Not all vacations require a passport and massive amounts of planning. Some of the members of our team are giving you their expert advice if you are anywhere near these areas. If you are living in a tourism area, it can be really fun to get to know your town through the eyes of a visitor.
Jenn Adams - Napa
Ahhhh...summertime! Do you find yourself wishing for a vacation but don’t have time to travel far? Consider a staycation in Napa Valley. Pack up the car for a day trip adventure or plan a long weekend escape. Either way, you don’t have to go far to discover fun in your own backyard.
If you are traveling farther than Sonoma, make your first stop at the Napa Valley Welcome Center on Main Street. There you will find information on what to see and do as well as fun wine country souvenirs you can shop for.
Make a loop. The famous Highway 29 that leads from Napa up valley to Calistoga can have some traffic during peak season. Consider planning out your adventure by going up Highway 29 and looping back down on Silverado Trail. Both motorways have world renowned wineries to explore, and using the lesser known Trail on your way back to town will save you some time.
Looking for a hearty breakfast the day after wine tasting? Try a local’s favorite, Buttercream Bakery. With the signature pink and white stripe facade, this landmark is easy to find. Other fun options include Jax White Mule Diner or Southside Café. For lunch and dinner, you really can’t go wrong. It just depends on where you are in the valley on your adventure. For example, Bistro Don Giovanni is a great spot heading up Valley, while Angèle located in downtown Napa would be a great way to end the day. In between, are some other great options including R+D Kitchen, Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, and Solbar.
If you only do one winery tour while staying in Napa Valley, make it Beringer Vineyards. Their Legacy Cave Tour is for all ages and includes a guided tour through the historic tunnels and Old Winery. They do a wonderful job telling their story with the history of the area. For those 21 years and older, this tour also includes a selection of three wines.
Looking for some unique and fun photo ops while tasting wine? Artesa’s landscape and waterway provide just that. Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga literally is an authentic medieval Italian Tuscan castle complete with a torture chamber. Don’t forget the wine caves! Jarvis Estate Winery, Del Dotto in St. Helena, and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars will take your breath away.
For sparkling, head on over to Domaine Carneros to sit on the terrace, Domaine Chandon in Yountville for a table or lounge chair outside, or Schramsburg in Calistoga for wine and sparkling. (My favorite: Schramsburg’s Blanc de Blancs).
A hot air balloon ride can be quite breathtaking with all the vineyard landscapes. Just keep in mind that these companies launch just after dawn when any winds are at their calmest. Translation - you will need to get up early.
The Old Faithful Geyser is open 365 days out of the year. It erupts approximately every 20-30 minutes, and with a price of $15/ea for adults it’s a great stop to include with a picnic lunch and a bottle of wine.
As the saying goes, “It takes a lot of good beer to make great wine.” Just because you are in wine country, doesn’t mean you should ignore the local breweries. Napa Smith’s brewery has a tasting brewpub onsite, Mad Fritz in St. Helena is the partnership of two winemakers, and Tannery Bend Beerworks is located in Napa’s historic Tannery Row. All worth a visit.
If you crave being within walking distance to restaurants and shopping, then staying at a hotel downtown is right for you. There are several you can consider including Andaz Napa, The Westin Verasa Napa, and Archer Napa. (My tip: even if you choose not to stay at the Archer, make sure you visit their Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar for some great ambiance and cocktails.)
For those of you interested in sites that are more up valley, make a reservation at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa. Located parallel to Highway 29 in North Napa, this is an easy on and off spot for all of your adventures. Planning a bike ride from this location up to the town of Yountville is worth the experience. This hotel also offers a complimentary nightly wine tasting which is another great way to sample more wine offerings from the area.