A Special Report from The Pujals Team, Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley
Most places you want to visit have a “season,” or a best time to go. For example, most people think of Colorado for winter skiing, Florida for spring break, Hawaii for summer beaches, and New England for fall foliage. But Napa Valley is quite different, because it’s the perfect destination any time of year. No matter what the season, there’s plenty to do. And the temperate year-round climate ensures every trip will be a great one.
Here are our top picks for things to do in Napa Valley for each season.
Things to Do in Winter in Napa Valley
Considered the “low season” due to low tourism numbers, winter offers much to see and experience in our beautiful valley. Even though winter tends to be cool and rainy, keep in mind that this is California’s version of cool weather, not Minnesota’s. Daytime highs tend to range in the mid-50s, and rain falls approximately 8 days out of the month. So compared to what much of the country experiences during winter, Napa’s weather is still very comfortable.
While the grapes have already been harvested and the vineyards look bare, the wineries are still open. This time of year the tasting rooms are seldom crowded, and their staffs are able to spend ample time with each visitor. If you like being showered with attention and treated like royalty, this is the perfect season to go.
If you’re a foodie, you’re in luck. January is California Restaurant Month. And Napa Valley sets aside one week each winter for Napa Valley Restaurant Week. As of this writing, it takes place the week of January 20th, 2019. It’s the perfect time for guests to experience the area’s legendary food and wine culture. During the week, many restaurants offer multi-course prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner. You can find a list of participating restaurants here.
There are also plenty of events and festivals to take part in during winter. Some of the more popular annual winter attractions include visiting the Calistoga Holiday Village, touring the Napa Lighted Art Festival, and exploring the Napa Valley Truffle Festival.
Because hotel prices are reduced in winter, you can stay an extra day or two without breaking the bank and take some extra time for sightseeing. As you drive along the Napa Valley countryside, you’re sure to see many wild mustard plants blooming in the vineyards as early as February, creating a vibrant carpet of bright yellow flowers. Locals call it “mustard season.”
Things to Do in Spring in Napa Valley
Spring is the time for blooms, and Napa Valley is no different. With daytime temperatures averaging in the 60s and 70s and slightly higher precipitation chances, it’s no wonder nature is putting on a beautiful display.
When you visit wineries in the spring, take a close look at the dormant vines. You’ll likely see new shoots starting to grow. They can grow extremely fast, as much as 1.5 inches in a single day! If you get close to the vines, you’ll also see tiny clusters of grapes starting to form. The date when they first appear is called “bud break, ” and it gives the first hint of when the grapes will be ready to harvest. While winery tasting rooms can be crowded on weekends in the spring, during the week they are still relatively quiet.
If you’re looking to stay fit, consider participating in the Napa Valley Marathon, which takes place each spring. Known as the “biggest little marathon in the West,” the marathon has earned a reputation for outstanding runner support, attention to detail, and a beautiful point-to-point course. The marathon is also a non-profit, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years back into the local community of the Napa Valley.
Music, art, and food are alive and well in Napa Valley in the spring and are on display at Yountville Live. Here you can experience four days devoted to exclusive musical performances, exquisite cuisines, and a unique variety of Napa Valley’s wineries, beers and spirits available. At this venue you’ll find international music superstars as well as emerging artists
And no trip to Napa Valley in the spring would be complete without attending the Bottle Rock Music Festival. Beware, though, that this attraction has become so popular that all the hotels anywhere near the Napa Valley get filled up as soon as the tickets go on sale in January. So plan early for this one.
Things to Do in Summer in Napa Valley
Considered the prime tourist season, summer is when Napa Valley truly comes alive. The chance of rain this time of year is small. And on average, daily highs are in the upper 70s to 80s, making it ideal weather for outdoor activities.
During the summer months, the vineyards are in full, green growth. Because the days are longer, you’ll have plenty of time for dining alfresco after a day of wine-tasting. Many wineries even host summer festivals, and it’s the perfect time of year for a winery picnic.
While there are too many summer festivals to name them all, one of the biggest is Festival Napa Valley. Dubbed “The 10 Best Days of Summer,” this festival presents world class performances staged in iconic Napa Valley venues. More than 200 artists, wineries, resorts, theaters, restaurants, chefs, and vintners participate each year.
If your main reason for visiting Napa Valley in the summer is because the kids are out of school, you’re in luck. Napa Valley has a wide variety of family friendly summer activities to enjoy. The Petrified Forest in Calistoga enables you to step back in time and explore giant redwood trees that were turned to stone 3.4 million years ago by a local volcano.
Kids and adults alike are sure to love visiting the Old Faithful of California Geyser. Known as “Little Old Faithful,” the geyser erupts every 15-30 minutes and treats onlookers to a dramatic show of nature. There’s also an animal farm on site, which houses goats, sheep, and llamas.
Things to Do in Fall in Napa Valley
Fall is harvest season. If you’re a wine lover, this is a great time to visit. The weather in fall is mild, with temperatures in the mid-80s in September and falling into the high 60s by the end of October. If you plan on stomping through a vineyard this time of year, sturdy boots are a must.
Speaking of stomping, if you’ve ever wanted to channel your inner Lucy Ricardo and stomp some grapes, you can in Napa Valley in the fall. Many wineries offer grape stomping events, including Grgich Hills Estate Winery, Schweiger Vineyards, and V. Sattui. Grgich Hills Estate also offers you the opportunity to take home a souvenir T-shirt adorned with your grape juice stained footprints.
Fall is also when the Napa Valley Film Festival takes place. It is the ultimate celebration of film, food, and wine. Each year the festival features over 120 new independent films, studio sneak previews, and filmmaker Q&A’s in gorgeous winery venues and theaters across the Valley.
Toward the end of fall, after the harvest, the vines go dormant and their leaves turn colors. Depending on the year, the vineyards can be as breathtaking as the fall foliage in New England. To enjoy all the colors in their glory, visit the aerial tram at Sterling Vineyards. As you ride up to the hilltop winery, you’ll see incredible views of the surrounding hills from all four sides.
Anytime is a Great Time to Visit Napa Valley
No matter the season, there’s always something fun to do in Napa Valley. Our best advice: Don’t just visit once! Live like the locals and experience as much as you can (and as often as you can). You won’t be disappointed.