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Your guide to Napa Valley
All About Napa Valley
Ever since the famous Judgment of Paris in 1976, when American bottles beat out legendary French vintages in a blind tasting, Napa Valley has been a major player in the wine universe. Located 50 miles northwest of San Francisco, the valley is small by wine country standards — just 30 miles long — but with hundreds of wineries and tasting rooms, not to mention parks, lakes, museums, and some of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the world, it can seem impenetrable. Set in the valley’s northernmost tip, the town of Calistoga is home to an array of thermal springs, hiking trails, a petrified forest, and grand architecture, including a historic chateau built in 1888 and a medieval-style Tuscan castle.
As you make your way south, you’ll find St. Helena, the birthplace of Napa Valley’s first winery and the heart of the valley with its tidy main street, farm-to-table restaurants, and art galleries. The area’s creativity is on full display at local art institutions such as the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art and the Napa Valley Museum Yountville. And the Rail Arts District showcasing murals from global artists runs two miles along the Napa Valley Vine Trail in downtown Napa, with lots of detours in which to sample a glass of the valley’s masterpiece, cabernet sauvignon.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Napa Valley
One of the best times to visit Napa Valley is during the harvest season, from August through October. Foliage adorns the rolling vineyards, valleys, and vistas in shades of gold, crimson, and orange, creating an exceptional backdrop to the region’s lively grape-gathering. A film festival occurs in November and offers an immersive experience that includes wine, food, and film-screening opportunities at unique venues throughout the area.
Following that are the twinkling lights and holiday-inspired festivities that animate Napa during the winter. Many wineries offer holiday open-houses and specials on wine during this time. You may even want to hop aboard the Napa Valley Wine Trolley for a light holiday adventure. Spring brings balmy weather, yellow mustard flowers, and blooming fruit trees, including plum, apple, apricot, and quince, which ornament the vast landscapes. And summer follows with warm temperatures, local farmers’ markets, and optimal weather for enjoying outdoor recreational activities.
Top things to do in Napa Valley
Napa Art Walk
The Napa Art Walk is a biannual, rotating exhibition displaying carefully curated sculptures representing a specific theme and created by artists from the western states. The outdoor museum meanders through downtown Napa. Stop by the Napa Valley Welcome Center for a complimentary map of the art walk. You can also download a self-guided audio tour for some backstory on the artists and the inspiration behind their work.
Oxbow Public Market
Indulge your taste buds with a trip to the Oxbow Public Market, located in the Oxbow District of Napa. The market encompasses 40,000 square feet and features an array of delicacies, fresh local produce, and artisanal products, like chocolates, regional cheeses, and spices. You can pick up some treats to enjoy on the outdoor deck overlooking the scenic Napa River.
Old Faithful Geyser
In Calistoga, at the northern edge of Napa Valley, you’ll find the Old Faithful Geyser. Deemed one of three faithful geysers in the world, it dramatically blows off steam every 15 to 30 minutes, and when the sunlight catches its water's mist, a rainbow shines through it.