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The Ultimate Golden State Wine Country Trip
Travel

The Ultimate Golden State Wine Country Trip

With countless vineyards, relaxing spas, informative museums, and gorgeous nature, Wine Country packs plenty of activities and hidden gems.

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5 min read

October 10, 2021

Dining onboard a wine train, admiring the views from the clouds, and staying the night in an airstream trailer aren’t things you can do just anywhere—these are Wine Country trip highlights. But wait, there’s more. With countless vineyards, relaxing spas, informative museums, and gorgeous nature, Wine Country packs plenty of activities and hidden gems you probably haven’t heard of. If you’re not sure what we’re talking about, here’s the ultimate Wine Country trip guide for you to fill in the gaps. 

The Coolest Attractions To Check Out On Your Wine Country Vacation

The Sonoma Botanical Garden has 25,000 wild origin plants representing over 2,000 individual species. Photo courtesy of Sonoma Botanical Garden.

Sonoma Botanical Garden 

Going on a Wine Country vacation? Forget about the vineyards for a sec and pay a visit to one of its hidden gems—the Sonoma Botanical Garden. This Napa attraction you didn’t know about is a 25-acre garden dedicated to preserving rare and beautiful Asian flora. Most of the plants here have been gathered during seed-collecting expeditions to Asia, many of which are now endangered. Stroll through trails of breathtaking plants, charming ponds, and twisted pathways to enjoy the magic of nature. 

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Francis Ford Coppola Winery

There are so many things to do in Wine Country that don’t involve drinking, even when we’re talking about a wine museum. The Francis Ford Coppola Winery is one of the best wine museums and not just because of its name. Fans of the award-winning director would be delighted to know that the winery features a museum known as the Movie Gallery. You’ll find memorabilia from the brilliant director’s movies such as Don Corleon’s desk and Coppola’s six Oscar statuettes.

Oxbow Public Market is a sprawling spot featuring a riverside deck, food vendors, local produce, and more. Photo courtesy of Oxbow Public Market.

Oxbow Public Market

You wouldn’t think that markets are cool places to go on a Wine Country vacation, but the Oxbow Public Market will prove you wrong. The 40,000-square-foot market is where you get acquainted with everything Napa. Fresh fruits, a large variety of cheeses, artisanal cafes, and fish vendors will have you spending impulsively, and you know what? Your heart will thank you. When you’re done shopping, make sure to check out the outdoor deck overlooking the Napa River.

Hess Collection

Situated atop Napa’s Mount Veeder is the Hess Collection. This winery includes an amazing contemporary art museum many don’t know about. Founder Donald Hess first started collecting art in 1966 when a friend told him a painting he bought for decoration was an original Picasso. Knowing he had a talent for art curation, Hess began collecting art from around the world. Luckily, he didn’t keep it all to himself. Hess’ love for connecting with artists gives us—contemporary art fanatics—the opportunity to share his passion. 

Fun Things To Do During Your Wine Country Getaway

Go on a kayaking trip on the Upper Russian River, which is known for the dynamic terrain, water clarity, wilderness, and abundant wildlife.

Kayak on the Russian River

Wine Country getaways are always the best thanks to the Russian River. The river snakes itself through Sonoma Valley and makes its way to the Pacific Ocean—there’s so much to see and do that you won’t want to leave. But, we all know out of all the adventures you can take, kayaking and canoeing are the best floating experiences you’ll ever have. Let Russian River Adventures help you out and enjoy the float—your pup can tag along too. 

Mud baths may contain minerals like sulfur, zinc, magnesium, and bromine that are said to draw out impurities from the skin and relax sore muscles.

Enjoy Mud and Mineral Baths in Indian Springs

Magically make stress disappear at Indian Springs in Calistoga. The soothing spa treatments in healing volcanic mud are one hundred percent natural and have more physical benefits than we can count. The pure volcanic ash is mined, hand-sifted, and mixed in mineral water on the spot, creating an experience that will change your view of spa treatments forever. 

Hike Mount St. Helena

A hike to the top of Mount St. Helen via the Stevenson Memorial Trail is one of the most rewarding things you can do during your Wine Country vacation. Trekking towards the highest point in Napa Valley, you’ll be exposed to magnificent views of the Bay Area and beyond. We’re not saying the 10-mile round trip over an elevation of 1,800 feet is a piece of cake, but we’re totally saying it’s worth it.

AutoCamp Russian River is located just 90 minutes north of San Francisco in the heart of Wine Country. Photo courtesy of AutoCamp.

Spend the Night at Autocamp

We’re about to give you the best Wine Country vacation idea ever and we won’t even brag about it. Ever felt like camping, but not really? Autocamp is the perfect alternative for actual tent-pitching on the Russian River. And the best option is none other than AutoCamp Russian River, a boutique hotel with campground vibes and chic accommodations, aka retro airstream trailers. But in case you want to be closer to the ground, you can choose to spend the night in one of the canvas tents, which feature electrical outlets and kitchen amenities.

The Best Wine Country Tours To Take

Highway 128 Drive

The scenic Highway 128 is where you’ll get to meet Wine Country in its most authentic form—through Knights Valley. Set between the Mayacamas Mountains and Mount St. Helena, the two-lane roads of Knights Valley are surrounded by vineyards, cattle ranches, and farmlands. Wine Country tours don’t need to be pre-planned; all you need to do is drive your car through the highway and enjoy the scenery. This scenic drive will truly blow your mind and take your breath away.

The Napa Valley Wine Train takes you on a 36-mile round-trip discovery to St. Helena and back, making several stops along the way.

Napa Valley Wine Train

If touring Wine Country in your car isn’t your cup of tea, a train ride definitely is, especially when aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. Travel back in time on a train, enjoy a culinary experience like no other, and tour Napa Valley all in one setting—you can even join other passengers in solving crimes during the Murder Mystery Experience. Not only is this one of the best Wine Country tours, but it’s also a perfect first date idea in Northern California; your date doesn’t need to know it was our idea. 

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Now that you’ve seen it all in Wine Country from the ground, it’s time to fly up, up, and away on a hot air balloon for a bird’s eye view. Whether you’re in Napa or Sonoma Valley, you’ll enjoy gorgeous views of the famous vineyards and soak in the beauty of the region. Taking a hot air balloon ride is an essential thing to do in Wine Country, so pack a picnic and go on an early morning flight.

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