When you think of Napa, you think wine! There are about 400 different wineries, a dream for wine lovers. Those who don’t like wine or don’t drink might be hesitant to visit the area.
You may be surprised to learn there are also plenty of things to do in Napa Valley besides wine tasting. If you need a break from wine tasting or you’re not a fan of wine, here are some ideas for your visit to Napa, California.
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About Napa Valley
The beautiful rolling hills in Napa Valley are known for their vineyards. They have been making wine here since 1838! Many people visit Napa just for the wine. More recently, it has become a foodie destination too and there are plenty of other things to do in Napa besides wine tasting. No matter what time of year you visit the Napa Valley, you will find beautiful Mediterranean weather.
Napa Valley is located a short drive north of the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s slightly closer to Oakland’s airport, but you could fly into San Francisco, San Jose, or Sacramento as well. You can do a day trip to Napa, but there is plenty to do if you can stay longer.
Things to Do in Napa Besides Wine Tasting
Yes, there is more to Napa than wine tasting. Even if you do enjoy wine tasting, it’s a good idea to take a break and do something different. Together with some of my travel blogger friends, I have compiled an alternative list of things to do in Napa Valley besides wine.There is more to Napa than just wine, check out this alternative list of things to do.
Calistoga Mud Baths
Recommend by Anisa
Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort is not your typical spa. It’s an institution, serving customers for 65 years! They are known for their magical mud baths which are made from a combination of Calistoga’s pure volcanic ash, spring water, and Canadian peat. Keep in mind, Dr. Wilkinson’s does not have locks on their lockers so don’t bring any valuables with you to your appointment.
A Calistoga mud bath is a great way to relax. The whole treatment takes around two hours and includes a mud bath, mineral whirlpool bath, steam room, blanket wrap, and massage. The mud bath does have a strong smell but after your session, your skin will feel smoother and cleansed.
Calistoga’s “Old Faithful”
Recommended by Paroma from Year of the Monkey
One of Calistoga’s best-kept secrets is a mini “Old Faithful” geyser, the second of its kind in USA (the big one is in Yellowstone National Park). The entire property is well maintained with a small geological museum and an adjacent goat farm. You can even buy goat food from the visitor center and feed the goats.
Check out the viewing area where you can safely watch the Old Faithful geyser erupt at regular intervals. The eruption is caused by the pressure of steam as water is heated when it comes in contact with the hot underground magma. This intense pressure causes the water to be released as a jet above the ground without boiling off. This geological wonder is a must see and one of several attractions in Calistoga that are dog-friendly.
The address for Old Faithful is 1299 Tubbs Lane and the price of admission is $15 for adults.
Ballooning Over Napa Valley
Recommended by Sarah from ASocialNomad
It’s an early start, but an amazing way to see more of Napa than anyone else. Sunrise balloon rides over Napa Valley give you unbeatable views and a stunning way to experience this beautiful area. Balloons over Napa launch just after dawn, when the winds are at their calmest. You and up to 20 others, although you can splurge and go for a private flight, will rise gently into the air and spend around an hour drifting and enjoying the sunrise over the valley.
Most companies you go with will offer a breakfast option and champagne too, so you can truly celebrate your experience. It’s not a budget endeavor, your ride will cost you $200 and up, but it’s a truly memorable experience. We loved seeing the sun come up and the mist clear over the valleys, it was a spectacular way to start a day in Napa and we’d really recommend it.
Rent a Bike in Napa
Recommended by Susan from This Big Wild World
If you’re looking for something more active to do while in Napa, try biking! The Napa Valley Vine Trail offers “class I” multi-use paths (physically separated from the roads) and “class II” paths (striped along the roads). Situated in a valley, the paths are mostly flat which means you can focus on enjoying the view. This is such a fun way to see the “other” side of Napa while burning some calories.
Bike rentals are available in stand-alone shops as well as at most larger properties. Smaller lodges often have agreements for bike delivery from local rental shops. So, no matter where you’re staying, a rental option will be nearby. If you prefer a guided tour, there are many options throughout Napa Valley. Just ask wherever you rent your bike!
During my visit, I rented from Calistoga Bikeshop. Everything I needed was provided with the rental, including helmet and bike lock. After two days of non-stop wine tasting, biking through the vineyards at my own pace was a refreshing break!
Go For a Hike!
Recommended by Brooke from A Different Kind of Travel
Northern California is full of great hiking and Napa County is no exception. What better way to work off the calories you’ll be consuming while eating and drinking your way through Napa Valley than to get out on a hike? Here are a couple of ideas for hiking spots in Napa:
- Bothe-Napa Valley State Park: If you’re just looking for a short hike and to enjoy a picnic lunch with a view you can take a leisurely stroll along the creek to the Ritchie Canyon where you can enjoy fern views along the way, redwood trees and even glimpse a little of the volcanic history in the ash cliffs. The Park also has camping and picnicking options. Note: Dogs are allowed in the picnic and camping areas but not on trails
- Las Posada State Forest: This area is a preserve protected by the Napa Land Trust, so you must reserve a place on a guided hike. The Linda Falls trail is a short tree-lined trail to a lovely waterfall.
Dine at Michelin Restaurants
Recommended by Jessica from Independent Travel Cats
Napa Valley is an area that is best known for wine, but secondarily for its great food and restaurants. The area currently has hundreds of restaurants and it is a very popular culinary destination.
Restaurants range widely with a good selection of ones offering French, Italian, Japanese, fusion, and American cuisine. But there is also a Brazillian steakhouse, a Puerto Rican inspired restaurant, upscale gastropubs, fast food options, and more.
Many well-known and celebrity chefs have opened up restaurants in the area over the years. Napa Valley currently has four 1-star Michelin restaurants and two 3-star restaurants. 3 stars is the highest rating given by Michelin and the restaurants who have received this prestigious rating in the area are The French Laundry and The Restaurant at Meadowood.
I used to live in the San Francisco Bay area so loved visiting Napa to try the different restaurants. Although we didn’t always splurge on Michelin-starred restaurants, we were lucky enough to eat at a few of them. One of the most memorable experiences was a surprise anniversary dinner at the 3-star The French Laundry restaurant. This is one of the top restaurants in the county and also one of the more expensive. It is also notoriously difficult to get a table, so check out our tips for getting a reservation at The French Laundry.
We had a great time and a lovely meal although, given the price, it was probably a one time visit. But the 1-star restaurants here are about 1/4 of the price and offer great food as well so you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat at a Michelin-star restaurant. No matter where you choose to eat, be sure to make a reservation as all the popular restaurants often book up in advance.
Oxbow Public Market
Recommended by Wendy from Empty Nesters Hit the Road
While visiting colleges in Northern California with my underage daughter, Jessica, I knew we would not be wine tasting, and as a result, I needed to find some other interesting places to see in Napa. In my research, I discovered Oxbow Public Market and was not disappointed! This riverside market opened about ten years ago and offers a combination of small shops and food stalls. They offer a lovely outdoor seating space, but on the day we visited the heat was oppressive, so we headed inside.
What I always appreciate about food halls is the opportunity for everyone to order what they want. You don’t have to all agree on one restaurant location.
During our recent visit, I ordered a few varieties of delicious tacos at C Casa while Jessica selected the Margherita pie from Live Fire Pizza. Then, of course, we needed dessert and enjoyed the ice cream from Three Twins. If you’re in Napa and need a break from wine tasting, or seriously expensive restaurants, then I encourage you to check out Oxbow.
Oxbow Public Market is located at 610 1st Street in Napa.
Dean and Deluca Food Market
Recommended by Noel from Travel Photo Discovery
If you are a foodie and wine connoisseur at heart, then a visit to the famous food market of Dean and Deluca on your Napa vacation getaway is a real treat. It’s the first of its kind in California. Well known and loved in New York as the ultimate of foodie markets in the USA, this St. Helena location does not disappoint.
It’s a visual feast of gorgeous displays of food and delicious finished goods you can sample and buy. They also have an impressive wine collection of local, California and international wines. Dean and Deluca has a wonderful deli and take-out counter for those that want to create a picnic or just buy prepared food to go.
If your hungry and in the mood to see the best of the best in food venues in Napa, go check out Dean and Deluca and sample all of the food displays that are available and you definitely will not leave hungry.
Historic Napa Mill
Recommended by Julia from Small World This Is
This historical landmark located in downtown Napa has plenty of activities whether you are staying as a guest at the Napa River Inn or just a day visitor. The building, which was built in the late 1800s, is worth checking out; including the beautiful Mosaic Fountain that depicts both the triumphs and tragedies of the region. The Napa River Inn is a luxury hotel that boasts a world-class spa perfect for a day of relaxation.
Wine may be the main draw to Napa, but food comes in a close second. The Historic Napa Mill has highly-acclaimed spots like Angele, that serves bistro fare, and Celadon that features global flavors and scenic outdoor seating. Sweetie Pies Bakery provides breakfast for the Napa River Inn, and is also a great place to satisfy your sweet tooth. Silo’s Napa is a perfect area to unwind with a beer and listen to live music in the evening.
di Rosa Museum
Recommended by Carole from Weekend Adventures Update
Art flourishes in the California Wine Country. One of my favorite stops in Napa is at the expansive 217-acre contemporary art museum and sculpture park known simply as di Rosa. Make a reservation for a tour of the collection featuring more than 2,000 pieces by Northern California artists because otherwise, you will miss a lot.
A tram delivers visitors from Gallery 1 by the parking lot to the main Gallery 2 located inside a converted tractor barn. From here, a guided tour is required to take a 1/3-mile loop walk through the Sculpture Meadow featuring large-scale outdoor sculptures. This tour also includes seeing ancient oaks, a very old olive orchard (more than 100 years old), and a 35-acre lake. A nice plus is the vocal flock of beautiful peacocks that parades around the property.
The address for the di Rosa is 5200 Sonoma Highway.
Visit Wineries for the Views, Art, and Architecture
Recommended by Dhara from Not About the Miles
Even if you aren’t a wine-lover, you should still definitely place the Napa Valley on your itinerary if you are visiting Northern California. Many Napa Valley’s wineries are worth visiting not only for their famous wines, but also for their locations and views, art and architecture, or grounds and gardens.
Visit Artesa Winery in south Napa Valley for spectacular views. Artesa Winery is situated at the top of a hill, and from its grounds, you get fabulous views of the vineyards all around. It’s like seeing a beautiful patchwork quilt, green in the summer and orange in the fall. Also of interest here are the several beautiful water features.
As you head north from the town of Napa toward St. Helena, a giant sculpture of a bunny along the side of the road will alert you that you are at Hall Winery. Visit Hall Winery for fabulous art: it’s free to wander the grounds but to view the art inside, you have to do a tasting. We love walking the grounds to see the whimsical sculptures strewn about the property, as well as the geometric serene infinity pool looking out towards the mountains.
Even further north along Highway 29, you will come to Beringer Vineyards, one of my favorite wineries in the Valley. The stunning Rhine House at Beringer is on the National Register of Historic Places. Walk around and admire the beautiful lines of the structure and its stained glass windows. The grounds are gorgeous as well.
Napa is More than Just Wine
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do for those who aren’t fans of wine or need a break from wine tasting. You don’t have to be a wine drinker to have a fun time. It’s a gorgeous area with lots to see.
Have you been to Napa? Other than wine tasting, what did you enjoy?
Expert Tips for Things to do in Napa Other than Wine
- Napa is also a foodie destination. Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant or check out one of the food markets.
- It’s a great area for art lovers too. Check out the di Rosa or the artwork at some of the wineries.
- If you can, splurge on a hot air balloon ride, it’s an experience you won’t ever forget.
- Relax with a spa treatment, like the mud bath at Dr. Wilkinson’s.
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