Are you considering visiting the world famous Napa Valley? Here are 7 Surprising Things to Do in Napa Valley That Have Nothing to Do with Wine. Maybe you’re not much of a wine drinker, but your partner insists that you two take a Napa Valley wine tour. Or perhaps you’re planning an extended stay in Napa and need something to do other than just tour vineyards and attend wine tastings. Fortunately, Napa isn’t just about wine! There are numerous other things to see and do, and whether you’re a city slicker or a country bumpkin, there’s lots to see and do that have nothing to do with grapes or wine or anything alcoholic at all. Here are some of your options …
1. Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Whether you’re in the mood to camp, hike, kayak, fly fish, mountain bike, or just enjoy a relaxing picnic in the pristine Northern California wilderness, there are several amazing parks with hiking and biking trails, camping and picnicking areas, and clean, clear waters for swimming and fishing. Some of the most popular include:
• Robert Lewis Stevenson State Park — This park features rugged terrain to challenge even the most experienced outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re up for it, you can take a hike to the peak of Mount St. Helena.
• Bothe-Napa Valley State Park — Located in Calistoga, you can camp in your own tent or in one of their yurts, which are an ancient shelter for nomads in Central Asia. You can also see some living Redwood trees here. There are also walking trails, picnic areas, and a pool (if you’re visiting during the warmer months). Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park is adjacent to Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, so while you’re there, you can visit both.
• Skyline Wilderness Park Wilderness — Located in Napa, this park offers all of the usual hiking, biking, and camping of most parks and wilderness areas, but it also features disc golf, archery, and a garden featuring plant life native to the region.
• Westwood Hills Park — This is actually a city park that belongs to Napa. It features miles of trails through woodlands, a few grassy meadows, and an incredible overlook where the city of Napa is visible below. Bring a picnic lunch. If you have time (if you bring kids, make time!) to visit the Carolyn Parr Nature Museum while you’re here.
2. Take an Olive Oil Tasting Tour
If you’re up for a little more touring, the same amazing climate and topography that make Napa Valley a great place for growing grapes is also conducive to excellent olive groves. Napa is actually accumulating quite a reputation for olive oil, as well as wine (and if you’re into cooking, those two together are culinary gold). Most of the companies that offer wine tours of Napa Valley offer olive oil tours, as well.
3. Channel Your Inner Julia Child in a Hands-On Cooking Class
Napa Valley has several cooking schools that allow you to take a class on any one of a variety of meal preparation techniques. Most also help you learn to pair Napa’s extraordinary wines with the foods you cook. Some of the best rated include:
• Silverado Cooking School in Napa
• The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena
• Cooking with Julie in Napa
• Gourmet Retreats in Calistoga
4. Eat Like Kings & Queens at a Fine Napa Valley Restaurant
If you appreciate fine wine, you almost certainly appreciate excellent food, as well, and Napa does not disappoint when it comes to world-class restaurants. One of the most popular fine dining establishments in Napa is French Laundry, but don’t go there unless you’re cool with dropping $500 for dinner. There are several places to eat that offer exceptional food without the OMG price tags. Check out:
• Bouchon Bistro — Located in Yountville, this French bistro is quite a bit more affordable. With most entrees under $30, they also offer a raw oyster bar and regional wines as well as local produce.
• Ad Hoc — This is another of the more affordable Napa restaurants, yet it’s one of the most unique you’ll find. You don’t actually get a menu, make a selection, and place your order. Each day, the chef and kitchen staff create that day’s specials, and if you eat at Ad Hoc, that’s what you get. The eating is informal, the dining area cozy, and they serve American fare, if you dare! Most people have a blast, and this Thomas Keller creation gets generally great reviews on all the travel sites.
• Farm at Carneros — Though not on the cheaper end of the spectrum, Farm at Carneros is an actual farm-to-table restaurant, offering brunch, dinner, and a spa and resort.
• Bottega Napa Valley — Owned by celebrity TV chef Michael Chiarello, this restaurant serves rustic Italian food (plus vegan and vegetarian menus) and offers both indoor and outdoor dining areas. It’s one of the pricier Napa restaurants, but consistently generates rave reviews on all the travel and leisure sites.
5. Immerse Yourself in Culture with Napa Valley Fine Art
What would fine food and wine be without fine art? Napa Valley has some excellent art galleries and public displays to visit. di Rosa is a gallery that specializes in showcasing the works of local artists. The Hess Collection Winery features museum-quality pieces, and you can spend as much time as you like admiring the pieces. Also check out Ma(i)sonry, AÆRENA Gallery, Ca’ Toga Galleria D’Arte, and Markham Vineyards, which is operated by Rolling Stone magazine’s first chief photographer. Here you can see his original works, including historic images of The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, Ike and Tina, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Jim Morrison, and more.
6. Spend a Glorious Afternoon Getting Pampered
While Napa is mostly famous for its wines, Calistoga is more known for its world-class mud baths. You can stay at one of the resorts that have a spa and mud bath, or you can schedule it separately. A mud bath is actually an excellent way to wrap up a long day of Napa wine tours, soaking and relaxing before it’s time to dress for your dinner reservations.
7. Peruse One of the Local Farmers’ Markets
Farmers’ markets are kind of like an all-in-one stop for spending a little of your free time, getting to know some of the marvelous Napa natives, and a great place to pick up a few souvenirs. If you plan to picnic at one of the area parks, this is a great place to stock up on sandwich fixings, salad makings, and goodies like homemade cookies and pies for dessert. You can also find homemade jellies and jams, canned fruits and vegetables, handmade arts and crafts, and other goodies to take home for yourself or as gifts. Be sure to visit at least one of these:
• Napa Farmers Market (in Napa)
April through November each Tuesday and Saturday from 8:00 am until 12:30 pm.
• St. Helena Farmers’ Market (in St. Helena)
May 1 through October 31 each Friday from 7:30 am to 1:00 pm
• Long Meadow Ranch Farmers Market (in St. Helena)
May through October each Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
November to April each Friday from 9:00 to 1:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
• Calistoga Farmers Market (in Calistoga)
Year-round each Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon
Although wine isn’t the only thing to do in Napa Valley, we happen to think it is one of the best. Schedule your Napa Valley wine tour with Allure today, and enjoy these other non-wine-related activities during your stay.