Best Things to Do in Napa Valley Without Wine
Many people believe that touring Napa Valley is all about wine. Indeed, many Napa Valley attractions are centered around wineries and wine tasting, but there are still lots of things to do there without savoring wine! If you would rather skip wine tasting here is our list of wine-free activities that includes dining in award-winning restaurants, flying hot air balloons, hiking, exploring local art, touring a factory, and even kicking back in hot springs.
1. Attend A Performance
If you love classic music then attending a performance in the historic Napa Valley Opera House is a must. The Uptown Theatre in Napa is also a great place to see a live performance. In addition, Napa Valley is home to a great number of outdoor concerts, festivals and other events the general public can attend.
To enjoy live music in a more casual environment consider visiting Silo's on the Napa waterfront.
2. Visit Wineries that Offer More Than Wine
Luckily, Napa Valley offers plenty of entertainment for those who don't drink alcohol. Even wineries now offer something for everything so visit the one that features attractions that relate to your hobby or interests.
If you love nature and sweeping views we recommend touring Castello di Amorosa, a winery housed in an Italian castle, or visiting Sterling Vineyards, that can be reached by an aerial tram offering breathtaking panoramic views of the whole Napa Valley. Art lovers are sure to enjoy visiting Artesa, Clos Pegase, HALL, Hess Collection, Masonry, and Mumm Napa Valley wineries featuring public art. Interested in the history of moviemaking? Go to Coppola to see film memorabilia and visit Chateau Montelena featured in the film Bottle Shock. If you love architecture make sure you include Spring Mountain Vineyards and Beringer with their Victorian mansions in your itinerary.
There are also a wide range of wineries that feature nice restaurants, food and wine pairings, or interesting educational tours focused on winemaking non-drinkers would be interested in.
3. View Napa Valley from the Air
Enjoy dramatic views of the valley from a helicopter, hot air balloon, or a glider. There are a number of companies that operate helicopters, hot air balloons, and paragliding in Napa Valley so the options are really plentiful. When it comes to taking a hot air balloon keep in mind that weather can impact your flying adventure so consider having a back-up day just in case the weather conditions don't permit you to take the trip. Since this sort of entertainment is not cheap make sure you search online for some good deals, especially during the off peak season.
4. Take a Train Ride
Another great opportunity to explore the surrounding scenic area is taking the Napa Valley Wine Train. This vintage train lets you combine food and wine with a chance to take in the beauty of the valley. Want to know more about vintage trains? Then we recommend visiting the Western Railway Museum, housing an extensive collection of authentic historic streetcars and interurban electric trains from all over the country. Plus the museum offers the visitors an electric train ride through the picturesque Montezuma Hills.
5. Experience Fine Dining at the Napa Valley
The Napa Valley is not only world famous for its great wine but is a hot foodie destination as well. In 2018 the area boasts 6 Michelin-starred restaurants, not to mention dozens of other great places to eat not covered in the guide.
Budget savvy travelers can get some gourmet food at the Oxbow Market or Dean & DeLuca and have a picnic at one of the public parks.
Few people know that olive oil is produced in the Napa Valley. Some of the olive oil producers like Round Pond, St. Helena Olive Oil Co., and Long Meadow Ranch offer tastings to the general public. So this makes a fantastic alternative to a traditional wine tasting experience in the Napa Valley.
6. Learn About the History & Art of the Napa Valley
The Napa Valley is home to several museums that showcase the history and cultural heritage of the area. One of them is Napa Valley Museum that focuses on geology, history, and culture of the Napa Valley.
To learn more about agriculture in the area consider visiting the Hatt and Historic Napa Mill and the Bale Grist Mill. The latter was built in 1846 and it features a restored water-powered grist mill that can even be used today. Not far from the mill is Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, with picnic facilities and plenty of scenic trails to tackle. Other park attractions include the first church in the Napa Valley and the Pioneer Cemetery.
Art lovers will be thrilled to have a tour at di Rosa featuring great specimens of contemporary art demonstrated both indoors and outdoors.
7. Go Shopping
The Napa Valley is a shopping Mecca with a bounty of specialty shops. Main Street in St. Helena, downtown Napa, the Hatt Market in Napa, the Vintage 1870 shops in Yountville, and Lincoln Avenue in Calistoga are the most popular shopping destinations.
If you are looking for some gourmet food, go to Oxbow Public Market in Napa. There you can purchase everything from olive oils, cheese and ice cream to French crepes and a variety of fresh local produce.
While Napa Valley shopping is typically associated with high prices, there are still plenty of more affordable shopping options that include Adidas, Barneys, Coach, Ann Taylor, J. Crew, Gymboree, Kenneth Cole, and Gap.
8. Take a Fun and Educational Factory Tour
Well, not everything in Napa Valley is expensive and there are even free tours and tastings awaiting visitors in Fairfield. This city is home to three factories located close to each other. If you travel with kids make sure you take them to Jelly Belly, a factory that makes candy. The adults will love Anheuser-Busch that produces beer, and SePay Groves Olive Oil that makes olive oil. The factory tours are really fun and popular so be prepared for long lines.
9. Soak in the Hot Springs or See the Famous Geyser
The Napa Valley is also home to numerous spas and resorts offering world-class spa treatments that include massages, mud baths, pools, and more. Most of the resorts are centered around the town of Calistoga located near natural hot springs. Traditionally people come here to relax in hot mineral water or take a mud bath (soak in hot volcanic ash known for its curative properties).
Want to see a unique natural phenomenon? Old Faithful Geyser in Napa Valley erupts with steam and hot water up to 90 feet in the air every half an hour. The frequency and height of the eruption depend on the weather conditions and the level of precipitation. While waiting for the geyser to blow up consider going to a small petting zoo where you can see goats, sheep, and a llama.
10. Enjoy the Great Outdoors
The abundant natural beauty of the Napa Valley allows for a variety of active pursuits, such as hiking, biking, scenic driving and others. The famous Vine Trail is a hiker's and biker's paradise offering great opportunity to exercise while enjoying great outdoors. In fact, there are a number of bike rentals and tour companies for those who prefer to explore the area by themselves.
If you love water activities consider kayaking or taking a river cruise down the Napa River. Avid fishermen can fly fish in Putah Creek. And make sure you take a scenic drive along the Silverado Trail, followed by a picnic in one of the numerous parks. A site not to be missed in the Napa Valley is the Petrified Forest at Calistoga.