Napa’s Top Attractions

California’s wine country has more than vineyards and wineries going for it. It’s a region rich in natural landscapes, cultural sites, and buzzy downtowns, making it an incredible destination for all.

3801 St. Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515, USA
Situated on the east side of the Mayacamas Mountains between Calistoga and St. Helena, the 1,900-acre Bothe–Napa Valley State Park offers something that’s otherwise hard to find in the valley: open space. The park features miles of hiking and walking trails to explore, but the most popular thoroughfare is the Redwood Trail, which winds 1.5 miles along the ridgeline of Ritchey Canyon and brings hikers face-to-face with tiny ferns and towering Douglas firs along the way. The park also boasts a picnic ground that’s open year round; it’s a great spot to eat sandwiches and sample a bottle of cabernet or pinot noir from one of the nearby tasting rooms. In summer, Bothe–Napa Valley opens a spring-fed swimming pool shaded by mature trees. Also, don’t miss the “Native American Plant Garden, Wappo People” trail, next to the Visitors Center, which displays some of the plants still used today for ceremonies, food, medicine, and basket-weaving.
3141 Browns Valley Rd, Napa, CA 94558, USA
Founded in 1917, Connolly Ranch, located just minutes from downtown Napa, is a teaching farm that operates day camps, field trips, after-school programs, and weekly classes. It’s a place where locals and visitors alike can come to get a sense of the challenges associated with viticulture, agriculture, and raising livestock. The ranch is open to the public on the first Wednesday of the month, as well for Little Farmers class on the second Saturday of every month and Farm Fridays, with programs geared toward families and younger kids who learn about animals, gardening, and other important elements of farm life. Visitors can sign up for these programs, but you have to make reservations in advance.
When completed, the Napa Valley Vine Trail will be a 47-mile-long walking and cycling path that will run the length of the valley from Vallejo’s Ferry Terminal to Calistoga at the foot of Mount St. Helena. For now, however, the completed section runs 12.5 miles mostly along Highway 29, between Kennedy Park in downtown Napa and Yountville. The bulk of this first stretch opened in 2016, and the nonprofit charged with raising money for the trail’s development had enough scratch left over to plant 300 trees that will eventually shade the walkers and cyclists, and to build rest-stop shelters and bike-repair stations along the way. This portion of trail rolls past a half-dozen wineries, if you’re looking to drink and ride, while the other nine sections are expected to open in phases through 2020.
1311 Washington St, Calistoga, CA 94515, USA
The colorful history of Calistoga is front and center at the modest Sharpsteen Museum, whose exhibits cover the town’s founding up to the early 20th century, including its time as a hot springs resort in the 1860s, and extensive dioramas show the town as it was then. The developer was Samuel Brannan, California’s first millionaire, a well-known man of many trades and an entrepreneur. One of the exhibits also spotlights Robert Louis Stevenson’s time in town. He spent the summer of 1880 living in an old mining cabin up on Mount St. Helena and wrote about the experience in the book The Silverado Squatters. Other exhibits include a simulated 1860s-era barn, a restored stagecoach, and a model of the Napa Valley Railroad. The facility is notably low tech, but that’s part of its appeal. Allow at least an hour for the full experience.
835 Charter Oak Ave, St Helena, CA 94574, USA
From the outside, the Napa Valley Olive Oil Company looks more like a ramshackle barn than a thriving business. Of course that’s the appeal of the St. Helena hot spot: While everything else in town has gussied up over the years, this place has remained true to its workmanlike roots. The Olive Oil Company has existed in the same spot since 1931; today the Particelli family owns and operates it as a full-fledged Italian grocery with cured meats, cheeses, breads, and more. As the name suggests, however, the main attraction is olive oil, and the company sells that by the jugful. All told, the place sells 20 different oils, each a blend of different olives, some including other flavors such as lemon, garlic, chili, and basil. The store sells 20 different balsamic vinegars as well.
1490 Library Ln, St. Helena, CA 94574, USA
Author Robert Louis Stevenson’s connection to Napa Valley is celebrated at the eponymous museum, a modest building near the public library on the outskirts of St. Helena, and highlights the summer he spent squatting in an abandoned cabin on Mount St. Helena in Calistoga. This history, as well as a permanent exhibit that features all sorts of Stevenson memorabilia—including original manuscripts, books, photos, paintings, and other mementos—is on view at the museum. Much of the exhibits are composed of the personal collections of Norman H. Strouse, a Stevenson fan who started the museum in 1969, and of the author’s heirs.
1299 Tubbs Lane
No, this isn’t the Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. But it is a naturally occurring geyser powered by a subterranean volcano, and it does go off every 20 to 30 minutes without fail, making it, you guessed it, old and faithful. The spectacle that is the Old Faithful Geyser of California is located at the far north end of Calistoga and draws a good number of visitors who think they’re coming to see the iconic geyser by the same name. Thankfully, few of these people leave disappointed, as owners of the six-acre parcel have built up quite an attraction. In between blasts, watch goats at the farm, play bocce on the neatly manicured courts, or stroll through the peaceful gardens. Old Faithful Geyser of California also boasts a picnic area, a gift shop, and a modest geology museum.
700 Main St. Napa, CA 94559, USA
The folks at Napa Valley Paddle don’t care how you decide to explore the Napa River and surrounding estuary—so long as you’re paddling. With this in mind, the outfitter offers just as many stand-up paddleboards as it does kayaks. Visitors can rent by the hour, day, or week, or sign up for guided tours that blend history, fitness, and a new perspective on Napa and San Pablo Bay. Of the tour options, some of the most popular are the two-hour excursions that leave right from the docks in downtown Napa and head up and down the Napa River for an introduction to the region. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot river otters. All rentals and tours include personal flotation devices. Reservations are recommended.
500 1st St, Napa, CA 94559, USA
The Culinary Institute of America opened in the former Copia building in 2017, and, in doing so, resuscitated a vision of a foodie attraction in downtown Napa that celebrates the valley’s long and colorful epicurean history. The facility, originally built by the Mondavi family as a food and wine center, now operates as a cooking school and gastrohub, complete with classes, tasting experiences, panel discussions, and art collections. There’s also a restaurant where visitors can dine on food prepared by CIA student chefs-in-training, and a store that rivals Sur La Table for its selection of kitchenware. In spring and summer, be sure to stroll the culinary gardens, which are so large they stretch across First Street.
100 Rapp Ln, Napa, CA 94558, USA
Open-to-the-public horseback riding is hard to find in Napa Valley, but this outfitter based out of Shadybrook Estate, just east of Napa, fills the need. It offers 30- or 50-minute tours of Rapp Ranch Estate, a sprawling vineyard and parcel in the hills of Coombsville. All tours from Napa Valley Trail Rides are guided, and they’re geared for visitors with no riding experience at all. Depending on the tour you book, the ride might include lunch and a wine-tasting afterward. One thing is certain: You’d be hard-pressed to find a wine tour like this one.
The Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area represents more than 15,000 acres of tidal sloughs, baylands, and wetland habitats that serve as resting points for migrating birds and are home to hundreds of waterfowl and other creatures on the edge of San Pablo Bay. Because of its vast size, there are many spots from which to experience the area. Some of the more popular portions are the Napa River, Huichica Creek, and White Slough down by American Canyon. The best way to explore the marshes is by kayak or boat; the public boat ramp at Cuttings Wharf south of Napa is the most accessible place to launch.
1507 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga, CA 94515, USA
Calistoga’s most storied mineral baths are the centerpiece of what has become Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort, fittingly named after a chiropractor from San Francisco. Most visitors still come for the day spa, which is split into two sides, one for men and the other for women. Options for both include mud baths (in a mix of volcanic ash, hot spring water, and peat moss), mineral-water whirlpool tubs, mineral steam rooms, blanket wraps, and massages. Then, of course, there’s “the Works,” a signature treatment that combines all of these into one. This treatment used to cost less than $5 back in 1952, when Dr. John Wilkinson opened the place. Rumor has it that since then, all that’s changed is the price.
1365 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga, CA 94515, USA
The tiny boutique Catch is the Calistoga concept store for Toss Designs, a San Francisco–based manufacturer of totes, travel bags, clothing, and accessories. Toss makes its own fabric, and the designs are completely unique—unicorns, puppies, champagne bottles. Its well-designed rolling duffels, totes, and cosmetic bags come in unconventional color combinations, sizes, and shapes. The bags are good for everything from cross-country flights to half-day excursions to the Sonoma Coast. Catch Calistoga brings in new products every season, which means the shop often offers end-of-season sales.
1821 Monticello Rd, Napa, CA 94558, USA
Napa Valley artist Gordon Huether has become famous for his large-scale sculptures and works of public art made of metal and glass. In recent years, he has “downsized,” focusing on smaller-size projects with fine detail. His design studio, gallery, and fabrication facilities are in the Hay Barn, which is open to the public for self-guided tours Monday through Friday. All visitors are guaranteed a peek at some of Huether’s work: a giant hand holding a (giant) ping-pong ball or a mountain of chairs. Depending on when you visit, you also might see Huether and his team fabricating pieces for an upcoming installation.
1227 1st St, Napa, CA 94559, USA
The Mustard Seed Clothing Company in downtown Napa specializes in lines that are both stylish and sharp—clothes from designers such as Joseph Ribkoff, Habitat, and Sympli. Owner Barbara Wiggins prides herself on having pieces that would satisfy a range of budgets. Mustard Seed also stocks casual and chic jewelry and accessories, such as belts, handbags, scarves, and (limited) footwear. There’s a “guy chair” for men accompanying women into the store, and staff members usually will pour a glass of wine for those who wait.
Napa, CA, USA
Dunn-Wildlake Ranch Preserve is part of the expanse of land on the east side of Napa Valley, owned by the Land Trust of Napa County. While most of the trust’s land is closed to the public, portions of Dunn-Wildlake (and another parcel, named the Duff Ranch Preserve) are open to guided hikes throughout the year for those who have completed an orientation. Trail systems across Dunn-Wildlake climb to some of the highest points in the Vaca Mountains. From the top, the view is spectacular: On a clear day, you can see all the way down to the San Francisco Bay and spot the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge spires in the distance.
2485 Stockton St, Napa, CA 94559, USA
There are two ways to experience Napa Valley Distillery, the only distillery in the city of Napa since Prohibition. The first is to swing by the distillery’s booth at the Oxbow Public Market, where you can taste products such as smoked fir bitters and plum brandy, and shop for vintage bar tools. The other is to book a tour and tasting at the company’s distilling facility on Stockton Street. Tours at the mother ship last about an hour, and they include a crash course in the art and science of distilling, a brief history lesson, and a session at a tiki-style tasting bar. Napa Valley Distillery doesn’t only make high-proof alcohol but also artisan cocktail bitters, syrups, and shrubs. The main distillery is closed to the public on Wednesdays.
1009 Caymus St, Napa, CA 94559, USA
Cats are the stars of the show at Ella’s CatHouse & Catnip Bar, a cage-free, no-kill adoption center on Caymus Street in downtown Napa. The cat café is open to the public, meaning visitors can come in and hang out with the animals for a while and bond. The facility is owned and operated by Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch, a nonprofit that rescues and rehabilitates hurt or abandoned animals from all over the region, and for locals and those in the Bay Area, adoptions are available. According to organizers, up to 15 cats may be padding around the CatHouse at any given time. Group sizes are limited to four people at a time, and a maximum of two children are allowed during any hourlong session. If you want to come at a specific time, reservations are suggested.
1924 Yajome St, Napa, CA 94559, USA
Some of the best beans in the country can be found in downtown Napa at Rancho Gordo which sells heirloom and organic beans, as well as corn, grains, and herbs, all native to North and Central America. A retail store in a warehouse on the north end of town gives visitors a chance to get up close and personal with the beans, the operation, and the history of how the company got started. The store has limited hours, Monday through Saturday, but is well worth the trip. First, guests can see the beans for themselves. Second, the shop has an incredible collection of Mexican movie posters from the 1930s to the 1950s. Finally, bean lovers also can shop for clay pots, wooden spoons, and chilies and hot sauces to complete their bean experience. Visitors to the shop can also learn all about Rancho Gordo’s partnership with a group of small farmers in Mexico; these growers produce rare, heirloom beans, as well as heirloom corn, salt, oregano, and chocolate.
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