10 Ways to Enjoy USA’s Wine Country Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley

Wine country has been on my places to go for quite some time- save this list of highlights to experience when you travel Sonoma and Napa Valley! We decided to travel the Sonoma and Napa Valley region during our California coast road trip last summer. Both regions are located less than 60 miles northeast of San Francisco. Together, both regions welcome millions of wine lovers year round each year! If you love wine, you will find both regions to be nothing short of a dream! Here are the details about how we spent our time in wine country!

Interested in traveling California? Check out our travel adventures in Gualala, California, Carmel By the Sea or Road Trip the Pacific Coast Highway.


Travel Sonoma Valley vs. Napa Valley

We spent a little bit of time in each region, but we decided to make Sonoma our home base. Nothing is too far of a drive in Sonoma Valley or Napa Valley. Our drive from Sonoma to Napa was about 20 minutes in light traffic.


Sonoma Valley

Sonoma is double the size of Napa, stretching 17 miles north to south. The Sonoma region is enclosed by the gorgeous Sonoma Mountains and Mayacamas Mountains. Sonoma Valley is home to over 30 cities and towns (the most famous being Sonoma and Healdsburg), 425 wineries and tasting rooms. If you love Chardonnay, pinot nor, zinfandel and sparkling wines, you will love Sonoma!

If you are looking for a cheaper vacation, more space and potentially fewer crowds, Sonoma may be where you want to spend more of your time. Restaurants, wine tours and tasting rooms are much cheaper as compared to some of the star studded wineries in Napa. Sonoma also has a more slow, casual feel if you are wanting a more relaxing vacation.


Napa Valley

What Napa Valley lacks in size, it makes up for in wineries. Napa Valley is home to 390 wineries and over 1,000 different brands of wine. The towns Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga make up Napa Valley. If you favor chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, Napa may be calling your name.

If your goal is to indulge yourself on vacation, Napa is the destination for you. Bring your most upscale outfits as you dine in the finest restaurants with 95 point wines, easy to navigate wine routes along Highway 29 and Silverado Trail as well as miles or gorgeous vineyards.


1. Shop the Sonoma Plaza

Are you the type of explorer who likes to just park and wander? Then Sonoma Plaza should be at the top of your list if you are hoping to explore Sonoma Valley! Sonoma Plaza is truly the best way to explore shops and start off your visit in Sonoma Valley. Events, historical sight seeing, shopping, lodging, wine tasting and more is all within one block of Sonoma Plaza!

My favorite shops for Somona style clothing were Wildeflower, the Loop, Perle’, Bossa Nova and Bear Moon Clothing. If you want some unique shops to explore, check out Beads, Global Heart Fair Trade, Socks on the Square, Wine Country Chocolates and Tiddle E. Winks (vintage). You can also view the historic Toscana Hotel and Bear Flag Monument.


2. Dine the Sonoma Plaza

Sonoma Plaza not is only aesthetically pleasing, but just as satisfying to your taste buds. Whether you are looking for wine tasting, a fancy dinner, trendy brunch or a hidden speakeasy, Sonoma Plaza has you covered! Just a reminder, Sonoma Plaza is very busy, especially during weekends. I always suggest checking to see if you can make reservations!

If you love French food, then make sure to stop by the Girl and the Fig for dinner. Choose from authentic French dishes like french white asparagus, cassoulet (confit duck leg, pork belly, sausage,
butter beans, carrots, herbs, bread crumbs), or wild flounder. Choose from their extensive menu of unique cocktails or the finest wine. If you want a casual brunch, we loved the Sunflower Caffe. Honestly, it was hard deciding what we wanted on the menu- EVERYTHING looked amazing! The Smoked Salmon Benedict, Breakfast Burrito, Avocado Spring Toast and Blueberry & Ricotta Waffle.

While not located directly within the Sonoma Plaza, Mary’s Pizza Shack is a delicious treat. They are open late & have the cutest Japanese lantern patio. If you are looking for something very casual where you can drop in, this is the place!


3. Berginer Mansion Wine Tasting (St. Helena)

Sonoma and Napa Valley are both any wine lovers dream, but it can be difficult to decide how to navigate through all the incredible wineries and vineyards. For us, the cost and uniqueness of the experience were deciding factors. We decided to tour the Beringer Mansion since it’s the oldest operating winery in Napa Valley. The Beringer’ Mansion’s wine making dates back 142 years, and features the historic Rhine House mansion. Tours start at $25 to walk the property with a glass of wine of your choice. Another popular tour is their cave tour for $35 which features a 30 minute tour with 3 wine tastings.


4. First Street Napa District

If you enjoyed the idea of parking and walking to explore Sonoma Plaza, you will love the three block First Street Napa district. Not only are there tons of options, the stores are trendy and such a vibe! Parking is available on the ramps or all over downtown and is free.

Here are our favorite women’s clothing stores that you will not find elsewhere: Shoppe Twelve Girl, Boho Lifestyle, Johnny Was, Muguette Renee Boutique, Bombshell Vintage, Honey Whiskey Boutique, The Perfect Provenance and Betty’s Girl Napa. Our favorite other kinds of shops were State & First (Napa Lifestyle), Earth & Sky Chocolates, Riza’s Plants, Napa Bookmine (book store), Antiques on Second and Nostalgia of Napa.


5. Dine in Napa

Napa isn’t just about wine and fashion- it can be a foodie’s dream as well! For breakfast, we visited the Le Paris Artisan & Gourmet Cafe featuring authentic French baked goods and coffee. During our walk through Napa’s First Street district, we cooled down with drinks and sushi at Eiko’s. Don’t forget to pick up delicious donuts at Boon Fly’s Cafe. Also give Hog Island Oyster Co a try, located near Oxbow Public Market. If you want an exclusive dining experience & want to splurge, make sure to check out the famous French Laundry. You will need to make a reservation as they fill out months in advance!


6. Hill Family Estate (Yountville)

Technically located in Yountville. our favorite experience (and wine) from our travels was at the Hill Family Estate. If you have heard of the Hill Family Estate, you may note this is where the WWE Bella Twins, Nikki & Brie, run their wine business from & who they also work with. We had a tour of the winery and had the best view we could ever ask for.

Our wine tasting was in the vineyards and rolling hills of wine country. We enjoyed a Charcuterie board and had generous samplings of 5 delicious wines- we even bought a bottle to take home! Our host was incredible and very knowledgeable about the wine industry and the area. We would definitely come back here again!


7. Oxbow Public Market

As if downtown Napa didn’t have enough activities, Oxbow Public Market has even more to add! We were parked downtown but able to easily walk to the Oxbow Public Market. We could tell right away that this is the local gathering place for wine tasting and food. Highlights of the Oxbow Public Market is Hog Island Oyster Company, Model Bakery, Oxbow Cheese & Wine and Bar Lucia


8. Old Faithful Geyser of California (Calistoga)

Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/OldFaithfulGeyserofCalifornia/

Yellowstone National Park isn’t the only place with a gorgeous geyser. The Old Faithful Geyser of California is located within Napa Valley, in Calistoga. Eruptions are every 15 to 30 minutes, with a picnic ground, petting zoo and Geology museum. Children 4 and under are free, 5 through 11 are $9 and adults are $15 for admission. Make sure to check their hours before opening because they change throughout the year.


9. Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley

Sonoma Valley is twice the size of Napa & it can be quite the task to explore the area. If you want to make sure you don’t miss some of the most iconic views, consider booking a ride on the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley. Tickets are $125 per person, and the trolley leaves at 10:15 AM and returns by 5 pm. The experience includes 3-4 tastings with vineyard representatives, explore wineries and tasting rooms, and view some of the most beautiful sights of Sonoma Valley.


10. Calistoga Spa Hot Springs

Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/CalistogaSpa/

An hour from the town of Napa, is the ultimate day of relaxation at Calistoga Spa Hot Springs. Experience some of the best spa treatments, soak in a mineral springs, hot springs or even try a volcanic mud bath!

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