Napa Valley, California is the perfect location for a girls’ weekend, a romantic getaway, or even a trip with the family. Try out one of these 10 things to do in Napa Valley that are perfect for anyone, even if you don’t drink wine!
Recently I went with four of my blogging besties to visit Napa Valley for our Feed the Soul Retreat. It was everything I wished for, wanted, and didn’t even know I needed until it happened! I wrote more about how much I needed this break when I shared my mom’s on vacation checklist a couple of weeks ago. When we first started talking about meeting and the idea of going to Napa came up, honestly I was a little against the whole thing. All I knew about Napa was that it is wine country. And I don’t drink wine. Or alcohol of any kind for that matter. Learn why here.
But Napa was the best choice for our group so that we were close enough for my friend Cori to get back to her twin babies if an emergency came up. And I’m so glad that’s where we chose because I had no idea how much Napa Valley had to offer other than wine. And there is SO much. These are my top 10 things to do in Napa if you don’t drink wine (or alcohol), but I promise there are so many more I just didn’t get the chance to experience yet.
While many of these experiences were complimentary and were so graciously arranged by Visit Napa Valley, I would wholeheartedly recommend all of these things even if they weren’t. All opinions are 100% honest and my own as always. Thanks to my friends Rebecca and Heidi for sharing their photos and Cori and April for the great video footage!
10 Things to Do in Napa Valley
#1 – Eat all the things.
Napa is known for its wine, but it should be known for its food. I talked a ton about the food in Napa already and so did Heidi in this post on 5 extraordinary places to eat in Napa Valley, so I won’t talk about it again. While everyone else is enjoying their wine, you enjoy all the food you can. You won’t regret it. And if you’re a foodie, you could even take a cooking class at the famous Culinary Institute of America and eat whatever you cook. Or just let the amazing chefs in the area cook for you and save the cooking for when you get home.
#2 – Enjoy Napa from the air.
We had the amazing experience to go on a hot air balloon ride with Napa Valley Aloft and there is nothing better than seeing a city from the air, and when I say air, I mean in a hot air balloon, not on a plane. Aloft was incredibly professional and safe about the whole thing, even made my scared of heights friend Cori feel safe enough to face her fear of hot air balloons and join us.
There are a handful of different companies that provide hot air balloon rides in Napa but pick Aloft and you won’t be disappointed. From the incredible customer service (rescheduling us for Sat when our Fri flight was rained out), to the free included snacks, to our hilarious pilot Jason and his crew, they were everything you want when someone literally has your life in their hands. And the view of Napa from the air, incredible. Nothing like my last experience hot air ballooning over random fields in Philadelphia for my 16th birthday.
#3 – Explore.
We had the chance to stay in two incredible resorts – Calistoga Spa & Hot Springs and Silverado Resort – during our visit and Calistoga was at the top of route 128 and Silverado was kind of at the bottom. Between the two there are a bunch of little towns like St. Helena and Yountville that are all worth taking some time to explore on their own. And that doesn’t even include Calistoga and Napa, where our two resorts were located.
We didn’t have a ton of time to explore but on one of the afternoons we walked up and down main street in Calistoga and in that short time found delicious food, the cutest book store with blind date books, a bunch of boutique shops, and an old train turned into a wine store. And all of that was under an hour of shopping and exploring. Save a day to just explore everything Napa Valley, not just Napa, has to offer.
#4 – Take a ride on the wine train.
Yes, I said Wine Train. But it’s not just a train for drinking wine; it’s only named that because it’s located in wine country. The wine train is this really cool old train that you really ride for the experience, well and the food! It’s super family-friendly and has a non-alcoholic mocktail menu that rivals any I’ve ever seen. I only had the chance to try two of them but the rest looked amazing as well but more on that later. The seats are comfortable, the tables cozy, and the experience well worth the price. And while a lot of attractions that offer food serve mediocre pre-made food, the wine train is the exact opposite. They have chefs in kitchens on the train making gourmet food from scratch while the train is chug chug chugging away. I can attest to this because they made things grain-free for my friend who was eating grain-free in Napa Valley. I told you, eat all the things.
You have a number of different options for riding the wine train: you can just ride the wine train out and back and enjoy a leisurely ride, you can ride the wine train out to a winery and take a bus back, or you can ride the wine train for one of their special events like a Murder Mystery or Easter train ride. Told you it was family-friendly!
We chose to take the wine train out and rather than riding it back, stopped at the Castello di Amorosa, this gorgeous modern day castle that was built to look like an ancient one. From the brickwork to the grand hall, everything about it reminded me of exploring castles in Europe. At the end of the tour, everyone was treated to a wine tasting and while I expected to just hang out and watch, our tour guide surprised me by pulling out bottles of the most amazing grape juice I’ve ever tried. So amazing I even bought a bottle to take home. If you don’t have time to take the wine train, you can still visit the castle on your own, but the wine train is an experience in itself so do them together if you can!
#5 – Drive around and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
We were lucky enough to be provided with a 2016 Kia Sorento to drive for our trip by Kia Motors. I already knew the Kia Sorento makes an amazing car for families but now I can add that the Kia Sorento is perfect for a road trip as well. With tons of room in the trunk for our luggage, electric outlets in the front and back seats to charge our electronics (live tweeting kills battery!), and a navigation system that kept us from getting lost, the Kia Sorento was the perfect car for this trip.
So load into your Kia and drive around. Take a picture in front of the welcome to Napa Valley sign, find some unfenced mustard for gorgeous photos, and enjoy all of the beautiful scenery Napa Valley has to offer.
#6 – Get a mud bath.
Every single time I write or think about mud baths, I still imagine Louis from Suits getting into this chocolate syrup looking mixture in a pristine spa. My experience with mud baths was nothing like that, but it was still an incredible one. Mudding, as Louis calls it, is something I never thought I’d try. People have told me it’s really warm, and I don’t do warm well. But when I saw the mud baths at Calistoga Hot Springs & Spa, I knew I had to try it. I’m all for trying out unique experiences wherever I go, and this was definitely unique.
The mud itself was nothing like the hot chocolate I was imagining, it was more like mud mixed with peet moss and as April put it, felt a little like sitting in cottage cheese. I was thinking more along the lines of jello. And it was warm but not nearly as warm as I thought it would be, definitely not warm enough to make me uncomfortable. After the mud, you jump into a mineral filled bath followed by some time in the sauna, a warm blanket wrap, and a nap. Yes, I said a nap. It was glorious and I would for sure do it again in a heartbeat.
One word of warning, the mud bath experience at Calistoga Spa is not for you if you’re overly concerned about modesty. Everything is done in the nude, and it was a little weird for this girl who is normally ultra-conservative. April and I got extremely close during our mudding experience. So just know that so you’re prepared going into the whole thing. If the mud bath isn’t for you, Calistoga Spa also offers a ton of other spa services as well, just not as unique.
#7 – Soak in some hot springs.
Also at Calistoga Hot Springs & Spa are well, hot springs. Calistoga isn’t just a place to sleep; it’s a place to experience. If you choose to stay there, I recommend giving yourself a full afternoon or evening to enjoy the spa and their variety of hot, warm, and cool geo-thermal hot springs pools, all free to guests. And if you’re not staying at Calistoga, they do offer day guest passes but make sure to call ahead to confirm they have some still available.
The hot springs themselves were a nice bonus on a weekend that hit us with everything California weather has to offer – hot, cold, rain, fog, and even hail. We spent most of our time in the covered pool sipping drinks from the pool side snack shack. The rest of the time we spent in our cute bedroom suites, complete with kitchenettes and gorgeous walk-in showers, perfect for rinsing off after the previously mentioned mud bath. Because you guys, mud gets in everywhere, and I mean everywhere.
#8 – Visit Oxbow Public Market
If you’re a foodie, visit Oxbow Public Market and try everything you can. If you’re not a foodie, it’s still a fun experience but probably not quite as exciting because it’s pretty much all food. We spent an afternoon there trying everything from mini cupcakes from Cupcake Wars’ contestant Kara’s Cupcakes, ice cream from Three Twins, and spices from Whole Spice, a shop that sold more spices and spice mixtures than I’ve seen since the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Right around the corner from the Oxbow Public Market is my recommended eat, Gott’s Roadside Grill, so save room for their burgers and fries if you can!
#9 – Do an olive oil tasting.
Wine isn’t the only thing you can taste test in Napa Valley; olive oil is huge as well. We didn’t have a chance to do this because our trip was so short but at the top of my list for next time is an olive oil tasting. Different flavored olive oils all with yummy bread, I’m so in. A handful of the wineries do olive oil tastings as well or you can check out the other tastings page on Visit Napa Valley for more details.
#10 – Rest and relax.
Unless you live in Napa, I’m guessing you probably are visiting there on vacation. So take the time to really take a vacation. Pick a handful of things to do from the list above and then leave the rest of your time open to enjoy the scenery, spend a morning sipping hot chocolate from the patio in your Silverado Resort guest house, or sleeping in, something I’m sure you don’t get to do often at home. You’re on vacation so make it a vacation.
I may have had the best night of sleep in my life in the Silverado Resort and it’s just not because I was in bed by 10PM. They were kind enough to put us up in one of their three-bedroom guest houses, and it was the perfect location for our retreat. With a full kitchen, a huge dining room table for spreading out our laptops, and a comfortable living room to watch Grease Live together, it was really the perfect place to come home to each night. And the beds, the beds were more comfortable than possibly my bed at home. Oh and if you follow me on Instagram (@playpartyplan), you probably know that they clean their shower doors really well too; I’ll let you check out this post to see how I know that.
There is so much more to Napa Valley than wine. This is just a short list of the things you can do there even if you don’t drink alcohol; this list from Visit Napa Valley and this post of things to do in Napa have even more great options. So if you’re looking for a vacation spot in the U.S. that’s perfect for a girls’ weekend, look no further than the beautiful Napa Valley. You can enjoy a quick glimpse of our trip in this fun video documenting our getaway.
Where to Stay in Napa Valley:
Calistoga Spa & Hot Springs | Calistoga, CA | 866-822-5772
Silverado Resort | Napa Valley, CA | 800-532-0500
Things to Do in Napa Valley:
Oxbow Public Market | 707-226-6529