It is not easy to navigate the Napa Valley for first-time travelers or if you have not been for a few years. In the last few years, Napa Valley has changed dramatically. It is more upscale and pricey. Most wineries do not take drop-in visitors. Reservations are needed at most tasting rooms. After many trips to the Valley, we developed these Top Ten Tips for Visiting the Napa Valley.
Top ten tips for enjoying the Napa valley
- Post-COVID restrictions, most wineries require a reservation for tastings. Drop-in tasting is very limited. Plan ahead. If you follow one of our Napa Valley Wine Trails, check each winery’s Website for the latest tasting information.
- Tasting Room Only Venues. You’ll find these types of tasting rooms and wine bars in the Napa Valley towns. These are fun, but nothing beats a full-fledged winery. We encourage you to visit a working winery with a tasting room, cellar, barrel room, and vineyards. This way, you’ll get the total winemaking experience.
- Use a Designated Driver. This tip might be the most crucial. The CHP and the Sheriff’s Department are on patrol in the Napa Valley. They want to make the roads safe for everyone. See this page for driving option.
- Famous wineries have big crowds at the tasting room. Avoid them by going to smaller wineries or hidden wineries. Go off-season or during the week.
- Experience a mix of wineries. Travel to big, small, funky, artsy, and family-owned wineries. See our excellent Wine Trail Guide to the Napa Valley.
- Pace yourself. We like to visit three wineries in one day. Late morning, mid-afternoon, and late afternoon. Take time out for lunch, especially a picnic lunch at a winery. Less is more when visiting tasting rooms.
- Make your reservations early. Once you decide where to stay and select restaurants, book them before far in advance of your trip. Many travelers wait until the last minute and are disappointed when a restaurant or accommodation are booked.
- Put the wine club on hold. It is always tempting to join a wine club. Wine always tastes better at the winery. It is just the environment. Wine clubs are not always a good wine deal.
- Take many photos of your trip. Make a slide show when you return.
- Study our the Napa Valley Wine Country Planning Guide. First, decide on your accommodations. The location will dictate choices for dining, shopping, and wineries to visit.