Take on Napa Like a Pro
Napa – the picturesque views, the gourmet dining, fancy wine, and a good time with friends. If Napa is your dream vacation and you want to arrive with all your ducks in a row, take these tips into consideration. They may even save you some money along the way!
Rent a Car
The Napa valley is only about 30 miles from top to bottom, so traveling around Napa is easy and quick when you have a car. Shuttle services are expensive and take you to limited wineries, and a personal car is even more expensive. If you have friends (and self control) you can travel Napa safely in a car. Just be safe, be careful, and know your limits.
Most towns have wineries that are next door to each other, so it’s easy to spend a day in a town walking to wineries and enjoying food before heading back to your hotel.
Almost every town has a visitor’s bureau. While you may have done all your planning online, it’s worth stopping in and saying hello. We found that we almost always received coupons that were exclusive to the visitor’s bureau, as well as tips on shops and events. These people live and breathe Napa – it shows!
Don’t be embarrassed to save money – they put the coupons out for a reason! Many wineries have coupons on their website for two for one on their standard or estate tastings. These won’t be your multi-hundred dollar bottles of wine, but you can get a sample of some limited production wines for cheap. Now you just have to pick a friend to go with you.
If you winery doesn’t have a website, simply Google the winery plus “coupon” and see what you can find in online magazines and blogs.
Share a Tasting
Most wineries are fine if you ask to share a tasting. Don’t hesitate to ask if it’s okay to share a tasting. We found this especially nice as the day was winding down. You can even ask for it to be split between two glasses.
Don’t Focus on the Hotel
You may think you need to stay in the nicest hotel to experience Napa, but the real beauty of Napa is exploring the wineries, restaurants, trails, and shopping. We chose to stay in Santa Rosa our first night, and then end just south of Napa in American Canyon. With the money saved, you’ll be able to grab several bottles of what you enjoy most for home.
Talk to Your Tasting Room Server
The individual you are assigned when you visit a winery is going to be very knowledgeable about wine. Make sure you interact with them, ask questions about the wine, winery, taste, etc. If you are curious, just ask! Our best experiences included back and forth conversation (so much we went back to a winery again just to talk more and do another tasting).
Look for the Pop Ups & Food Trucks
Napa has a unique food scene, and that means you won’t be finding a McDonalds along your route for a cheap meal. While you are in the smaller cities like St. Helena and Calistoga, read the bulletin boards, street poles, and signs outside of the shops. We stumbled upon an Asian dumpling pop-up in the back of an antique store. There are also food trucks featuring bruschetta and fried chicken.