POSTED ON January 10, 2013 | IN Activities, Wine News | BY Joe Becerra
train napa

To ride or not the train Napa

Some call it the train Napa but we know it as the Wine Train. Every now and then a WCG reader will shoot us an email asking us for advice on taking a ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train that runs through the Valley. I’m sorry to reply to these emails that I have never been on the Wine Train and therefore cannot make a recommendation. I have had friends who have taken the wine train, and for the most part we have heard a mixed bag of reviews. Some think it is an awesome time, while others thought the money would have been better spent on visiting wineries or buying wine.

As far as I can see, the Napa Valley Wine Train is more like a restaurant than anything else. It is really not a wine tour. Sure, the scenery is very pretty along the route from Napa to St. Helena, but the problem is that you cannot get off and on along the way and spend some time at any wineries. When the wine train got the okay in 1989 to take passengers along the Valley, plenty of restrictions were placed on what the wine train could do and not do. Letting passengers on and off at wineries was a big “no.”

I can think of a few reasons why folks might want to take the Napa Valley Wine Train.

  • They love riding trains
  • What better way to enjoy the scenery of the Napa Valley by having fine wine and food without any traffic worries
  • It is a good introduction to the Napa Valley
  • It is a fun and relaxing time
  • It’s a party
image of the wine train ticket at Costco

Costco Wine Train Package

The cost of riding the wine train varies because they have optional tours at a few wineries either before or after the train ride. My local Costco Store has the Napa Valley Wine Train tickets on sale for $84.99 for one ticket. That represents up to a 22% savings according to the print on the package. There is a train for lunch and another for dinner. Beware, if you take the dinner train and it’s the dead of winter, you are not going see much scenery.

There are other options for visiting the Napa Valley other than riding the wine train. There are private limos that can be hired. Platypus is a company that picks up tourists at their hotels and drives them to a set of wineries with a picnic lunch included. You can certainly drive on your own, but make sure you have a designated driver. For good reason, the authorities heavily patrol the Valley.

The wine train is certainly not my cup of tea. When I travel to the Napa Valley, a big part of what I like to do is get out my car and explore the vineyards and compose photographs. I like searching the crossroads finding beautiful vineyard scenes and, oh yes, stopping in at any winery that looks interesting. If I’m driving while visiting, I make sure I bring in my wine spit cup so I can taste but not swallow the wine. I do like the wine train in one respect. I like watching the wine train as it goes by; the cars are old and look very pretty against the vineyards and the mountains.

In case you are planning a trip to the Napa Valley, here is a little video to help you plan a wonderful trip to the wine country: Napa Valley Travel Tips.


  1. Dave Johnson says

    If you haven’t experienced the train it really is a must do. It could be that I just love the train traveling through the valley. You have to have dinner while you are in the valley, take the train for dinner, enjoy apps and wine on the way up and take in the views, on the way back when it gets dim, focus on the dinner and the company you are with.
    It is a lovely experience.
    Dave J

    • joe says

      Very nice! I can feel the passion in your words. Your comment just might convince me to give the Napa Valley Wine Train a try.

  2. Susan English says

    I get to visit wineries all the time…..I don’t get to ride nearly as many trains. Every time we’re up in Napa, my husband and I try to schedule a Napa Valley Wine Train ride – the food is OK, the service is too, but I can say the same for most of the establishments we’ve visited up there. It might be a touristy activity but it’s always been a fun afternoon and that clackity-clack as you cruise up the valley and back is just a kick. I just wish they had sleeper cars for the after-lunch nap!


    • joe says

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks for your comments. They are helpful for those considering riding the Napa Valley Wine Train. Keep having fun in the Valley.