Located easy driving distance from San Francisco, and easily accessed via SFO or OAK, the Napa Valley undulates north, dotted by internationally famous wineries supplied by some of the best vines in the world. With stunningly beautiful weather most days, and vistas that rival Tuscany, Napa is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of a busy life. While equally fantastic for a romantic trip for two, and a friend’s getaway, there is a lot to see, do, drink, and eat in this valley, so planning your trip can be totally overwhelming. I’ll help you sort through the information and put together a perfect weekend in Napa.
But first, a note on getting around Napa. While Ubers and Lyfts are available all over the valley, the cell phone reception is not great at a lot of the wineries. If you’re going to a vineyard that is more off the beaten path, schedule your pickup in advance while you’re in good service. If in doubt about the specific winery you’re going to, ask the driver taking you there. I’ve found most drivers cover this same area frequently, and they’ll know which wineries you’ll need to be proactive in. Keep a power bank on you, as being out of service will burn through your battery quicker than usual.
If budget allows, hiring a limo or car service to take you and your party around for the day is THE way to get around the area. Nobody having to skip the wine to ensure they’re safe to drive the winding roads, door-to-door service, and never a complication with a ride. It’s the ultimate luxury.
Day 1 – Arrival/Checking in
If possible, fly in to Oakland. You can easily get to Napa from either San Francisco or Oakland airport, it’s a bit easier from Oakland, and if you’re flying in near rush hour, you’ll avoid most of the gridlock in the city.
In terms of where to stay, there are plenty of options up and down the valley, I generally recommend to stay in the town of Napa. Access to restaurants, services, bars, and transportation is much better in the town vs. one of the resorts deeper in the valley. Larger resorts like the Andaz Napa and the Westin Napa offer traditional resort amenities with all of the charm of the valley.
There are also a number of stunning smaller inns and B&Bs in the area like the Candlelight Inn and the Milliken Creek Inn that offer cozy, more personalized accommodations in a charming private setting. There are also a number of rental properties and AirBNBs in the area that can easily house larger groups.
Day 1 – Activities/Dining
If you arrive earlier in the day, kick off your relaxing weekend right with a massage at one of the gorgeous spas in the area or in your hotel. If time and budget allow, head to the world famous Calistoga Ranch for a massage before coming home to spruce up for dinner. Also consider stopping in the Oxbow Public Market to stock up on snacks and accouterments for your wine. Also a great spot for a quick bite to eat.
For dinner, there is no shortage of fabulous food in Napa, but some local stand-outs right in the town of Napa to consider are Oenotri for gorgeous, rustic Italian food, or the fabulous Grace’s Table, a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant serving creative French/Italian/American Cuisine. After dinner, take a stroll through the downtown area and pop into any number of delightful and quirky local tasting rooms and wine bars before retiring to your accommodations.
Day Two: Wine Tour of Napa
Crowds can get intense in the afternoon on Saturdays, so I recommend getting up early and getting on the road early. If you’re wanting to do one of the larger, more famous wineries, like Caymus, Stags Leap, or Castello Di Amoroso, go earlier in the day to avoid the thick of the crowds. For some fantastic, less trodden options, consider Tamber Bey, Failla, Nickel & Nickel, Joseph Phelps, Chateau Montelena, Duckhorn and Silverado. These are all personal favorites, and you’ll have a fantastic experience in any and all of them, but which is right for you depends on your wine preference and, of course, budget. Each one offers stellar wines at various costs, in absolutely stunning settings. Choose your plan of attack with transportation and timing in mind, so be sure to map it out, and make sure reservations and scheduled tasting times will be made.
The wineries aren’t open all day, so you likely won’t want a full, long dining experience in the middle of the day. For a fantastic quick bite in the middle of the day, check out the classic Gott’s Roadside for delicious burgers and fries in a setting that celebrates the heritage of the area (do NOT miss the garlic fries), or stop at Oakville Grocery to pick up some fantastic sandwiches or picnic fare.
Day Two: Dinner in Napa Valley
No perfect weekend in Napa is complete without some incredible food. Some of the best food in the world is made in this rural, 30 mile valley. Boasting a whopping 6 Michelin Starred restaurants, it’s hard to go wrong here. The crown jewel of Napa Cuisine, The French Laundry is a standout and a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. Ad Hoc also brings you cuisine by the legend Thomas Keller, at a more affordable and less refined level – both in Yountville. Also consider Brix, just north of town for classic California cuisine with sweeping mountain and vineyard views.
Around St. Helena, Acacia House by Top Chef alum Chris Cosentino offers interesting takes on classic cuisine, The Gatehouse Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America will bring you fabulous food by tomorrow’s star chefs. Goose and Gander is a gastropub that brings you a more relaxed and rustic food experience, for those not looking for a flashy night out.
In Napa proper, again, Oenotri and Grace’s Table are standouts, but there’s also the exceptional Celadon in the Napa River Inn, serving up eclectic comfort food and fabulous wine in a stunning setting, and Fume for gorgeous flatbreads and bistro fare in a pergola covered patio. Kenzo serves up Michelin-starred Japanese cuisine that is worth every cent.
Day Three: Brunch and Departure
If budget and weather allow, the perfect way to cap off a perfect weekend in Napa is to wake early and take a stunning hot air balloon ride over the valley. Depending on your departure time, you might have time to squeeze in one more winery visit. But one way or another, after a long day of wine tours and dinner with, surely, more wine, you’ll need a good, hearty brunch to help set you back to normal. The old standard Black Bear Diner serves up classic comfort food in a down-home setting for those in a more…delicate state. Bank Cafe and Bar, located in the Westin, serves elevated comfort food by Michelin-starred La Toque’s Ken Frank. To continue the party, check out Sky and Vine for bottomless cocktails and an amazing view from the rooftop setting.
There are few weekend getaways better than a weekend in Napa, and hopefully we’ve helped you plan YOUR perfect weekend in Napa. Cheers!
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