Things to Do Beyond Wine in Napa Valley
Sponsored by Visit Napa Valley
In addition to its world-renowned wine production, the Napa Valley offers many ways to experience its jaw-dropping natural beauty, unique location, climate, and culture. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Find Some Altitude
There's probably no more spectacular way to see the region than from the basket of a hot-air balloon, quietly floating high above the valley floor. Most companies offer packages that include a Champagne brunch or other celebration. Check out information on Napa Valley Aloft, Balloons Above the Valley, Napa Valley Balloons, or Calistoga Balloons here.
Get Down and Dirty
Calistoga is one of the few places in the world where you can experience a mud bath - not only "something to write home about," but also full of health benefits like relieving stress, detoxification, softening the skin, and balancing your natural pH level. Mud baths are offered at many Calistoga spas, including Indian Springs Resort, Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, Mount View Hotel and Spa, Golden Haven Hot Springs and Resort, Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort, and Baths at Roman Spa. If you can't bring yourself to climb into a tub of steaming mud, Lincoln Avenue Spa offers a smooth mud "facial" for your body on a Ayurvedic steam table. View more spa ideas here.
It's called "wine country," but don't be fooled—there are other things to drink. In fact, the Napa Valley is gaining traction for its growing number of artisanal breweries with excellent selections of IPAs, pilsners, wheats, and ambers. Mad Fritz is a hot local brand, with its stouts, lagers, and porters being served at select restaurants and at the Cameo Cinema. The Fieldwork Brewing Company's Napa Taproom is in the lively Oxbow Public Market and offers a changing tap list of fresh releases by flight, the glass, and even to-go in growlers and Crowler cans. Tannery Bend Beerworks produces unique, small-batch beers (each batch just 15 gallons) and its tiny "nano-brewery" and tasting room occupy just 1,500 square feet in the Tannery Bend District of old town Napa. View more tasting ideas here.
Become an Oil Baron
Grapes and hops aren't the only delicious crops found in Napa Valley. There's also a booming cottage industry in artisanal olive oils. Check out Round Pond Estate in Rutherford. In addition to a successful wine business, Round Pond offers tours and tastings at its olive mill, and its fresh oils and vinegar blends make perfect gifts. On St. Helena's Main Street, you'll find Olivier Napa Valley, filled with its own line of locally-produced oils, vinegars, condiments, gift baskets and more. At the Oxbow Public Market, you can find two olive oil purveyors: The Olive Press, which sells a range of dipping and infused oils and other yummy condiments; and Napa Valley Olive Oil, which has been pressing olives for 80 years. In addition to its tasting room in downtown Napa, you can visit its original white barn shop in St. Helena. View additional information on olive oil tasting ideas here.
Cook up Something Special
You've come to Napa Valley for its reputation as a food and wine destination, so why not learn a few new cooking skills while you're here? The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone offers short and longer courses on both food and wine, as well as interactive demonstrations. The newly launched CIA at Copia features wine and beverage tutorials, chef demonstrations, and both group and private cooking classes. The Silverado Cooking School allows you to cook with seasonal produce from its own farm, as well as fresh ingredients from other local purveyors. Cooking with Julie offers private classes in either Julie's kitchen or yours, as well as farmers' market tours. View more on class ideas here.
Float Your Boat
It's not all dry land and rolling vineyards in the region. There are plenty of fun times to be found on the historic Napa River and other watery areas. Try Napa Valley Paddle for stand-up paddle-boarding or Enjoy Napa Valley for kayak rentals on the river. The latter also offers a Napa River History Tour, with a leisurely lesson on the wildlife, wine and history of the valley. Or, head north to Lake Berryessa Boat and Jet Ski Rentals for more high-speed fun on this 20,000-acre lake. It's the largest body of water in Napa County. Find more on outdoor activities here.
Hike or Bike (or both)
There are tons of great hiking trails in the valley, many with spectacular views. Pack a lunch (maybe with a bottle of wine or a brew) and head out to Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Westwood Hills, Alston Park, Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, or Skyline Wilderness Park. If you prefer two wheels, you can find bike rentals at Napa Valley Bike Tours and Rentals (with shops in Napa and Yountville), St. Helena Cyclery, or Calistoga Bikeshop. The valley is blessed with two flat main roads (Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail) connected by countless crossroads. And the Napa Valley Vine Trail, which eventually will provide a continuous 47-mile walking and bike trail from Vallejo to Calistoga, currently has an easy 12.5-mile route from Napa's Kennedy Park to Yountville. Check out Visit Napa Valley for more outdoor and tour suggestions.
You can explore these activities, and more, in-depth, at Visit Napa Valley online.