The Perfect Day in Napa Valley

It’s hard to have a bad day in the Napa Valley with its award-winning wineries, Michelin-starred restaurants, bucolic scenery, and charming little towns. Find your bliss while sipping at a wine-tasting, indulging in at least one farm-to-table dining experiences, and taking a spin through one of the region’s food halls, like Oxbow Public Market or the many culinary-minded general stores or groceries. Don’t neglect the parks, trails, and glorious views: a bike ride or a stroll along a ridge to see the expansive green fields and the rolling hills.

4048 Sonoma Hwy, Napa, CA 94559, USA
When you tell your friends that you’re headed here, everyone will chime in about the dish that you have to get. ‘Make sure you try the smoked salmon flatbread!’ ‘The burger, be sure to get the burger’.’ ‘The donuts! You have to get the donuts!’ It’s good to know that with breakfast, brunch or lunch, they don’t take reservations. Be prepared to possibly wait and hang out on the porch swings or hang out at the bocce courts and play a while (they’re about a 10-minute walk from Boon Fly). With dinner, they do take reservations and I’d encourage you to get those well-ahead. If you’ve had a big bike ride in nearby Napa Valley or are headed in to downtown Napa for a concert or event, Boon Fly Cafe is just 5 miles away and will leave you with your belly full and happy.
610 1st St, Napa, CA 94559, USA
Oxbow Public Market gives an excellent introduction to the food and atmosphere of Northern California. The market supports sustainable, local agriculture and production. There are many shops and food purveyors, mostly casual offerings where you pick up your food and find a table, but there are also some sit-down restaurants. The choices all highlight food from the region and include multi-ethnic California cuisine, fresh oysters, organic gourmet ice cream, artisan cheeses, Napa Valley wines, and local olive oil. When the weather is nice, sit on the back terrace that overlooks the Napa River. Oxbow also makes a great place to buy gifts—try Anette’s Chocolates and the Olive Press for distinctive local products that you can take home to friends and family. A wonderful farmers market takes place next to Oxbow on Saturdays from May 1-Oct. 31 from 7:30 a.m. to noon.
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.
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.
8815 Conn Creek Rd, Rutherford, CA 94573, USA
Before there can be quality wine, or even quality grapes, there needs to be quality dirt. Frog’s Leap Winery is located in one of the most coveted patches of dirt in the Napa Valley — Rutherford. Which is why, when you visit, owner John Williams starts the tour by sticking a shovel in the earth. Dry farmed (no irrigation) and 100 percent organic, the winery is a fully sustainable oasis complete with bees, chickens, and vegetable and flower gardens (they sell what the family and workers don’t eat at local farmers’ markets). The two-hour tour, during which you will learn all about grape farming, concludes with one of the more remarkable tastings in the valley. Overlooking the well-cared-for gardens and vineyards, you feel that you can taste the terroir in their sauvignon blanc, zinfandel, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon. Schedule your tour in the late afternoon so you can bask in the setting sun.
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.
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.
2800 Main Street
Krug is an important winery for a couple of reasons: Founded in 1872, it is one of the oldest wineries in Napa Valley and it is here that Robert and Peter Mondavi had their infamous disagreement that led to Robert leaving and starting his eponymous winery. Peter and Robert’s parents, Rosa and Cesare Mondavi, originally made their money shipping zinfandel grapes to other Italian immigrants on the East Coast during Prohibition. In 1943, with the money they made, they purchased Krug. The Mondavi family recently renovated the original redwood cellar—lining the walls with staves from the original redwood casks. Now one of the oldest family-owned wine companies in Napa Valley, Krug and its line of C. Mondavi wines is a must visit.
1245 Spring St, St Helena, CA 94574, USA
In St. Helena, what was once Martini House is now a fun new restaurant called Goose & Gander. Go on a warm Friday night, ask for a table outside under the big oak tree, and order this Coastal Pimm’s Cup cocktail, made with St. George Terroir gin, Bay Laurel leaves, and edible flowers. Pair it with the pork belly wedge or the G&G burger, and you will leave happy and satisfied.
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