Napa Travel Guide : What to Do and See

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Let me start by saying, Napa is insanely gorgeous.  The entire time we were driving around I kept on thinking I was in the Italian countryside.  I am all about European travel but I will tell you what, there are so many beautiful places in the US that are much shorter plane rides and don’t require a passport. I honestly wish we had one more day in Napa.  We stayed for two and I think three is the magic number.  So let’s get right into this Napa Travel Guide.  Also, it was raining a lot when we were there…..so please don’t mind my interesting hair in these pictures.

Napa Travel Guide

What to do and see in Napa, Napa travel guide

How To Get There

We flew into San Francisco.  I wish we had a direct flight but since we have status with Delta, the connection is always through Atlanta with flying out of Florida.  Our flight was at 5:20 am out of the city.  Insane but with the time difference, we landed in San Fran at 10:45am and had an entire day to spend there.  We slept on the plane. We used Sixt which is my favorite company when I need to rent a car.  A convertible for California is a must, only if you packed light.  Without traffic, Napa is a little over an hour out of San Francisco.  I used Waze which is my favorite driving app.  It takes you the fastest way to avoid traffic.  Just trust it if it takes you off the highway through a questionable part of town.  It will get you there I promise.

Sixt Rental San Fran

Where to Stay

We stayed in Downtown Napa at the Embassy Suites.  Beautiful hotel, large rooms which includes breakfast daily and a cocktail hour with apps at night.  Mid range affordable.  I liked the swans in the pond by the room.  I will say it wasn’t walkable to downtown.  It was close but you still had to drive.  The downtown scene definitely is not lively after 10pm.  Lots of day drinking leads to people passing out early.  If/when we go back, I would recommend staying in Yountville.  However, the hotels are a lot pricier there but you can walk to restaurants and the town is adorably quaint.  If you have 3 months ahead to book and a couple hundred to spend, The French Laundry is supposedly a once in a lifetime dining experience.  Yountville is also closer to all the wineries on 29.  I will also note, in Napa there are plenty of CVS’s, Walgreens and grocery stores.  If you forgot anything, toiletries etc, you can get them out there no problem.

Embassy Suites NapaNapa Embassy SuitesEmbassy SuitesBouchonFrench Laundry

What to Eat

Our favorite meal of the entire trip was at the Conservatory at Greystone in the Culinary Institute.  It was a seven course meal and totally affordable if you don’t do the wine pairings with it (honestly after drinking wine all day, all I wanted was just food).  I am still dreaming about the popcorn ice cream.  It was the perfect salty/sweet mix.  The other noteworthy restaurant with the best views of Napa was at Auberge Du Soleil.  You pretty much have to scale a mountain but you cannot beat these views.

Auberge du SoleilThe Conservatory RutherfordThe Conservatory

You also have to stop and get a coffee and pastry from Bouchon bakery.  Mustards Grill was perfect for lunch in between the wineries.  Here are all the other spots to check out as well.

Bouchon Bakery

We also stopped at the Oxbow Public Market in Napa.  Really cool concept with tons of little places inside to check out.  We eat inside at Kitchen Door, the wood fire chicken wings are a must order.

The Kitchen Door The Kitchen Door Napa

Which Wineries to Go To

There are too many wineries to even try to recap.  Here is my honest opinion for you.  You have a favorite wine right?  Start there.  I personally love Cakebread so that was top of our list.  The tour we took was pretty informal, I wish we would have signed up for the Reserve tour.  We did get a few reserve classes snuck in for us once they heard we were celebrating our one year.  If you can get ahold of the Dancing Bear 2012 cab, I highly recommend it.

In front of CakebreadCakebread front Cakebread Grounds of CakebreadVines at CakebreadCherry BlossomsCakebread Winery back

Opus One is a total splurge but for a reason.  After tasting the 2010, Mark and I seriously looked at each other and both said “what have we been drinking before this?“.  If you can swing it, I highly recommend it.   You have to make that reservation early, like we did 2 months early.

Opus One GateFront of Opus OneOpus One Grounds Opus One Opus One wine Opus One barrelsOpus OneOpus One BottleOpus One tasting

I loved Frog’s Leap.  It is an organic winery a little bit off the beaten path.  The grounds are straight out of the Italian countryside. They don’t use any pesticides and have no water systems.  The grapes are in their own elements to survive.  That is a great tour. I highly recommend you go there for a true wine education.Frogs LeapFrogs Leap Wineryfrogs leapFrogs leap groundsGrounds of Frogs LeapOutside of Frogs LeapNapa countrysideFrogs Leap Chairs

My other top favorite was Alpha Omega.  This was the last stop of our day and I’m so glad we went there.  It was the best experience.  We walked in without a reservation and saddled up to the bar for a tasting.  Steve was helping us and I’m not joking, every single thing we tried was better than the first. He even walked us into the barrel rooms and was ciphering off wine from barrels that have not even been bottled yet.  He made Napa for us.  If you bought a bottle, the tasting was free.  Well that was a no brainer.  I insist you stop there, you will not regret it.

Alpha OmegaAlpha Omega Outside 2Alpha Omega InsideInside of Alpha OmegaAlpha Omega Tasting Room

Robert Mondavi is always an experience, we stopped by for Chandon for champagne.  Mumms is always amazing for a champagne start to your day.  V. Sattui has a great market to get sandwiches and then sit outside for a picnic.  You really can’t go wrong with any of the wineries up and down 29.  I would tell you make a reservation for the wineries that you want to go to and then just wing it for the other ones.  The informal stopbys ended up being our favorite stops of the trip.

Insider Tips

Buy the wine box at the wineries.  It comes in either 6, 8 or 12.  Then you buy the wines you want and then ship it back on the plane. We get free checked bags on Delta, therefore it was free to send it back.  It gets really pricey to start shipping back individual bottles from each winery.  We bought a few from Frogs Leap, Opus One, Cakebread and Alpha Omega and shipped it back in the box.  It arrived no problem.  I initially thought it was a scam but it was a good deal!  I believe the box was $12!

Have a game plan before stepping into the winery.  These wineries main goals are for you to sign up for their wine clubs.  I had to tell Mark many times, “let’s think about it” and when you leave the environment and step out into the air you go “wow I almost just spent a thousand dollars to get wine yearly” yikes.  It is exciting and you think you’re going to save all this money but in reality it’s too much. Just get a few bottles that you like and be on your way.  Don’t get sucked into the yearlong expensive commitment.  Especially for us, we don’t live close enough to enjoy all the benefits.  We can’t come up for the weekend for exclusive dinner tastings or pop up enough for the waived fee tastings.  Also, if you really love the wine, you can get home and order it the same way if you were there.  There is no advantage to doing it at the exact same time.  The only one that worked for was Opus One which they have their Overture which is their more “affordable” bottle.  You could only order it there from the winery but now you can order it when you get home.  So that is my words of wisdom, refrain from the clubs unless you live close enough to really enjoy it.

Mark and I in front of Cakebread

 

Last point I will mention.  Don’t drive drunk.  Take Uber or Lyft.  Arrange a limo for your group.  We made sure to only do a few wineries and then eat and maybe do one more.  If you aren’t drunk, I guarantee you the person next to you on the road is, so just be careful.  The first day we were there, someone backed into our car in the parking lot and he was clearly inebriated.  The local police are not the best to deal with since it was private property.  Just be smart and make arrangements.  There is apparently a wine train that brings you around as well if you want to check that out.

I absolutely adored Napa and recommend it to anyone who wants a relaxing and fun weekend away.  I would love to go back during the harvest but I can only imagine how busy that would be.  I liked going in February due to the limited crowds and it wasn’t too hot.  I just wish it didn’t rain one day!  If you have any questions about this Napa Travel Guide please feel free to shoot me an email or drop a comment.

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49 Comments

  1. March 7, 2016 / 5:18 AM

    Looking forward to making a Napa trip using these recommendations. Glad you had a great time.

  2. March 7, 2016 / 6:26 AM

    We only did one day in Napa on a tour during part of our honeymoon and we’ve always said we want to go back and this makes me want to go even more!! I totally agree that it felt like Europe all around there!! SO many pretty pictures! xo, Biana –BlovedBoston

  3. March 7, 2016 / 6:40 AM

    What a wonderful trip! California is one of my favorite places; it’s such a unique state with so much to offer.

    Christina :: Simple and Delish

  4. March 7, 2016 / 7:15 AM

    Napa is one of my absolute favorite places! We loved Cakebread and Opus one too. Adding Frog’s Leap to my list for this fall. The interiors look beautiful!

  5. March 7, 2016 / 7:24 AM

    We’re all about the wine! Napa is on our list, but I don’t know when we’ll get there. Looks like such a fun trip. We’re suckers for wineries.

  6. March 7, 2016 / 8:02 AM

    I love reading other people’s must dos at Napa. We love it there! I was underwhelmed with the Cakebread tour, but love their wine and we just opened our 2010 opus one this Christmas with the family and it was truly a delight! Frog’s Leap is the best place to just sit and relax, so pretty! Great post. A must pin!

    Xoxo,

    Whitney & Blaire

    Peaches In A Pod

  7. March 7, 2016 / 8:08 AM

    I wish I could just pick myself up and transport myself into one of these photos, even if it was just for the day. It looks like it was heavenly!

  8. March 7, 2016 / 8:47 AM

    I would love to go to Napa! Such a great review. And I loved your looks for the whole trip!

    Zelle
    Southern Style

  9. March 7, 2016 / 9:14 AM

    Gorgeous pictures! Napa is really high up on my to visit list – wine, scenery and good food, yes please! Glad you guys had a great trip, loving that car!!

  10. March 7, 2016 / 9:16 AM

    Beautiful photos! My sister is part of a few wine clubs but she lives near the wineries and can enjoy the benefits. I would love to go to Napa one day even though I’d kind of feel like a traitor because my sister lives near a ton of wineries in the central coast haha. So happy that you guys had a nice time and thank you for sharing your tips!! :-)

  11. Carly
    March 7, 2016 / 9:27 AM

    I can definitely see what you mean when you say you feel like you were in a different country! It looks like such a beautiful place and an amazing trip overall! It’s definitely on the travel bucket list!

  12. March 7, 2016 / 9:46 AM

    Gah! Napa is on my list for sure, someday!

  13. March 7, 2016 / 10:08 AM

    Looks like so much fun!!!!! Looks like a good time of year to go too for less crowds. What a great anniversary trip!

  14. March 7, 2016 / 10:36 AM

    This sounds like such a fabulous trip girl! It makes me want to get on a plane straight for Napa! It was an option when we were discussing bachelorette options, but the flights wouldn’t work out for us. Loved this comprehensive list of the different wineries you checked out. Cakebread would definitely be a winery I would check out!

  15. March 7, 2016 / 11:13 AM

    Napa is the best! My favorite views were at Alpha Omega and Round Pond, but the atmosphere at Frog’s Leap was really cool too! I wish we had more time to explore when we were there. Hopefully we’ll plan another trip soon!

  16. March 7, 2016 / 11:58 AM

    This is such a great travel guide! San Fran/Napa is on mine and Ryan’s list to visit this year or early next maybe – it seriously looks like the Italian countryside out there! Oh, and that last photo of you and Mark is gorgeous.

  17. March 7, 2016 / 12:50 PM

    Happy, happy anniversary!! What a perfect trip for such a beautiful couple. And of course you look fabulous! I’ve missed you! xx

  18. March 7, 2016 / 12:54 PM

    Good tip on the wine club. We belong to a wine club up here, but luckily it’s close so we can enjoy the benefits. It’s totally worth it for us. But when you’re on vacation, definitely not. So glad you got to stop by Oxbow Market; we thought it was super cute.

  19. March 7, 2016 / 12:59 PM

    This is an amazing recap and I’m basically salivating at all the wineries! I definitely need to make a trip out there. We were spoiled by Temecula in SoCal and I miss being able to take a day trip to wine taste. This is such a great anniversary trip! So glad you guys went and had such a great time!

  20. March 7, 2016 / 2:22 PM

    I love this and am saving for later when I get to eventually go there. Your pics are beautiful! Looks and sounds like a great time. Also I love Waze too!

  21. March 7, 2016 / 2:36 PM

    Such great tips for visiting Napa! We went a few years ago, and it’s still one of my favorite trips! Definitely agree with you about visiting Bouchon Bakery for breakfast and Chandon for champs! They’re the reason that we like champagne now!

  22. March 7, 2016 / 2:56 PM

    Napa looks so gorgeous!!! I just love all your pictures. I would really love to check it out there one day. And now I just really want some wine!!!!!!

  23. Amy Ann
    March 7, 2016 / 3:13 PM

    Ahhh I want to go to Napa so badly! Lovely pictures and thanks for the tips!

    Amy Ann
    Straight A Style

  24. March 7, 2016 / 3:22 PM

    Love this! It looks like y’all had a great trip and did everything right. I can’t wait to go to Napa someday.

  25. March 7, 2016 / 3:42 PM

    Napa is gorgeous and I love that you rented a convertible to travel around in true style. Last year I went to Sonoma with some friends and the drive is about the same (about an hour) but easier to get into those wineries since Napa is so popular. You just can beat that scenery!!

  26. March 7, 2016 / 3:42 PM

    GORGEOUS! I so want to go to Napa and am definitely saving this to refer back to when that trip hopefully gets booked.

  27. March 7, 2016 / 8:35 PM

    Perfect recap!! Already planning a trip for 2017 after we (hopefully!) have a baby. Gonna need all the wine! Saving this for future reference :)

  28. March 7, 2016 / 8:42 PM

    Wow wow wow- beautiful pictures. Saving this, since we want to head to San Diego for our anniversary also. Neither one of us has been to California so we are looking forward to it and these are all great recommendations outside of the city and in a beautiful area. That pic of you in the convertible needs to be in a magazine- get it girl!

  29. March 8, 2016 / 8:57 AM

    Despite the rain and intoxicated drivers, it appears to me that you had an amazing time. I swear your photos get better and better with each posts! Are you sure you guys didn’t hire a professional photographer that’s hiding in the trunk of that convertible? (;

  30. March 8, 2016 / 10:05 AM

    I’m loving these Napa shots- and would you look at those gorgeous trees in bloom? Gets me ready for spring. Also, now craving WINE. At 9 a.m. All good. :)

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

  31. March 8, 2016 / 10:10 AM

    Great tips!! Yountville is an awesome/adorable little town– I highly recommend it for next time!! We just went (my brother moved there… jealous!) and I second all of your tips! Glad you had a wonderful anniversary trip! Make today work, Rachel –CubicleCouture

  32. March 8, 2016 / 10:12 AM

    Look at you with that photography! Nice work. Ahhhh, I love Napa. We loved Cakebread when we went too! Great recap of the highlights, although I never had a bad meal or experience while there myself – I’m not sure one can go wrong anywhere in Napa!

  33. March 8, 2016 / 2:47 PM

    this seriously looks amazing. gorgeous pictures! a seven course meal?! wow. i want that. the frog’s leap and alpha wineries look and sound amazing. if we ever go, i’ll be sure to check those ones out.

  34. March 8, 2016 / 3:40 PM

    I loved following along with you two on Snapchat! The perfect anniversary trip!

  35. Shannon
    March 8, 2016 / 9:19 PM

    Napa is definitely on my bucket list! Your hotel and all the views look so stunning!

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeat Soles

  36. March 9, 2016 / 10:25 PM

    This looks just magical. You are the second person I’ve heard recommend Frog’s Leap, we will have it check it out one day!

  37. Julie Joy
    March 11, 2016 / 12:56 PM

    Yep, I’m definitely hiring you when I need to travel somewhere. And I’m saving this for later because I think I need to go there and drink alllllll the wine. :)

  38. March 16, 2016 / 2:22 PM

    Loved this and saved for future trip planning! The photos were amazing. And love your extra tips . . . especially the side note for not driving drunk . . . sometimes we forget real life happens on vacation too!

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