Maybe it was Hallie Parker (played by Lindsay Lohan) running through her father’s Napa vineyards in the movie, The Parent Trap, that sparked your desire to visit Napa Valley in your early years. Maybe you read The Venue Report’s recent roundup on rad Train Tours that solidified your longing. Whatever the reason, we’ve partnered with travel photographer, Lisa Diederich, to share all the best places and spaces to visit when venturing to the land flowing with wine.
In addition to top-notch wineries, Napa Valley boasts farm-to-table restaurants, quaint coffee shops and iconic tours (including hot air balloon adventures) that you need to add to your list of to-dos. Keep reading for Lisa’s day-by-day recommendations.
Photography by Lisa Diederich
What prompted your Napa Getaway?
We just love Napa! It's where Sam (my fiancé) and I got engaged. So it's a very special place for us.
Any must pack essentials for your trip?
My camera! I never travel without it. But I also have a few other travel essentials: Carry-on Cocktail kits for making the perfect in-flight cocktail, the Away suitcase (with a built-in phone charger - lifesaver!), & noise-cancelling headphones. For my Napa wardrobe, I tried to pack light layers and lots of summer dresses. I like to choose pieces that coordinate in one way or another, so I have plenty of options and outfits while traveling.
Tell us about your itinerary...
On our last visit we stayed in Calistoga and Yountville, so this time we wanted to explore the other little towns around Napa. Our first two days were spent in St. Helena at the Wydown Hotel and then we stayed in downtown Napa at The Inn on Randolph for the last two days. Our itinerary was planned by Visit Napa Valleyand jammed packed with amazing experiences along the way. Keep reading for my day by day breakdown!
Drive from San Francisco to St. Helena (stop at Bouchon Bakery for coffee and pastries on the way - it's a must try!)
3pm: Check in at Wydown Hotel
Wander the main street of St. Helena
6pm: Dinner at Goose & Gander
6am: Hot Air Ballooning and brunch with NV Aloft
1pm: Lunch at Farmstead: Long Meadow Ranch
4pm: Wine Tasting at Chimney Rock Winery (this was a little detour so we could take engagement photos!)
8pm: Dinner at Cook
Drive from St. Helena to downtown Napa
4pm: Check in at The Inn on Randolph
6pm: Dinner at Miminashi
9:30pm: Late Night Jazz show at Blue Note Napa (Tommy Igoe Band)
11-2pm: Oxbow Public Market - shopping, beer flights, wine tasting and a charcuterie board lunch
2:30pm: Wine tasting at Mark Herald Wines
3:30pm: Chef's Class: Thai Time cooking demo at Culinary Insititue of America at Copia
6pm: Dinner at TORC
9am: Spa and Pool day at Health Spa Napa Valley
1pm: Lunch at Archetype
Any favorite restaurants?
We have SO many! All of the restaurants on our itinerary were amazing, but we especially loved Miminashi. The food was incredible and so was our waiter, who walked us through every dish and paired each course with a sake, wine, beer or whiskey.
Your hot air balloon adventure looked dreamy! Tell us about your experience...
Well, we can officially cross that off the bucket list! I never thought I would have the chance to ride in a hot air balloon - let alone in such a beautiful place. Floating over the valley was such an incredible experience. The balloons are enormous and I was really surprised to see that each basket holds about 12 people. Your pilot stands in the middle of the basket and operates the propane/flame to take your balloon up or down. There isn't much steering in a hot air balloon - you're just at the mercy of the wind! But of course, it was pretty calm that morning and we watched the sunrise from our basket in the overcast sky. Afterwards, we enjoyed brunch and mimosas to celebrate a great flight!
Any advice for travelers exploring the Napa area?
Try to explore some of the smaller towns like Calistoga and St. Helena, in addition to the main tours and tastings. You'll find charming shops, smaller wineries with great ambiance and plenty of good food in these little local spots. We love wandering the streets and stumbling across those hidden gems. I would also recommend using Visit Napa Valley as a resource. They have great tips, must-see lists and sample itineraries for just about every type of trip.
Photography by Lisa Dieder