Beautiful weather, bucolic landscapes, a plethora of outdoor activities, and some of the best food and wine to be had in the country makes Napa Valley a top summer vacation destination. Whether you’re traveling with your partner, friends, or even the kids, California’s premiere Wine Country has something for everyone. From wine tasting to outdoor excursions, and everything in between, here are the top 10 things to do on a summer getaway to Napa Valley.
Nothing says summer like an old-fashioned picnic, and in Napa picnics go glam at tasting rooms around the region. Book the couples picnic at Clos Pegase for a lunch prepared to perfectly pair with the winery’s reds and whites. Enjoy lunch in Rutherford Hills Winery’s scenic Oak Grove with a view of Napa Valley. Pack your own gourmet picnic and visit Napa Cellars for a pleasant afternoon in Wine Country, or head for the hills to the historic Pope Valley Winery to enjoy great views, a game of bocce, and a walk through the winery’s 100-year-old hand dug wine cave.
During the summer months, the entire Napa Valley is alive with the sounds of music. One of the most popular outdoor live music venues is Oxbow River Stage, located in downtown Napa, with eight summer concerts from June to September and featuring acts like Robert Plant, A-ha, and Norah Jones. Combine wine and music with Blue Note Napa’s summer jazz concert series at Charles Krug Winery. If you’re in Napa in July, don’t miss the Festival Napa Valley, a 10-day music and dance festival held at various locations throughout Napa. For theater fans, the Broadway & Vine series features four summer shows with a different Broadway star performing showtunes at each.
Since the 19th century people have traveled to Napa Valley for the mineral springs found in the area. Today, soak up the healing waters around Calistoga at the newly renovated Dr Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs, where you can detox in a volcanic ash mud bath followed by a soak in the spring-fed mineral pools. Nearby, the five-star Spa at Solage also gives guests the opportunity to relax in its mineral pools, which range from 60 to 104 degrees, and add an infrared sauna and eucalyptus steam to the bathhouse ritual.
The heart and soul of Napa is its wine culture, and no trip would be complete without wine tasting at some of the area’s top wineries. At the state-of-the-art Chimney Rock winery, winemaker Elizabeth Vianna consistently puts out estate grown cabernet sauvignon that captures the essence of Napa in a glass. While Pine Ridge Vineyards is also known for its cabernet sauvignon, don’t miss trying its unique chenin blanc/viognier blend when you visit the beautiful estate set in the hills of the Stag Leap AVA. Dating back to the late 1800s, Stags’ Leap has developed a cult-like following for its petite sirah, which is featured in its Take the Leap tasting.
Napa may be known for wine, but its food scene is a close second. Using only locally and regionally sourced ingredients, Lucy Restaurant at the Bardessono Resort & Spa in Yountville crafts a vegetable-forward seasonal menu. For a taste of France, head down the street to Thomas Keller’s Michelin-starred Bouchon Bistro for classics like escargots paired with the restaurant’s exclusive Vin de Carafe, house wine sourced from some of the finest winemakers in the area. For more French flair try Bistro Jeanty, also in Yountville, with its fantastic vegan take on Boeuf Bourguignon.
Executive Chef Philip Tessier, whose resume includes positions at Michelin Three-star establishments The French Laundry, Per Se, and Le Bernardin, brings his kitchen chops to Press in St. Helena, where the menu highlights the very best of the region. For a one-stop shop for the flavors of Napa Valley, head to downtown Napa’s Oxbow Public Market to enjoy restaurants like C Casa and Eiko’s at Oxbow, or to pick up picnic supplies from Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant or Milestone Provisions.
There’s no doubt about the fact that with its rolling hillsides and vineyards, Napa Valley is a beauty. One of the best ways to appreciate the landscape is floating above it in a hot air balloon. Join Napa Valley Balloons for a unique Balloon and eBike Tour, featuring a morning soar followed by an eBike tour to different wineries. Or, venture on a group balloon ride with a post-flight Champagne breakfast with Napa Valley Aloft.
In the heart of Napa, Bothe-Napa Valley State Park offers hiking trails that allow visitors to meander through coastal redwoods and forests of Douglas fir, madrone, and tanoak trees. After the walk, cool off in the park’s swimming pool. The Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is full of delights, from a nature trail that runs along Sonoma Creek to the chance to see San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the Sierra Nevada Mountains from the summit of Bald Mountain. The Robert Ferguson Observatory is in the park, with three telescopes for public viewing.
Step back 3 million years at Calistoga’s Petrified Forest. This ancient forest was created after a volcanic explosion knocked down the redwoods that stood in its path. Today visitors can hike one of two trails to get an up close view of this unique natural landmark. Mother Nature is also on display at California’s Old Faithful Geyser. One of three geysers in the world with this name, this powerful Calistoga geyser erupts every 15 to 30 minutes and when it does it often leaves a beautiful rainbow perfect for your Instagram shot.
Drive or bike Napa’s most iconic wine road, The Silverado Trail. This two-lane highway was built in 1852 and lets visitors meander through Wine Country at a more leisurely pace than Highway 29. The 30-mile trail winds through hills and rolling vineyards, offering a different slice of Napa Valley. Since 1972, The Napa Valley Museum has documented the local history of Napa, showcased local and regional artists, and brought world-class art exhibitions to Yountville.
One of the best ways to explore Napa Valley is by bicycle. Bike through beautiful north Napa on a Calistoga Cycling and Wine Tasting Tour, visiting two wineries during the 12-mile, mostly flat ride. The guided experience includes use of a hybrid bike and helmet, unlimited water, and a Wine Country picnic lunch, with stops for wine along the way. And further south, grab your bikes to ride along the beautiful Napa Valley Vine Trail, featuring 12.5 continuous miles of trail from South Napa to Yountville, with many more miles to come.
When the mercury rises one of the best ways to cool down is at Lake Berryessa, the largest lake in Napa and one of the largest fresh water lakes in California. Kayak, paddle board, jet ski, or simply jump in the water. With little crowds and calm waters, the Napa River provides the perfect setting for paddleboarders, and Napa Valley Paddle is the go-to for SUP rentals. Enjoy the tranquility of paddling by forests, tidal wetlands, and mountains. Along the way, river otters, turtles, and birds might be your only companions.
If you want to float down the river with less effort, book a Napa Valley Gondola cruise. Choose The Sandolo tour and bring your own wine and cheese, or opt for the private couples Wine Tasting Tour where you’ll have a wine tasting from Cadle Family Wines as you float down the river. Both experiences feature Italian serenades from your gondolier.
Blessed with beautiful landscapes, warm weather, welcoming tasting rooms, fantastic food, and a host of outdoor adventures to be had, Napa Valley is a slam dunk for a summer getaway.