Napa and Sonoma Valley are world famous for wine and one of the most popular areas to visit in California. Over 5 million people visit the region every year which means it can be very crowded during the peak season. Peak times to visit are during the summer months or during the harvest of September and October. While wine is the focus of the region there are plenty of other things to see and do like eating at great restaurants or olive oil tasting. There are many small towns all with their own character and interesting sites. Let this be your weekend guide to Napa and Sonoma.
Where to Stay in Napa and Sonoma
There are many types of places to stay in Napa Valley. House rentals are great a great option for groups. Rental homes here are not as cheap as many international destinations but with a family, group, or couple looking for a great experience it might be a good option.
Personally, I love the small inns and B&Bs in Napa. Don’t look for rooms simply in Napa, CA. It is actually my least favorite place to stay. If you want to stay in a town with great character, nice people, and wonderful restaurants then explore all that Napa Valley has to offer. Two of my favorite towns in the area are St. Helena and Sonoma. Get a better overview of the towns on Napa Valley here. Get a better idea of Sonoma Valley here.
Where I stayed on my last visit
I made plans a little late for visiting during the harvest and ended up searching in Sonoma for a place to stay since just about everything in Napa Valley was booked. This turned out to be a great turn of events because Sonoma place to stay. I would return there every time. I had my own cottage next to the pool with a private deck where breakfast was served each morning.
I stayed in the Victorian Garden Inn. It is a B&B within walking distance to town (just 2 blocks). Also, B&Bs make delicious breakfast.
Everything is nearby when driving from Sonoma. Having a car is important, although bike tours are available or for rent.
What to Do Napa and Sonoma
I think it is best to research your favorite wineries and stop at them before you start the journey. There is no right or wrong place to stop. You will pass winery after winery so do some research beforehand.
Each day I made my way to a number of wineries. Some small and some large. If you have a favorite winery that is also a tourist trap that is ok. There will be a lot of people there but a small guided tour can still be had. Just be sure to not make a habit of only stopping at the big ones too often.
So pick your favorite wineries and try to see at least 3-4 everyday. Get started early and enjoy a tasting at each one. Tastings are very cheap and as little as $5 to try all the wines. Tours are sometimes free but often cheap. They are worthwhile but time consuming so keep that in mind.
Where to Eat in Napa and Sonoma
There are far too many great restaurants to name in Napa and Sonoma and I had some great dining experiences. These places came at the recommendation of a local winemaker so I knew they would be good.
My favorite place was Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa. It has a great atmosphere and fresh Italian dishes with their signature flair.
Another great spot is Bistro Jeanty. This French bistro has a warm neighborhood feel and you will leave full and happy.
The last spot I ate and was just a few blocks from my inn in Sonoma at The Girl and the Fig. This is also French but each restaurant is very unique so even if you already tried Bistro Jeanty you will enjoy this as well. Plus, it is a great location to wander to some local taverns after dinner and enjoy a beer. After drinking wine all day it is a nice way to switch it up no matter how much you love wine.
Other Things to Do Besides Wine Tasting
If you need to take a break from wine tastings and do something else one afternoon there is plenty to do. Check out the events page for Napa Valley to get an idea but the options are endless.
My two favorite non-wine related events were exploring St. Helena where there was a little festival with food trucks lining the streets. St. Helena is a great town and should be on your radar when looking for places to stay.
Olive Oil Tasting
There are dozens of places along the main roads advertising olive oil tastings. I didn’t bother researching these and just stopped in a few along the way. There is no need to stay long at each one but it is fun trying out different olive oils. After you taste these be warned you may return as an olive oil snub. They are truly amazing tasting and different from anything I had ever had at home.
Weekend Guide to Napa and Sonoma
Napa and Sonoma are not cheap places to stay any time of year but I highly recommend going at least once in your lifetime. Going during the harvest in September and October is the peak season but also the best time to experience the area. However, off-peak seasons are still wonderful and will save you some serious cash and enjoy a weekend in Napa and Sonoma.