Just north of San Francisco, Napa entices with its quiet, quaint hillsides, mix of luxury and relaxed charm, and of course, a reputation for world-class vineyards. However, when glasses empty, Napa remains brimming with interesting sights and offerings. The following are some non-alcoholic gems to explore in between vineyard hopping:
For the Adventurer
Wine country tours come expected when visiting Napa, but the area also offers scenic biking, hiking, and park tours. Calistoga especially caters to the small town, tread-friendly types. When deciding on hotels in Calistoga, consider the proximity to the unique sights.
The Castello di Amoroso, which though technically a winery, offers younger or non-drinker guests dry tours of the 13th century Tuscan castle recreation. The Calistoga Speedway allows you to take the backseat in the facility and watch motorcycles or sporty cars fly, or jump behind the wheel yourself on the “Triple A” facility’s track.
Old Faithful Geyser of California, a sister sputter to Yellowstone’s famous geyser, comes replete with goats and llamas that charm almost as much as the accompanying hot spring spas. Those travelling with kids in tow can’t forget to check out the majestic Petrified Forest, where California’s giant redwoods turned to stone due to Mt. Helena’s eruption over three million years ago.
For Lovers of the Arts
Museums and art galleries abound across Napa’s terrain. The Napa Art Walk in downtown Napa gives passersby a glimpse of some of northern California’s most notable artists’ sculptures, rotating every eighteen months to feature new installments and artists. Of course, not to be missed, the late well-remembered eccentric Rene di Rosa’s 1960s art collection at di Rosa and Nature Preserve in the Carneros hills includes artwork in three distinct galleries, not to mention a striking wildlife preserve.
A performance at the Napa Valley Opera House, smack dab in Napa’s center, pairs perfectly with the best of wine country’s sippable delights or acts as a perfect palate cleanser post-vineyard touring.
Finally, take a journey to the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, dedicated to the author who honeymooned in Napa in 1880. Finally, fans of the Disney classic Polyanna staying in the Santa Rosa area can admire a familiar sight, the Victorian 14,000 square foot McDonald Mansion nearby.
For the Foodie
Napa proves noteworthy not only for its wine, but for its decadent food. It’s hard to find a restaurant that won’t satisfy. Even in Sonoma, the birthplace of the Golden State’s wine industry, food takes precedence. Settle into a tourist pleaser like the El Pueblo Inn, and you’ll find that mixed with the preserved historical Sonoma town Square, fine dining and olive oil tastings bring modernity within forks reach.
Besides the Culinary Institute of America, Ramekins offers the cooking connoisseur effective, fun, and indulgent cooking classes in a more affordable package. Similarly, the Silverado Cooking School offers day classes and private parties under Chef Malcolm de Sieyes’ food-tuned hand, and proves an ideal option for those staying in a hotel close to the Napa County Airport.
Seekers of gifts and delicious bites look no further than the Oxbow Public Market. Akin to international outdoor markets, Oxbow offers wine and cheese, fresh olive oil, oysters along the riverfront patio, delicious Neapolitan-style pizza at Ca’Momi, gourmet cupcakes from Kara’s Cupcakes, delightfully decorated chocolates from Annette’s, and a trip to Latin America via Venezuelan dishes from Pica Pica.
This article is part of the #Hipmunkcitylove series. Make sure to read the rest of my guide on Hipmunk’s Hotels in Napa, CA page to learn more about the area and plan the perfect trip.