With its stunning countryside, wonderful climate, beautiful vineyards, and picturesque towns, there’s no doubt that Napa Valley is one of the most beautiful regions in California.
The epitome of wine country chic, it is the perfect destination for a romantic weekend getaway or a longer, well-deserved vacation. From performing arts and fine wines to artisan food and hot spring spas, there is a relaxing and rejuvenating experience here for everyone!
But, with so many places to see and experiences to be had, it can be difficult to figure out where to begin when planning a trip here. So, we’ve taken the hard work out of the research and compiled a list of some of the best things to do in Napa Valley for you.
You will be sure to have the experience of a lifetime with these Napa Valley bucket list recommendations. The only trouble you’ll have is deciding which one to do first – and whether or not you’ll want to come home again afterward!
- 15 cool and unique things to do in Napa Valley
- 1. Let Your Hair Down at the BottleRock Napa Valley Festival
- 2. Sample Culinary Delights at a Napa Farmers’ Market
- 3. Take a Tour of Napa’s Famous Wineries
- 4. Relax in the Natural Hot Springs
- 5. Dance to Live Music at JaM Cellars
- 6. Explore the Beautiful Wine Country Scenery on a Bike Ride
- 7. Spend a Boozy Afternoon on the Napa Valley Wine Train
- 8. Admire the Creativity on the Napa Art Walk
- 9. Catch a Show at the Napa Valley Opera House
- 10. Stroll along the Riverfront Promenade
- 11. Take an Art Class While Sipping Wine
- 12. Swim in the Beautiful Lake Berryessa
- 13. Pay a Visit to the Petrified Forest
- 14. Hike through Robert Louis Stevenson State Park
- 15. See the Valley from the Sky in a Hot Air Balloon
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15 cool and unique things to do in Napa Valley
1. Let Your Hair Down at the BottleRock Napa Valley Festival
BottleRock Napa Valley is an annual three-day festival held at the Napa Valley Expo. Known for being one of the best West Coast music events, BottleRock Napa Valley features an A-list live music lineup along with plenty of food, wine, and brew. Past headliners have included everyone from Stevie Wonder and The Killers to Bruno Mars and Stevie Nicks!
As well as three music stages, the festival also features the Williams Sonoma Culinary Stage, on which celebrity chefs and musicians come together to show off their culinary prowess. Previous pairings for these events have seen Snoop Dogg and Halsey creating the world’s biggest gin and juice and Martha Stewart and Macklemore cooking up a storm.
The incredible lineups are complemented perfectly by the amazing food and wine experience provided by local restaurants and wineries, making this a unique festival experience that is well worth a visit!
2. Sample Culinary Delights at a Napa Farmers’ Market
Whether you’re looking for freshly baked pastries, locally grown produce, or handcrafted gifts, Napa’s many farmers’ markets have it all! The markets are a great place to experience the small-town charm of the area while supporting the local farming community.
There are plenty of markets to choose from, and they are all regularly held, all year round. Spend at least one leisurely morning browsing the stalls and meeting the friendly farmers as you shop for fine artisan crafts and gourmet treats.
Calistoga Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday and is the perfect place to find handcrafted baskets, crusty breads, locally sourced teas, and artisanal cheeses. St. Helena’s Farmers’ Market takes place every Friday (from May to October) and features chef demos alongside a sumptuous array of fresh foods and crafts.
Or, if you prefer a market in the heart of the City of Napa, Napa Farmers’ Market is held on Tuesdays from 8 am to noon and offers an array of specialty foods, bakery delights, craft beers, artisan ceramics, handmade candles, and so much more.
3. Take a Tour of Napa’s Famous Wineries
Napa Valley is known the world over as Wine Country, so tasting the wines and experiencing the vineyards that produce them is a great way to get to know the local area. There are hundreds of wineries to explore, each with its own style and unique history, so it can feel a little overwhelming when it comes to deciding which ones to choose on your vacation.
Whether you’re a seasoned wine connoisseur or simply looking for a new experience, there is a winery to suit every type of experience and budget. A good place to start is to decide which winery is right for you.
Are you looking for a professional experience or one centered around food? Do the eco practices of the winery matter to you the most, or are you more interested in the history of the site?
Identifying your main interests will help narrow down your options when you visit. You can then arrange for a guided tour of your top picks or arrange wine tasting experiences with the wineries themselves.
With nearly 400 wineries, there really is a winery to suit all tastes. The eco-friendly crowd will love Spottswoode and Opus One, while those who prefer to sip fine wines with a view will want to check out Stony Hill Vineyard and Far Niente!
4. Relax in the Natural Hot Springs
The town of Calistoga was originally established around the natural mineral hot springs found in the area. These hot springs are now one of the most-visited Napa Valley attractions, with plenty of spas offering hot mud soaks, relaxing massages, thermal pools, and mineral-rich treatments to help you unwind and treat your mind and body.
Each spa offers an array of treatments and experiences. In fact, there are so many tempting experiences to choose from that it would be difficult to choose just one! The Spa Solage at Auberge du Soleil is one of the most elegant spas in the area, with mineral-rich mud therapy and geothermal pools in a stunning setting of farmhouse-style cottages.
You can also enjoy a natural mineral and steam bath at Calistoga Spa Hot Springs before indulging in a traditional mud bath created with locally sourced volcanic ash mud. Research each place before you go to find the perfect spa experience for you!
5. Dance to Live Music at JaM Cellars
Located upstairs in the Napa Valley Opera House, JaM Cellars Ballroom is an eclectic mix of live music, wine tasting, and first-class hospitality. The relaxed interior is the perfect setting for the regular live blues, jazz, and global music performances. Plus, the state-of-the-art sound system delivers a beautifully intimate experience as you relax on a leather sofa and soak up the vibes.
Be sure to make reservations in advance so that you can slide into a booth and explore the extensive vinyl collection as the team of JaMbassadors serves you a bottle or two of the fine wines that are available exclusively through JaM Cellars.
As well as weekly live music nights, JaM Cellars also holds regular music and movie tribute nights. If that’s not enough incentive to pay this place a visit, The New York Times named this place as one of the “52 Top Places to Visit” for its classic happy hour!
6. Explore the Beautiful Wine Country Scenery on a Bike Ride
With such a beautiful landscape to explore, it’s no surprise that bike tours are big news in Napa Valley. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely guided tour or a high-octane 50-mile ride, there is a route for every kind of cyclist!
Napa Valley Bike Tours offers half-day or full-day tours, which involve visiting wineries on the route and stopping for a picnic lunch by the famous Bouchon Bakery. If you prefer to go it alone, there are plenty of self-guided biking options where you can set your own pace while taking in the scenery.
Experienced cyclists will love the longer routes around Napa Valley, ranging between 30 to 50+ miles. These routes can be tailored to your requirements. Some of them are very light on traffic, while others have plenty of steep hills to climb. Just be sure to let your tour guide know whether you prefer a challenge or not!
7. Spend a Boozy Afternoon on the Napa Valley Wine Train
For a real taste of Napa Valley hospitality, take a trip on the famous Napa Valley Wine Train. If this is your first visit to the region, this should be at the top of your Napa Valley bucket list!
There are a variety of tours to choose from, but the Ambassador Winery Tour is a great option for first-timers. It offers the perfect introduction to Napa’s most iconic wineries as you cruise through the heart of Wine Country on the 36-mile round-trip loop.
The Wine Train is comprised of expertly restored vintage Pullman railcars that have been beautifully finished with Honduran mahogany paneling, plush armchairs, and brass fixtures. The elegant styling of these railcars is part of the whole Wine Train experience, transporting you back in time to a golden era of train travel while you take in the stunning scenery and sample the fine dining options.
The 150-year-old railroad was previously used to transport guests to a spa resort in Calistoga. However, it is now used solely for this luxuriously vintage wining and dining experience!
8. Admire the Creativity on the Napa Art Walk
One of the coolest things to do in Napa Valley is taking a stroll along the Napa Art Walk. This city-sponsored initiative is designed to enhance the lives of Napa residents and encourage tourism by exhibiting incredible sculptures and art created by artists in the region. The organizers set a different theme every two years, and artists compete to be a part of the exhibition by creating original pieces of art.
Ten sculptures are chosen by a panel of professional judges to be featured on the Art Walk for a period of two years. During that time, the sculptures are on loan to the city but are also available for purchase.
Artists often use kinetic movement in their pieces, which creates a sense of intrigue and drama as you wander through the innovative designs. You can take an audio tour of the artwork through the OtoCast app, where you can learn more about the artists and the inspiration behind their finished pieces.
9. Catch a Show at the Napa Valley Opera House
If it’s culture you’re after, then the Napa Valley Opera House has plenty to offer. A non-profit performing arts organization and a National Historic Landmark, the Napa Valley Opera House is home to some of the finest performances of theater, dance, and music in California.
Originally constructed in 1879, the building underwent an extensive $13-million restoration in the 1990s and reopened in 2003. It has been through several ownerships since then, though its purpose has not changed since it was established in 1879.
Located in downtown Napa, the Opera House has become something of a cornerstone for the local community and is the first port of call for anyone looking for a first-class show or performance.
No matter what time of year you visit, the downstairs Blue Note Napa jazz club offers nightly performances and is also the perfect spot for intimate dining and music experiences. The Napa Valley Opera House is also home to JaM Cellars Ballroom, which is located upstairs and offers even more music options.
10. Stroll along the Riverfront Promenade
A laid-back stroll along the beautiful Riverfront Promenade is one of the top things to do in Napa Valley. The stunning views across the river are the perfect setting as you sample the culinary delights and local wines from the world-class cafes and restaurants lining the Promenade.
Wildlife is abundant in this part of town, so it is perfect for those who enjoy spotting birds or taking photographs. Don’t forget to take a photo of yourself in Napa’s Riverfront Big Chair before popping into all of the area’s boutique shops, wineries, lifestyle stores, and spas!
You can also stay at one of the beautiful hotels along the river, such as the upscale Napa River Inn. This Michelin-rated hotel has 66 rooms, many with fireplaces, river views, and balconies, and is the perfect place to stay while exploring the area.
11. Take an Art Class While Sipping Wine
If you’re looking to explore your artistic side while you’re on vacation, you can take an art class with a professional artist while you sip wine and capture the essence of the stunning landscape around you.
One of the more unique things to do in Napa Valley, an art class is a great way to experience the countryside and indulge your creativity at the same time. Whether you’re traveling solo or with a group of friends, this is always a fun Napa activity.
The class is ideal for even the most inexperienced of artists, as you will receive personalized instruction while you create a unique painting that is small enough to fit in your suitcase. All materials are provided for this wonderful experience, so all you need to do is turn up, make art, sip wine, and make memories!
12. Swim in the Beautiful Lake Berryessa
One of the largest freshwater lakes in California, Lake Berryessa offers an abundance of water sports such as boating, wakeboarding, tubing, water skiing, kayaking, and much more. The water can reach 80°F here in the summer months, so it is the perfect place to cool off with a picnic lunch after a stroll through the nearby vineyards or a sun-drenched hike in the surrounding hills.
A short 45-minute drive through the stunning countryside of Rutherford, visitors usually head to Pleasure Cove Marina to rent boats, kayaks, and other equipment before spending the day enjoying the calm waters. The water sports here are always an excellent family-friendly activity, which is why spending a day on Lake Berryessa is one of the top things to do in Napa Valley.
If you want to extend your stay, you can even rent a houseboat or a cabin for the night! Or, if you really want to commune with nature, it’s possible to rent camping equipment and sleep under the stars!
13. Pay a Visit to the Petrified Forest
One of the finest examples of a preserved ancient forest in the world, Calistoga’s Petrified Forest was created more than 3.4 million years ago after a huge volcanic explosion from the now-extinct Mt. St. Helena. As the volcano exploded, it flattened the giant redwood trees in the area and covered them with ash, which eventually turned the trees to stone due to the lack of oxygen.
The trees remained buried until they were discovered by Charles Evans in 1870 while he was raking his pasture. He alerted scientists who have studied the fossil forest ever since!
There are two different trails you can take to explore the ancient woodland: The Meadow Trail and The Main Trail. They are both worth the effort, though if you are short on time, you can catch a view of Mt. St. Helena from the Meadow Trail.
You can also reach California’s Old Faithful – one of the most-visited natural geysers in the world – from these trails.
14. Hike through Robert Louis Stevenson State Park
For some of the best sights in Napa Valley, take a hike through Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. Covering an impressive 5,272 acres and featuring the highest peak in California’s Wine Country – the extinct Mt. St. Helena volcano – the unique geology and views of this state park are nothing short of awesome!
It’s no surprise that biking and hiking are two of the most popular activities here, with the north trails leading to the summit of Mt. St. Helena and the south trails leading to the volcanic cliffs of the Palisades, Table Rock, and the Oat Hill Mine Train.
Robert Louis Stevenson Park was named after the Scottish author after he spent his honeymoon here with his bride in 1880. The newlyweds stayed in an abandoned bunkhouse near the Silverado Mine, which inspired his 1883 travel memoir The Silverado Squatters.
15. See the Valley from the Sky in a Hot Air Balloon
It’s no secret that Napa Valley has some of the most beautiful landscapes in California, so it makes complete sense to take to the skies to get the best view! Voted USA Today’s “Best Hot Air Balloon Company,” Napa Valley Aloft is currently the only company flying over Yountville’s iconic landscape.
The FAA-certified hot air balloon pilots will expertly steer the balloon to great heights to give you the best views and an unforgettable flying experience. After your flight, you can enjoy a first-class mimosa brunch with your fellow passengers and pilot at the nearby Ottimo restaurant, which is owned by celebrity chef Michael Chiarello.
There are lots of different packages available to suit your budget and desires, so peruse their website for one that works with your itinerary.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Napa Valley. What’s our favorite thing to do in Napa? Let us know in the comments below!
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