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If you’re in Napa, chances are you’re here for one thing: wine. The region is synonymous with viticulture worldwide, and every year millions of visitors flock to the Napa Valley, where lush rows of grapevines line the sun-dappled hills. Napa, studded with Victorian mansions and bordered by the picturesque Napa River, is the county’s largest city. Home to more than a hundred wineries, this town is a cushy base from which to explore the rest of the valley. Boutiques and restaurants cluster around buzzy First Street in Napa’s chic downtown, where visitors enjoy rooftop drinks with mountain views. You’ll find more than twenty tasting rooms here, but also first-class dining. Napa has emerged as a foodie mecca, with award-winning restaurants that leverage the region’s agricultural largesse with farm-to-table menus. If you need to walk off some of that food and drink, take a stroll on the town’s pretty river walk, which twinkles with lights in the evening.
Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma Airport (STS) is the closest to Napa, at about an hour’s drive away. Public buses, shuttles, taxis, rideshares, and rental cars are all available at the airport. A rental car may be the best option for sightseeing throughout the Napa Valley; however, if your group intends to taste the local tipples, there are numerous tours, shuttles, and even the Napa Valley Wine Train to transport you to nearby wineries. Downtown Napa is pedestrian friendly, and rideshares and cabs are available.
Summer and early fall are gorgeous, with long, warm days perfectly suited for sitting in a warm vineyard with a glass of wine. Every July, Festival Napa Valley brings world-class musicians to town for free performances at partner wineries. Summertime also marks the return of the music, food, and wine festival Huichica, which brings a variety of indie rock bands to the grassy amphitheater of a nearby winery in Sonoma. Warm temperatures also mean popular spots getting booked quickly. August through October is the crush season in Napa, when wine crops are harvested, and the valley hums with activity. Winter and spring are cooler and quieter, making it a perfect time for the crowd-averse to visit. Winter also brings the Napa Valley Film Festival in November, which showcases independent cinema with screenings at the Art Deco Uptown Theatre.
You can soak up culture of more than just the vinti-variety here. Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, located on 217 scenic acres, features an impressive collection of work by California artists as well as a meandering sculpture garden.
You can get a taste of pretty much everything Napa county has to offer at this 40,000-square-foot complex of specialty shops and restaurants. Organic ice cream, insanely fresh oysters, juicy burgers, and decadent baked goods are just the beginning here, where the emphasis is on seasonal, fresh fare. Come hungry.
Summers in Napa are often hot and dry, so there’s no better way to refresh yourself than by jumping in nearby Lake Berryessa. With water temperatures that can exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit during sunny months, this is no ice bath, but locals and visitors alike flock to this 26-mile-wide, three-mile-long federal reservoir to wade, float, fish, and swim — competitively or otherwise. (Lake Berryessa hosts one of the longest-running open-water swims in the country.) The lake is only 45 minutes from Napa and hosts two free day use public areas, Oak Shores and Smittle Creek, which have picnic tables, BBQ grills, and hiking trails.