Wine is to Napa Valley what jelly is to peanut butter. The legendary, Northern California town an hour north of San Francisco has been inseparably linked to vino since the 1800s. While it is a wine lover’s paradise, there’s also plenty to do for those who don’t drink.
Mild, sunny weather year-round makes Napa a great destination to enjoy its many outdoor adventures, boutique accommodations, and stylish restaurants. That said, each season has its benefits. Hillsides come alive in spring. Special events and festivals fill out the summer calendar. Fall is a good time to experience Napa Valley’s Michelin-starred restaurants. And winter is the perfect time for holiday shopping.
The Top 3 things to do in Napa Valley other than Wine
1. Downtown Napa has risen from humble beginnings along the banks of the Napa River to become a hot spot for upscale restaurants, tiny shops and an overall great place to walk around. First Street is the center of the historic old-town district. Within a short walk of the center of town, you’ll find dozens of fabulous restaurants, ranging from Velo Pizzeria to Morimoto Napa.
Just down First Street is the appropriately named Inn on First, a romantic bed and breakfast inn in a historic mansion dating back to 1905. Resident chef, Jim Gunther, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy brings to life the freshest ingredients in his made-from-scratch breakfast extraordinaire. Guests can choose from five bedrooms upstairs in the historic mansion, three Lower Garden suites, and two Upper Garden or Honeymoon suites. The Inn on First is a member of the California Green Lodging Association, and the first Northern California B&B Inn to the certified “green” by the state of California.
2. Hot-air balloon tours lift passengers skyward for heavenly views of the entire Napa Valley, rows and rows of its legendary vineyards and the surrounding mountains. When light winds combine with the sun rising just above the horizon to the east and cool, morning temperatures, starting your day floating high above Napa’s wineries in a balloon is an incredibly intoxicating experience for those who don’t drink alcohol.
Thousands of feet below the Northern California skies sits the Churchill Manor, located just one block from Downtown Napa. At 10,000 square feet in size, Churchill Manor was reportedly the largest home in the Napa Valley when is was built in 1889. Today, the bed and breakfast is one of the most wonderful architectural treasures in all of Napa. The 19th Century mansion is beautifully dressed in redwood moldings, columns, and European antiques. The Old World craftsmanship extends into the bedrooms, each named after one of the famous wine growing regions in the area. All 10 rooms feature modern amenities, complemented by exceptional customer service.
3. Better known for standing sentry further north up the California coastline, majestic redwood trees also make their home in Napa Valley State Park. The park occupies nearly 2,000 acres, which welcome visitors interested in hiking or picnicking along trails of wildflowers and bubbling creeks. There’s even seasonal swimming in a spring-fed pool. History abounds in the park, as well. At Bale Grist Mill, millers still use water-wheel-powered pulleys and grinding stones to make artisanal organic flours, cornmeal, and polenta.
The Inn on Randolph is the perfect combination of elegance and luxury. Located in Napa’s largest residential district, the estate operated a women’s health center in the early 1900s from what today serves as the front parlor and dining room. Thus, the home was affectionately referred to as “Maternity Row” in tribute to the many baby Napans who were delivered there. Today’s Inn on Randolph is a completely remodeled inn that pays tribute to its roots, but also pampers guests with a gourmet, gluten-free breakfast served daily, heated bathroom floors and on-site massage services. There are five rooms in the historic residence and five cottages.
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