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Your guide to Napa County
All About Napa County
Even if you’ve never uncorked a bottle of cabernet, chances are you’ve heard of Napa County. The valley contained within this fertile swath of rolling farmland an hour north of San Francisco is only 30 miles long and five miles wide, yet it holds near mythical stature in the American consciousness. Folks have been making wine here since the Gold Rush, and indeed fermented grape juice remains the biggest draw. The valley is home to 400 wineries — big and small, homespun and state-of-the-art — and welcomes nearly four million annual visitors thirsty for a taste of its bounty.
But Napa County is not all sipping and swirling. Some of Northern California’s best parks, lakes, and small country towns lie within its borders. The region's main city, Napa, was built on a river in the southern part of the county and features 19th-century architecture and Queen Anne mansions along its waterfront. Behind the ancient oaks of the Vaca Mountains, Lake Berryessa glimmers with 165 miles of shoreline and one of the world’s biggest glory holes. And all along Highway 29 you’ll find farm stands, burger shacks, and some of the best fine-dining restaurants.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Napa County
The most popular time to visit is late spring to early fall. Every March there’s a festival where live music is enhanced with food tastings and demonstrations led by celebrity chefs. Throughout the summer, there are summer concert series in Napa, Calistoga, and St. Helena throughout the summer. Fall harvest is full of activity, as the beauty of rolling hills alight with turning grape leaves in yellow, crimson, and red.
Winter can be more solemn, but is also a great time to spend long evenings drinking a lovely glass of Napa cabernet alongside a cozy fireplace at your Napa Valley villa. There are also some wonderful events this time of year, such as the nine-day lighted art festival and the Truffle Festival which is a four-day celebration of the rare black truffle, with classes, tastings, and wine pairings.
Top things to do in Napa County
Constructed in 1852 as the first permanent road linking the 30 miles between the towns of Calistoga and Napa, this scenic two-lane country road, lined by world-class vineyards, is quintessential Napa Valley. Running parallel to State Highway 29, the Silverado Trail is quieter and more relaxing than the better-known Highway 29. You can visit all sorts of wineries off the Silverado Trail, each with its own style and personality, and taste everything from big-bodied cabernet sauvignon to late-harvest riesling.
Napa Valley Museum
Located in the historic town of Yountville, which is between St. Helena and Napa, Napa Valley Museum was founded in 1972 with the mission to inform visitors of the heritage of the region, and celebrate Napa Valley’s history, environment, and culture. This colorful building was designed by local architects and houses exhibitions by county artists. You’ll learn how the area’s unique geological makeup brought about the booming wine industry, and there is an interactive exhibit downstairs that demonstrates the winemaking process from planting to bottling.
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
In the heart of the Napa Valley, Bothe-Napa Valley State Park offers nearly 2,000 acres of natural beauty. Pay a visit to Ritchey Canyon via the fern-filled Redwood Trail, walk through towering redwood forests, or hike up steep volcanic ash cliffs. Camping is big here, and there’s also a spring-fed swimming pool in which to cool off during the hot summer months.