A First Timers Guide To Napa Valley

Napa Valley is a bucket-list trip for many, and for good reason. The vine covered hills, farm to table restaurants, and the exceptional wine. It’s elegant and just the right amount of indulgent. We created this guide with our favorite places to stay, eat and indulge, but there is still so much for us to see and discover!

When to Visit

There really is no bad time of year to visit – it’s great all year but each season offers something slightly different. The high season is typically between late spring through late fall, with a peak in late summer. In the summer you’ll be treated to brilliant sunny days and warm temps. Winter is considered the quiet season. During the winter you’ll find lower hotel prices and less crowds. In winter the weather can be damp and cold, but it’s the perfect excuse to curl up with a glass of red next to the fireplace.

Getting There

The easiest and likely most expensive way to get to Napa is the fly directly into their airport, Napa County Airport, from there you would need to hire a driver to take you into town as they do not have car rental options. The most cost-effective way would be to fly into San Francisco International Airport (SFO) or Oakland International Airport (OAK). From these two airports you can rent a car and drive to Napa Valley and the drive will take you about an hour fifteen to an hour and half depending on the airport. Please keep in mind that if you are traveling during the city rush hour this could take much longer, so plan your flights accordingly to save yourself the headache!

Where to Stay

  1. Silverado Resort – We stayed here the last time we came with a group of friends and the Villas were perfect for us. We ended up with their three-bedroom suite that has a common area and kitchen in it with golf course views. This is the perfect place to keep your group together while still being close to everything and having a great restaurant and bar on property. We would cap off our wine tasting day with a glass of their rosé on their outside patio of the main building, super relaxing and great views all around!
  2. Napa River Inn – This hotel is right on the Napa River and within walking distance of downtown. It has a slightly older feel, but the rooms are a great size and the concierge and hospitality the best I’ve ever had in the US. You also get dining credit at Sweetie Pies for the mornings which makes this a no brainer for smaller groups or couples. We recommend springing the extra money for their deluxe rooms to get the balcony and river views, it’s so incredibly relaxing. Bonus points to this hotel as some rooms you can even bring your puppy!
  3. The Archer – If you’re looking for a trendy New York style hotel then this is the hotel for you. This hotel has a younger vibe to it but fair warning the rooms are on the smaller side. Like other Archer Hotels the finishes are beautiful, it is only a few years old so needless to say it is super clean and the rooms have all up to date technology.
  4. Andaz – Upscale hotel that has a bunch of different room types and suites. If you enjoy a nice soaking tub this is the hotel for you as their suites come equipped with soaking tubs for your enjoyment as well as floor to ceiling windows really allowing for natural light. The rooms have a beautifully airy feeling to them and depending on the type of room your book can be quite spacious!

Getting Around

When wine tasting in Napa we would recommend hiring a driver either black car or sprinter van to get from winery to winery. The reason for this is that depending on the winery that you are at your cell service may be shotty; but if you’re staying on the main drag Uber would likely be a great and cheaper option.

As far as places we recommend to do car service or sprinter van we have had amazing experiences with Perata Luxury Tours – you can either pick your own wineries and set up your appointments or they can choose them for you. We used their luxury limo van and had Todd Chase as our driver, if you’re going to use them request him!!! He was the absolute best and made our trip so much fun. The luxury limo van was on the newer side, super clean and all the electronics worked without any issues (you’d be surprised how often this can be an issue, but this was fantastic). It also came fully stocked with waters keeping you hydrated all day long 🙂

For the rest of your day getting about town Uber and Lift are both great options – we’re sure you do this already but make sure you price them against each other because their prices can vary significantly from each other for the same ride.

Where to Eat

  1. Sweetie Pies Bakery – make this your first stop of the day for breakfast everyday – no exceptions lol. This is a great spot to load up on snacks for throughout the day, which you will certainly need. Their s’mores sandwich and lemon lavender cookie are HIGHLY recommended snacks, they don’t have them every day but if you’re lucky you’ll be able to snag one up.
  2. Rutherfords Grill – You don’t even need to look at the menu, get the french dip sandwich! True testimony from View and Vintage’s Christiane “I dream about that sandwich, and I didn’t even order it. I ate my Husbands!” It’s honestly that good.
  3. V. Sattui – Grab a sandwich from their deli and bottle of wine from the market for a picnic lunch! You can either picnic there on site or bring it to your next winery visit (just make sure they allow for outside food; we’ve found out the hard way that some wineries up here do not…)
  4. R+D Kitchen – Same owners of Rutherfords grill, their Carnitas sandwich is ridiculous – you think the French dip at Rutherfords is good wait until you try this.
  5. Celadon – For a classier dinner that won’t break the bank! Their pork chops are mouthwatering good as are their pasta and seafood dishes, everything on this menu is crafted and cooked to perfection.
  6. French Laundry – Has been said to be the best restaurant in the world by Anthony Bourdain. We have not been (reservations are notoriously hard to get), but it’s on our bucket list! They do let reservations out a few months in advance so if you’re wanting to try this restaurant be sure to give them a call to set it up as soon as you know your trip dates. As a side note – this is a very high-end restaurant and price point wise will cost you a few hundred per person.

Where to Grab a Drink (not at a winery)

  1. Restoration Hardware – Fine-dining, wine-tasting, and gallery all in one, this place is truly a can’t miss experience! Grab a drink in one of their trellised seating sections before heading to dinner.
  2. Sky and Vine Rooftop Bar – This is on top of the Archer hotel and it has beautiful tree line views as well as views of downtown Napa. It gives almost a laid-back feel with a younger more casual crowd and a few fire pits that you and your group can relax by while you enjoy your drinks. Make sure you try one of their signature cocktails, it won’t disappoint!

Wineries to Visit

Now comes the fun part of planning, picking the wineries to visit!

Check out our guide to Sparkling Wine in Napa, and A Weekend in Napa for a few winery suggestions.

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