Napa Valley: Things You Gotta Do

 Beyond wine, there’s so much to see and do in the Napa Valley. So get crackin’!

Published: 3/21/2018

Home to more than 400 wineries, Napa Valley offers more tasting adventures than most of us can experience in a lifetime. And that’s only the beginning. Beyond wine, there’s so much to see and do in the Napa Valley. So get crackin’!

Rise before the sun, dress in layers, and take a hot air balloon ride. Yes, you’re on vacation, but hot air balloons fly best in cool stable air, most common in the Napa Valley just after sunrise. At the launch site, you’ll be greeted by the hum of inflator fans as the balloon is filled with cold air. When the pilot adds a few blasts of flame and hot air, the balloon is ready for you to board. The magical time you spend floating over Napa Valley’s vineyards, towns, and treetops will be an adventure you never forget.,,,


The Napa Valley Wine Train is easily the region’s most distinctive restaurant, offering a memorable experience that echoes the glory days of train travel. The train glides up and down the center of the valley on tracks dating back to 1864. Now, with a renovation of the main train cars and new tour and event offerings, it’s better than ever. Sign up in advance for The Gourmet Express Package and dine in an elegant 1915–1917 Pullman car or opt for a meal in the Vista Dome for an amazing valley view. Or immerse yourself further and make a reservation for a special event such as the ever-popular Murder Mystery Dinner Theater and solve a murder as you dine aboard the train.


Long before the Napa Valley had vineyards, it had natural hot springs. Native Americans called the Calistoga area “coo-lay-no-maock,” or “the oven place,” and used the mud for its many curative qualities. Said to be excellent for detoxing, insect bites, burns, and even eczema, a mud and mineral bath is at the very least relaxing. The mud will feel extremely hot and heavy at first. Sit back and endure the heat, which gradually subsides. In about ten minutes you’ll be offered relief with a cool towel applied to the face. When you leave your mud bath you’ll rinse off thoroughly in a hot springs shower. Hot springs have many perks, including the soothing effect the water’s minerals—sodium, magnesium, and potassium—have on the skin.,, 



Because wine and food go hand in hand, it makes sense to take a culinary class in the Napa Valley. The CIA at Copia has opened a fabulous facility in downtown Napa with cooking classes, chef demonstrations, and more. Sharpen your cooking skills, learn how to repurpose leftovers, or hone your sauce-making techniques. There are even hands-on cooking and baking classes with a max of 12 students per class. Another more intimate-sized class option is offered at Peju Province Winery, where a variety of culinary experiences can be arranged including hands-on cooking classes, chef’s table lunches and dinners, and wine and food pairing education classes.,



EXPERIENCE the Napa Valley from the original rancher’s perspective: riding through the vineyards on horseback! Shadybrook Estate Winery at Rapp Ranch is a rare spot that combines the history of a horse ranch, beautiful vineyards with a vista view, and a state-of-the-art winery into one exhilarating destination. The 30-minute guided trail ride is a fabulous way to take in the Rapp Ranch Estate scenery and surrounding hills of Coombsville. Better yet, sign up for the Ultimate Ranch Experience, which includes a 30-minute ride followed by a casual tour of the winery facility and a seated tasting of estate wines paired with cheese, charcuterie, and spreads.  


The town of St. Helena calls itself “America’s Main Street,” but it’s much more than that. This pristine small town was remote and hard to reach by stagecoaches for decades, which may be the reason it’s so fierce about protecting its character today. There’s a strong sense of community here. Multigenerational family businesses thrive and 95 percent of the town’s vineyards are family owned. A museum dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson, featuring the word’s largest collection of Stevensonia on public display, is tucked inside the St. Helena Public Library. Beyond that, we recommend focusing on window shopping, gallery hopping, and wine tasting along Main Street and enjoying a sumptuous meal at one of the many gourmet restaurants along the way. 



The 55-mile Napa River flows through downtown Napa, offering lots of landscapes and wildlife to see and plenty of fun activities including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and fly fishing. Take a guided excursion from downtown Napa to restored tidal wetlands and the forested riparian corridor of the Napa River’s Northern Reach. Take a historical tour and learn about the river’s little known, rich history. Or, if you’re an experienced SUP rider, try a DIY and explore the river’s reed-lined shores, and wetlands on your own.,



It’s remarkable how much artwork is on display in the Napa Valley, and the galleries are just the beginning. The Napa ARTwalk, an exhibition of sculptures created by artists from the western United States, is on display in the downtown public spaces of Napa. Each sculpture is displayed for 24 months, during which time locals and visitors can vote for their favorite. The annual winner receives a People’s Choice Award. Many wineries also exhibit art, and some offer full collections. Don’t miss The Hess Collection, Hall Wines, Artesa Vineyards & Winery, and Clos Pegase Winery.


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As seen in the issue Spring 2018 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.