10 things to do in Napa Valley (other than wine tasting)

Published Date: September 15, 2023

hot air balloons over hills
Northern California’s bucolic Napa Valley is arguably the country’s most famous wine region, producing vintages sought by wine lovers the world over. And while locals and visitors alike do spend plenty of time sipping and savoring wines from the region’s nearly 500 wineries, that’s not all there is to do in Napa Valley. With an irresistible Mediterranean-type climate, plenty of unspoiled nature and distinctly lovely communities, Napa Valley offers something for everyone.If you’re considering making the Napa Valley area your home away from home, you’ll want to add these 10 great activities to your to-do list. 

1. Savor world-class cuisine

Where there’s great wine, there’s usually great food, and that’s definitely true in Napa. The valley is home to more than a few acclaimed restaurants. Perhaps the best-known is The French Laundry in Yountville. Located in a historic building dating back to 1900, this Thomas Keller restaurant serves classic French fare and has been awarded three Michelin stars. Can’t get a reservation? Try his Bouchon Bakery nearby.Farm-to-table restaurants make the most of the region’s bounty, whether you’re eating at a fine dining establishment, casual bistro or Napa’s Oxbow Market, a 40,000- square-foot marketplace filled with local food vendors, casual cafes and organic produce.  

2. Get an aerial view

Crisp, early morning breezes and incredible vistas await when you start your day with a hot air balloon ride over the valley. Take in views of rolling hills, Mount Saint Helena and acres and acres of vines. If you’re lucky enough to take flight on an exceptionally clear day, you may be rewarded with views of the San Francisco skyline! 

3.Treat yourself to a spa day

The north end of the valley boasts soil with high volcanic ash content (one of the reasons Napa Valley is an ideal grape-growing region) and geothermal hot springs, especially in the area surrounding the town of Calistoga. The town’s therapeutic and rejuvenating mud and mineral baths have made it a haven for spa-lovers. Whether you’re looking for one simple treatment or indulging in a full spa getaway, Calistoga boasts more than a dozen spas to fit your needs.  

4. Hop aboard the dinner train

What’s more romantic than enjoying a gourmet meal on a beautifully restored 1915 Pullman train car as you roll through vineyards and watch the sun set over the valley? Not much — and that’s why the Napa Valley Wine Train is one of the valley’s most popular attractions. Over the course of three hours, the elegant, historic train travels 36 miles from Napa to Saint Helena and back. The Wine Train also offers a lunch train service with seating in a vintage two-story observation-style dining car. 

5. Explore charming towns

The valley is studded with many small towns, each with a distinctive vibe and plenty of things to do. Calistoga, at the northern tip of the valley, has an old-world feel, with a wooden sidewalk, the previously mentioned natural hot springs and authentic Victorian architecture. Continue south and you’ll find yourself in St. Helena. Walk down charming Main Street and stop in unique shops, galleries and restaurants. Next comes Yountville, and make sure you’re hungry. This town is a foodie paradise, boasting more Michelin stars per capita than any other town in America! Finally, the town of Napa is the most cosmopolitan — it even plays host to the Napa Valley Film Festival each November. 

6. Take a hike

Nature lovers will find plenty to do in Napa Valley. Beat the summer heat with a walk along a creek in the redwood and madrona forests of Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Take the 1.3-mile loop to Linda Falls near Calistoga — the namesake waterfall is most spectacular in the winter and early spring. Looking for more of a challenge? Hike to the top of Mount Saint Helena, the highest peak in the region. The 10-mile hike has an elevation gain of 2,230 feet, and when you reach the top, your efforts will be rewarded with 360-degree views of the countryside. 

7. Explore on two wheels

Burn off all those fine meals and wine tastings with a bike ride on the Napa Valley Vine Trail. This 12.5-mile paved path goes from South Napa to Yountville. Eventually the trail system, which is being developed by a grassroots non-profit organization, will stretch 47 miles and connect the entire Napa Valley, from Vallejo to Calistoga. 

8. Hit the links

With gorgeous scenery and unbeatable weather, Napa Valley is a great place to work on your golf game. The aptly named Chardonnay Golf Club features 18 holes of championship golf surrounded by 150 acres of chardonnay vineyards. If you’re more of a spectator than a participant, you’ll want to snag tickets to the PGA Tour Safeway Open, which happens every fall at the Silverado Resort and Spa. 

9. Enjoy the nightlife

In Napa Valley, the after-dark scene is more focused on the arts, theater and music, and less about nightclubs and bars. Be sure to check out the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater in Yountville for symphony performances, the Napa Valley Conservatory Theater for performing arts (and theater classes, if you’re feeling brave), and Napa’s Lucky Penny Community Arts Center for stage plays and musicals in an intimate setting. 

10. Check out the art scene 

From pottery to paintings, Napa Valley has a thriving arts community. The 217-acre di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa is a must-see, as it houses over 2,000 works by Northern California artists. You’re also likely to come across many charming and inventive galleries just as you walk through the various towns in the valley. Looking for something specific and not sure where to start? The Arts Council Napa Valley can point you in the right direction. 

Make Napa Valley your second home

With endless activities, fantastic dining and great entertainment, Napa Valley is a delightful second home destination. And Pacaso makes owning a second home easy, even in sought-after wine country. Check out our Napa Valley listings.

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Jen Lyons

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