Just two weeks ago we spent 3 days in San Francisco and 4 days in Napa and we had an amazing time. We left our two kiddos at home and ventured from Ohio to sunny California for a week with my husband’s cousin and his wife. This week I thought I’d share with you some tips if you’re planning your Napa Valley vacation sometime soon…and if you’ve never been, hopefully I can convince you to take some time and head out there for some great wine, delicious food, and lots of relaxation!
Where to Stay
Let’s first chat about where to stay. There are obviously lots of options in Napa, but Silverado Resort and Spa came highly recommended by a number of friends and sites, so we chose them. What we personally really liked about Silverado was that we secured a two bedroom/two bathroom suite with a living room, kitchen, and a gorgeous covered patio overlooking their PGA ranked golf course. They have a main hotel and resort, as well, if you’re not looking for “condo type” amenities. For us, traveling with another couple, the suite was great because we had a large couch and dining area and we were able to make meals at home too. We picked up some groceries in Napa and brought home take out a few times, as well, which was nice after eating out all week in San Francisco.
When we went to Napa, it was a bit of a rainy week, but it still didn’t ruin the gorgeous views that Silverado Resort and Spa had to offer. They have a clubhouse, restaurant, and bakery/snack area on site too for guests to enjoy! We had dinner and drinks there on a few occasions!!
They greeted us with an awesome bottle of champagne and a cheese and cracker plate, as well, which was a really great way to start our Napa Valley adventure!
(Can you tell that basketball was in full swing our first day there!?)
One morning I got up early and saw some hot air balloons out in the distance (more on that later)…which made for a really pretty site.
Overall, I’d HIGHLY recommend staying at Silverado Resort and Spa…they have very good prices, excellent service, and it’s a lovely place to stay.
What to Do
I’ll get to the wineries we visited later on, but let’s chat about other things to do first.
Here’s my list of suggestions:
Visit Oxbow Public Market and have lunch. I’d suggest C Casa Tacos if you’re into fresh mexican flavors or if you like oysters, try Hog Island Oyster Company. Another that we didn’t try, but that the locals all recommended was Kitchen Door. After lunch or dinner, grab some Three Twins Ice Cream for dessert…or if you’re not into ice cream, I highly recommend Kara’s Cupcakes, as well.
Visit Calistoga and go to the spa. Walk around the town after and grab lunch.
We visited Calistoga Spa and Hot Springs and had a steam bath, as well as a 1.5 hour massage. They were undergoing renovations, so truthfully I wasn’t that impressed with their location, but the massage itself was great. I’d suggest waiting until renovations are finished before going back.
Calistoga itself is a really cute little town and has lots of little shops and good eateries. We spent some time shopping around there and buying little goodies for our families.
Take a hot air balloon ride.
I didn’t actually do this, but we REALLY considered it. Unfortunately, we just decided it was a bit too much to try to cram into one vacation, so we opted out. They looked like gorgeous rides though and if you go, I’d consider booking it with Napa Valley Aloft.
Silverado had TWO PGA Golf Courses on the property, so our husbands spent one afternoon golfing the course that our suite overlooked. They rent out clubs and their prices are quite reasonable depending on the time of day you want to book
Visit Lake Berryessa’s “Hole” by the Monticello Dam.
This came across on Nat Geo right before we left, but because of all the rain on our last day there, we opted not to visit it. It was on our list though!
This may surprise you since this is a post about Napa, but be sure to visit Sonoma too. They have a really cute downtown area and it’s very charming, as well.
We stayed in Sonoma about 10 years ago, so we did take the time to drive in and visit, see the downtown square area, and visit Jacuzzi winery while we were there. I’ll have you know that Jacuzzi had the best tasting prices out of ALL the wineries that we visited that week. And they had an awesome Chocolate Wine Shot to end your visit with!
Wineries to Visit
I know that’s what you’re all wondering…what wineries to visit. There are SO many to choose from, you’ll drive down any road in Napa and find a million different wineries you want to stop at…one more beautiful than the next. We tried to each pick one or two that we had to visit and in the end we ended up visiting 5 total…4 in Napa and 1 in Sonoma (Jacuzzi Winery in Sonoma).
Let’s start with my tips for visiting wineries.
- Be sure to check out what their tasting fees are. Most wineries charge $25-$35 for a 4-6 flight tasting. Some let you pick your own wines to taste, while others have a set list of what they’ll allow you to taste.
- I’d suggest aiming for 2 wineries a day…three at very most. Make sure to bring lots of water and even a little snack for while you’re tasting wine (crackers, for example). Also, decide on your price limit for a bottle of wine, we went to a few wineries where I loved the wine, but couldn’t bring myself to spend $80 for a bottle to take home, which was a huge bummer.
- Try getting the Napa Valley Wine Passport for $29. It gives you access to an ever changing list of wineries that participate in buy one get one free tastings. We went to three wineries, out of our five, that were on the buy one get one free list, which was really nice.
- Make sure that before you leave you bring some options for ways to transport any wine purchases home.
Let’s move along to what wineries we personally visited and liked best.
We started our winery tour on Wednesday by visiting Mario Andretti’s Winery aptly named, Andretti Winery. It was a really pretty winery and we really enjoyed the wines. They charged $35 for a tasting (although they had much more expensive tasting offers) and we tried 5 wines. Overall, it was really nice, but we found their wine bottles to be most expensive of all the places we visited.
I think Peju (pronounced pe-ju like it looks), was one of the prettiest wineries that we visited, although overall their wine wasn’t necessarily my style. They had a great variety of dry reds and whites, but dry isn’t typically my style. I did really enjoy their great staff and walking around their unique grounds. You’ll notice that I got endless pretty photos from that visit!
Cakebread came highly recommend from friends and we really enjoyed our tasting there, as well. My husband and I loved their Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay and our friends who like red wine, did a reserve tasting and brought home a great bottle of Cabernet. Overall, Cakebread was a big hit.
Castillo di Amorosa
This was one of the most highly recommended wineries and you’ll see why from the photos. The owner apparently dropped about $48 million to build this castle. This winery is closer to Calistoga and I enjoyed their wine the best out of all the places we stopped. They charge $25 for a tasting and if you don’t do a tasting, then you still have to pay to enter. They do let you choose the wines that you try and they have a very large selection to choose from. After you’re done tasting, take some time to explore the castle or consider taking a tour for an extra fee. This castle has gorgeous views and is really worth a visit at least once.
I didn’t visit this winery this time, but last time we visited we took the gondola ride to the top of the hill to get to Sterling Winery. I really enjoyed their wine, but given the costs and time restrictions, we decided to skip Sterling this time. I’d definitely suggest going if it’s your first visit.
And again, don’t forget to stop by some Sonoma Wineries, as well.
Overall, I think we spent the perfect amount of time in Napa. Our first day there we ate dinner at the hotel and relaxed at home after a busy day coming in from San Francisco (more on that soon). The second day we hit up three wineries and then we came home and relaxed and the guys went golfing. The third day we went to the spa and got a massage, grabbed lunch in Calistoga and walked around the shops, then stopped by the Castle on the way home. That night we grabbed takeout from Whole Foods and relaxed at the “house” with wine and good food. The final day there it was pouring, but we ventured into Sonoma, stopped by Jacuzzi Winery, grabbed lunch, then headed back to Silverado where we had a drink and walked around the grounds a bit. Finally, we ended our Napa Valley trip with dinner in downtown Napa at Allegria.
I had really wanted to try Gott’s Roadside, which has been on Diners, Driveins, and Dives, but we never got around to it. It was highly recommended by the locals.
We also grabbed cupcakes and macarons at Sift Dessert Bar by Whole Foods in Napa, which was AMAZING. They had a Rose Cupcake that was to DIE FOR.
I HIGHLY recommend visiting Napa Valley at some point in your life. It’s a gorgeous area and offers such a diverse way to vacation.