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

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  • by DAISY BARRINGER
  • on MAY 21, 2024
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Guides

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

By Daisy Barringer May 21, 2024

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 Rutherford and St. Helena would eat up too much drive time.)

Start with a hearty breakfast

Photos 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

Hess Person Estates
Photo Courtesy of Hess Persson Estate

Atop Mount Veeder, you’ll find Hess Persson Estates, 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. Or, if you’d rather enjoy your wine with a side of art, opt for the Walking Tour of the Hess Contemporary Art Museum, one of the most impressive private collections in the world, before sitting down to sample the winery’s newest releases.

Enjoy a delicious lunch at Oxbow Market (plus treats to take home)

Oxbow Market in downtown Napa, CA
Photo 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 tacos) 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
First Street Shopping, Photo 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

Stags’ Leap Winery
Tasting at Stags’ Leap, Photo 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 90-minute Manor House Tour & Tasting experience so you can explore the property and gardens before enjoying a seated tasting.

Silverado Vineyards, at 6121 Silverado Trail in the heart of the Stags Leap District, is all about offering up quality wines alongside beautiful views. Try their new White Wine & Caviar experience for something on the lighter side, or dive into their rich Cabernets during their Legacy Cabernet offering.

Burgess Cellars, situated at 2921 Silverado Trail, doesn’t just offer exceptional wines, but this historic property also has sweeping views that are pretty darn spectacular.

If you’re planning to head back to San Francisco or Sonoma before dinner, stop into Domaine Carneros on your way out of town, which is 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.

Arch & Tower
Enjoy wine, housemade bites, and river views at Arch & Tower in downtown Napa. Photo courtesy of Arch & Tower

If an urban winery is more your jam, don’t miss Robert Mondavi’s new Arch & Tower tasting room. Located overlooking the Napa River, at 930 3rd Street in Napa, Arch & Tower is downtown Napa’s newest spot to sip acclaimed wine while enjoying curated food pairings. If you plan it right, you can sip a glass of wine as the sun sets during their Golden Hour tasting, before heading out to dinner.

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

Napa Valley Wine Train
Photo 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.

We also adore the food at The Grove at the CIA, located at 500 1st Street in Napa. Here, shareable, Mediterranean-inspired dishes are chock full of ingredients from Copia’s own on-site gardens.

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 multi-course dinner at night. If that 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.

Conclusion

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 in Napa Valley is totally doable. Time to start planning!