One day in Napa Valley – How to spend a perfect day in Napa Valley, California

If you’re planning a day trip to Napa Valley, there’s probably only one thing on your mind – wine. It’s not that there’s a shortage of available activities here, though, it’s just that the wines are simply that good. But since you have one whole day to spend, why not fit a few non-tasting activities between your wine tours? You won’t regret it!

One day in Napa Valley Itinerary

Guest post by Rachel OConner

What to do in Napa Valley

Guided tour: If you don’t want to plan a whole day by yourself, this guided tour with lunch is a perfect choice!

Foodies, oenophiles and outdoor enthusiasts alike will rejoice at the many things you can see, do and taste in this area. And if you’re a combination of the three, this Californian destination may very well be your dream vacation.

Chateau Montelena
Chateau Montelena, Author: Living in Monrovia, Source: Flickr

So, let’s cover the list of must-visit restaurants and wineries and the outdoor activities you can engage in when your taste buds are on a break.

Napa Valley restaurants

Since you’re only spending one day here, you’re going to want to eat at the best restaurants in Napa Valley. Choose one of the restaurants on this list and you can’t go wrong.

  • Boon Fly Café – 4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa, CA 94559, (707) 299-4870
  • Goose and Gander – 1245 Spring Street, St. Helena, CA 94574, (707) 967-8779
  • Ciccio – 6770 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599, (707) 945-1000

Napa Valley wineries

During your day here, you may want to choose one winery, one restaurant and one outdoor activity. Or, you may want to choose three wineries. The great thing about one day in this area is that you can custom build your day-cation to suit your needs perfectly. The following are three must-visit Napa Valley wineries.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars – 5766 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Author: Jean-François Renaud, Source: Flickr

Opus One – 7900 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, CA 94562

Opus One
Opus One, Author: veroyama, Source: Flickr
Opus One
Opus One, Author: veroyama, Source: Flickr

Domaine Carneros – 1240 Duhig Rd, Napa, CA 94559

Domaine Carneros
Domaine Carneros, Author: Jean-François Renaud, Source: Flickr
Domaine Carneros
Domaine Carneros, Author: Jim G, Source: Flickr

Popular Napa Valley outdoor adventures

  • Hiking
  • Mountain biking
  • Hot air ballooning

What’s the best time to visit Napa Valley?

Generally, the best time to visit Napa Valley is in the harvest season. This can vary by year, but it always falls at the end of the summer (August through October).

However, because this is the most commonly recommended time to travel to Napa Valley, you’ll also encounter crowds and peak rates everywhere you go.

Napa Valley
Napa Valley

If you want the best of both worlds, consider planning your trip at the tail end of the harvest season. This way, you’ll still get to enjoy some cool autumn weather, and you may find better deals than you would during peak harvest season.

Napa Valley Wine Cellars
Napa Valley Wine Cellars

Napa Valley Festivals

A few facts about the city or the region should be mentioned as well as the most interesting sights and events.

Napa Valley vineyards
Napa Valley vineyards

If you only have one day in Napa, you may want to avoid any intense planning and just time your visit during one of the following festivals:

Napa Valley vineyards
Napa Valley vineyards

One Day in Napa Valley Itinerary

It might be difficult to nail down a full itinerary when you have just one day in Napa (it’s easy to get distracted with all the fun things to do). So, if you’re having trouble, try the following itinerary:

  • 9 a.m. – Breakfast at Brix Restaurant and Gardens
  • 10 a.m. – Nickel and Nickel tour (this is when they open, so don’t get there too early)
  • 11 a.m. – Grab lunch at Oakville Grocery and have a picnic at Bale Grist Mill State Park
  • 12:00 p.m. – Castello Di Amarosa
  • 2:30 p.m. – Chateau Montelena
  • 5:00 p.m. – Dinner at Goose and Gander
  • After dinner, grab a glass of wine and take a stroll along the river in downtown Napa
Castello di Amorosa Winery
Castello di Amorosa Winery, Author: IIP Photo Archive, Source: Flickr
Castello di Amorosa Wine Tasting
Castello di Amorosa Wine Tasting, Author: Kazuho Okui, Source: Flickr
Chateau Montelena Winery
Chateau Montelena Winery, Author: Kazuho Okui, Source: Flickr

Where to stay in Napa Valley

Now that you’ve had an epic wine country adventure, it’s time to rest your head. And the place you choose is important for more than just the location. If you’ve done this day-cation right, you’re going to need some good rest before you leave the area in the morning.

Here are some great options for Napa Valley lodging:

Archer Hotel – located in Downtown Napa, this is the dream choice if you choose the itinerary above. But even if you switch things up, downtown Napa is a great place to end your trip.

Archer Hotel Napa
Archer Hotel Napa
Archer Hotel Napa Terrace
Archer Hotel Napa Terrace
Archer Hotel Napa Room
Archer Hotel Napa Room

Wine Valley Lodge – this hotel offers an economy option, but it’s also rated very well by its visitors. Therefore, it’s a good choice for a quick trip where you’ll be spending most of your time outside the hotel room.

Meritage Resort and Spa – this lodging option always finds its way to every top 10 list of the accommodations in the area. Maybe it’s because of the well-appointed rooms or the hand-crafted cocktails. Either way, you should check it out.

The Meritage Resort and Spa
The Meritage Resort and Spa
The Meritage Resort and Spa
The Meritage Resort and Spa
The Meritage Resort and Spa Room
The Meritage Resort and Spa Room

Day trips from Napa Valley

If you have a little extra time and want to see the surrounding area, there are a few day trips from Napa you may want to take.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Sonoma Valley – Sonoma is a natural day trip from Napa, and it would be a shame to miss out on the full wine country experience while you’re here. Even if you’ve had your fill of wine tasting from a day in Napa Valley, this is a fun stop. You can spend a lazy day exploring the historic Sonoma Plaza or just enjoying the beautiful scenery.
  • Guerneveille – Not far from Napa Valley in Guerneveille: you can ooh and ahh at the giant redwoods at Armstrong Grove Redwoods State Park.
  • Big Sur – If you’re up for an adventure of massive proportion, take the almost 4-hour drive to Big Sur, where you can experience big, winding cliffs and get your fill of hiking and camping. It’s a stark contrast to the days of sipping wine on a patio, but it’s a memorable experience, nonetheless.

You might be surprised to learn that there’s a lot more to do in Napa Valley than taste wine, but it’ll be more obvious as you start exploring the area. Beautiful rolling hills and moderate summer temperatures make the perfect backdrop for any type of adventure. Whether it’s wine-fueled or not is entirely up to you!

Just be sure to designate a driver or hire one for your day-cation. You’ll have a much more enjoyable experience when you don’t have to worry about who is driving.


Best of Nappa Valley, California - What to do and where to stayA complete one day itinerary - Nappa Valley, California

If you have any other propositions for this One Day in Napa Valley Itinerary feel free to share it in the comments below!

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Rachel OConner
Rachel Oconner
Travel Blogger

Rachel is a freelance writer and a self-proclaimed "Travelholic". She enjoys traveling to parts unknown, sampling local cuisines, and sharing her experiences with the world. In her free time, you can find her planning her next trip, running with her dogs, or heading to the closest farmers' market. Find her on Twitter.

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