Located just north of San Francisco and the “Bay Area,” Napa Valley is nestled between the mountains and valleys of Northern California. Napa Valley is well known for its bountiful array of hillside vineyards, wine tasting adventures, outdoor activities, and fine cuisine. This may be one of the reasons why many people are always contemplating the best time to visit Napa Valley.
Napa Valley is an American Viticultural Area, meaning it is a designated wine-producing region providing official appellation for both winemakers and consumers. Napa Valley is considered one of the premier wines making areas in the world dating vineyards back to the nineteenth century.
With a combination of a pristine Mediterranean climate and prime geography and geology, Napa Valley is a wine maker’s paradise for vinicultural ventures. Napa Valley is a prime spot for enotourism or tourism with a focus on vineyard visits, wine tastings, etc. Approximately 4.5 million people visit Napa Valley every year to taste the splendors its grapes offer.
But when is the best time to visit Napa Valley? What seasonal activities are there to do in Napa Valley? What is Napa Valley’s weather like throughout the year? We’re here to help you find the best time to visit Napa Valley for a truly unforgettable vacation experience.
What’s the Weather in Napa Valley Like?
Napa Valley is home to a mild Mediterranean climate all year-round. The area is actually composed of many mesoclimates, used to describe the very specific climates found in the smaller viticultural areas of the valley. This is due to various weather and geographic factors found within Napa Valley.
The southern side of Napa Valley is usually cooler due to its exposure to the San Pablo Bay while the northern end is much warmer. The western side of the valley typically experiences more precipitation due to its windward location against the mountains.
Seasonally, Napa Valley is a Mediterranean climate lovers desired destination. Generally, temperatures throughout the year in Napa Valley vary drastically between morning and evening.
Depending on weather conditions, evening temperatures can be as much as 30 degrees lower than those experienced in the daytime. Temperatures can also vary between sides of the valley at the same time of day. One can experience a 10-degree difference between the north and south sides of the valley at the very same time.
Wine Seasons in Napa Valley and the Best Time to Visit Napa Valley
There are two ways to look at seasons here in Napa Valley. Either the traditional seasons winter, spring, summer, fall or by wine seasons aka cabernet, grape growing, and harvest seasons. Cabernet season occurs from November through early April, the grape growing season is experienced from late April through early August, while harvest season is late August through October.
As mentioned before, the traditional seasons in Napa Valley experience a mild Mediterranean climate. Spring experiences highs in the upper 60s and lows in the upper 40s with an average rainfall of 1.8 inches. Napa Valley in Spring brings budding vines and flowers across the valley. Spring in Napa Valley bursts in color with new blossoms and lush green mountainsides from winter rains. This can be a great time to visit if you are more interested in seeing the beautiful vine blooms during this time.
Summer in Napa Valley is an absolutely splendid time. With highs in the low 80s and lows in the mid-50s along with very little to average rainfall, summer is one of the best times to visit Napa Valley. With golden hills, bountiful grapes, and the sun’s endless warmth. Summer in Napa Valley is an amazing experience.
Fall in Napa Valley is harvest season! With highs averaging in the upper 70s and lows in the mid 40s plus an average of 1.5 inches of rain, fall is a beautiful time to visit Napa Valley. With the smell of crushed grapes in the air and vibrant vineyard foliage of bright yellow and red, fall is a wonderful time to visit Napa Valley. You can experience the fall foliage of Napa Valley and enjoy some wine tasting tours during this time.
Winter in Napa Valley brings the most contrast in weather compared to the rest of the seasons. The average highs are in the low 60s with lows in the low 40s paired with an average precipitation of 5.3 inches. Winter rains pour down across the Valley a few days a week, yet when it is not raining, Napa Valley in winter is filled with bright blue skies and vivacious shades of greens. If Winter is the season for you, be sure to catch the vibrant shades of yellow across many of the vineyards as they welcome cabernet season.
So, when is the best time to visit Napa Valley? No matter the season you visit, Napa Valley offers tons of fun activities, events, and beautiful nature to experience. Napa Valley offers tastes and adventures for any and all travelers. The best time to visit Napa Valley can be any time of the year depending on your preferences!
Things to Do in Napa Valley Besides Wine Tasting
Besides wine tasting, there are several other great things that you can do in Napa Valley whether you are visiting alone or with friends and family. There are a number of things that can be fun for kids as well so they will not be left out of the excited.
1. Napa Valley Bike Tours
With locations in Napa and Yountville, Napa Valley Bike Tours offers three levels of support to choose for an amazing biking adventure throughout the many vineyards of Napa Valley. With guided and self-guided tours, patrons can partake in a wide array of biking experiences. Ride along the 12.5 mile trek of Napa Valley Vine Trail from Napa to Yountville for an amazing vineyard experience.
2. Calistoga Balloons
Craving a wild adventure and crazy heights? Book a private hot air balloon flight with Calistoga Balloons! Calistoga Balloons is the only balloon company that provides flights across the northern portion of Napa Valley. Fly over rural natural features such as Mt. St. Helena, Palisade Cliffs, California Old Faithful Geyser, and Petrified Forests. Float lightly over award-winning wineries and discover the amazing views found throughout Napa Valley.
3. American Canyon Paintball Jungle
If adventure sports are what you crave during your visit to Napa Valley, be sure to check out American Canyon Paintball Jungle. With a big facility that accommodates both beginners and advanced players, American Canyon Paintball Jungle is a great way to get some exercise and laughs in during your visit to Napa Valley.
4. Lake Hennessey
If boating and fishing are activities you love and crave to do during your visit to Napa Valley, then be sure to check out Lake Hennessey. Napa’s largest local reservoir is sadly not open for swimming. However, patrons can come enjoy the waters via the trails along the lake, as well as renting boats or fishing from the banks.
5. Napa Valley Trail Rides
Napa Valley Trail Rides offers a unique adventure for those looking for vineyard tours with a twist. Take a trip through Rapp Ranch Estate and the surrounding hills of Coombsville via horseback! Followed by a wine tasting at Shadybrook Estate, Napa Valley Trail Rides is a fantastic and adventurous way to take in the views and tastes of Napa Valley.
6. Visit Old Faithful Geyser in Calistoga
Though not as dramatic as Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Geyser, Calistoga’s Old Faithful is still a spectacular wonder to behold. The geyser blows off steam in a fantastic show of nature every 15 to 30 minutes. While waiting for the geyser, be sure to check of the wonderful nature surrounding the geyser, enjoy the picnic grounds and petting zoo home to llama, horned sheep, and mountain goats.
Old Faithful Geyser also offers a chance to learn about geysers and the geology of the valley at the Geology Museum, free with admission to the geyser ($15/adult).
7. Uptown Theatre Napa
If a wide array of live entertainment is what you crave during your visit to Napa Valley, be sure to check out the Uptown Theatre in Napa’s West End district. With amazingly restored art-deco architecture from 1947, this theatre showcases some of the best music and comedy acts entertainment has to offer. Uptown Theatre Napa is a historic landmark and intimate space for live entertainment experiences.
8. The Napa Valley Museum
The Napa Valley Museum is an awesome place to visit during your trip to Napa Valley. Discover the unique cultural and environmental heritage of Napa Valley at the Napa Valley Museum. For just $5, embark on a history tour of Napa Valley with various exhibits highlighting Napa Valley’s fine arts, natural sciences, wineries, and founding.
9. Kayaking Tours
For water enthusiasts planning a trip to Napa Valley, be sure to check out Napa Valley for kayak and paddleboard tours. Book an hour and a half guided tour on the Napa River for an unbelievable experience taking in the natural wonders of Napa Valley as well as the history of the Napa River. Paddle Board tours are also offered for eco-tours in which you can learn about the flora and fauna of Napa Valley. Maybe you will even see some of Napa Valley’s most treasured species such as otters and minks!
10. Hiking Trails
If an outdoors adventure is what you crave during your trip to Napa Valley, be sure to check out all the hikes the valley has to offer. The Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District offers watersheds, natural areas, and wildlife habitats with trails galore. Check out the Napa Outdoors website for an interactive map providing information on the vast array of trails Napa Valley has to offer.
11. Go Golfing!
If golfing is one of your favorite activities, then Napa Valley is the destination for you! Napa Valley is a premier destination for golf enthusiasts with some of the most beautiful championship golf courses in the world. Check out courses such as Chardonnay Golf Club, Mt. St. Helena Golf Course, and Eagle Vines Golf Club for an amazing day out on the green.
12. Connolly Ranch
Connect with nature through a day of farm-based education at Connolly Ranch! Located right in Napa, spend the day with family and children learning about farm life, ecology, sustainability, and the role animals play in our livelihood. With more than 9,000 visitors a year, Connolly Ranch supports a diverse set of interests and provides a wide array of learning opportunities such as field trips, seasonal camps, and open farm days. This is a perfect activity for kids if you are visiting with them.
13. Treat Yourself to Some Mud
Calistoga, in Napa Valley, is well known for its signature mud bath treatments. Taking advantage of the great spas available here can be a great way to rejuvenate your body especially if you are visiting for a vacation. With over 15 spas each with their own unique technique, spend your day relaxing and rejuvenating your skin in baths of mineral enhanced mud. Be sure to check out spas like Solage, at Auberge Resort, Baths at Roman Spa, and Calistoga Hot Springs for your mud kick.
14. Experience Some History
Discover how wheat and flour were milled in the 1800s at the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park in St. Helena. The park is home to a water-powered grist mill that dates back to 1846. Once the premier social activity of Napa Valley, settlers used to gather to have their corn and wheat grounded into meal or flour. Today, you can visit this California state historic park and learn all about life in Old Napa Valley. The park is also home to the first church in Napa Valley as well as the Pioneer Cemetery.
15. Take a Walking Tour of Napa
Taste, smell, and see the wonders that Napa, California has to offer. With tours like Rooted Fork Foodie Tours and Active Wine Adventures, you and your family or friends can take a walking tour of downtown Napa and for all the bites and drinks Napa has to offer.
16. Visit Oxbow Public Market
Located in the Oxbow District of Napa, the Oxbow Public Market houses 40,000 square feet of marketplace, including scenic outdoor decks with seating along the Napa River. The Market features local food vendors, delicious cafes, and organic produce from local farms. The Oxbow Public Market promotes sustainable agriculture and local harvest, providing a thriving market for local farmers and small business owners. A major goal of the market is to improve local food culture through community outreach, education, and business support. So stop by for tasty treats and wonderful picnic views of the Napa River!
17. Listen to Some Jazzy Tunes!
Blue Note Napa is a live jazz club and restaurant on the first floor of the historic Napa Valley Opera House. Blue Note Napa is the perfect spot for a night of jazz and delicious eats. The venue focuses on its four creative pillars, world-class live music, gourmet farm-to-table cuisine, spectacular local wines, and exciting art. Blue Note Napa offers an intimate atmosphere where you will feel like you are the performers playing in your own living room!
18. Take in Contemporary Art
Explore di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, a home for transformative experiences with contemporary art of Northern California. This nonprofit art space presents a diverse set of dynamic exhibitions and educational programs for all ages. The di Rosa Center is a great stop during your visit to Napa Valley to take in the foremost collect of contemporary Bay Area art in the world. The Center offers three galleries, a sculpture park, a 35 acre lake, and a wildlife preserve.
19. Experience Yountville’s Art Walk
Take in the breathtaking views of art come to life on Yountville’s Art Walk. The walk features over 65 outdoor sculptures, each with their own story. Many of the sculptures are for sale and each purchase has a percentage of its funds donated to the Yountville Arts fund which aims to continue arts education and activities in Napa Valley.
20. Test Your Cooking Skills
Check out the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone to learn some Napa Valley inspired cooking skills during your visit to Napa. The Institute offers short and long courses on both food and wine as well as interactive demonstrations. The CIA at Copia also offers wine and beverage tutorials, chef demonstrations, and both group and private classes. Learning how to cook some of Napa Valley’s best cuisines is a great way to spend your day during your visit to Napa Valley.
Weddings in Napa Valley
Many people also visit the Napa Valley to attend wedding events. Napa Valley has the right ambience and environment for outdoor weddings. This is a perfect location for couples who would really love to have a vineyard wedding and photoshoot.
There are several vineyard wedding venues in Napa Valley and you customize the decoration to suit whatever theme that you really want. Some of the venues are located in hotels, resorts, wineries, vineyards, historic sites, ranch farms etc. and event managers are usually willing to work with you to meet your wedding event needs.
Some of the venues have both outdoor and indoor receptions with nice photoshoot locations including winery, barn and hillside theme views.
Some of the nice wedding venues in Napa Valley include:
1. Culinary Institute of America at Greystone
2. Carneros Resorts
3. Napa Valley Wine Train
4. Meritage Resorts & Spa
5. Chardonnay Golf Club
6. Solage, an Auberge Resort
7. Charles Krug Winery
8. Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch
9. Meadowood Napa Valley
10. Silverado Resort and Spa
Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
Napa Valley is known primarily for one thing, wine. Being an American Viticultural Area or AVA, Napa Valley is home to a multitude of vineyards with a diverse set of grapes. The Valley produces all kinds of wine or wine varietals, from chardonnay to cabernet sauvignon. Don’t worry if you don’t know about wine varieties yet, you learn more when you visit the vineyards and wineries in Napa Valley for tours.
With over 400 wineries, there is a perfect sip for everyone. Enjoy wine tastings, tours, and impeccable views during your visit to Napa Valley’s wineries. Plus, 95% of Napa Valley’s wineries are family-owned so you will feel like you’re right at home during your visit.
But when is the best time to visit all the wineries Napa Valley has to offer? For a full wine-making experience, be sure to visit Napa Valley from late August through October. This is harvest season in Napa Valley and it is all hands on deck.
Take in the smells of barrels of grapes, feel the crunch of the grapes as you stomp on them, and taste wine straight from the barrel. Harvest season is also top tourist season so be sure to book your trip months in advance!
Harvest season is not the only time to visit Napa Valley! Check out some of the best fall foliage sights in California right in Napa Valley from late September through Thanksgiving. The holiday season is also a great time to visit Napa Valley.
Take in the lights and Christmas festivities in downtown Napa. Enjoy a pre-fixed three-course French Christmas eve feast at Angele, a rustic restaurant experience said to rival even the best in France!
The best time to visit Napa Valley for a low-key wine tasting experience is during the low season from January to March. Room and tour rates are far lower at this time, so take advantage of everything Napa Valley has to offer on a budget!
March through May is also a great time to experience Napa Valley in full bloom as the region welcomes Spring. Everything is green in Napa Valley during this time of year. Embark on hikes, picnic by one of Napa’s lakes, or ride horses along trails during your springtime visit to Napa Valley.
Summertime is also a wonderful time to visit Napa Valley. With events like BottleRock Napa Valley where top music artists and local brewers, vintners, artists, and chefs come together for a three-day festival welcoming summer to Napa Valley.
July 4th is an awesome day to be in Napa Valley as well. Be sure to check out the Napa County Fair and Fireworks for award-winning foods, wines, rides, and an amazing spectacle of fireworks celebrating Independence Day. Summer in Napa Valley also hosts the Festival del Sole. Ten full days of top tier cultural immersion with performers from all over the world and Napa County as well as wineries and various vintners coming together to celebrate the beginning of harvest season.
The following are some of the best vineyards and/or wineries to check out during your visit to Napa Valley:
1. Beaulieu Vineyards
2. Cakebread Cellars
3. Cosentino Winery
5. Provenance Vineyards
6. Stag’s Leap Winery
7. Sterling Vineyards
8. Castello di Amorosa
9. Brasswood Estate
10. Charles Krug Winery
Be sure to check out tours, tasting rooms, and events such as:
1. Napa Cellars
2. Trinitas Cellars
3. Clif Family
4. Napa Valley Wine Train
5. The Napa Valley Wine Trolley
6. Wine and Dine Events
7. Napa Valley Gondola
8. Art Sip&Stroll
9. Bacon and Cabernet Pairing in the Olive Grove
10. Napa Valley Film Festival
Where to Eat in Napa Valley
When one thinks of Napa Valley, you’re probably most inclined to think of wineries and 16-course food pairings. Though these are delicious adventures to take your palette on, Napa Valley is actually home to a wonderful, locally-grown food scene. Outside of being a vinicultural area, Napa Valley is an agricultural region with local farms producing some of the best produce in the world.
With everything from farm-to-table taquerias to amazing delis that offer delicious sandwiches, Napa Valley has everything a wine and food connoisseur could ever desire.
Be sure to check out these restaurants for a true Napa Valley food experience:
1. Sam’s Social Club
Sam’s Social Club in Calistoga offers reinvented spa food. With chopped salads, albacore tuna sandwiches, and top-tier roasted chicken, it’s hard to go wrong with a meal here.
Located in Calistoga, Evangeline is known for its blend of Creole and Californian cuisine. With entrees like shrimp étouffée, steak frites, and blue crab bisque, Evangeline offers mouth-watering cuisine for everyone.
3. The French Laundry
This legendary wine country restaurant offers unbeatable food/wine pairings. The tasting menu changes consistently, but with seasonal options like, “oysters and pearls,” it’s no wonder how The French Laundry keeps patrons coming in.
4. Bouchon Bistro
Located in Yountville, the Bouchon Bistro is the sister restaurant to the French Laundry. Indulge in traditional, top-tier French bistro style delights such as daily raw bare selections, trout amandine, and leg of lamb.
5. Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin’ BBQ
Located right in downtown Napa, the Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin’ BBQ is well known for its brisket, St. Louis style ribs, and beer-can chicken. Try any 400 wines by the bottle or 40 by the glass, some with Bounty Hunter’s own label.
6. La Taberna
This Spanish tavern, located just off of Main Street Napa, La Taberna is almost impossible to miss. Feast on pintxos (Northern Spanish small bites) such as crispy pig ear, chicken empanadas, and lamb tartare. Each meal offers a wine or sherry by the glass!
7. Angele Restaurant and Bar
Hidden at the end of downtown Napa’s Main Street, Angele Restaurant and Bar a class French bistro offers unparalleled views of the Napa River plus delicious French country foods such as warm ricotta custard and steak tartare.
8. Gran Eléctrica
An extension of Brooklyn’s Gran Eléctrica, this energetic space offers tastes and drinks galore such as tacos, skillets of quest fundido, and $7 happy hour house margaritas.
9. Contimo Provisions
This low-key window shop located at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia offers some of the best sandwiches in Napa Valley. Try favorites like hot pastrami and mortadella sandwiches as well as country pâté.
10. Rutherford Grille
This steakhouse is beloved to winemakers and tourists from all over the world. Located in Rutherford, this restaurant offers exceptional wine and meat pairings as well as an unpretentious NorCal vibe.
How to Get to Napa Valley
The most common ways that you can get to Napa Valley include flying into any one of the nearby airports and driving to your destination in Napa Valley.
Airports close to Napa Valley: The closest airport is the Sonoma County airport, and the other airports around the area include San Francisco international airport, Oakland international airport, Sacramento international airport and San Jose international airport.
Ground Transportation Options: Some of the transportation options to your destination after arriving at the airport include:
Rental Cars: You can get a rental car from any of the rental companies at the airport and drive to your destination, the farthest airport is the San Jose international airport which is about 94 miles from Napa Valley.
Private Shuttle Companies: If you don’t want to drive, there are several private shuttle transport companies that can pick you up and drive you conveniently and comfortably to your destination. Most shuttle companies utilize comfortable and luxury vehicles in their fleet to provide this service. So you will be sure to have a smooth and comfortable ride.
There are also shuttle companies in Napa Valley that provide transportation for wine tasting tours as well, so you don’t have to worry about your transportation across the wine country for sightseeing.
Helicopter Charter Rides: If you want to eliminate the stress and inconvenience of traffic congestion on some of the routes, then consider taking a helicopter ride from the airport to your destination in Napa Valley. There are a number of helicopter charter services that you can book for this.
Ride Share: Rideshare services from companies like Uber and Lyft are also available at most of these airports. This can be a great way to save money if you traveling on a budget or just want to save some money. You can get to your destination from the airport using ridesharing services as well.
Where to Stay in Napa Valley
With all these amazing places to eat, drink, and play where could one possibly stay? Don’t fret, there is a bountiful array of places to stay during your trip to Napa Valley. With everything from resorts and spas to campgrounds, there’s little room to not have a room when visiting Napa Valley.
For B&Bs and Inns, be sure to check out top places like Beazley House, The Bergson, and Poetry Inn. For hotels, take a look at SENZA hotel, Napa River Inn, and Meadowood Napa Valley.
If spas and resorts are what you are looking for, check out Golden Haven Hot Springs, Vista Collina Resort, and Silverado Resort and Spa.
For the adventurers out there, campgrounds such as Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Enchanted Hills Retreat, and Putah Canyon Campground offer great spaces for camping and outdoor spaces.
No matter what time of year you visit, Napa Valley is the perfect destination for leisure, relaxation, and wine! Though harvest season is known as the best time to visit Napa Valley, the grape growing and low seasons also offer a splendid array of activities for you to partake in during your visit to Napa Valley. Have you been to Napa Valley? Did we leave anything out of our lists? Please comment below! We would love to hear from experienced Napa Valley travelers and Napa Valley wine connoisseurs.