August through the end of harvest, early October, is the busiest time in the Napa Valley. These are some important tips if you are planning a Napa Valley wine country getaway.
Weekend traffic is at a virtual standstill along Highway 29. Cars turning left or right, in and out of tasting rooms, resemble a game of Russian Roulette. The popular tasting rooms are jammed with travelers, sometimes three deep, waiting to get a taste. Tasting fees are at an all-time high, ranging on the average from $15 to $35 a person (Napa Valley Wine Tasting Index ). Getting a restaurant or lodging reservation is tough unless you plan weeks ahead. Expenses for a weekend stay, dining and tasting, could run well above $1000. Yet despite all of this, the Napa Valley is a very cool place to visit. With this advice on how to visit the Napa Valley, you can make your trip more enjoyable.
How to Visit the Napa Valley
- Plan, plan, and plan some more. Start booking restaurants and lodging several weeks before for the high tourist season.
- The earlier in the day you visit tasting rooms, the less busy they will be. A majority of tasting rooms open at 10 am. Be sure to have a designated driver or use a spit cup. See how to use a spit cup.
- Visit some of the lesser-known wineries off the beaten path. See our Hidden Wine Trail. Or, drive the Silverado Trail Wine Route.
- Consider visiting wineries that are open by appointment only for a tour and tasting. These wineries usually limit the number of visitors. It may cost more, but you will get special attention and not have to fight the crowds.
- The busiest area of the Napa Valley is on Highway 29 from Yountville to St. Helena. Visit wineries north of Yountville and there will be less traffic and fewer visitors.
- In Coombsville, just south of Napa, there are a number of wineries less traveled. Coombsville Vintners and Growers Association
- In north Napa Valley, the Calistoga area is much less traveled. Try the Calistoga Wine Trail.
- You can save on tasting room fees. Ask for two-for-one tasting room coupons at your hotel or the local tourist office. If you see one of the many winery travel guide magazines, browse them and you will find tasting room coupons. Clip them!
- There are some “budget” hotels and lodging in the Napa Valley. See our list.
- Of course the weekdays are much less busy, but in the tourist season expect just a bit smaller crowds than on the weekend.
We have a very handy trip planner and winery guide to help you select wineries according to your needs. We also like this little quick video on Napa Valley Travel Tips.