The Napa Valley has made quite a name for itself as one of the best wine growing regions in the world - despite being one of the smallest. Only 30 miles long and a few miles wide, the area is packed with more than 400 wineries, 150 restaurants, 125 hotels, outdoor activities, events, and art galleries that have made this a bucket list destination.
The city of Napa is one of the liveliest, most cutting-edge spots in the whole valley, with a long list of hot new hotels, restaurants, tasting rooms, and activities.
That is one thing that we do not have in Cuba. We do not produce wine and you are lucky if you find a good bottle of wine somewhere. Although, I was surprised to see a wine sellar at the Segundo Frente Hotel in Santiago de Cuba when I visited last October. Not sure how good those bottles of wines were but I hope we get to taste some next time we go back on a tour.
Now back to Napa Valley.... Yountville is the culinary capital of the Napa Valley. In its scant 1.5 square miles it is packed with 15 excellent restaurants, three of which are Michelin-starred. Rutherford and Oakville are two tiny communities that are worth a visit. They boast nearly 60 wineries between the two, from tiny boutiques to some of the biggest names in the industry. St. Helena is not only a food and wine center, but is also a place of history and culture. Its downtown is listed as a National Historic District.
Of all the towns in the Napa Valley, Calistoga is indeed the most laid-back. In addition to good food and wine, its main draw is the centuries-old geothermal activity that makes it the valley's spa capital. Lake Berryessa has the largest lake in Napa County with 2,000-acre wildlife area.
American Canyon is an affordable option to the high-end hotels and restaurants to its neighbors north, located between the Napa River, the foothills of the Sulfur Springs Mountains, Solano County, and Napa County to the north.
Located along the Riverfront in Downtown Napa, the Napa Valley Welcome Center is a mix of high-tech and traditional resources provides visitors with an in-depth introduction to the Napa Valley touring experience, along with complimentary VIP Concierge services.
Napa Valley’s location makes it a convenient destination to get to, whether it’s a dedicated visit or as an add-on to other destinations nearby. There are several airports that travelers can fly into, and a wealth of shuttles, limousine services, rental cars, or public transportation once they have arrived.
The Napa Valley is 70 miles from San Francisco International Airport, 63 miles from Oakland International Airport, 75 miles from Sacramento International Airport, and 85 miles from San Jose International Airport. San Francisco and Oakland airports both have shuttle buses that run a route from the airport to the city of Napa. The San Francisco/Vallejo Bay Ferry also provides a scenic and leisurely route to the Napa Valley. The ferry is located at the foot of Market Street along the Embarcadero waterfront.
Travelers can always rent a car to get them in and around the Napa Valley, but this isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. Even if you drive to Napa, leaving your car parked and taking advantage of the bicycle tours, transit, and walking is a great alternative. The VINE is the fixed-route bus system in the County of Napa, which has daily routes that run the length of the valley and extend to the Vallejo Ferry terminal in San Francisco. Travelers can also download Uber and Lyft, which are both available in the Napa Valley.
The Napa Valley is known for its clear skies, sunshine, and Mediterranean climate. This allows for near-perfect weather throughout the year, with an average daytime temperature of 70 Fahrenheit, 21 Celsius.
Things to Do
The treasures of the Napa Valley extend far beyond what you find in a wine glass. Packed with things to do, from tours to hikes, shopping to shows, spas and more, soak up the Napa Valley from start to finish. Arts & culture is one of the many creative aspects of the Napa Valley. From gallery openings to music festivals and historic exhibitions, the Napa Valley is home to many creative endeavors. Several venues have recently opened and present national headliners, top-flight comedy, authentic jazz, and blues. Art is equally important. In fact, the city of Napa and Yountville host art walks for a dose of culture in the great outdoors.
Napa Valley is known for its hot air balloon companies that offer sky tours at dawn. Most balloon companies can accommodate eight to 20 passengers in one basket, or a private flight just for two. Flights typically last around an hour, but because there are so many variables in ballooning, plan on a three to four hour commitment.
Annual music festivals are top draws, as well, from Yountville Live in March, BottleRock Napa Valley in May, Napa Valley Jazz Getaway in June, the Robert Mondavi Concert Series and Festival Napa Valley in July.
With state parks and local trails surrounded by vineyards, there are many opportunities for all skill levels to experience the great outdoors. Try a fully guided bike tour or rent a bike and go at your own pace. Bike the newly finished southern section of the Napa Valley Vine Trail, which connects the city of Napa with Yountville so you can ride past vineyards and wineries. And then there is golf, with some of the most beautiful golf course scenery in America.
The Napa Valley has been blessed with the perfect environment to cultivate some of the world's finest wine grapes. There are more than 400 wineries, 95 percent of which are family-owned and operated. Wine tasting rooms welcome guests for fun and educational tastings for all knowledge levels, as well. Travelers staying in town can have the same vineyard experience without going far. Otherwise known as urban wineries, downtown tasting rooms offer the same wine-sampling experience as a winery, just without the production facilities. From ultra chic to casual and cozy, tasting rooms are an easy way to try a variety of wines without leaving downtown.
It's recommended to schedule your appointments at wineries or tasting rooms well in advance, because some of the more popular ones fill up weeks in advance. Most wineries that are open to the public charge a fee, which can be anywhere from $5 to $50 per person. The fees will increase if you decide to elevate your experience to include a tour, lunch, class or seminar.
While Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are the most widely planted, the Napa Valley has many other surprises for wine lovers. From Albarino to Zinfandel, more than three dozen different wine grape varieties flourish in the Napa Valley. Still, Cabernet is king here, which accounts for 40 percent of the total production and 55 percent of crop value. From mid fall to Spring, visitors flock to enjoy Cabernet Season.
Keep in mind that harvest season is August through October, so it is best to book appointments or hotel rooms far in advance, as this is one of the most popular times to visit.
The culinary scene in the Napa Valley is just as important as its wine culture. Because what is wine without wonderful food? The Napa Valley is home to more than 150 restaurants and has more Michelin stars per capita than any other wine region in the world. Here is where the culinary scene meets the creativity of some of the world's best chefs. Foodies flock to sample everything from haute cuisine to custom burgers and fantastic food trucks. And thanks to the Napa Valley's Mediterranean climate, diners can enjoy their meals al fresco nearly all year long.
Michelin stars have found homes in seven Napa Valley restaurants. For the highest level of dining in the Napa Valley consider The Restaurant at Auberge in Rutherford, The Restaurant at Meadowood Napa Valley in St. Helena, La Toque in Napa, Kenzo Napa in Napa, Terra in St. Helena, Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, and The French Laundry, also in Yountville.
Of course, the Napa Valley isn't only about Michelin stars. It's also about delectable, casual fare from burritos and barbecue to custom-made wraps. Explore a range of international flavors from Jamaican and Vietnamese to Thai and Middle Eastern. Mexican food can't be beat in the Napa Valley, as well.
The Napa Valley has a craft beer scene, as well, and many of these brew pubs offer an ever-changing menu of beers and bites.
With more than 5,500 rooms in more than 125 properties, the Napa Valley has a wide variety of world-class lodging, ranging from lave five-star luxury to intimate, family-run B&Bs.
Many lodging partners offer concierge services to help travelers with dining reservations, winery appointments, and suggested activities and excursions. Guests visiting during Cabernet Season can find special rates and packages offered at a variety of hotels and restaurants. During harvest season, August through October, book accommodations well in advance, and consider a mid-week visit when hotels might have more availability.
There are some truly charming B&Bs in the Napa Valley, from elegant and modern to traditional and comfy. Each one reflects the personality of its owners, and also offers locally sourced meals. The hotel scene is equally unique, from edgy design hotels to ones with endless landscapes. Napa Valley has a vast number of resorts, which satisfy both the outdoor enthusiast and those who want to simply relax. You will also find some of the country's finest spas in the heart of the Napa Valley, as well. The Napa Valley offers a variety of pampering packages from half-day treatments to full-day spa circuits, whether it's a facial or a mineral hot springs bath.
Every season in the Napa Valley has a unique experience for visitors, from Cabernet Season from November through April, to mid-Fall when visitors can experience some of the Valley's other fantastic facets.
With such a photogenic setting, great hotels, and legendary fine wine and dining, it's no surprise that the Napa Valley is one of the top wedding destinations in the world. From countryside weddings to luxe resort celebrations, it's possible to satisfy every wedding wish.
The Napa Valley has many denominations and beautiful churches for those who wish to go that route. There are also many hotels and resorts that offer indoor and outdoor wedding venues. However, most local wineries are not allowed to host weddings. In 1989, the Winery Definition Ordinance (WDO) was created to protect agricultural lands by clearly specifying what sorts of activities were and were not permitted on winery properties. The good news is that a few wineries were "grandfathered" in due to their pre-regulatory status.
For the rehearsal, there are many Napa Valley lodging properties, restaurants, and wineries that can host unique wedding-related events, such as rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, and family gatherings.
The Napa Valley is well equipped with vendors to assist in every detail of wedding planning, from bakeries and catering to florists, music, photographers, transportation, wedding coordination and more.
Note: To be married in California you must obtain a marriage license prior to the ceremony. A public license is $83 and a certified copy is $15.
The Napa Valley provides a unique, and entertaining backdrop for a company meeting, as well. Whether surrounded by vineyards or views, or the ambiance of barrel rooms and wine caves, this puts a much-needed spin on the average business trip. Venues range from hotels and resorts to restaurants and wineries. Napa Valley has also partnered with a number of vendors who offer a wide range of support services, including AV, DMCs, gifting options, and guides.
I'm feeling like Napa Valley is calling my name. Don't you feel the same way? We can't wait to plan your wine tour getaway. Send us and email or call us when you are ready to plan your adventure to California!
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