Planning a trip to Napa Valley? I'll help you find the top wineries, where to stay, when to visit, and the best restaurants in Napa Valley!
Napa Valley lures travelers from around the world with its beautiful vineyards, good weather, quaint bed and breakfasts, farm-to-table restaurant scene, and gorgeous scenery. It’s a sure hit for a romantic getaway, girls trip, or a fun weekend with friends.
Napa is a place I could revisit again and again and always leave hoping to be back soon. With its laid-back vibe, I find this is one of my go-to spots when I want a weekend to slow down, unplug, and enjoy my surroundings.
I've included everything you need to know when planning a trip to Napa Valley with my complete Napa guide. Follow my tips to help make your trip a success!
best time to go to napa valley
First thing in planning a trip to Napa Valley is when to go. Napa Valley has fairly mild weather year-round and makes for a great trip anytime.
The best time to go to Napa Valley is September through November and March through May. Harvest season is August through October and great to experience at least once. Expect to pay more during this time as this is peak season.
March through May is less crowded and easier to find a deal with fewer crowds. I personally think the best time for a Napa trip is November and April. The weather is mild, it's not too crowded, and hotel deals are much easier to come by during these months.
Napa Valley Airports
You have several Napa Valley airports to choose from. I personally look at all three airports when planning my Napa trip and book whichever option is cheapest. I typically find the most success with Oakland (OAK) and San Francisco (SFO) as these two Napa Valley airports seem to have more flight options and times.
Oakland (OAK): 50 miles and 1-1.5 hours from downtown Napa.
San Francisco (SFO): 60 miles and 1-1.5 hours. Flying into SFO means you have to drive through San Francisco on your way to Napa, so be sure to check traffic and be mindful of rush hour times.
Sacramento (SMF): 65 miles and 1.5 hours
Napa Valley Towns
Napa Valley consists of four small towns. From the southernmost town and heading north we have:
Downtown Napa: Set along the Napa River this town has the most urban feel and hosts an array of bed and breakfasts, upscale dining, boutique shops, and is home to the Oxbow Public Market. Downtown Napa is where I have the most success in scoring a fairly decent hotel/BnB deal and therefore where I usually stay.
Yountville: Just north of Napa is the chic town of Yountville. This is the most picturesque of the four and has a distinctly European feel. Holding the unofficial title of “culinary capital of the Napa Valley” you will find many of the big-name restaurants here including The French Laundry, Bouchon, and Bottega. This one of the best areas to stay for a Napa Valley romantic getaway.
St. Helena: This town has a more rustic and authentic feel and offers some great boutique shopping opportunities on Main Street. Many well-known restaurants and cafés can be found in St. Helena including The Model Bakery, Gott’s Roadside, Archetype, Farmstead, and Meadowood.
Calistoga: The Valley's northernmost town with a reputation for being the most laid back. The city is known for their hot springs and mud baths and a must visit for any spa lover.
Best places to stay in Napa Valley
I usually book my Napa hotel or bed and breakfast in downtown Napa or Calistoga. I find both areas offer plenty of restaurants and cafes, are walkable, and all around good locations. I love Yountville but find this is usually the most expensive area to stay and have a very difficult time finding hotel deals.
DOWNTOWN NAPA HOTELS AND BED AND BREAKFASTS
Inn on Randolph: The best Napa Valley bed and breakfast and our favorite place to stay! The Inn on Randolph is ideally located within walking distance to downtown Napa. A huge plus is that it's completely gluten-free, though you'd never guess it, and the breakfast chef is incredible.
The rooms have a comfortable yet modern Pottery Barn type feel. The staff is very knowledgable and can help you plan your day and reserve tastings for you. The fridge of water bottles, jar of fresh baked cookies, and coffee/tea is a nice touch for when you want to grab a refreshment on your way out.
Andaz Napa: The modern and simple Andaz Napa is another great option in the very center of downtown Napa. You are walking distance to all the wonderful restaurants, coffee shops, and boutique shopping that downtown Napa has to offer.
CALISTOGA HOTELS AND CALISTOGA BED AND BREAKFASTS
Solage: A luxury resort (with prices to prove it) in Calistoga complete with a full-service spa and Michelin Star-rated restaurant (Solbar). The 89 studio and suite accommodations come with cruiser bikes and private/semi-private patios. This is without a doubt one the best Calistoga hotels. and best places to stay in Napa Valley as a whole, if you're willing to pay the steep price or you happen to find a deal during off season.
Embrace Calistoga: Out of all the Calistoga bed and breakfasts, and there are quite a few, I would say this is the best option when you want a personal touch. You can tell the owners of this BnB really went out of their way to think out every detail. From chocolates waiting in your room at bedtime, wine and cheese on the porch in the evening, and a truly memorable breakfast, this place will definitely leave a positive impression.
Brannan Cottage Inn: Many Calistoga bed and breakfasts go with the Victorian theme and Brannan Cottage Inn is no exception. I appreciate that they focus on a modern Victorian look as traditional Victorian tends to feel outdated and stuffy. The decor is tastefully done and gives that "home away from home" vibe. The heated floors and rain showers are a nice touch. The breakfast is an upscale continental breakfast with smoothies made to order and an assortment of fresh pastries. Go for one of the Deluxe King rooms with a fireplace and private porch.
Best Napa wineries
With endless wineries to choose from you really need to decide first what experience you're looking for. While some wineries offer a casual tasting at the wine bar, others will offer full tours only (advanced reservations required).
This is one area you must research before your Napa trip as popular spots will book up fast. I’ve listed a few of the best Napa wineries that have quickly become my favorite, but it really comes down to personal taste, how much you are willing to spend, and what experience you want.
best restaurants in napa valley
When planning a trip to Napa Valley I first research which wineries to visit and then focus on restaurants. Napa has become quite the place to spoil yourself with amazing food and memorable bistros. I've listed the best restaurants in Napa Valley for every taste from fine dining to quick cafes.
quick bites and cafes
The Model Bakery: A great option for coffee, breakfast, lunch, and everything in between. The selection of sandwiches, pastries, croissants, coffees, and muffins will satisfy whatever craving you have. Model is famous for their English muffins.
Oxbow Public Market: A must visit when in Napa Valley, Oxbow Market merchants include Kara’s Cupcakes, Gott’s Roadside, Three Twins Ice Cream, Ritual Coffee Roasters, Live Fire Pizza, Hog Island Oyster Bar, and more. There are also shops selling take-home goods like olive oil and chocolates.
Gott’s Roadside: A Napa trip is not complete without stopping at the St. Helena location of Gott’s Roadside. Take a seat at one of the many outdoor picnic tables after you order your homestyle burger (with the secret sauce), some garlic fries, and a handspun milkshake. The ahi burger, fish tacos, and hearty salads are delicious for those not feeling a heavy burger.
Oakville Grocery Co.: This deli and sandwich shop sits right on highway 29, which makes it the perfect stop between wineries.
Southside: Choose from three locations: Yountville, south Napa, and Carneros. The Yountville location is by far my favorite of the three with its sunny patio and convenient location. You’ll find cafe staples like avocado toast and pastries alongside Latin inspired plates like chilaquiles, the popular Cuban sandwich, and barbacoa bowl. I will also note this was one of the best flat whites I had during my last trip.
Best restaurants in Napa Valley
Bistro Don Giovanni: A casual and family friendly restaurant that is a favorite with the locals and serves Italian fare with a focus on locally sourced ingredients.
Bistro Jeanty: French cuisine in a charming setting. I highly recommend the Boeuf Bourguignon.
Archetype: You’ll feel like you walked straight into a Martha Stuart magazine when entering this St. Helena eatery! The menu has a strong focus on local, fresh, and seasonal ingredients. This is also a wonderful brunch option.
Farmstead at Long Meadows Ranch: American farmhouse cuisine with a focus on grass-fed beef and organic produce served in a renovated barn. Check out the happy hour on the patio Monday - Friday 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
Zuzu: Enjoy authentic Spanish tapas in the heart of downtown Napa. The vibe is casual European and the place is always packed. Try the Tunisian brik pastry stuffed with crab, flounder ceviche, and one of the several paella options.
Bouchon Bistro: a popular Thomas Keller restaurant in Yountville that some claim is better than his flagship, French Laundry...and for a fraction of the price. Dine in the Parisienne patio and order the mussels with pommes frites, croque madame, escargot, and the salmon or beef tartar.
French Laundry: I'm sure you've come across this restaurant while planning a trip to Napa Valley (or at least heard of it on the news in recent events). I can't list the best restaurants in Napa Valley and not include the French Laundry. Probably one of the most sought after reservations in the country, I've never met someone who dined here and didn't rave about the entire experience. Get ready though, it will cost a pretty penny at around $350 a person for the tasting menu. That doesn't include drinks. A glass of wine will cost around $35 to $50.
Solbar: One of my favorite outdoor dining spots in Napa Valley. Solbar is located in the Solage hotel and has the most atmospheric tree shaded courtyard complete with a large fire pit and views of the pool and Napa hills. This is a wonderful spot for breakfast or lunch when the weather is nice.
bakeries and desserts in Napa Valley
Bouchon Bakery: This tiny bakery is attached to Bouchon in downtown Yountville and is well worth the wait when the line goes out the door. My personal favorite is the salted caramel macaroon. This is a must for every Napa trip.
I hope this Napa guide points you in the right direction for your upcoming trip. These are my absolute favorite wineries, restaurants, and places to stay. If you're like me, I'm sure you'll be booking a return visit soon. There's just something about those views paired with the perfect glass of wine.
My biggest piece of advice for planning a trip to Napa Valley is to make reservations for wineries and restaurants before you leave. Napa is growing in popularity and it can be hard to find reservations at the more intimate or well-known spots.
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I hope this Napa guide helps you plan a successful and memorable trip. Have any tips of your own for planning a trip to Napa Valley? Leave them in the comments below!
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