A Local’s Guide to Napa, California

Welcome! Kaylyn here! 

You may know that my husband, Jimmy, and I moved up to Napa in October of 2019! Living in wine country is so surreal and serene… we absolutely love it, and hope you find this useful if you’re planning a trip up here sometime!


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!

Things to Do 

Wine Tasting

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 & beautiful views)
Frog’s Leap (stunning grounds; organic wines)
Silverado (also highly recommended; been once and it was so peaceful!)
Alpha Omega (another popular one, although we haven’t visited yet)
Ledson Winery (crazy cool-looking mansion!)
Cuvaison (beautiful views; known for their sparkling)
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 was 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 someday!

^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 most recommended:

Balloons Above the Valley
Napa Valley Aloft
 Napa Valley Balloons

Farmer’s Market

There’s a great farmer’s market down the street from our place on Saturday mornings (and Tuesdays spring-fall)! 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!

Yountville Garden

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!

Culinary Institute

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!

Trail Hikes

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!

Alston Park – off leash dog friendly
Skyline Wilderness Park – tons of great trails, beautiful views! No dogs allowed.
Oat Hill Mine Trail – dog friendly
Westwood Hills Park – allows leashed dogs

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! Be sure to check out Camino Goods, Cupcake Kid’s Boutique, Riza Plants, and Milo & Friends – our favorite small shops!

Bike Tours

There are tons of bike rental places all over Napa! I’m partial to Napa Valley Bike Rentals in 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 are also companies that have guided tours so you pick what’s best for you – and some companies with electric bike options!

Scenic Drives

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!

Rooftop Bar

The rooftop bar Sky & Vine at The Archer Hotel is super fun! It can get cool at night, but it’s the absolute best at sunset when you can still see around the city. In the winter they have fun “igloos”, and have a great brunch on the weekends!

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:

O’Connell Family Wines “Olive Oil Explorations” / $45
Darioush “Sensory Sessions: An Olive Oil Experience” / $70
Il Fiorello: Wine Tastings / $10

Places to Eat

Auberge Du Soleil

Oh my gosh. Not only is the view incredible, but the food is A+. 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 lunch!

See menus to both restaurants here!


Located in Yountville, this is the cutest little Italian market complete with mopeds, homemade gelato + sorbetti, olive oil tastings, and more. They make all of their bread, mozzarella, and more in-house which makes everything so fresh and delicious. See the menu here!


Same genius as Ottimo (and right next door), so their food is fresh as all heck and very yummy, also deliciously seasonal. They have a beautiful ambiance with market lights on the patio and multiple rooms that are large enough for big parties.

Check it out here!

Bistro Don Giovanni’s

Another incredible Italian restaurant with gorgeous vineyard views! They have a gorgeous outdoor dining patio, tucked away next to a winery. It’s a not-so-secret hidden gem whose food never disappoints! It’s always a top choice when introducing new visitors to Napa!


Talk about ambiance! Their outdoor patio looks out onto their vast vineyards and garden. Their food is just as incredible and they have fun craft cocktails and unique dishes. Can’t wait to go back!

Check it out here!


Holy margarita pizza, Batman! Super delicious Italian food in the heart of downtown. Their dishes rotate daily based on available local ingredients so you know it’s going to be perfectly fresh! Reservations are recommended, but not required, and they are closed Sundays & Mondays. Check out the seasonal menus here!


Talk about ambiance! This place is SO FUN. They call it a “celebration of food, wine, art and design” and that’s exactly what it is! You’ll definitely want to make reservations for this popular spot, and we suggest going at night for an even more magical experience.

Check out the menu here!

Wilfred’s Lounge

A more recent spot that opened up downtown, which features island-inspired cocktails & food! Jimmy and I came here for a date and had a blast! We sat on the patio and had a beautiful view of the river, enjoyed the live music, and loved everything we ordered!

Check it out!

Gott’s Roadside

A true Napa staple! A modern diner with high quality and yummy food! They make their own ranch + sauces and have yummy fries, organic soft serve, onion rings, and more! Located outside Oxbow Public Market, or up the valley a bit in St. Helena – you can’t miss either one!

Check it out!

Olivia Marshall Photography

C Casa

Another one located at Oxbow, which is a fresh take on Mexican food. Their menu is 100% gluten-free and they make all of their tortillas in-house! Their tacos are not your average street taco and 1-2 is usually good for a whole meal. They recently expanded to a new space and have a refreshing patio with a full cocktail list as well. A great, casual place!

Check out the menu!

Mercadito Food Truck

Our favorite food truck in Napa! Chef Valentin is awesome, and he uses fresh & local ingredients, and changes his menus up on the daily. Yum, yum, YUM!

Check it out here!

Southside Cafe

They have three locations in Napa, and each one is fantastic! They have a small, but delicious menu, serving coffee shop drinks, small bites, as well as full meals. They also have homemade jam + biscuits that are SO good!

Check it out!

Model Bakery

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! They are known for their English muffins – a must-try!

The French Laundry

You like fancy food? Come here! We haven’t been yet since we aren’t Rockefellers (nor do we really care THAT much to go haha), but everyone always asks about it so I had to put it on the list. It’s Thomas Keller’s most famous restaurant, has a wild booking system, and it’s like $300-$500 a person, so do some research before making your reservation (;

Check it out!

Boon Fly Cafe

Daily brunch, dinner, and the best gluten-free banana bread ever! I crave their hash browns all the time – we haven’t had anything that wasn’t absolutely delish!

Check it out!

La Calenda

This is another one of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, so it’s a higher-end Mexican restaurant. Fresh chips, fun cocktails, and unique dishes. They don’t do many (if any) substitutions, but everything we have had has been good – as long as you like the things you’re ordering, you’ll like it! Looking for more traditional Mexican food? Frida’s is where it’s at!

Check it out!

Where to Stay

Hotel Yountville

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!

Hotel Indigo

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. Also great distance in between the North Napa & downtown – and in a good spot to catch rideshare! Book here!

The Westin

If you’re looking for a comfortable and cozy place to stay near downtown, check out The Westin Napa! It has A+ Westin-known service, and are super dog friendly!

Downtown Napa

Want to stay downtown? The Archer Hotel Napa and the Napa Andaz are perfect spots for that! Walking distance from everything downtown, and easy to catch an Uber or Lyft to head to the wineries!

Indian Springs Resort

This resort is sure to be a relaxing spot – everyone always gushes over it! It’s up the valley in Calistoga and full of amenities and beauty. Book here!

Hotel Villagio

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!

Meritage Resort & Spa

We don’t know anyone who has stayed at his hotel, but we have had spa days here and taken classes by our favorite yoga instructor (Natacha from Rajni Yoga) on the property. It’s a beautiful spot, kid & dog-friendly, and nicely tucked in a quiet spot in South Napa. 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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March 26, 2021