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
Photo of Mandi Keighran
12 November 2020

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

Rancho Caymus Inn

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.

Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Outdoor pool
In-room accessibility
Concierge services
24-hour front desk
Terrace
Smoke-free property

Calistoga Motor Lodge

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.

Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Full-service spa
Concierge services
Multilingual staff
Smoke-free property

Carneros Resort and Spa

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.

Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Breakfast available (surcharge)
In-room accessibility
Full-service spa
Wheelchair accessible (may have limitations)
Express check-out
Conference space
Concierge services
24-hour front desk
Limo or Town Car service available
Dry cleaning/laundry service
Terrace

What to do

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  • ToursTake in the views from a cable car
    From $108 per person
    6 hours
    4.5 (46)

    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.

    ToursPaddle a kayak through Napa Valley
    From $59 per person
    2 hours
    5 (6)

    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.

    ToursGo wine tasting
    From $130 per person
    6 hours 30 minutes
    4.9 (21)

    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

    The French Laundry

    Diner, Restaurant, French, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
    Map View
    Chef Thomas Keller's 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.

    Bouchon Bakery

    Bakery, Authentic, $$$
    Map View
    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.

    Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin’ BBQ

    Bar, Wine Bar, American, Beer, $$$
    Map View
    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.
    These recommendations were updated on November 12, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.