Napa Valley is just a short distance away from Sacramento. It is a collection of wineries, small towns and delicious sights for anyone making the journey. While wine tends to come to mind when Napa Valley is mentioned, the area is hardly restricted solely to the fermented grape crushings. Art galleries, exhibitions, theater, music of all kinds and sizes, so many good places to dine and hot-air ballons floating about make this area too good to visit just once.
Take I-80 west to Jameson Canyon Road, exit 39B, then take the Napa-Vallejo Highway, CA-12 West, following the signs to Napa Sonoma. The drive is 60.3 miles and will take around one hour.
Stop Along the Way
1661 E Monte Vista Ave
Vacaville, CA 95688
Take a break at the Nut Tree, once one of the iconic roadside stops in northern California. For many years, this was a simple fruit stand. It grew over time to be a large fruit stand complete with a very good restaurant. While that part is gone, replaced by shopping and other eateries, the airport is still here along with the Nut Tree Plaza, a great place for kids and adults to stretch their legs. Take a train ride, hop on the carousel or just sit in the shade before continuing your trip.
What To Do
Balloons Above the Valley
603 California Blvd
Napa, CA 94559
What better way to view the great Napa Valley than by floating over it? Set yourself free from terra firma and gently lift into the air, courtesy of hot air and a very colorful, large balloon. A total of over 11,000 hours of flight time in the balloons marks the pilots as very competent. You’ll be there at sunrise when the balloon is inflated and enjoy lifting off in the cool morning breeze. With about an hour in the air followed by a champagne brunch, you will have had an amazing four hours of complete joy.
Beau Wine Tours
1754 Second Street, Suite B
Napa, CA 94559
There are enough wineries in the Napa Valley to make a career of visiting them all. The wines are legendary and used at tables and restaurants around the world. The best way to take in the tasting rooms is by booking a tour. You will be free to sniff, swirl and taste without the bother of driving. Leave the driving to the limo owners who are your designated drivers for the day. They also know all of the boutique, up-scale and off-beat tasting rooms and can tailor the day to fit your tastes. Learn about wine, the wine culture and the wine country from the comfort of a well-appointed limo.
Related: Top List of Placer County Wineries
Where To Eat
The Restaurant at Meadowood
900 Meadowood Lane
St. Helena, CA 94574
Elegance in setting, service and dining experience has earned The Restaurant at Meadowood three stars in the famed Michelin Guide. Come here prepared to be amazed. Each night the chef, Christopher Kostow, offers a seven-course Chef’s Menu along with prix-fixe and a-la-carte offerings. Desert and cheese trays are enough to make you wish you hadn’t eaten quite so much. Regional ingredients that are finely prepared will make the experience a memorable one.
Napa General Store
540 Main St #100
Napa, CA 94559
For a more relaxed meal, this is the spot. Sitting on the deck next to the river, how can it be anything but good? The menu is classic American, a simple way to say that it includes something from everywhere. Clay-pot chicken, pizza, steak, cheeseburgers, the wonderful reuben; take your pick. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served with style. Locals love this place and that is always a good sign for visitors. It has been in business for over 10 years and continues to go strong. Start or end your day here.
Where To Stay
580 Lommel Road
Calistoga, CA 94515
Luxury spa, anyone? This is it: 157 acres of splendor await you. When not in your room dreaming of staying forever, hiking trails, fitness rooms, pools, a private lake and a luxurious spa may take up some of your day. Put some time in on the yoga deck either practicing your poses or learning new ones. If getting away from it all is on your list, there are many ways to accomplish that wish at the Ranch. Relax, dine, play and add a few more grins to your memory bank.
1910 1st St
Napa, CA 94559
The first Bed and Breakfast in Napa is alive and well. The feeling of this place is one that will put you into full relax mode. Imagine staying in a historic landmark in a downtown Napa Victorian neighborhood. The family pooch is welcome here too. Breakfast is deliciously home made every morning and you’ll have to force yourself to put the fork down and get on with your day. After a day exploring Napa, Calistoga, Yountville or Sonoma, retreat to the on-site spa and pamper yourself. Gardens that demand a tour, hosts who will make you feel at home and the entire Napa Valley will find you wanting to spend more time here.
Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 37 years. He retired from teaching after 36 years in 2010. He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at Examiner.com.