Napa Valley, California is best known around the world for their wine region! Napa’s gorgeous scenery, luxurious accommodations, Michelin-star restaurants, geothermal hot springs, and of course its world-famous wineries make Napa Valley a beloved destination for travelers! Here’s my perfect Napa Valley itinerary for you to sip and savor the best of this beautiful Northern California region. Cheers!
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At a Glance: Napa Valley Itinerary
- Day 1: Hop Aboard the Wine Train
- Day 2: Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
- Day 3: Pool Day & Mud Baths
- Day 4: Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
After a visit to Napa in the 1880’s, writer and poet Robert Louis Stevenson proclaimed “wine is like bottled poetry”. Stevenson was speaking to Napa Valley’s early wine growers.
These young winemakers aspired to produce wines with similar taste and quality that you would find in France and Italy. Fast forward to the 1970’s and that’s exactly what happened! Napa Valley wine exploded onto the world’s winemaking stage, and wine connoisseurs from around the world began to savor Napa Valley wine.
Best Time of Year to Visit Napa Valley
Napa Valley has a Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunny days throughout the year! If you’re looking for the best weather, spring (March – April) and harvest season (August – October) is a special time to visit Napa Valley.
During spring, wildflowers are blooming and the vines are waking up after winter! In harvest season, the weather is near perfect and the vineyards are lined with grapes ready to be picked! During harvest season, you can see the wineries in full action picking, crushing, and fermenting their grapes!
On the other hand, the off-season between November – February is also a lovely time to visit Napa. Winery reservations are easier to come by, and the hotel rates are at their lowest! In late January, Napa Valley Restaurant Week spans for 10 days with special discounts at some of Napa Valley’s best restaurants!
Getting to Napa
San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK), and Sacramento International Airport (SMF) are the closest largest commercial airports to Napa Valley. Most first-time visitors automatically book their flights into SFO/OAK. However, any local will tell you that flying into Sacramento is about equal in driving time, and the drive is much easier than navigating the Bay Area traffic!
Getting around Napa
A car is essential to have in Napa. The geographical region of Napa Valley stretches out along a 30-mile-long 5-mile-wide valley. If you plan on visiting several wineries in a one day taxis, ride shared services, such as Lyft and Uber, are available.
Napa Valley does have an easy to use bus system called The Vine. However, when visiting wineries its easiest to go at your own pace instead of having to plan your day around the bus schedules.
How Many Days in Napa Valley?
This Napa Valley itinerary is broken down into four days. I would recommend 3-5 days in Napa to not feel rushed. Three nights and four days in Napa Valley gives you the perfect balance to enjoy the wineries and a time to explore the other activities Napa is known for (I’ll share more on those later!).
The Best Napa Valley Itinerary
Here’s what not to miss in Napa Valley in four days. At the end of this post, I’ll share the best restaurants in Napa and my favorite hotel in the heart of Napa Valley that you’re going to love!
Day 1 – Climb Aboard the Wine Train
All aboard! Begin your first day in Napa Valley by exploring the region’s spectacular scenic views aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train.
Your journey begins in downtown Napa, and you’ll travel through the charming towns of Oak Knoll, Yountville, Oakville, and Rutherford. The duration of your trip depends on which journey you book. You can select experiences anywhere from 2-hours to 6-hours.
History of the Napa Valley Wine Train
The Napa Valley Wine Train has been a Napa bucket list experience for visitors for over 30 years, but the rail line actually dates back to 1864! The railway was originally used to take visitors north to the resort town of Calistoga.
While the views on the Napa Valley Wine Train are stunning, the experience inside the wine train is just as charming! The 20th-century Pullman train cars have been elegantly restored to show visitors a step back in time to the luxury train travel era from the early 1900s. The train does not have an enforced dress code, but I encourage you to dress for the occasion!
The Wine Train Experience
For this Napa Valley itinerary I recommend booking a shorter journey that’s over lunch. We chose the Afternoon Tea experience and loved it! The Afternoon Tea is only offered Friday – Sunday. You can see the full list of available wine train experiences here.
The Afternoon Tea experience is three-hours and includes a glass of sparkling wine, unlimited tea refills, a soup, salad, finger sandwiches, and pastries. All of the food is prepared onboard in their train car kitchen! We loved the lobster bisque, and the salad was light and refreshing. A beautifully assembled tray of finger sandwiches came next- my favorite was the lobster puff pastry! Save room for the delicious tray of homemade macaroons, chocolates, and cheese before your journey ends!
The three-hour journey on the train for the Afternoon Tea service was perfect. It’s just enough time to explore the train, but not feel too rushed. If you’re a non-wine drinker, this is a great option to still experience the beauty of Napa Valley without having to worry about any wine!
During your journey, the team onboard will share history about the Wine Train and the Napa Valley region. You’ll also pass by the “Welcome to Napa Valley” sign during your trip!
Helpful Tips for the Napa Valley Wine Train
Tickets vary in price – depending which experience you choose. Tickets range from $195 – $795 per person. It’s often cheaper if you book in advance and on weekdays rather than weekends.
Wine is not included in the cost of the wine train; however, it’s available for purchase! You can choose a selection of Napa Valley wines by the glass, bottle, or a wine flight once you’re onboard. You can also bring your wine onboard for a $20 corkage fee.
Children are welcomed onboard. However, due to safety issues, strollers and carriers are not permitted on board, but booster seats are available. The Napa Valley Wine Train offers a holiday experience with a visit from Santa that would be great for children.
If you have any allergies or dietary restrictions, you need to make sure it’s noted in your reservation in advance to allow time for accommodations to be made.
You will take a group photo before you board the train. You can use a QR code that they give you afterwards to download the picture for free!
Day 2 – Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
On your second day in Napa Valley, it’s time to explore the wineries! Napa Valley has 45,000 acres of grape vineyards and over 400 wineries! Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular grape grown in the Napa Valley, followed by Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir. If you appreciate a good Cabernet, you will surely fall in love with this region.
You’ll quickly learn in Napa Valley that tasting reservations are required at almost every winery. Tastings can run anywhere from $30 – $150 or more per person depending on the winery. If you’re spending your entire day wine tasting, plan on visiting a maximum of three wineries per day. Most wineries are open between 10AM to 5PM.
Below are a few of my favorite Napa Valley wineries to add to your list!
Castello di Amorosa is a 13th century style, authentically-built, Tuscan castle and winery that overlooks Napa Valley atop a hill in the city of Calistoga. The idea for the construction of the castle came from the Italian-American winemaker, Dario Sattui (who also owns the V. Sattui winery in St. Helena).
Dairo had a passion for the architecture of the Middle Ages, and no detail was spared in the construction of Castello di Amorosa. He flew Italian architects from Europe to live in Napa for two years to help build Castello di Amorosa. Dairo even purchased several of the stones and material used inside the Castello di Amorosa from across regions of Italy.
When asked about the construction of the castle, Dairo was quoted saying “You can’t fake something like this. You either do it right or people will know it’s not authentic”, 15 years later in 2007 Dairo’s architectural masterpiece, Castello di Amorosa, was completed.
When you visit Castello di Amorosa, splurge on your experience and include a tasting with a tour of the castle grounds. You’ll learn and see so much more on a guided tour.
I recommend the cheese & charcuterie wine pairing tour. A selection of local cheeses are chosen specifically to pair with Castello di Amorosa’s Italian-style wines. All of the meats and cheeses were excellent. I’ll give you a little hint that we were treated to far more than the five reserve wines that are promised on this tour! After a few extra pours – the cheese and crackers were a great idea!
Why I Recommend
Unique experience inside an authentically-built Tuscan inspired castle. Excellent Sangiovese wines. Splurge for the cheese and charcuterie tasting that includes a tour of the castle.
The Cheese & Charcuterie Wine Pairing Tour is $95/person.
A short drive away from Castello di Amorsa is Frank Family Vineyards.
A tasting at Frank Family feels like a reunion with old friends over outstanding wines. Frank Family Vineyards has a no-frills approach to their tasting. Guests can relax outside on their comfortable patio furniture as their friendly sommeliers walk through the tasting. Frank Family has a reputation for having the friendliest hospitality in Napa Valley, and I can absolutely vouch for that title!
Not only are they friendly, but they make fantastic wines! Frank Family has consistently ranked as one of the best Napa Valley Wineries. For many years in a row, their tasting room has won the reader’s choice for “Best Napa Winery” in the annual Bay Area A-List contest. One sip of their award-winning Cabernet, and you’ll see why!
Frank Family Vineyards was founded in 1992 by former Disney Studios president Rich Frank and his wife Leslie Frank who was an Emmy-award-winning journalist. What was originally supposed to be a hobby turned into a full-time business.
Today, Frank Family Vineyards produces nearly 150,000 cases of wine a year. Rich and Leslie continue to oversee the daily operations, and it’s not uncommon to find them at the winery visiting with guests.
Why I recommend
Guests love their no-frills hospitality where every guest is treated like family. Their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were both excellent!
The final winery on your second day in Napa Valley itinerary is Beringer Vineyards in St. Helena! Beringer Vineyards is a piece of history in Napa Valley as it is the oldest continuously operating winery in California. Established in 1876 by two brothers with a desire to produce world-class wines from Napa Valley
The jewel of Beringer Vineyards is the gorgeous 17-room Rhine House Victorian mansion, which was designated as a Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. You can enjoy your tasting on the veranda of the Rhine House. Fall and late spring is a lovely time to visit Beringer to sit and sip outside on the patio.
Beringer is unique as being the first and only winery in the world to have both a white and a red wine named #1 Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator Magazine (1986 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the 1994 Private Reserve Chardonnay).
Why I Recommend
Beringer is the place to visit for those who wish to experience the unique history and taste a wide range of award-winning wines.
For a tasting inside the Rhine House mansion that includes Beringer’s reserve wines it is $65/person.
Day 3 – Pool Day & Mud Baths
After a full day of wine tasting there is no better feeling than to have a relaxing day to look forward to! If your hotel has a pool, this is the perfect day to recharge!
Chances are you’ll likely have the pool area to yourself if you visit during the late morning / early afternoon. Hotel guests will usually be off wine tasting during the day.
The pool area at the Napa Valley Lodge was perfect – I cannot recommend this hotel enough! We spent our morning between the pool and hot tub. They have spacious cabanas and hammocks for guests to relax. We took a break from wine and had a poolside cocktail instead!
Get Down and Dirty in a Mud Bath!
In the 1880’s it wasn’t wine that everyone was talking about in Napa Valley – it was the mud baths! At the north end of the Napa Valley, is Calistoga. Calistoga is famous for their natural hot springs mixed with mineral water and volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount St. Helena millions of years ago. The combination of mineral water and volcanic ash create the perfect mud bath experience!
Besides being relaxing, mud baths help muscle and joint pains, detoxifies, and leaves your skin soft and renewed. Calistoga offers a variety of mud bathing experiences, but for the traditional experience you need to visit Golden Haven!
The mud baths at Golden Haven use a combination of clay, peat and hot springs mineral water. They’re one of the oldest in the area with the most experience and knowledge about mud bathing. The staff at Golden Haven is so friendly, and the team will go above and beyond to make you feel comfortable. Plus their mud bath prices are the best in Calistoga with prices starting as low as $112 / person.
Unique to Golden Haven is their three-step approach to your mud bath. First, you’ll soak in the mud bath for around 15-20 minutes. Then after a quick shower, you’ll take a dip in a private mineral water jacuzzi. Finally, you’ll end with a comfortable blanket wrap to cool your body.
Golden Haven is known for their couples mud baths if you want to enjoy your first mud bath experience with a loved one! They have an excellent package that includes their full mud-bath experience followed by a relaxing massage.
Day 4 – Wine Tasting in Napa
Here’s a fun fact – did you know that 90% of the wine purchase in California is consumed within 24 hours? All the more reason to treat yourself to a bonus day of wine tasting in your Napa Valley itinerary on your last day in Napa! With so many fantastic wineries you’ll be happy with another day of wine tasting!
For lunch in between wineries, I recommend stopping at Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena for the best classic burgers and California-inspired dishes (think ahi burgers and avocados tacos) all made using locally sourced ingredients. Oakville Grocery in St. Helena is another great option for foodies who appreciate high quality delicious made-to-order sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas.
Pestoni Family Estate Winery, (formerly Rutherford Grove) traces its Napa Valley roots back to Albino Pestoni, an immigrant who came to Napa Valley in 1883 from Monte Carasso in Switzerland, just north of Lugano near the Italian border.
Today, Pestoni wine is crafted with the same high standards and practices of their great-great-grandfather’s winemaking tradition. From growing to harvest, fermentation to bottling, every step in their process is done by hand to achieve the best tasting wine and honor their family heritage.
Pestoni Family has a large property with spacious patio seating for guests! Unique to this winery are their complimentary use of the large picnic grounds in the back of the winery as well as the bocce ball court!
Why I Recommend
Pestoni Family has excellent selection of red wines including their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Sirah! Their large picnic grounds are perfect on a beautiful Napa day to pack your own picnic and sip a bottle of Pestoni Family Wine!
Pestoni Family offers a Heritage Tasting which is $50/person that includes four tastings or a Legacy Tasting that is $65/person which includes five tasting. I recommend their Legacy Tasting to have a comparison tasting of their Rutherford and Howell Mountain estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Cabernet lovers, this winery is for you! Silver Oak Winery began in the early 1970’s with a focus on producing the best Cabernet Sauvignon in the entire world.
Silver Oak is unique for many reasons! For starters, they have one vineyard in the Alexander Valley and one in Napa Valley. The production of the same wine from two premier vineyards gives Silver Oak Cabernet an unmistakable taste that will win the heart of any Cabernet lover!
The other quality that makes Silver Oak unique are their barrels! All of their barrels are handcrafted and American made in Missouri using aged American white oak wood. The American white oak barrels create the perfect balance of spice and vanilla flavors that complement the black fruit character of Silver Oak wines.
Why I Recommend
The ultimate winery for Cabernet lovers! A beautiful property and tasting room!
Silver Oak has a seated tasting experience for their guests at their Napa Valley location that’s between $60-$90/person depending on the tasting you select. They also offer a tour and tasting for $65/person that includes three wines on an hour tour of their winery production area and cellar. This tour fills up fast – booking ahead is essential!
Pop the bubbly! End your final tasting and day in this Napa Valley itinerary with some bubbles!
Mumm Napa’s sparkling wines are the perfect combination of French roots and California flair. The sparkling wine house was founded in the late 1970s by G.H. Mumm, one of France’s most iconic champagne houses.
Mumm Napa’s sparkling wines are made using a technique called méthode traditionnelle — a process that the estate’s founder, Guy Devaux, brought to Napa Valley more than 30 years ago.
Tastings are held on a shaded outdoor patio that overlooks the vineyards. Guests choose from a variety of signature flights that includes four different sparkling wines.
Why I Recommend
A must-visit for sparkling wine lovers! The Mumm property is beautiful, and their sparkling wines are one-of-a-kind.
At only $40 / person, their tasting is very reasonable in price for the quality of sparkling wines you taste!
Where to Stay in Napa Valley
When choosing a hotel in Napa Valley, my biggest tip would be to choose your location carefully. It’s best to pick your hotel in a town nearby where you’ll be exploring the most – especially if you plan on visiting wineries. Ubers are available in the valley, but the farther north you go the harder they are to come by.
There is no better town in Napa Valley to stay at than Yountville! Yountville is in the heart of Napa Valley. Its location is perfect for travelers who would like to visit wineries during the day and still be within walking distance to some of the best restaurants in the evening. If you’re looking for a charming wine country getaway in Yountville, look no further than the Napa Valley Lodge.
This tuscan-style boutique hotel has 55 rooms and thoughtful details at every turn. Their friendly experienced staff is exceptional and will make your stay memorable.
Sleeping at Napa Valley Lodge
The rooms at the Napa Valley Lodge are sophisticated and spacious with details that make you right at home. During winter, guests can cozy up next to a wood burning fireplace, or watch the sunset on their private verandah.
All rooms have a Nespresso coffee maker and kettle for hot tea. One of my favorite details of the room was actually the luggage racks! Most hotels only have one luggage rack per room, but the Napa Valley Lodge had two for each guest in the room! It’s small details like this that made our stay so special!
Amenities at the Napa Valley Lodge
Mimosas, waffles, and coffee – can you think of a better way to start your morning? A complimentary continental breakfast is included for all guests at the Napa Valley Lodge. This breakfast buffet is not to be missed! The mimosa bar was an added treat!
For assistance with winery or dining reservations, the Napa Valley Lodge has an exclusive concierge service to assist their guests with dining reservations, winery appointments and activities in the Valley. Before my stay their concierge service called to ask if I needed reservation assistance, and to see if we were celebrating something special during our stay!
Pool & Spa
The pool area the Napa Valley Lodge is a beautiful place to relax in their landscaped courtyard on a comfortable daybed. In the morning, you can sit next to their outdoor fire pits and watch the fog roll in from the Valley.
Their spa staff have created a variety of spa treatments, from massages to facials to body treatments, using centuries-old healing techniques.
A game at their bocce ball court is a fun a way to end your day! Bocce ball is one of the oldest lawn games in the world. If you need a quick refresher, they have instructions by the court!
The town of Yountville is very bike friendly! The Napa Valley Lodge has complimentary bike rentals for their guests. You can even a rent a tandem bike – a true test of balance and always a good laugh!
Where to Eat in Napa
Napa Valley is a foodie’s dream! Its culinary scene is diverse with something for every palate! Below are a few of my favorite spots you can add to your Napa Valley Itinerary that range from casual, farm to table, and fine dining.
Along Highway 129 in Saint Helena is Gott’s Roadside serving up the best burgers in Napa with a California twist. Gott’s Roadside uses locally sourced ingredients with a modern twist to their menu.
Not in the mood for a burger? Try their ahi poke crispy tacos, teriyaki chicken, or avocado tacos! My pick is their California Burger with locally sourced Cowgirl Creamery’s Wagon Wheel cheese, Zoe’s bacon, arugula, balsamic onions and mayo on a toasted sesame brioche bun.
If you eat at one restaurant in this Napa Valley Itinerary – make it Farmstead! This farm-to-table restaurant was once a nursery barn from the 1870’s. The interior is rustic chic with high ceilings and a menu that will blow your mind! Dishes here lean more on the comfort side with large portions that are perfect for sharing.
Start with the smoked chicken wings! They’re smoked to perfection with a flavorful Alabama white sauce. The St. Louis smoked ribs fall right off the bone and the Dungeness crab roll is sandwiched between a buttery brioche roll. For dessert their homemade chocolate chip cookies were delicious!
Tucked away in Saint Helena in Napa you’ll find a Goose & Gander housed in a 1920’s colonial home. Goose & Gander is my top recommendation if you’re celebrating a special occasion. Not only is their food fantastic, but they’ll make sure to spoil you for your special occasion!
The cocktails here were delicious and so creative! The “Orange Julius” and “Cucumber Collins’ ‘ were two of our favorite cocktails. You can’t go wrong with any dish here! The Beef Chicharróns are a perfect appetizer. I also recommend the G&G Burger with duck fat fries. If you managed to save room for dessert the key lime pie was delicious!
Oakville Grocery has been a staple in Napa Valley since 1881, and a must visit for any foodie! It’s the oldest continuously operated grocery store in California that still holds its original charm. It feels more like an old general store with vintage hand-painted wooden signs and wooden benches underneath a front porch.
The Oakville Grocery is a favorite with locals for their hot and cold made to order sandwiches and wood fired pizzas. Their deli is extensive with several local cheeses, meats, olives, honey, spreads, etc. you can buy to elevate your lunch or picnic.
Chef Thomas Keller introduced Bouchon, to the Napa Valley dining scene in 1998 after his success with The French Laundry. Bouchon will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a classic Parisian bistro – with a menu to match. Popular dishes at Bouchon are their roast chicken, moules-frites, and my favorite steak frites. Save room for dessert, their crème brûlée is magnifique!
In the mood for savory? Sweet? Bouchon Bakery has it all! The bakery often has a line wrapped around on weekends- don’t worry it moves fast! Everything at Bouchon Bakery is made for takeaway, but you can sip on your latte in the tree-shaded courtyard lined with benches adjacent to the bakery.
So what to order? Truly, everything here is fantastic. I recommend starting with a pain au chocolat, or one of their mouthwatering macarons. Add a French baguette to order to munch on later in between wineries!
An iconic Napa eatery! Mustards Grill was named for the wild mustard flowers that bloom in the vineyards every spring. Their on-site garden produces ingredients routinely seen on their seasonal menu! If you’re early for your reservation, wander around the garden adjacent to the restaurant for a sneak preview of your menu that evening.
Start with a haystack of onion strings (after a day of wine tasting I promise nothing will taste better) or their crispy calamari. Their famous Mongolian pork chop with sweet and sour red cabbage with house made mustard is a must try! Do not skip dessert here! The lemon-lime meringue tart topped with fluffy meringue is fittingly described on the menu as “ridiculously tall”, and it did not disappoint!
Rookie Mistakes to Avoid in your Napa Valley Itinerary
Don’t: Forget a jacket
Napa Valley’s climate is known for having warmer temperatures during the day with cool evenings and mornings. Expect temperatures typically drop 30-40 degrees in the evening. The mornings year-round also tend to be chilly and foggy. The best rule of thumb when packing for a Napa trip during any month of the year is to bring layers.
Don’t: Forget to make reservations
Winery reservations are essential! I would recommend booking tasting reservations at least 30 days out, if not earlier. Dinner reservations are just as essential too – especially on weekends!
Don’t: Forget to pack snacks in between wineries
Very few of the wineries have food for purchase. Therefore, pack your favorite snack (or a baguette of Bouchon Bakery bread) and by the second winery you’ll be glad you did!
Don’t: Cram too many wineries in a day
Three wineries is the magic number! If you try to fit in more than three, you’ll feel rushed in between wineries.
Don’t: Forget to pay attention to the geographical location of each winery
From the town of Napa north to Calistoga is 35 miles long! When you’re booking your tasting map out the driving distance between the wineries. Plan for each tasting to last around 60 – 90 minutes.
Napa Valley Itinerary – A Map
Finally, below is a map of all the locations I’ve mentioned in this Napa Valley itinerary! Save this Google Map to make your Napa Valley trip planning a breeze!
The beauty of visiting Napa Valley again and again is your itinerary can completely change with every visit! With over 400 wineries and 150 different restaurants in Napa Valley, you can always experience something different!
Above all, I hope this Napa Valley itinerary helped inspire your trip planning, and most of all get you excited for the memories you’ll make (and the wine you’ll sip)!
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