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9 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting Napa
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9 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting Napa

Make the best of your getaway to Wine Country and avoid these 9 mistakes when visiting Napa for the perfect trip!

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5 min read

February 15, 2022

Napa Valley is a heavenly escape in California—there’s no doubt about it. If you’re visiting for the first time, the worst thing you can do is think you’ve seen it all when you’ve just barely scratched the surface. To maneuver your getaway like a pro, there are certain common mistakes to avoid in Napa. So, before you go ahead and start planning a trip to Napa Valley, make note of these do’s and don'ts and you’ll love every second of your trip!

These are the Common Mistakes to avoid in Napa Valley

More than 400 vineyards dot the fertile soils of Napa Valley, one of the world’s premier wine regions.

1. Following the Crowds

We understand why many people think Napa is only enjoyable with a glass of vino in hand—that’s all everyone posts when visiting! But, contrary to popular belief, there are so many Napa activities that don’t involve wine at all. By knowing that, you’ll successfully dodge the first mistake to avoid in Napa. Sure, squeezing in a few winery and vineyard tours is essential, but even when doing so, try and go to the ones that are off the beaten path; you’ll have a much more intimate experience. 

So, what do you do in Napa Valley? Visit small towns, drive down scenic roads, taste local eats, attend a jazz concert. The opportunities to make unforgettable memories are endless in Napa, and the key to never forgetting them is to not be under the influence throughout the experience. 

2. Skipping the City of Napa

The heart of Napa Valley is the city of Napa, which is often overlooked by visitors. As exciting as the attractions surrounding Napa are, the city itself is also ripe with adventures you shouldn’t overlook. For one, the downtown area is amazing and should be on anyone’s radar when planning a trip to Napa Valley. Buzzing with new shops and restaurants, and offering a riverside promenade with beautiful city views, the walkable downtown is a treat to explore. 

There's more to Napa Valley than just Napa. There are several distinct towns and a number of regions for you to dine, shop, and stay.

3. Not Exploring Enough Cities in the Valley

On the other end of the spectrum, a mistake to avoid in Napa Valley is limiting your trip to Napa and Napa only. The further north you advance, the more beautiful small towns you get to discover. Yountville, Calistoga, and St. Helena are all within short drives from each other—don’t miss the chance to see them considering how far you’ve already come from San Francisco to Wine Country. 

Besides boutiques, cafes, spas, artisanal purveyors, and hot springs, there are also a variety of world-class hotels and resorts in these towns that expand your options when it comes to choosing where to stay in Napa Valley. Broaden your horizons and give Wine Country a chance to wow you with not one, but all of its charming cities.

4. Giving Yourself a Day to Do it All

If you don’t have enough time to spend the weekend, a day trip from San Francisco to Napa is better than avoiding the getaway all together. But if you can spare an extra day, you should strongly consider spending the night here. It’s easy to overestimate just how much of Napa Valley you can see in a day when in reality, the stress of checking off attractions might consume more of your time and energy than actually enjoying the trip.

Plus, by leaving before dark, you’ll leave out all the fun things to do in Napa at night—believe us, there’s a lot of them. Napa is abundant with outstanding restaurants; why miss out on some of the most memorable dinners you can have? What’s more, the hotels here are an essential part of your Wine Country immersion. If you ask us how long you should stay in Napa Valley, two nights and three days is the perfect amount.

You can find a festival in Napa Valley at any given moment throughout the year, so make sure you check the calendar before visiting.

5. Not Checking the Napa Valley Festival Calendar Beforehand

Napa Valley hosts countless events and festivals throughout the year. Spanning the culinary, sports, film, and arts and culture worlds, the annual festivals in Napa are awesome ways to explore the city. Pick an event that aligns most with your interests and plan a trip to Napa Valley around the same time. 

If you’re a foodie, visit during Napa Valley Restaurant Week, if you like art, check out the city at the same time as Open Studios, and if you’re into film, the Napa Valley Film Festival won’t disappoint. By picking a niche you’re most excited about and planning your trip around it, you’ll heighten your favorite experiences even more.

6. Forgetting To Make Reservations

This mistake is especially crucial to avoid if you’re booking your trip to coincide with the best times to head to Napa Valley, which are summer and fall. With crowds that rival Disneyland, showing up anywhere popular in Napa with no prior reservations could mean waiting in line for hours on end. Luckily, this is an easy mistake to avoid in Napa. All you have to do is pre-plan your itinerary, make reservations far in advance, and you’ll be swiftly jumping from one attraction to the next with no problem.

On the surface, Napa Valley is the ultimate adult playground, but there are so many activities available for kids as well.

7. Leaving the Kids at Home

Don’t leave the kids at home! Not only is Napa Valley family-friendly, but you’ll even find attractions here that seem tailor-made to keep the young ones entertained. Fun resorts, delicious restaurants, miles of hiking trails, hot air balloon adventures, and exciting wildlife to see—there are plenty of Napa Valley attractions for families.

Sure, planning a romantic couple’s getaway to Wine Country is an enticing premise. But if you’re organizing a family trip and have disqualified Napa assuming you won’t find enough family-friendly activities here, definitely reconsider. The things to do in Napa Valley with kids are abundant and guarantee a good time for visitors of all ages.

8. Thinking you Can Only Explore Napa by Car

The easiest way to get to Napa from San Francisco is by car. But is that necessarily also the best way to see Napa Valley? Not really. For starters, traffic on the weekends is crazy, and no one wants to be the designated driver on holiday. 

If you haven’t been aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train before, you should absolutely add it to your itinerary. You’ll get V.I.P. treatment, a different point of view, and a gourmet experience you’ll cherish forever. Is the train too bougie for your taste? Another popular way to explore Napa is by bike. You’ll be very glad you knew of this mistake to avoid in Napa Valley as you zip along shady lanes, traverse vineyards, and farm roads, and beat the crowns sitting in traffic.

With state parks and local trails surrounded by vineyard views, there are experiences for all skill levels in Napa.

9. Not Taking Advantage of the Natural Beauty

It’s easy to get caught up in the tasting, dining, and resort scene in Napa Valley, but the natural beauty is too gorgeous to ignore. Make a point of spending time outdoors the next time you visit and go on a hike or two to take in the valley views. This is a crucial mistake to avoid in Napa and you’ll immediately realize why on your next adventure.

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