Do you dream of a peaceful, quiet and soothing place to spend a weekend or longer? The Napa Valley in Northern California is the perfect place to unwind. It is primarily an agricultural valley and the heart of California’s wine producing industry. Whether you want to go hiking, biking, wine tasting or on a hot air balloon ride, the Napa Valley is a gorgeous spot to relax.
Hot air ballooning is just one of the fun ways to relax in the Napa Valley. (Photo property of author, Deborah Dian; all rights reserved.)
Towns in the Napa Valley
There are three communities that occupy the Napa Valley. The town of Napa is the “gateway” to the valley. It is located at the southern end and is the largest of the three towns. The community contains an outlet mall, a charming downtown area that received a facelift after an earthquake a few years ago, as well as lovely hotels and restaurants overlooking the Napa River. In addition, there are approximately two dozen wine tasting rooms, shops and boutiques. This is also the starting point for people who wish to ride the Wine Train.
Driving north from Napa for about 20 minutes, visitors will pass miles of vineyards until they come up the small town of St. Helena. Many of the wineries are clustered around this village. Highway 29 is also the Main Street of St. Helena, an old-fashioned downtown containing boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and small hotels.
At the northern end of the valley is the tiny town of Calistoga, well known for its natural hot springs, mud baths, healing spas and massage facilities. There are also several antique shops, as well as restaurants and wine tasting rooms. Tourists may want to visit the geyser that sprays a fountain of water into the air on a regular schedule. If you don’t think you will ever get to Yellowstone to see Old Faithful, the Calistoga geyser is a rare treat that is fondly nicknamed the California Old Faithful. Just four miles from the town is an impressive petrified forest.
The Napa River flows through the town of Napa. Along the shore are hike and bike paths. Visitors can also kayak and paddleboard on the river. (Photo property of author, Deborah Dian; all rights reserved.)
How to Relax in the Napa Valley
Are you wondering how you will spend your days during your visit? In addition to world class restaurants and up-scale resorts, there are numerous ways to relax in the Napa Valley.
- Hot Air Balloon Rides over the Valley – The balloons take off early in the morning and give visitors a unique way to view the vineyards.
- Take a Bicycle Ride – Many of the hotels provide their guests with loner bikes. There are also companies that arrange bicycle tours.
- Outdoor Concerts at Robert Mondavi Winery – During the summer they host live concerts. Restaurants and hotels in the valley often feature live musicians, as well.
- Go to a Public Cooking Demonstration at the Culinary Institute of America – Located in the former Christian Brothers Monastery in St. Helena, this is your opportunity to learn new recipes and cooking techniques.
- Enjoy a Spa Day – Whether you want a facial or a massage, the Napa Valley is dotted with full service spas that are sure to help you unwind from the stress of your daily life.
- Go on a Picnic – Some of the hotels and restaurants will provide you with a picnic lunch … or you can stop by one of the gourmet shops in the valley and pick up a loaf of sourdough bread, cheese, fruit and a bottle of wine. Some of the wineries have picnic areas and there are parks in the towns that occupy the valley.
Nearly everywhere you travel in the Napa Valley, you will pass miles of stunning vineyards, where grapes are grown for some of the world’s top rated wines. (Photo taken by author, Deborah Dian; all rights reserved.)
- Taste Spectacular California Wines – Most of the wineries have tasting rooms where, for a small fee, visitors can sample a variety of wines. If you find something you like, you can purchase a bottle … or a case. If you are going to do a lot of tasting, you may want to hire a limousine and driver to take you from place to place, so you can relax and not worry about having too much to drink.
- Spend an evening on the Wine Train – This train takes you on a memorable ride the length of the valley. You can have dinner on the train and either order drinks on-board or bring along your own bottle of wine. They have different theme nights, including a mystery dinner evening, during which actors perform a murder mystery for riders to solve.
- Play golf – There are several golf courses in the valley with dramatic views overlooking the magnificent vineyards.
Your Napa Valley hotel can assist you in arranging for any activities that interest you. All you need to do is sit back and relax!
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