All aboard the most unique and memorable way to experience Napa Valley’s exquisite scenery and best wines — the Napa Valley Wine Train. Now celebrating 30 years of service, this fully-operational, antique train is powered by two modified 1950s-era engines that run on an eco-friendly combination of natural gas and diesel fuel. The locomotives pull vintage cars that have been refurbished to their original glory, including lush details like polished brass accents, mahogany paneling, and etched glass partitions.
For newcomers, the Napa Valley Wine Train prides itself on immersing patrons in its old school atmosphere meant to evoke the spirit of classic rail travel. Whether embarking on a lunchtime ride or a full-day excursion, here are eight things to know before booking this one-of-a-kind Napa Valley experience.
Though the thrill of the ride is a huge part of the experience, the train is primarily a rolling gourmet restaurant featuring a changing seasonal menu that highlights fresh, local ingredients (all prepared in the train’s four onboard kitchens). From tuna tartar to roasted beef tenderloin, expect to dine on decadent courses of gourmet, Napa-style fare. In the spirit of Wine Country, an extensive onboard wine list is available for lunch and dinner, offering 40 different wines. You can even bring your own wine aboard, but just know you’ll have to pay a corkage fee.
First-time visitors are encouraged to try the Ambassador Winery Tour, which includes a multi-course gourmet lunch during an hour-and-a-half-long journey to two of Napa Valley’s most famous wineries, Charles Krug Winery and Raymond Vineyards.
The Ambassador Tour makes its first stop at the historic Charles Krug Winery, the oldest winery in Napa Valley. Guests will enjoy a private tour and tasting at the winery, which is the birthplace of California wine tasting as we know it (Charles Krug opened the first tasting room in the state), before heading to the whimsical winery that is Raymond Vineyards. One of the valley’s pioneers in eco-friendly winemaking, the facility is certified organic, Biodynamic®, and completely solar powered.
The Napa Valley Wine Train also offers half day tours, such as the Grgich Hills Winery Tour, which includes a two-hour train ride with a gourmet, multi-course lunch, followed by a tour and tasting at Grgich Hills Estate, founded by wine legend, Mike Grgich, who is recognized as one of the greatest winemakers in the world.
No need to leave the kids behind, as the Napa Valley Wine Train is an adventure fit for the whole family. The Silverado car is perfect for a kid-friendly lunch since it is the most casual car on the train, so you can relax with your family without worrying about interrupting guests who seek a more upscale experience. The car’s open-air windows provide an eye-catching panoramic view of the passing scenery as the train glides through the valley. Children’s rates are only available for select packages, so be sure to call ahead.
Insiders who have ridden the Napa Valley Wine Train recommend the Vista Dome Package, a train journey like no other. Though it’s the most expensive package, it features an unforgettable dining experience on the elevated, two-story Vista Dome dining car to deliver a “first-class” experience. With its plush interiors, exquisitely prepared food, and unobstructed views from every angle, Vista Dome is a nod to the glory days of luxury rail travel.
With its upscale culinary offerings and gorgeous vintage setting, the train is also a distinctive way for romantic couples to tie the knot. Small, intimate elopements can be conducted on the back of the moving train as it glides along the rails under Napa Valley’s lush sweeping scenery. Or, make reservations for larger groups in a single car or throughout the entire train. The train has everything needed to bring the vision of your special event to life.
During the winter holiday season, the Wine Train transforms into the Santa Train, welcoming kids of all ages to enjoy games, singing, and live entertainment as it makes its way north to the “North Pole.” This interactive musical journey is complete with hot cocoa, freshly-baked cookies, and, of course, Santa himself, and is surely a treat for the whole family.
Evening travelers can enjoy the area’s only after-hours winery tour on the Grgich Main Train E-Tour, an evening winery tour which includes VIP access to the family-owned Grgich Hills Estate, dedicated to sustainability. Wine Train guests will enjoy a private tour and tasting, followed by a multiple course gourmet meal aboard the train as the sun goes down.
For a fun and completely unforgettable fine dining and entertainment experience, book a seat on the train’s Murder Mystery dining tour, which operates on select dinner trains year-round. Don your best 1920s attire (or regular clothes to become a private detective) for an evening of mystery, mahem, and murder as you enjoy a three-course dinner and work to uncover all the secrets aboard the vintage train.
Whether you’re a wine enthusiast, train-lover, or foodie — or all three — the Napa Valley Wine Train is an unforgettable dining, tasting, and travel experience that stimulates all the senses.
Images courtesy of Napa Valley Wine Train