Spring is in full bloom in Napa Valley and many people are planning their vacation and looking for things to do other than just visiting wineries. With so many family and friends visiting us at Croze we have complied a list of the top 5 excursions and surprises that will become great memories of your visit to the valley.
1. Enjoy the outdoors! Not only is Napa a great place to grow grapes it is wonderful place to hike, bike or kayak. Hike the Robert Louis Stevenson state park to the highest peak in California Wine Country.The hike is a ten-mile round trip and spans the summit of Mt. St. Helena. Bike the Nichelini Loop a 30 mile intermediate ride that includes a nice mix of short climbs, rolling hills and beautiful scenery. Rent a bike at Napa Valley Bike Tours & Rentals and pick up a map. Kayaking is a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle that occurs during peak season in Napa Valley. There are several guided tours to choose from when kayaking in Napa. Take a trip to get some exercise, bird watch or catch some sunshine but make sure to check on times as they vary with the tide.
2. Eat at the many great restaurants! There are so many great restaurants to choose from how does one know where to start? We have picked out a couple hidden gems that might be a little of the beaten path. The first spot is Chiccio’s in Yountville. This small Italian flavored restaurant is owned by Frank Altamura and family of Altamura Winery. The menu is tightly crafted around pizzas from their wood-fire oven and using the freshest local ingredients. Don’t forget to order a Frank’s Negroni! For Sunday brunch you must drop in to Soscol Café and don’t let the looks fool you. The food is great as the Sunday morning lines can attest so get there early. No trip to Napa is complete without the huevos rancheros and a breakfast burrito.
3. Relax! You came on vacation and with all the fun and exciting things to do sometimes visitors forget to relax and Napa Valley is the perfect place to do just that. The first place to begin a relaxing day would be Calistoga, which is known as one of the best spa destinations in the world with its rich tradition of mud baths. What is a mud bath? About 8 million years ago, give or take a few, Mt. Konocti erupted spraying volcanic ash in the area, the ground cracked as well allowing geysers and hot springs to form. The local spas bring in the ash everyday and add it to boiling local spring water and add in peat moss to make the mixture soft to the skin and many other choice ingredients such as lavender for the smell. Generally the process goes-12-15 mins in the 100 degree mud bath while drinking ice-cold spring water. The muddy mixture is more warm than hot and unbelievably relaxing. Next you will clean off, take a mineral whirlpool bath, enjoy a steam room session and finally finish with a blanket wrap to let your body cool off slowly. Each spa has their own wrinkle to the process but it generally lasts about 1.5 hours. The second best way to relax in the valley is to have a picnic in one of the many parks. The abundance of great cheese and charcuterie at the many local shops makes it easy to throw a wonderful picnic. Local city and state parks abound all throughout the valley so much so that there are too many to list but some of the best parks are in Yountville, just take a stroll through the town and grab a picnic table you like.
4. Shop & Stroll. No trip to Napa would not be complete with a walk through the quaint town of St. Helena. The majority of shops are in the historic two square blocks of downtown main street. Yes just two square blocks are filled with authentic, one of a kind shops and items that are made by the local shop keepers and local artists. Jewelry, clothing and the perfect gift to take home will be found hidden in these neat little shops. Don’t forget to visit Sunshine Foods as it is one of the Valley’s best grocery stores and places to stock up for your picnic. Try the feta orzo pasta salad, you’ll thank us later. Downtown Napa is on the come back from last August’s earthquake and there are an abundance of great shops and restaurants. Some great spots to stop in include the Napa General Store as they have everything including a great river view, Alice’s Napa Vintage Market and Napa Cigars with a great selection of cigars and a smoking lounge. No trip to Napa would not be complete without a stop at Oxbow Market. Great artisanal and local foods abound in this local gathering spot. Some of the best oysters, cheeses and oils are all under one roof.
5. Beer, yes beer. With over 500 breweries in the state some of the best breweries in the country are just a short drive from Napa. Lagunitas is one of our favorite microbreweries and it just about a 30 minute drive to Petaluma. Lagunitas boasts a list of 9 year round brews as well as 9 seasonal options as well. There is an outdoor café serving food, daily tours (check schedule) and live music. Plan for a two to three hour visit at Lagunitas to enjoy flights of beer, have lunch and take a tour. Lastly, and we saved the best for last, Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa. First, they brew Pliny The Elder, generally the highest rated beers brewed in the US and often the hardest to obtain. Second, the brew pub serves great food, the pizza is always a standout. Lastly, they brew Pliny the Elder! Get there early as it often takes over an hour to get in and all of the Pliny is gone for the day.
Hopefully you have a wonderful time visiting the Valley.