How to Spend a Weekend in Napa Valley, California

Napa Valley is the perfect place for a relaxing weekend retreat
Napa Valley is the perfect place for a relaxing weekend retreat | © Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Mandi Keighran

Dive into a weekend in the heart of California’s Wine Country with chic hotels, luxury spas, a history-rich kayak tour and, of course, plenty of fine wine and good food. Read on to discover our favorite hotels, restaurants, bars and activities in Napa Valley.

Where to stay

1. Rancho Caymus Inn

Budget Hotel, Inn

The ranch-style exterior of the Rancho Caymus Inn and its intimate pool area shaded by vines.
Courtesy of Rancho Caymus Inn / Expedia

This historic boutique hotel in the hamlet of Rutherford has some serious design credentials. It was built using materials from a dismantled 19th-century Ohio barn – think exposed beams, custom doors and rustic walnut counters. In the Spanish hacienda-style rooms, you’ll find wrought-iron accents and quirky decorative elements sourced from artisans from across the Americas. To complete the Napa Valley experience, the hotel has partnered with a number of local wineries to offer special packages for guests.

2. Calistoga Motor Lodge

Motel, Inn, Spa Hotel

A spacious vista room with king bed and leather headboard and sliding door to patio at the Calistoga Motor Lodge
Courtesy of Calistoga Motor Lodge / Expedia

Live out your “van life” dreams in luxury at this retro-inspired boutique hotel. The charming Camper guest rooms evoke the feeling of bunking down in an old-school camper van, while the stylish new Vista rooms are inspired by mid-century design icons. Play a friendly game of giant Jenga, cornhole or bocce on the lawn, then luxuriate in one of the three geothermal mineral pools or enjoy a massage at the MoonAcre Spa. If you’re staying in one of the Camper rooms, pets are also welcome.

3. Carneros Resort and Spa

Spa Hotel, Hotel, Winery with Rooms, Luxury

Courtesy of Carneros Resort and Spa / Expedia

Escape to a private cottage or expansive vacation home on this sprawling estate. Each home is designed to be a comfortable base for exploring everything Napa Valley has to offer, although you might find you don’t want to leave the resort. There are three on-site restaurants – including fine farm-to-table dining at FARM – two pools with hot tubs, a luxury spa and a 3,000sqft (280sqm) fitness center. There are also complimentary bicycles so that guests can explore the grounds and surrounding area.

What to do

4. Take in the views from a cable car


Explore Napa Valley on board an open-air trolley that’s a replica of a historic San Francisco cable car. This fun and unique experience lets you take in stunning vineyard views as you make your way to tastings at four wineries, and enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch catered by French-country bistro, the Gin & the Fig. A knowledgeable guide will keep you entertained throughout the day, with insightful commentary about the region and its wines. Pick up and drop off for the tour is from Oxbow Market.

5. Paddle a kayak through Napa Valley


There’s much more to Napa Valley than its world-renowned vineyards – it’s also got a storied history. Explore its rich history and natural beauty on this beginner-friendly kayak tour. As you paddle down the waterways, you’ll spot birds and animals, hear tales of local lore, learn about the first people to settle in the area and see historic buildings. Plus, of course, you’ll find out plenty of interesting facts about the region’s famed wineries. The Napa River Historic Kayak Tour departs from Main Street and lasts around two hours.

6. Go wine tasting


If you’re in Napa Valley, it’s likely you’re there to experience its wine – and this small-group tour takes all the stress out of organizing a day exploring the vineyards. You’ll be picked up from your hotel in a comfortable shuttle bus and visit four different wineries, where you can choose to take part in tastings. Along the way, a guide will offer fascinating commentary about the region. At one of the wineries, you’ll enjoy a picnic lunch complete with a cheese plate. At the end of the day, you’ll be dropped back to your hotel.

Where to eat

7. The French Laundry

Diner, Restaurant, French, Vegetarian, Vegan

Chef Thomas Kellers The French Laundry in Yountville California
© California Dreamin / Alamy Stock Photo

Since it opened in the early 1990s, this fine-dining establishment has become an icon of Napa Valley. The three-Michelin-star restaurant led by chef Thomas Keller is located in a historic river rock and timber cottage that was built as a saloon in 1900, and later served as a French steam laundry. The menu changes daily and features classic French cuisine prepared with carefully sourced ingredients. The signature dish is Oysters and Pearls, a sabayon of pearl tapioca with beau soleil oysters and white sturgeon caviar. Such an iconic dining destination means that snagging a reservation is a definite challenge, and can only be done online here, so make sure to book in advance.

8. Bouchon Bakery

Bakery, Authentic

Bouchon bakery and Bistro in the Napa Velley town of Yountville California a Thomas Keller property
© California Dreamin / Alamy Stock Photo

Thomas Keller also opened Bouchon Bakery in Yountville in 2003 to provide his nearby restaurants – the French Laundry and Bouchon Bistro – with unique breads. Since then, it’s become a popular spot for visitors and locals alike, serving up artisanal breads and classic desserts inspired by Keller’s life in France and artfully produced by pastry chef Nicholas Bonamico. Pick up a sweet treat or a lunchtime quiche and enjoy it in the pretty shaded courtyard. There’s also excellent coffee, thanks to Equator Coffee Roasters.

9. Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin’ BBQ

Bar, Wine Bar, American, Beer

In a region overflowing with excellent wine bars, this Old-West themed bar on First and Main in downtown Napa has been voted Best Wine Bar in Napa Valley five years running. There are more than 400 bottles of wine on the menu, and over 50 wines by the glass and tasting flights. There are also artisan beers and some seriously good BBQ – including the signature Bounty Hunter Beer Can Chicken. Top tip: if you’re looking for a truly exceptional bottle of wine, check out the Holy Grail section of the menu.

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