Obviously, it's hard to stop in Napa without visiting some vineyards and sampling some wines, but there are also some beautiful sights to see and interesting activities to try that don't necessarily involve grown-up grape juice.
1. Visit The Best Wineries In Napa
Let's get the most obvious out of the way: the Napa Valley vineyards. The regions famed for its wide collection of wineries, but that's also part of the challenge when you're a tourist... you have to determine which ones you should visit!
At last count, there were over 400 wineries in Napa, and your choice will vary greatly depending on exactly what you're looking for. Some only take reservations well in advance, so that immediately weeds a few out depending on how far ahead you're planning your travels.
The crowd favorites include Domaine Carneros, Artesa Vineyards & Winery, and Darioush, but that doesn't mean you should overlook some of the lesser-known wineries. The Quixote Winery near the Silverado Trail is popular for its Cabernet Sauvignon's and Petite Syrah's, and as is the case with many of the wineries, the architecture and atmosphere is breathtaking.
Raymond Vineyard is another excellent choice and has unique features like the Corridor of Senses, an area dedicated to helping visitors determine the aromas of various wines and enhance your discernment.
Alpha Omega has become one of the top wineries to visit as it has high-end wines, a vintage barn-like tasting room, and tours of the magnificent facilities. Picture tasting a brilliant Cabernet while enjoying the view from a panoramic terrace and you'll start to understand its popularity.
2. All Aboard The Napa Wine Train
What better way to see the vineyards and drink wine than aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. There's not much in the way of options when it comes to a bus that will take you from one vineyard to another, but a train is even better.
As you sit in this vintage Pullman Train with 140-seats spread across 10 cars, you'll be treated to an artisanal lunch or dinner (depending on whether you book an afternoon or evening trip), and of course, you can try an assortment of boutique wines for reasonable prices.
Some noteworthy sights along the way include St. Helena, Oakville, Yountville, Rutherford, and Napa. Across the three-hour journey, you'll get a nice lay of the land and perhaps pick some interesting spots to explore further on your own.
3. Visit The CIA Headquarters... No, Not That CIA
While many immediately associated the acronym CIA with the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA of Napa is the Culinary Institute of America. The Greystone site in St. Helena is actually the first agriculture preserve in the whole country. Since its inception in 1968, it has launched some incredible chefs while continuing to offer a wide assortment of activities for visitors.
If you visit the CIA of St. Helena, you'll be able to enjoy a number of restaurants, a kitchen gadget store, culinary tastings, and even instructional courses for the aspiring chef.
Soak up some history and some delicious cuisine all at the same time.
4. Take In The Views At Auberge du Soleil
Nestled in the hillside, standing tall among a 33-acre olive grove sits the Auberge du Soleil. You don't need much more than the resort's expansive views to justify paying it a visit, but it also offers one of the best restaurants in Rutherford, headed by acclaimed chef Robert Curry. You will need a reservation -- consider yourself warned!
Beyond stellar service and delicious wine and dining, you'll capture some great photos and even greater memories at Auberge du Soleil.
5. Check Out A Castle
Most would imagine the only place to see castles is somewhere in Europe, but you can actually visit one while you're in Napa.
Castello di Amorosa doesn't have quite the rich history that an ancient European castle might, but it's still a visual spectacle with 107 rooms, towers, ramparts, a moat and a drawbridge. It was made from 8000 tons of stone and it sits on 171 acres of property.
The owner was inspired by Italian medieval architecture and decided to create a castle of his own. Of course, nothing in Napa is complete without wine, and it does feature its very own wine tasting for visitors.
6. Absorb The Local Art Scene
One of the lesser-known facts about the Napa area is that it has a growing art scene that is already worth checking out.
The immense diRosa, which is spread across 217-acres, is one of the most notable art destinations in the region, featuring thousands of art pieces both inside and outside.
If you're tired of drinking wine (yeah, right...) then stop here to take in some culture and the roaming peacocks, a local favorite!
There's no getting around the fact that wine, vineyards, etc. are an integral part of Napa Valley culture, but we hope we've demonstrated that there's a lot more to do there than JUST drink wine! At the end of the day, though, there are worse things than raising a glass...