Tyler of Girl Meets Gold blog knows a thing or two about weekend getaways to Wine Country. We get the scoop on what to pack, which vineyards to hit first, and more in this Napa Valley travel guide.
What makes Napa one of your favorite weekend destinations?
Growing up in the Bay Area about 45 minutes outside Napa Valley, some of my first memories of Napa were visiting for family weddings or events. It wasn’t until after college I was truly able to appreciate wine country for its vast beauty and countless offerings. Fast forward to today and I’ve thrown a bachelorette party, celebrated my 30th birthday and had countless quick trips to this breathtaking setting.
Whether you live in California or not, Napa Valley and Wine Country is certainly a travel destination on many people’s bucket lists. From rolling vineyards to farm-to-table dining and boutique shopping, there’s a little something for everyone.
We love making mini getaways as an easy way to enjoy a little downtime, wine, great food and company!
What’s the best time of year to go?
One of my personal favorite times to visit Napa is in the spring and early summer. In the springtime, the weather is just warming back up after winter and you’ll typically enjoy plenty of sunshine and 70-degree weather. Moving into summer can be pretty warm and upwards of 90 degrees but warm summer nights are definitely a perk!
Fall is one of the most popular times to visit Napa Valley due to it being harvest season. Check the weather, as you’ll likely still experience summerlike temperatures through October but gain the benefit of cooler evenings and changing leaves.
Can you share some packing pointers for the Napa weather?
One wonderful thing about Napa Valley is you’ll find fairly mild weather year-round. Unless you’re visiting in the dead of summer, layers are always a safe bet. Barrel room or cellar tastings can also be cooler, so having a jacket or cardigan as an option can be a great idea. During peak times like summer and early fall (when it can still be 80+ degrees), I tend to reach for easy-breezy, lightweight styles like maxi and midi dresses paired with comfy sandals or sneakers but you’ll fit in just as well in jeans and your favorite blouse or top. If you prefer heels, opt for block heels—the style will come in handy if you find yourself in a vineyard or wine tasting on a lawn. I also love trying shorts + sweater combinations to bridge the gap between summer and fall. A hat is also never a bad accessory to bring along and I always prefer shoulder or crossbody bags, so you can keep your hands free during tastings.
What was your thought process when packing for this trip?
I consider my style pretty classic overall, yet there’s something about the whimsy and dream-like setting of Napa Valley that makes me step outside my usual basics and into something a bit more fun. For me, that typically means styles that are slightly more feminine and BB Dakota is one of my favorite brands for high-quality yet affordable outfits that perfectly bridge together classic, feminine and edgy - a.k.a. my dream style.
I packed three different outfit options for this weekend trip and I think it’s generally a good idea to have outfits that can do casual to dressy to comfy.For this trip (and a warm weekend), I knew a midi dress like this Budding Romance Printed Dress would be perfect for our daytime visit to Sterling Vineyards. The moody floral is the perfect print for the in-between season and I kept it casual with slip-on sneakers. I added a belt bag and grabbed a denim jacket for a bonus layer in case the temps dipped indoors.For our visit to Domaine Chandon, I went with another moody floral print (i.e. deep navy) with this Blue Gardenia Off the Shoulder Top. It was perfect for a warmer day paired with jeans and strappy sandals but as we move more into cooler weather, swap the sandals for booties and add a layer like this BB Dakota moto jacket or faux fur jacket! Lastly, I chose a comfy-casual-cozy option and opted for loose & lightweight shorts paired with this Knock On Hood sweater for something that went from wine tasting to window shopping to a very casual dinner at Oxbow Market. This would be a great option for sitting outside your hotel to enjoy the evening! Again, as we head into cooler weather, swap the shorts for your comfiest denim.
Summer style in Napa: Less is more! Think breezy styles like mini, midi and maxi dresses and skirts. Pair long-sleeved tops with shorts and sneakers for a daytime vineyard tour and swap out the shorts with skinny jeans for dinner time.
Fall style in Napa: Can still be pretty warm! Stick to breezy styles in early fall like a midi dress or lightweight pants. As we get further into the season (think November), opt for boots and layers like moto jackets and cozy cardigans!
Do you have a favorite Napa vineyard?
The beauty of Napa is you don’t really have to pick a favorite! I personally love doing a flight tasting so you get to enjoy a little bit of everything. You’ll find this option at almost every winery but Sterling Vineyards takes it to another level with their tasting experience. We picked the signature experience which includes a self-guided tour of the winery. Take the aerial tram to the top of the winery and enjoy scenic views as you make several different tasting stops. We bought a glass at the end of our tour and enjoyed a charcuterie board on the terrace!I also love Domaine Chandon which has gorgeous grounds with expansive lawns, lush greenery, light bites and plenty of places to “picnic.” You can buy a glass (or bottle) at their tasting bar and walk around the property or enjoy the patio. This would definitely be winery I recommend for something special—like a bachelorette!
A few more favorite wineries: V. Satuii in St. Helena for something casual—great for lunch thanks to its artisan deli! Domaine Carneros for a panoramic view. Round Pound Estate. Inglenook Winery. Pride Mountain Vineyards. Chateau Montelena. Cakebread. White Hall Lane. Sequoia Grove. Scribe. Long Meadow Ranch. Hall Winery!
Now let's talk shopping...
Head downtown to 1st Street and the Riverfront for a little boutique shopping and don’t miss the Napa Premium Outlets! Shoppe Twelve in downtown Napa is adorable and is an easy place to stop as you make your way to the riverfront. If you head to Sonoma, you can also visit Sonoma Square and Sonoma Cornerstone.
What are some great places to grab a bite?
One of my favorite first and last quick stops heading in and out of Napa is always Oxbow Public Market. With a mix of artisan shopping and casual dining, it’s a great place to stop whether you’re grabbing coffee or looking for an easy lunch or dinner. We love Live Fire Pizza and Fatted Calf where you can grab a charcuterie plate or panini to enjoy on the patio. It’s also located right next to The Culinary Institute of America, which is a cool place to stop to visit the gift shop or even take a culinary class!
From Oxbow, it’s also a quick walk downtown so give yourself a couple hours and you’ll have plenty to do! Napa Valley is also known for its Michelin-rated restaurants like The French Laundry, The Restaurant at Meadowood, Ad Hoc, Brix, Bouchon Bistro and Bottega!
Any hotel or Airbnb recommendations?
Since we live relatively close to Napa, day trips are standard for us but there’s certainly no shortage of great places to stay. Whether you prefer downtown vibes, resort-like retreats, boutique hotels or hotels with history, there’s something to suit you. I think my biggest tip is to figure out where you want to be based on the wineries or places you’re visiting. Napa Valley is fairly spread out and while there are places that make winery-hopping easy (like the Silverado Trail) it can also take half an hour or more just to get from one winery to the next.
Plan out your top wineries or places you want to visit and consider making your “home base” or hotel somewhere in between those. On the flip side, if you’re heading to Napa for a retreat-like, spa weekend, there’s no shortage of resorts that “have it all.”
One of our personal favorite places we’ve stayed is Silverado Resort and it’s a huge property with a little bit of everything. Restaurants, mini market + coffee shop, golf course, games, multiple pools, spa—you really don’t have to leave! Another great option is any of the Auberge properties, Meadowood or Carneros Resort!Looking for pet-friendly Napa hotels? Try Napa River Inn (downtown), Archer Hotel, Solage, Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa, Carneros Resort and Lavender!
What advice would you give to first-time Napa explorers?
Use blogs and travel guides as a resource! I also found the Visit Napa Valley site incredibly useful when I was planning my sister’s bachelorette party in Napa. It’s a great place to find recommendations for wineries, hotels and things to do plus you can check out any upcoming events. One “secret” tip is they also offer free concierge service. Fill out a form based on your visit and what you want to do and let them help plan your stay!
I also recommend booking tasting appointments where necessary, as some wineries require them!
Transportation Tip: Take Uber/Lyft, use a designated driver or (if you’re planning on visiting several wineries in one day with a large group) try a car service like Beau Wine Tours. (There are a ton of these but I’ve personally used this one and they were great). The added benefit is they’ll keep you on track and will call or let you know what time you need to leave one winery to arrive at your next appointment on time! Believe me—this relieves a ton of stress and confusion.
One last thing to note is cell service in Napa Valley is (unfortunately) pretty poor. There are several wineries you may not even have service, so keep that in mind if you’re solely relying on Uber/Lyft. Give your self at least an hour at any winery and 30 minutes+ for transportation.
About Girl Meets Gold
Tyler is a San Fransisco Bay Area Native, currently living with her boyfriend and two dogs in the East Bay. She works full-time in marketing and has a passion for animals, our environment and learning how to live more sustainably. Her blog, Girl Meets Gold, is all about classic-casual, relatable, wearable and affordable (high-low) style.