Welcome! Kaylyn here!
You may know that my husband, Jimmy, and I moved up to Napa in October of 2019. He works for an incredible wine company, Dry Farm Wines, that curates sugar-free natural wine from all over the world. Living in the country has been the best thing to happen to us, and we are just so incredibly excited to share this wonderful city with you! Enjoy our favorite places, aka our “Local’s Guide to Napa!”.
Napa Valley is in between two stunning mountains and they’ve got 2 main roads – HWY 29 and Silverado Trail. These run basically parallel to each other and in the middle are cute towns, miles and miles of stunning vineyards and stunning estates and wineries. If you’re starting at the top of the valley (which is only 30 miles long) you’ll start in Calistoga, make your way down to St. Helena, down to Yountville, and then you’ll head into downtown Napa. If you head west, you’ll hit Sonoma and then Santa Rosa and if you go north east, you’ll hit Sacramento in about an hour or two. San Francisco is about 1-2 hours away depending on traffic and Oakland is about an hour drive south as well. There’s so much to explore, so I’ll be updating as we go!
There are SO many amazing wineries in Napa and it’s really hard to choose which ones are best to go to. Here are some that were recommended to us! Since we have our fair share of Dry Farm Wines (and prefer those), we don’t go wine tasting too often but we’re all about good views and chill places!
Rombauer Winery (delish chardonnay, picnic tables + gorg views)
Frog’s Leap (recommended by tons of people)
Silverado (also highly recommended)
Alpha Omega (another popular one)
Ledson Winery (crazy cool looking mansion!)
Cuvaison (one of my favorite properties in Napa)
Castello di Amorosa (it’s a castle and they have animals!)
Chateau Montelena Winery (stunning architecture!)
Hot Air Balloons
The first thing we saw on our first day were tons of hot air balloons heading up above the vineyards with the sun peeking over the hills. I’m not sure if we’ll ever be brave enough to go up in one, but maybe some day!
^that was written before we moved in and before we witnessed many hilarious hot air balloon landings in places they shouldn’t have landed. Make sure to pick a good company if you do go, but even if you’re not a hot air ballooning type person, just watching them is a treat!
Another update since that was written: a former neighbor recently did a ride with Napa Valley Balloons and had a great time; highly recommended it. Said it wasn’t as scary as he thought it would be, and it was super warm from the fire in the balloon.
Here are the companies top recommended:
There’s a great farmer’s market down the street from our place on Saturday (and Tuesdays spring-fall) mornings! Really good vendors – fresh bagels, tacos, food trucks, baked goods, a sweet old man that makes peppermint bark and I never have the heart to decline his samples, fresh crepes, and so much more. Highly suggest if you’re just hanging out!
Visit the Napa Sign!
There are two, actually! Both off of HWY 129, one down near Oakville and one up in St. Helena area. We prefer the view at the one up North, but they’re fun to stop off and grab a pic at either one!
There’s a gorgeous and massive garden in the heart of Yountville and it’s for a few of the Thomas Keller restaurants in the area (mainly The French Laundry!) and it’s such a nice stroll. So beautiful and so awesome to see all of the fresh veggies and herbs. They also have a chicken coop that’s my favorite thing ever – all they’re missing are some goats!
This amazing castle of a place is for the food enthusiasts! They have awesome gift shops and lots to do at the main location as well as the CIA at Copia location a few minutes from us next to Oxbow! The Copia campus has two restaurants as well and they host different events like “movies under the starts”, etc. for the community! Check out their website for info!
There are tons of beautiful places to hike and take in some gorgeous views. Each place is also completely different each season – totally different experiences year round! Here are the ones we have explored!
Oxbow Public Market
This little public market is a Napa destination! Gotta check it out – there’s something for everyone! Oxbow Market has restaurants, coffee roasters, bakeries, a bookshop, a spice shop, butchery, sushi, and more. Pretty awesome place! Can get pretty busy and insider tip: it’s least busy between 10-2 on weekdays.
Explore & Shop Downtown
There’s so many cute places downtown to walk around and pop into. One of my favorite places is to walk around the Riverfront building alongside the Napa River. I also love going to the souvenir shops and seeing what’s in there, browsing the clothing shops and having samples of ice cream in the chocolate shop. Now downtown is pretty small, so it’s definitely not an all-day activity, but there’s so much to see in just a couple blocks!
There’s a ton of bike rentals places all over Napa! I’m partial to Yountville – that’s where I’d suggest taking a little ride around! There’s an awesome huge garden across from The French Laundry, cute homes and the most beautiful vineyards surrounding. There’s also companies that have guided tours so you pick what’s best for you. They also have electric bikes!
You can’t drive up or down the valley without getting a scenic drive! Our favorite weekend morning consists of starting breakfast at Boon Fly Cafe, and driving up the 129, crossing over to Silverado in Calistoga and then heading back home to Napa.
You’ll have the most beautiful views with green rolling hills and a mustard-filled valley in spring, mid-March through the beginning of May. In the summer, it is less green everywhere, but more green on the vines! This is the best time to see the vineyards when they look most like you see in pictures. It’s also the best time to head out to Lake Berryessa, as that’s most beautiful on a hot, summer day. In the fall, the leaves turn and the drive is a STUNNING sea of orange, yellow, and red. When the leaves change, driving down Oak Knoll Road at golden hour feels like you are entering literal heaven! In mid to late November, the rain and wind cause the vines to go bare. From then until early March isn’t *the most* beautiful version of Napa, but still awfully gorgeous!
The rooftop bar Sky & Vine at The Archer Hotel is freaking rad. It’s cool at night, but it’s the absolute best at sunset when you can still see around the city. The hotel itself is so beautiful too – we hang out in the lobby and wait for our Lyfts and we feel all fancy schmancy! The rooftop bar also has some small bites and a pretty low corkage fee so it’s A++ for us!
Olive Oil Tastings
If you’re not into drinking wine, Napa is also known for their olive oil and vinegar production! I haven’t done any tours yet, but here are the top rated ones:
Auberge Du Soleil
Oh my gosh. Not only is the view incredible, but the food is just as on par. They have a Michelin star restaurant (reservations required) but also a Bistro + Bar. I took myself to the Bistro for lunch one day and had the most incredible pasta. They also have a bomb breakfast menu that I can’t wait to try so this place is a MUST. A little pricier than most places, but #worthit.
Ohhhh man this place is amazing. In my fav place, Yountville, they have the cutest little Italian market in the front of the restaurant complete with mopeds, homemade gelato + sorbetti, olive oil tastings and more. They make all of their bread, mozarella and more in house which makes everything so freaking fresh and delicious. They unfortunately do not have a gluten free crust, but their salads looked amazing so that’s an option! See the menu here!
We came here on our last night for dinner and I can’t even believe how delicious their food was. I had a Caprese salad with balsamic caviar!! That’s a technique I’ve only seen done by Bri on Masterchef, so to say I was stoked was an understatement. Jimmy had gluten free pasta that was delish as well and I really don’t think you could go wrong here! Same genius as Ottimo (and right next door), so their food is fresh as all heck and very yummy, also super seasonal! They have a beautiful ambiance with market lights on the patio and multiple rooms that are large enough for big parties if you’re looking for that. The people next to us got a chocolate dessert where a waiter came out and poured chocolate all over the top so someone’s gonna have to come here with me so we can try that (Karen, I think that needs to be you).
Talk about some AMBIANCE! Their outdoor patio looks out onto their vast vineyards and garden. Their food is just as incredible and they have a lot of different allergy accommodating options. Can’t wait to go back!
Holy yummy Italian food, Batman! Super authentic and delicious. They have no patio or outdoor seating so we usually get it for take out and it’s always delicious! Their lasagna was… beyond delicious. Their salads are always refreshing, their pizzas are bomb and they have the best gluten free crust in the city!
Talk about ambiance!! This place is SO COOL. They call it a “celebration of food, wine, art and design” and that’s exactly what it was! Food was awesome and I had a very hard time deciding what to get cause everything looked so good. We definitely recommend making reservations for this awesome restaurant since it’s a hip hoppin place. And of course it’s in Yountville! Oh, and we suggest going at night for the coolest experience!
This one has quickly become our favorite go-to place! It’s Mediterranean food with incredible spanakopita, dolmas, lamb burger, salads, and greek fries. We are just a little obsessed and it’s actually pretty affordable compared to most other places in this area. It’s in downtown Napa and it’s a nice spot for dinner outside followed by a stroll to the chocolate shop, gift shop or the fancy schmancy hotel a couple buildings down.
This is a Napa staple! It looks like an old school diner from the outside, but the food is super good and high quality! They make their own ranch + sauces and have really yummy sweet potato fries, organic soft serve, onion rings and more. They’re also really good at lettuce wrapping the burgers which is a tell for me that it’s good haha. It’s located outside Oxbow Public Market – you can’t miss it!
Another one located at Oxbow (actually inside Oxbow) this is really yum Mexican inspired food. Their menu is 100% gluten free and they make all of their tortillas to order and they are super fresh. Their tacos seem pricey, but they’re massive! It only takes 1-2 to fill you up. I love that they use goat cheese a lot too and you can just tell everything is super fresh. A great, casual place!
Mercadito Food Truck
My FAVORITE food truck in Napa! He has an entire vegan menu on Fridays, and is able to accommodate most allergies. Chef Valentin even cooked us a private anniversary dinner honoring ALL of Jimmy’s food sensitivities and preferences. He uses fresh ingredients that taste AMAZING, and his food is made with so much love. The chilaquiles are the best thing from the regular menu… SO good!
They have a location a couple minutes from us in Napa as well as a location in Yountville. They have a small, but delicious menu and their coffee is really good! Super casual and great for a coffee date, a quick pastry or a nice lunch. They also have homemade jam + biscuits that are soooo good!
If you find yourself standing in line at Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, do yourself a favor and get out of that overrated line and walk down to Mini Model. If you are downtown, visit the main bakery at Oxbow Public Market! Their pastries and baked goods are much better than Bouchon’s! Known for their english muffins AND they have gluten free items!
Known for their duck fat fries, Compline is a cute little wine bar tucked into downtown Napa. We came to try it and loved it all so much! I got a delicious salad, Jimmy loved his burger and we may have had 2 full orders of fries since they were pretty yum.
The French Laundry
You like fancy food? Come here! We haven’t been yet since we aren’t Rockefellers, but everyone always asks about it so I had to put it on the list. It’s Thomas Keller’s most famous restaurant and it has like a 6 month waiting list and it’s like $300-$500 a person, so do some research before making your reservation (;
Boon Fly Cafe
Daily brunch and the best gluten free banana bread EVER! I crave their hash browns all the time and haven’t had anything that isn’t good on their menu.
Another one of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, this one is a high end Mexican restaurant. Some of the best chips I’ve ever had and everything is super fresh, but it’s not super friendly for dietary restrictions. We were both disappointed they wouldn’t do any substitutions, even for dietary reasons. Still thought it was delicious if you can eat the items as is! Looking for more traditional Mexican food? Try Don Perico, El Rancho Grande, or Mercadito Food Truck!
This is somewhere I want to stay SO badly! I walked around the property and oh my gosh – stunning. Recommended by a dear friend, Hotel Yountville is so serene and apparently has great food and a great spa too! A short walk from all of Yountville’s adorable and delicious restaurants too! Book here!
This is where we stayed when we came up and it’s perfect if you’re just looking for a place to stay! It’s comfortable, clean and we had no complaints! A more affordable option if you’re not looking for a full resort. Book here!
Indian Springs Resort
Recommended by my incredible Aunt Bernie who loves the mud baths here, this resort is sure to be a relaxing spot! Up in Calistoga at the north end of the valley and full of amenities and beauty. Book here!
Okay so I don’t have a personal rec for this one, but holy smokes it looks stunning and I want someone to stay here so I can check it out hahaha so modern yet romantic – I’d love to see a wedding here! Book here!
Auberge Du Soleil
This was the place Jimmy had his first meeting with the team and HOLY VIEWS, BATMAN! Can you say stunning?! It’s also listed under places to eat since their restaurants are out-of-this-world-good but their hotel looked incredible as well. Definitely on the luxury side of things, this resort is a beautiful spot to unwind. It’s a little up in the hills so you wouldn’t be able to walk off the property to find something to eat (I don’t think, idk I’m not living there yet haha) but it was a sight to see. Book here!
If you’re in the Napa area, let me know and let’s grab a glass of wine! Anything to add? Comment below!
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