When Americans need a romantic weekend away, or just an escape from the daily grind, many head to Napa Valley. This Californian location just north of San Francisco has everything you need to de-stress: sunny weather, picturesque scenery, and of course, wine.
The Napa Valley is made up of a collection of small towns, spanning from Calistoga in the north to the American Canyon in the south. It was home to the Patwin Tribe in prehistoric times, but it wasn’t discovered by Europeans until the first half of the 1800s. One of the first settlers, George Calvert Yount, helped to develop the region by building the first sawmill, grain mill, and vineyard. His descendants played a role in building the wine industry which attracts tourists to the valley today. The name Napa comes from a Native American word, and while there has been some debate about its meaning many believe it comes from the Patwin term for house.
That makes sense to those who continue to return to Napa for their vacations, as visiting this serene location always feels like coming home.
Today the region is best known for its wines, which attract tourists from around America and the rest of the world. The area’s wine region was born in the early 19th century, but grew to an international industry in the 1960s. It quickly came to be regarded as one on a par with the best European wine districts. Napa is the warmest of California’s wine regions, with summers enjoying higher temperatures than Sonoma County or Santa Barbara County. That makes it perfect for growing varietals like cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel.
If you like wine and the Napa vacation concept, then consider taking a trip to Walla Walla or look into visiting the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada. Another great option is to visit the Australian wine country through one of the great trip provided by Zicasso Wine Tours.
This is a region that treasures its history, with many of the original wineries including Charles Krug Winery, Chateau Montelena, Shramsburg, and Beringer still producing exemplary wines today. In recent years boutique wineries have become popular though, with Dominus Estate, Duckhorn Vineyards, Harlan Estate, and Screaming Eagle also producing some exciting new drops.
One of the most relaxing ways to discover the region’s vineyards is aboard The Napa Valley Wine Train in St. Helena. The restored antique train runs a range of daily wine tours and serves up gourmet meals to travelers who’d prefer to sample the region’s drops from the luxurious carriages.
While wine is the Napa Valley’s major draw card, that’s not all this Californian travel destination has to offer. A meal in one of the city’s fine dining restaurants, a mud bath in the Calistoga hot springs, or simply lazing about one of the region’s bed and breakfasts are arguably just as relaxing as sampling a few of the region’s premier wines.
Those volcanic hot springs in Calistoga are famous for their purifying and relaxing effects. A soak here is ideal for soothing muscles after a day shopping in the clothing boutiques and gift shops on Lincoln Avenue and the specialty stores in The Depot’s restored railway cars.
St. Helena’s thriving wine industry draws the crowds, but while you’re there it’s worth discovering the area’s rich history on the downtown walking tour, or rejuvenating in one of the local spas.
Travel further east and you’ll find Lake Berryessa, a town which makes the most of its enormous waterway. At around 26 miles long and three miles wide, it’s one of the largest freshwater bodies of water in the state. Of course, one of the best ways to enjoy Lake Berryessa is to get on the water. The area’s lakeside resorts rent out boats to their patrons, or if you’re brave enough to navigate the town’s windy country roads you could always tow your own. Lake Berryessa also has some of the best fishing opportunities in California, with bass, rainbow trout, kokanee, and catfish all biting. The lake is also a great spot for swimming during summer, or a lazy picnic lunch.
In the heart of Napa Valley you’ll find Yountville, a romantic town known as the valley’s culinary capital. Award winning chefs serve up Italian, French, Pacific Rim, and traditional Californian dishes for all budgets in the area’s many restaurants. Some of the best are located in the Yountville’s wineries, where delicious cuisine is matched by local wines and beautiful vineyard vistas.
The American Canyon at Napa Valley’s southernmost tip is regarded as the new kid on the block. It doesn’t have the rich history of the rest of the Napa townships, but it makes up for it with a pristine wetland preserve, flourishing shopping district, and some excellent restaurants.
Most tourists come to Napa Valley for the wine, but soon discover that there are many more pleasures to be enjoyed here.