napa valley trip planner


Armchair Sommelier’s Travel Guide To Napa Valley

Napa Valley.

The name itself conjures images of rolling vineyards, prestigious wineries, and glasses overflowing with 90+ point wines.

It’s a place I fell in love with the first time I ever visited.

Napa Valley is everything you imagine it to be — sophisticated, romantic, beautiful, historic, stylish, and filled with wine, food, and life.

For first-timers, Napa Valley can be intimidating. When should you go? What should you taste? Where should you eat? Boutique or big names? How do you avoid those high prices you’ve heard about?

That’s where this guide comes in.

It’s easy to get lost in the sea of information online, TripAdvisor reviews, and top-ten lists.

Who has time to wade through thousands and thousands of websites and reviews written by people who love Pinot Noir and hate Cabernet Sauvignon (all that means is that wine is subjective)?

I used my fifteen years of experience visiting and planning trips for people in Napa Valley to write this straightforward guide so you experience Napa Valley the right way.

This comprehensive guide features insider tips on places to eat, stay, and visit that will help you get off the beaten path and into the little secret spots.

With this trip planning guide, you’ll get to see an insider’s view of the Napa Valley!

How This Guide Will Help You

  • You’ll discover Napa Valley’s unique, beautiful, and often-overlooked sights with my obsessively curated favorites to make your visit unique and authentic.
  • You’ll get two optional itineraries filled with my favorite and unique places to stay.
  • You’ll get the lowdown on every winery – so you can know what AVA is best for you.
  • You’ll get my personal favorite places to eat – markets to Michelin restaurants, and everything in between – so you know exactly where to go for a delicious meal. I’ve got the list for the foodie inside you!
  • You’ll learn which wineries have picnic spots for budget pairings – filter the guide by varietal, food available and location.
  • You’ll receive three- and four-day itineraries to make planning your visit as easy as possible.
  • Included in this guide is a spreadsheet with every activity, private chef, spa, restaurant, and winery in Napa that can be filtered by varietal, food, location.
  • With detailed information, you’ll know all the options for getting around wine tastings.
  • You’ll get inspired for your trip with my list of hundreds of activities! (think spa, hot air ballooning, biking, paddle boarding, olive oil tasting, the list goes on!)
  • You’ll see how Napa Valley isn’t only about wine!
  • Receive a printable brochure if planning this trip for a special occasion.
napa itinerary

Get the Definitive Travel Guide to Napa Valley!

This guide will help you navigate the valley like a pro, find the best wineries, foodie spots, and and jaw dropping views that will bring tears to your eyes.

Get The Guide

Napa Valley Trip Planning FAQ

How long does it take to get from SFO to Napa?

It depends on the time of day and day of the week of course but travel from SFO to Napa is takes about 1-1/2 hr with light traffic. Uber ranges between $120-180. We have a list of private drivers in our guide!

Should I rent a car or hire a driver?

Yes. We always recommend renting a car first and foremost. You’ll want transportation to run here or there. But if you have a big day of tasting planned (3-4 wineries) we recommend hiring a driver for the day. Most drivers are around $50/hour.

Is Uber/Lyft reliable to get from winery to winery?

Uber/Lyft are hit or miss. If you are relying on Uber for your transportation you should schedule a ride in advance. We don’t recommend that you wait until your tasting is done to book a ride. You will be late to your next tasting guaranteed.

Is Uber/Lyft reliable to get from SFO to Napa and vice versa?

Yes. They are reliable to get you to/from the airport if you schedule in advance. Getting an Uber from the airport is no problem but getting from Napa to the airport needs to be scheduled.

Do Napa wineries have food available or are picnics allowed?

Most wineries have tapas plates available and several offer pairing options. Wineries that allow picnics are V. Sattui, Tres Sabores, Rutherford Hill, Amici, Rombauer, and many more can be found in our guide! 

Where should we stay if traveling with a group?

If you’re traveling with a group, renting a house is most preferable. You will find great options in Sonoma, St. Helena and Calistoga.

Where should we stay in Yountville?

The top recommended hotels in Yountville are Bardessono and Maison Fleurie. Personally, I absolutely loved Maison Fleurie. The roof terrace complete with fire place is lovely for chilly nights. It’s also said to be the oldest building in Yountville.

Where should we stay in St. Helena?

Top recommended places to stay in St. Helena are Harvest Inn and Ink House Inn.

What are the best things to do in Napa Valley?

You can pretty much find an activity for everyone in your group. Wine aside, the best feedback we’ve received from our trips were from… taking a food tour, barrel blending at Conn Winery, cooking class at Cakebread, wine making at Raymond Vineyards, hot air balloon ride, spa, paddle the Napa river, Napa Valley Bike Tours. Oh yeah, and some really enjoy golfing.

How many days should I plan for my Napa Valley vacation?

You should plan a minimum of 3 days. Call it a long weekend. If you plan your vacation for 7 days you should break it up and spend a day at Bodega Bay and do some wine tasting in Sonoma. You can also plan activities that are not wine focused (gasp!).

How do I get reservations for French Laundry?

There are a two ways you can get a reservation. The first way is to plan your Napa trip around your reservation. As soon as reservations open, book your table. If you can’t work out your trip around that day you can always sell your reservations in our Napa Travel Planning group or in the French Laundry Reservations Facebook Group. And that’s the second way you can come by reservations.

What are the best restaurants in downtown Napa?

Most recommended restaurants in downtown Napa are Cole’s Chop House, Morimotos, Torc, Celadon, Eiko’s Sushi, Scala, Angéle, ZuZu, C. Casa, Hog Island. Our favorites are Hog Island, Eiko’s and Angéle (duck confit).

What are the best restaurants in St. Helena?

Our favorite places to eat in St. Helena are Cook, Charter Oak, Long Meadow Farmstead, Mustards Grill, Press, Goose and Gander.

What are the best restaurants in Yountville?

Bouchon Bistro, Ad Hoc, Bottega, Bistro Jeanty (pictured here) and R+D. Of course French Laundry if you can get a table. Yountville is a foodie paradise. Ciccio’s wood fired pizza shouldn’t be missed.

What restaurants in napa valley have vegan options?

These restaurants in Napa Valley have Vegan options: The Dutch Door, C-Casa, Gotts, Bistro Don Giovanni, Azurro, Small World, Southside Cafe, Yak and Yeti, Morimoto, Morimoto Asia, La Calenda, and many more in our guide!

Should I eat a big breakfast and skip lunch?

Every body and all dietary needs differ. That said, we recommend you eat a decent breakfast, take snacks and stay hydrated. We also recommend a food pairing at one or more wineries. The goal is to not get wasted. This is Napa not Las Vegas.

How many wineries should I book in one day?

You can book three wine tastings in a day if they’re all in the same town. There’s no prize for the number of wineries you can hit in one day. Keep in mind you need to be coherent for dinner. And then wake up the next morning.

Should we go to Sonoma?

Yes, yes a thousand times yes, you should go to Sonoma! Sonoma is incredibly charming, has a great cheese factory, history, great food and the most amazing Pinot Noir (if that’s your thing). Hamilton Family Winery is our favorite.

What is the best month to visit Napa Valley?

The best time to visit Napa is August through October (Harvest Season) or March through May. Winter is absolutely beautiful also. The holiday markets and festivals are so charming. Napa’s peak tourist season is harvest season . During this time you can expect crowds and high prices for just about everything.

What is the cheapest time of year to visit Napa Valley?

The cheapest times to visit Napa are Winter and Spring. From November to May you’ll find hotel deals. A hotel you couldn’t touch during Summer in popular Yountville becomes almost affordable, and downtown Napa gets downright cheap.

Can you wear jeans to a winery?

Absolutely! Jeans are acceptable year-round. It’s called wine country casual. Downtown Napa is super casual. We’ve wandered into tasting rooms in gym shorts and ball caps. They just think you have tech money. Be sure to dress in layers. Some winery experiences are outdoors and tours often take guests through wine caves and chilled cellar areas.

How do I plan a wine tasting trip in Napa?

Plan Ahead. Reservations are recommended but if you want to be spontaneous you can call ahead that day or walk-in to a boutique winery. Take Your Time. Limit your day to 2-3 wineries, and plan to stay 2 hours at each location. Travel Safe. Have a designated driver and always pack plenty of food and water.

Where do you fly into to go to Napa?

Napa County Airport is the closest airport to Napa Valley. The closest international airports to Napa Valley are Oakland International Airport, 50 miles south, and San Francisco International Airport, 55 miles south. We have a list of private drivers in our guide!

How far apart are Sonoma and Napa?

It’s about 15 miles from Napa to Sonoma and should have a drive time of 25 mins.

How long do you stay at a winery in Napa?

We recommend 2 or 3 winery visits, but not more than that as most experiences take a minimum of 90 minutes and there is travel time in between. You can hire a driver or tour company to drive you to the wineries.

napa valley trip planner

Meet Your Napa Trip Planner

Hi! My name is Anne Morin and I’m the founder of ArmchairSommelier.com. I’ve planned hundreds of trips over the last 15 years for corporations, clients, friends and family. Couples,  bachelorette parties, stag parties, girls trips, and team building trips. I’ve traveled all over the world in search of good food and great wine. Here I am below in Chiang Mai. When people ask me how and why I choose my destinations I say… “I follow the food. I wanted to learn how to make the best pasta so I booked a trip to Tuscany. When I wanted the best báhn mì sandwich in the world, I went to Vietnam. Pad Thai? Well, Thailand obviously. I love the idea of experiencing culture through food.”

napa valley itinerary

Napa Trip Planner Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know I will like what is included in the 3 Day Pre-Planned Itinerary?

We get that question all the time. While you want to feel liberated by not spending 20 hours planning this trip you just don’t know. We get it. Our answer is, we’ve booked this same trip and we always get great feedback. 

Do you offer different 3 day itineraries?

This Napa Valley Trip Planner offers three- and four-day itineraries.

Will you help me plan my destination wedding?

Wedding planning is incredibly nuanced. Therefore, we recommend someone who is specialized in wedding planning to plan your very special event.