Napa Valley Day Trip: A Guide to One Perfect Day in Napa

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  • on APRIL 11, 2021
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Courtesy of Bob McClenahan Photography
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Everyone knows California’s Napa Valley has some of the best wineries in the world, but it’s so much more than just wine. Napa Valley is a world-class Wine Country filled with extraordinary culinary experiences, stunning mountains and vineyards, and amazing art. It’s also just a hop, skip, and a jump (or rather a short drive) from San Francisco and neighboring Sonoma, which makes it a perfect destination for a day trip.

While you could easily fit in a half-day visit to Napa, we suggest making it a full-day trip, so you can do all the fun things like wine tasting, dining out, and exploring, of course. And there’s no need for lots of planning because this itinerary maps out how to have a fantastic day full of some of Napa Valley’s best experiences without too much time in the car. (Note: Most of the stops on the itinerary are in and around the city of Napa, as destinations further north like Yountville and St. Helena would eat up too much drive time.)

COVID-19 Note: Please be sure to check with each business in advance to confirm operating details and to make a reservation. For the latest information on what’s open, visit our pandemic news page.

Start with a hearty breakfast

Courtesy of Boon Fly Cafe

Breakfast is definitely the most important meal of the day when wine tasting is on the itinerary. Proteins and carbs will help soak up that booze (or at least help it absorb it more slowly), and there’s no better protein and carb combo than the chicken and waffles at Boon Fly Café at the picturesque Carneros Resort and Spa. Located at 4048 Sonoma Highway (as you head into Napa from San Francisco or Sonoma), it’s the perfect spot to start the day. Pro tip: Grab a dozen of the famous donuts for car snacking.

Blend your own wine at the Hess Collection Winery

Courtesy of The Hess Collection

Atop Mount Veeder, you’ll find The Hess Collection, located at 4441 Redwood Road in Napa, where you can play winemaker for the day by blending three varietals to create a custom blend you can take home. The experience starts with a tour of the historic Mount Veeder Visitor Center and the Hess Contemporary Art Museum, one of the most impressive private collections in the world, before sitting down to create your own wine masterpiece.

Enjoy a delicious lunch at Oxbow Market

Courtesy of Oxbow Public Market

Oxbow Public Market, located at 610 1st Street in Napa, is popular with locals and tourists alike, and for good reason. You’ll find all kinds of food purveyors at this lively high-end market, where you can enjoy a fantastic meal as well as find all kinds of epicurean delights from local Californian food and wine producers. Take a lap before committing to your lunch fare (you’ll find everything from oysters to burgers to empanadas) and then enjoy your meal on the spacious deck overlooking the Napa River. You can also find plenty of goodies to assemble your own picnic, if you’d prefer to pack a picnic and eat along the Napa Riverfront.

Stroll and shop in downtown Napa

First Street Shopping, Courtesy of Sarah Anne Risk

If you’re looking for something to do other than wine tasting, look no further than First Street in downtown Napa, where you’ll find three blocks of tasting rooms, interesting shops, and unique art galleries. You can also stop by the Napa Valley Welcome Center, located at 1300 1st Street, and pick up a complimentary map for the Napa Valley Art Walk, a public outdoor art exhibition featuring eight sculptures, all within walking distance of each other.

Tour and taste at some of Napa’s best wineries (and one distillery)

Tasting at Stags’ Leap, Courtesy of Stags’ Leap Winery

It would be extremely ambitious to stop at every winery mentioned on this itinerary, but if you want to make a go of it, they’re listed here in driving order. Better yet, pick one or two, so you can really enjoy the experience without rushing or worrying about time.

Stags’ Leap Winery, located at 6150 Silverado Trail in Napa, is on one of California’s first wine estates — home to 240 acres of vineyards and an 1890s stone Manor House surrounded by beautiful gardens. Book the 75-minute estate tasting experience so you can explore the property and gardens before enjoying a seated tasting.

William Hill Estate Winery, located at 1761 Atlas Peak Road in Napa, is another picturesque estate with views of the vineyards and rolling hills. Book the Overlook Tasting to sit on the terrace and take it all in.

Take a brief hiatus from the vineyards at the first distillery in the city of Napa since Prohibition. Napa Valley Distillery, located at 2485 Stockton Street in Napa, offers an educational tour followed by a tasting of its craft spirits in the Grand Salon. (If you prefer to skip the tour and head straight to the cocktails, you can also do that at their Hollywood Room Cocktail Bar.)

JaM Cellars Tasting Room, Courtesy of JaM Cellars

Music meets wine at JaM Cellars’ tasting room, located at 1460 1st Street in downtown Napa. Listen to some classic vinyl while enjoying a glass or flight in the welcoming and eclectic space, which is unlike anything else you’ll find in Napa.

Before you head back home, make one last stop at Domaine Carneros, located at 1240 Duhig Road in Napa. Stroll through the formal gardens before taking a seat on the terrace of the French-inspired Chateau, where you can sip bubbles, snack on caviar, and toast to an amazing day in Wine Country.

Get a new perspective on Napa with an unusual or global-inspired dining experience

Courtesy of Napa Valley Wine Train

If you’re “just” looking for exceptional food in a stylish space that stays fixed to the ground for the entire meal, Napa has some extraordinary restaurants. Angèle Restaurant & Bar, a riverfront bistro located at 540 Main Street in downtown Napa, will transport you to France for the evening. And dining at Morimoto Napa, located just a few doors down at 610 Main Street, feels like a trip to Japan, complete with sushi, sake, and even a little shopping.

However, if you’re looking for a more unusual dining experience, you can go on a literal culinary journey via land or sea. Roll past Napa’s lush landscapes and travel back in time on the Napa Valley Wine Train, located at 1275 Mckinstry Street in Napa. This classic Napa experience is available for wine tours during the day, but they also offer a two-hour gourmet dinner at night.

If a train doesn’t float your boat, a Winemaker Cruise definitely will. Glide along the Napa River in a 50-foot yacht while enjoying a four-course dinner with wine pairings. The boat departs from the Napa Yacht Club, located at 100 Riverside Road in Napa.

Everyone deserves a perfect California Wine Country experience full of amazing food, wine, and scenery. And with so many activities available for those short on time, a day trip to Napa Valley is totally doable. Time to start planning!

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Daisy Barringer

Daisy Barringer is a freelance writer who grew up in San Francisco and now lives there with her 150-pound Saint Bernard, Monkey. When she’s not writing about food and drink, travel, and other ways to have the most fun, she’s out and about actually having the most fun (otherwise known as “research”). Follow her adventures on Instagram @daisysf.


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