Gallery 1870, the largest collection of wine-related art in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.

Napa Valley activities besides wine tours and tastings

Live music—Each summer, BottleRock fills Napa with awesome artists, delicious eats, and all-around good vibes. 2017’s lineup included Ani DiFranco, Maroon 5, The Roots, and Martha Stewart. It’s worth planning around this event, which takes over Napa each May.

Cooking classes—Try your hand at making some delicious Napa Valley eats with the St. Helena Farmers Market Tour and Cooking Class. Presented by Cooking with Julie, this hands-on course is offered every Friday from May 5 through October 27, 2017.

Family adventures—Napa is home to some amazing scenery. Take the kids on a stress-free excursion in the great outdoors, like the Russian River Kayak Tour and Picnic Lunch with Getaway Adventures. If you like cycling jaunts for grownups, try the Wine Country Biking Tour with Gears & Grapes Getaways.

Wellness—Spend your day relaxing with spa treatments and enjoying healthy activities, like trail walks, at Solage in Calistoga. The bathhouse features geo-thermal pools to soak away your aches, pains, and wayward thoughts.

Culture—Is there anything classier than a wine tasting tour followed by an evening at the theater? These days, Uptown Theatre is primarily a concert venue, welcoming international acts and regional artists. The 2017 Napa Valley Film Festival is scheduled for November 8 – 12.

Day trips—Embark on the Muir Woods & Sonoma Wine Country Tour with Winetasting & Beer Flight near SF trip with Incredible Adventures, or cross the water with the Alcatraz & Wine Country trip from Green Dream Tours.

The best Napa places to stay for your travel style

Not sure where to stay in the Napa Valley? No worries! This region has accommodations for any occasion, from spa hotels and family-friendly resorts to cozy B&Bs and boutique inns.

Planning a romantic getaway? Vintage House in Yountville boasts private patios and balconies, gorgeous rooms, and cozy in-suite fireplaces. Ooh, la la.

Need a girls weekend? Wine Country Inn & Cottages is a charming B&B for you and your BFFs. Gather your besties and escape for a weekend surrounded by rolling vineyards and amazing memories.

Traveling on a budget? Ivy Hotel Napa is a steal of a deal in Napa. It’s located near downtown and has a boutique setting with luxury amenities with very affordable rates.

Sneaking away to a spa? Milliken Creek Inn & Spa sits on beautiful riverfront grounds close to downtown. A full-service spa and tranquil garden make this an ultimate retreat.

Bringing the whole family? Silverado Resort and Spa offers affordable luxury suites where you can house the whole family with ease, as well as a prime location near outdoor activities for all ages, and a full range of spa offerings for the adults.

Want to learn more about traveling through American wine country? Check out these additional resources:

Find more fun in Napa Valley:
Napa for nondrinkers
Things to do in Napa Valley

Explore other top wine destinations:
America’s ultimate wine regions, rated


Photo Attributions:

Brunch Collage:
Top Left: Yelp/Sharon N.
Bottom Left: Yelp/Joelle P.
Middle: Yelp/Keith W.
Right: Yelp/Tarla Bar + Grill

Dinner Collage:
Top Left: Flickr/John W.
Bottom Left: Yelp/Heritage Eats
Bottom Middle Left: Flickr/teena y.
Bottom Middle Right: Yelp/Charlene E.
Top Right: Yelp/aNN s.
Bottom Right: Yelp/Kelly O.

Markets Collage:
Top Left: Yelp/Jesse I.
Top Right: Yelp/Geraldine R.
Bottom Left: Yelp/Ellie L.
Bottom Right: Yelp/Teresa D.

Wineries Collage:
Left: Yelp/Rachel S.
Top Middle: Yelp/Cindy Z.
Top Right: Yelp/William L.
Bottom Middle: Yelp/Leah E.
Middle Right: Yelp/Jestee L.
Bottom Right: Yelp/Katie R.

Winery Activities Collage:
Left: Yelp/Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards
Right: rel=”nofollow”>Yelp/Shannon L.

Other Activities Collage:
Top Left: Yelp/Kim K.
Top Right: Yelp/Kim K.
Bottom Left: Yelp/Karen H.
Bottom Right: Yelp/Caren G.

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Kohleun Adamson

Kohleun is a fan of high tea in Scottish villages and low tide on Coronado Beach, and she can’t get enough of rolling vineyard vistas. These days it’s no easy feat to pull her away from the California coast, but she can be wooed with Moroccan cous cous and ancient palace ruins. As a writer, Kohleun has a passion for sharing the intricate details of a journey well traveled, whether it involves crossing continents or exploring close to home.

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