Napa Valley is the very place that put American wines on the map of the world-class wine making. It is Napa’s full-bodied Cabernets that share the same pages of the wine menus with the French Bordeaux and Italian Tuscany blends.
No wonder Napa is one of the most appealing destinations in California, for locals and tourists alike. The valley is saturated with hundreds of wineries accompanied by some exquisite dining and luxury lodging. So, whether you are a wine spectator or a sober companion, the wine country offers plenty of reasons to come for a visit.
Wine tasting is the most common reason people come to the Valley. However, some tour the wineries just to enjoy the fascinating ambiance of the elegant tasting rooms. Napa’s famous Tuscany-looking castle, Castello di Amoroso, alone is worth seeing whether you are interested in wine tasting or not. The wineries vary from boutique, family-owned estates, like the Italian-spirited Regusci, to world-known iconic names, like Robert Mondavi and Beringer Vineyards.
There are no rules when it comes to exploring the Napa Valley. You can literally take any exit along the Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail, the two main roads in Napa, and run into a scenic winery or a vintage tasting room. We want to offer you a different take on your Napa getaway, an itinerary that will through you off the beaten path of the wine country and provide you with an experience you will remember for life. We present you with three local gems that can take you above and beyond the ground zero of American wine making. Literally.
Napa River Inn, 500 Main Street, Napa, CA 94559
Napa River Inn is a four-star waterfront hotel situated within the Historic Napa Mill in Downtown Napa’s Riverfront District. The hotel is located within a walking distance from the fancy shops, upscale boutiques, and world-class restaurants featured in travel magazines and on Food Network shows. It’s just minutes away from the intimate French hideout Angèle, the famous Japanese American twist Morimoto, and one of the best places for sophisticated fresh seafood – the Fish Story.
Aside of its convenient location right in the newly-reborn Downtown District, Napa River Inn offers deluxe accommodations with high class amenities.
The rooms are equipped with luxurious beds which have heavenly-comfortable mattresses, cotton sheets, and feather down comforters.
Bathrooms are finished with marble vanities and upscale appliances and feature Organic locally sourced bath products, such as Cabernet body wash and Champagne conditioner. The floor plans are spacious and wide-open finished with lavish décor and cozy fireplaces. To make your stay more memorable, Napa River Inn will start your day with a complimentary cup of Peet’s Coffee and breakfast in bed from Sweetie Pie Bakery.
Luxury bedding, gourmet breakfast in bed, and locally-sourced organic bath products are not the only features that set Napa River Inn aside. It is the view that makes the stay in this hotel so memorable. Unlike most of other Napa hotels, the Inn is not surrounded by rolling hills and groomed vineyards. Its wide-open windows covered with bushy vines overlook a fast-running river. Whenever the night falls down the water lights up with a myriad of reflections from the street lights that guard the waterfront. There is something soothing and magical about this dynamic dance of light and water.
Balloons Above the Valley
The two attractions we chose to spotlight are nothing close to the usual wine country experience. They allow you to step away from the ordinary and see Napa Valley from a whole different perspective. Our first recommendation is getting a birds-eye view of the entire valley from a hot air balloon. Hot air balloons are a sight to see even when you simply look at them from the ground, let alone when you ride one. Now, imagine floating up in the sky, looking down at one of the most picturesque countryside in the nation and have its rolling hillsides, wooded trails, and lush wineries all at your fingertips. A pretty terrific view.
Balloons above the Valley is the company we recommend. It has quite an extensive history and a perfectly safe flying record. It was founded back in 1976 by one of the pioneers in hot air balloon aviation, Bob Barbarick. Since then it has grown to become one of the most trusted hot air balloon companies in America. There is a variety of tour options you could choose from; however, their sunrise flight paired with a champagne brunch is especially breathtaking. The meeting time for the sunrise flight is pretty early. You have to be at the meeting point by 5 am. The good thing is, the rondevu is only 10 minutes away from the Napa River Inn. At 5 am that helps a lot. Upon your arrival you’ll be treated to some hot Starbucks coffee with freshly baked pastries and then taken to the launch site to see your hot air balloon being inflated. That’s when you claim your spot in the basket and it takes you off into the fresh morning air. You’ll find yourself standing thousands of feet above the ground with no safety belts or glass windows to keep you in – an unbelievable sensation. Your experience will be completed with a gourmet Champaign Brunch served upon your arrival.
Napa Valley Wine Train
Our next featured attraction allows you to explore the wine country from within. It combines an exquisite dining experience with a scenic ride on board of a restored antique engine that takes you through some fabled vineyards of Napa Valley. Napa Valley Wine Train is area’s most distinctive restaurant. It offers seasonal menu created by the Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald. The meals are prepared from fresh local ingredients and everything is cooked to order while the guests enjoy their relaxing journey.
There train has three kitchens cars and the guests are more than welcome to stop by and watch the meals being prepared. Your server will be more then welcome to advise you on the best time to visit the kitchen and see the chefs cook the food on board of a moving train. An experience that could easily compete with any cooking show! Each car offers a separate multiple course menu. A sample meal in the Vista Dome lunch package features such delicacies as Smoked Salmon Crepes with crème Fraiche, caviar, and honey onion marmalade as an appetizer, and Grilled Local Lamb Chops in a sweet corn puree as the main course.
There is a variety of packages you can choose from with tickets available for lunch and dinner journeys, romantic endeavors, such as the Moonlight Escape, and Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre. All packages include multiple course gourmet meals and a three-hour antique train ride. The train leaves from the station located in the Historic Downtown Napa within a short ten-minute walk from our featured Napa River Inn. A roundtrip covers thirty-six miles of railway that goes through the world’s most famous vineyards to the charming village of St. Helena, and back.