Napa is a city of about 76,000 people. It’s situated in the Napa Valley and is the largest city in Napa County. When you hear the name Napa, you likely think of the vineyards and wineries the region is known for; however, Napa and its surrounding areas are known for so much more.
Napa is famous for its pleasant climate and for having a wide range of top restaurants, cafes and spas. The Napa River runs through the region, and you’ll find a riverfront development near downtown with many popular restaurants, shops and a beautiful promenade. While walking along the river, you’ll see a selection of the city’s oldest homes.
For outdoor lovers, there are 43 parks and open green spaces around the city; many have walking trails and facilities where you can participate in other outdoor activities.
Various festivals and events occur throughout the year in Napa, including the Napa City Nights Summer Concert Series, Napa Valley Jazz Getaway, and Festival Napa Valley.
Below are 15 of the best thing to do in and around Napa, California.
1. Get a History Lesson at Napa County Historical Society
Napa – and the greater Napa County area – is a region steeped in history. You can get a crash course in that history at the Napa County Historical Society.
This society aims to preserve local heritage through a number of exhibits showcasing books, maps, artefacts and photos gathered over the years.
Guided tours provided by knowledgeable historians are offered, and lectures and various events are held throughout the year.
2. Browse the Oxbow Public Market
The Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa is more than just your typical market. You can find fresh produce and handmade souvenirs, but you’ll also see and experience things you might not expect at a typical market.
As you make your way around the vendors, you’ll be able to browse furniture, view cooking demos, hear live music, grab a meal at one of the local restaurants or cafes, and partake in beer and wine tastings.
3. Visit O’Brien Estate
No visit to Napa is complete without venturing out into the Napa Valley in search of the famed wineries the region is known for.
At O’Brien Estate, you are greeted with a warm welcome and a glass of wine produced right on site. If you’re interested in learning about the process involved in creating that glass of wine from beginning to end, you can take a guided tour of the property, which includes 40 acres of vineyards and the winery.
After the tour, make sure to stay for a little while and savour some wine while you relax in the beautiful surroundings.
4. Soar Above the Napa Valley in a Hot Air Balloon
The Napa Valley is beautiful from the ground, so just imagine how beautiful it must be from above! You can see it all from the sky with a hot air balloon ride from Balloons Above the Valley. As you float above the landscape, you’ll pass over sprawling vineyards and stunning landscapes.
Enjoy a snack at the cafe before you set out, and indulge with a champagne brunch after your experience.
If riding in a hot air balloon doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, local companies offer helicopter rides and paragliding, so you can still enjoy the views from above.
5. Explore Skyline Wilderness Park
Whether you wish to camp under the stars or spend a day in natural surroundings, Skyline Wilderness Park is the perfect place to escape the city and get back to nature.
The park features 850 acres of land with a campground, more than 25 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, and the Martha Walker Habitat Garden, home to native flora and fauna.
The trails are used for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. As you wander through the area, keep an eye out for deer, wild turkeys, and a variety of bird species.
Other activities in the park include disc golf and archery.
6. Combine Nostalgia, Food and Scenery Onboard the Napa Valley Wine Train
There are many ways to see and experience the Napa Valley region, but one of the most popular and unique ways is with a train ride onboard the Napa Valley Wine Train, which departs downtown Napa.
This beautifully restored antique train dates back to the early 1900s and travels along a 25-mile track through the beautiful Napa Valley.
As you sit back in comfort and luxury and take in the scenery, friendly and professional staff will cater to your needs. Enjoy American cuisine prepared onboard for lunch and dinner.
If you prefer a more elaborate tour on top of the regularly scheduled journey, you can add winery tours, a murder mystery adventure, or an evening tour featuring live music.
7. Take in a Show at the Napa Valley Opera House
The Napa Valley Opera House is a renowned venue situated in downtown Napa. This historic building was constructed in 1879 and is a premier choice for performing arts in the region.
Enjoy a cozy setting as you take in one of the plays, music concerts, or dance performances that take place throughout the year.
8. Admire Art at the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art
Unique, beautiful and bizarre are just some of the words used to describe the outdoor sculpture garden at the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art. Whichever way you see it, this must-see stop in the Napa Valley is a breath of fresh air after a day spent touring wineries.
The 217-acre property is situated on a former vineyard and includes indoor galleries and a beautiful lake. As you stroll around the garden and galleries, you’ll see more than 2,000 artworks by 800 artists, historical artefacts, and a collection dedicated to local artists. Guided tours are available.
9. History and Hiking Await at the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park
The main attraction at the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park is the 36-foot grist mill dating back to 1846. Guided tours and demonstrations are offered, and visitors can purchase organic milled products.
A beautiful 2.4-mile-long nature trail is also on site. As you pass through thick forest, you’ll see picnic areas, a swimming area, a pioneer cemetery, and the first church constructed in the valley.
10. Indulge in Fine Food and Drink at TORC
When it comes to high-end dining, TORC in Napa has been delivering a unique culinary experience since 2014.
This stylish eatery serves a variety of farm-to-table gourmet options set to the sound of lively music.
Some of the options available on the menu include duck wings, pork belly, Maine diver scallops, and jamon Iberico. Guests can also choose wine pairings to go with their meal.
11. Explore Calistoga’s Petrified Forest
Napa Valley is famed for its wineries, but it’s also known for something else – the biggest petrified redwood trees on earth.
These trees are now fossils thought to have been petrified when a nearby volcano erupted 3.4 million years ago. The walking trail is only a half-mile, and the trees can be seen from the path.
Guided tours are offered daily, but you can choose to explore the area on your own.
12. Get an Educational Experience for the Whole Family at Connolly Ranch
Connolly Ranch in Napa is the perfect place to spend a fun day learning about the workings of a farm. Spend time outdoors while you learn about farm animals, sustainable farm practices, and growing healthy foods.
A Farm Open House is held once a week in the morning, and visitors have the chance to meet the resident animals and hang out in an edible garden. Pack a picnic and enjoy it in the natural surroundings.
13. Visit the Gordon Huether Studio and Gallery
While the artist Gordon Huether may mostly be known locally for his striking fork piece, which consists of 8,000 forks, his Gallery and Studio in Napa features many more of his works, mostly dedicated to colourful, large-scale sculptures.
The unique thing about his art is he often creates it with recycled items.
14. Go on a Paddling Adventure Down the Napa River
Napa Valley Paddle offers paddle-boarding adventures that depart Napa and travel along several different routes, depending on what you would like to see as you head down the river. The river is calm, so the tours are safe, fun and suitable for all levels.
As you head down the river, you’ll see scenic views of Napa, pass under four bridges, and admire the picturesque landscape of the Napa Valley.
15. Take the Little Ones to Playground Fantastico
Said to be one of the best playgrounds in the region, Playground Fantastico provides ample green space and fun attractions to keep all members of the family happy for an entire afternoon.
The playground features a castle theme and has a sandpit, fort and climbing area. There are picnic tables on-site as well.