The Top Things to See and Do in Napa, California

Get an awe inspiring birds-eye view of Napa Valleys vineyards of from a hot air balloon
Get an awe inspiring bird's-eye view of Napa Valleys vineyards of from a hot air balloon | © Caroline Commins / Alamy Stock Photo
Natalie Savio

The beautiful city of Napa is known as the heart of California’s Wine Country because of its world-renowned wineries. However, there’s so much more than just wine tastings here – think paddle boarding on Napa River and hot air ballon rides above Napa Valley. Here is our guide on the top things to do and see in the area.

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Napa Valley Wine Train

The Napa Valley Wine Train is probably one of the more touristic attractions in Napa, but it’s still a wonderful experience. This historic train has been restored so that it can offer a scenic tour of Napa while also serving American cuisine on board. In addition to stops at various wineries, the train also offers day tours, romantic night tours, holiday tours and even murder mystery tours.

Napa Valley Paddle

Napa Valley Paddle provides paddle-boarding tours along the calm Napa River – no previous experience is required. The Living River Tour starts where fresh and salt water mix in the Napa River, guests continue to paddle upstream to see downtown Napa from the waters edge, glide under four bridges, and more. There are three different locations you can choose to paddle from depending on what you prefer. At the end, Napa Valley Paddle shuttles you back to the start. With four seasons of paddle-board tours under its belt, Napa Valley Paddle is experienced, entertaining and safe.

Balloons Above the Valley

Balloons Above the Valley offers hot air balloon rides above Napa Valley, providing a panoramic view of the beautiful vineyards below. Before the ride, you can enjoy coffee and pastries, and after the journey, you can celebrate with a champagne brunch and discuss your bird’s-eye experience. The hot air balloons used by Balloons Above the Valley are the largest in America.

Napa Valley Vine Trail

The Napa Valley Vine Trail is an ambitious project hoping to create a 47-mile (75km) walking and biking trail that will stretch across Napa Valley from Vallejo in the south to Calistoga in the north. The main section that can currently be enjoyed is a 12-mile (19km) segment from south of the city of Napa up to Yountville, a hotspot for foodies.

Oxbow Public Market

Open daily from 7:30am ‐ 9:30pm (though hours vary for individual merchants), the Oxbow Public Market is a free market in downtown Napa that sells everything from organic produce to fish to olive oil and cheese. However, the Oxbow Public Market is more than just a market – customers can browse through furniture and other collectibles, listen to live music, eat at local restaurants, watch cooking demos and participate in wine and beer tastings.

Playground Fantastico

For locals or families traveling with children, Playground Fantastico is a perfect spot to spend an afternoon. Built in 2002 by the Napa Valley Education Foundation, this fantastic playground has a castle theme with several play houses, musical instruments, a sand pit with animal statues, a wooden fort and a climbing wall. There are picnic tables nearby and two sides to the playground – one for younger kids and one for older kids. The San Francisco Chronicle named Playground Fantastico one of the “Best Playgrounds in the Bay Area.”

Napa Valley Opera House

Located in downtown Napa, the Napa Valley Opera House is a historic landmark built in 1879. The opera house is a non-profit performing arts center that provides theatrical entertainment in an intimate and comfortable setting. The opera house also allows other organizations to use the space for events, like concerts, plays, educational school programs and lectures.

Connolly Ranch

Another good spot for those traveling with kids, Connolly Ranch is an educational farm that teaches children about farm life, animals, sustainability, healthy foods and the wonders of nature, hosting thousands of students each year on school programs, camps and field trips. Connolly Ranch also holds single-day and night events, like their family day program perfect for young children. On the first Wednesday of each month, the ranch is open to anyone who wants to come in and enjoy the great outdoors.

Skyline Wilderness Park

The 850-acre (344ha) Skyline Wilderness Park is great for hiking, biking, camping and horseback riding, and you can also stroll through the native plant garden that houses over 25 miles (40km) of trails. There are picnic and barbecue areas, camping areas and an RV park. There is a fee to access the park, which is full of wildlife like deer and turkeys. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed.

Wineries

Napa Valley isn’t known as Wine Country for nothing – there is obviously an array of excellent wineries to choose from. A few of the wineries you can visit are Artesa Vineyards & Winery, Chimney Rock Winery, Domaine Carneros, the Hess Collection Winery, Twenty Rows, William Hill Estate Winery and many more.

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