19 Things to Do in Napa Valley (Besides Wine Tasting)

Share this post -

If you've never been to Napa Valley before, you've probably asked yourself: what is there to do in the valley besides taste wine? There's good news for the tee-totaling or wine-weary traveler. Napa Valley isn't a one-hit-wonder.

Just to clarify, we're not putting down wine tasting! It's just that we're not big wine drinkers, and when traveling with our kids througout California, we're put Napa Valley low on our list of priorities. When we finally did visit, we discovered lots of fun things to do in the area.

19 Things to Do in Napa Valley (Besides Wine Tasting)If you're traveling through the area and want to do more than visit some of the most famous wineries in the world, you can find a litany of different places to hike, shop, and explore, including:

  1. Robert Louis Stevenson State Park
  2. Skyline Wilderness Park
  3. Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
  4. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
  5. Hood Mountain Ridge State Park
  6. Trione-Annadel State Park
  7. Preserved Forest
  8. Lake Henessy
  9. Los Posadas State Park
  10. Old Faithful Geyser of California
  11. Mt. St. Helena
  12. Safari West
  13. Sonoma TrainTown Railroad
  14. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
  15. Napa Valley Balloons
  16. Jack London State Historic Park
  17. di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art
  18. Napa Valley Museum
  19. Oxbox Public Market

Here, we'll explore these Napa Valley lynchpins to give you a better idea of just how diverse the social ecosystem of the valley is. The more you come to know, the more likely it is that one or two of these spots will make their way onto your next vacation itinerary.

Why You Should Visit Napa Valley

Napa Valley rests comfortably next door to the San Francisco Bay Area. While it is primarily known as one of California's most alluring tourist attractions, it is also home to 136,000 people.

If you've ever wanted to see one of the lushest places in the United States, Napa Valley will reveal the fruitfulness of the nation to you. Yes, the region produces nationally-famous wines, but it is also the site of significant agricultural preservation. Foodies and hikers alike will be able to take in the views of this area while enjoying outstanding food and a healthy respect for the natural world around them.

With the basics out of the way, let's break down some of the valley's hotspots. The region itself is fairly broad, so make sure, whether you fly or arrive in California by other means, that you have a car on hand to hop from place to place!

Napa Valley Hiking

Are you the type that likes to start your day early, in the midst of a rich ecosystem? If so, Napa Valley has plenty of hiking opportunities for you to take advantage of.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park

If you've read Treasure Island, then you know that the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, had a fascination with small places that coexisted with their natural environment. This may have been why he chose to honeymoon in the area that is now the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.

Trail in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park to the summit of Mount Saint Helena
A trail in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park to the summit of Mount Saint Helena | Photo by Oleg Alexandrov

While the cabin Stevenson stayed in no longer exists, you can walk through tall evergreen forests and past broad canyons to find the trail spot that designates where it once stood.

This park also plays home to Mt. St. Helena, which I'll touch on later in this list.

You can visit the park from sunrise to sunset free of charge, but note that dogs are prohibited from visiting. If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Skyline Wilderness Park

Founded in 1979, Skyline Wilderness Park offers hikers with fewer literary inclinations the opportunity to come into their hiking hobby. Whether you're just starting out as a hiker or have been on different trails across several years, Skyline Wilderness Park has a trail that will suit your needs.

When visiting the park, you'll have a chance to stop by the Martha Walker Native Habitat Garden. Play I-Spy among California's native flora and see how many species you can identify for yourself.

Skyline Wilderness Park and the Martha Walker Native Habitat Garden are open from 7 AM to 7 PM PST. The park is free to enter, although both it and the garden may close for various holidays or inclement weather. If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park is another hiker's paradise. This park, like its peers, is committed to the preservation of California's native wildlife and flora. Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, in fact, was created with the intention to educate locals and tourists alike about California's stunning eco-diversity.

This state park invites hikers to not only tour its many trails but to stop by its Educational Center (and its pool), hosted by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Casual visitors and hikers alike can drop by between 8 AM PST and sunset without needing to purchase a park ticket.

If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

If you're looking for a view that's more aquatic in nature, you'll want to head over to the Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Sugarloaf is home to the headwaters of Sonoma Creek. You can follow the creek through echoing canyons and out into peaceful meadows, all while marveling at the giant redwoods that have made themselves at home in the area.

The highlight of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is either the 25-foot waterfall that appears in the springtime or the sheer diversity of animal wildlife. If you bring a dog with you to this park, make sure you keep them on a leash. If you don't, you may find your four-legged friend in a staredown with a local bobcat or one of the area's many gray foxes.

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset, and it is free to enter. If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Hood Mountain Ridge State Park

Feel like climbing? Then you'll want to include Hood Mountain Ridge State Park on your Napa Valley itinerary. This state park is home to 19 miles of hiking trails and to the highest tip of the Mayacamas Mountains, Hood Mountain.

Hood Mountain stands at 2,730 feet tall. Once on top, you can explore Gunsight Rock, an outcropping that stretches over California's Highway 12 and that really reveals the aesthetic beauty of the valley.

It is worth noting that, courtesy of the Tubbs fire that struck in 2017, some of this park's trails remain closed, and Hood Mountain's ecosystem is still recovering. Be respectful when visiting and leave behind any natural elements that you might otherwise want to take home with you.

You can climb the trails up to Hood Mountain from sunrise to sunset, depending on the season. You can also hike from this mountain to Sugarloaf if you feel you have the gumption for it!

To learn more about this Napa Valley spot, make sure to visit their website.

Trione-Annadel State Park

If hiking isn't your scene, but fishing is, then you'll want to head to the north side of the valley and find Trione-Annadel State Park. 60 miles north of San Francisco, this park does have trails for mountain bikers and hikers, but it is also home to Lake Ilsanjo.

Take a boat out onto the water between April and September, and you'll have a great chance of reeling in black bass or bluegill fish. Do note that, tourist or otherwise, if you're over 16 years old, you'll need a California fishing license to legally hit the water.

Dogs are allowed on the water, but they are not allowed on the trails. Likewise, Trione-Annadel State Park disallows model aircraft and e-bikes. Take a break from the noise of the rest of the world and visit this state park between sunrise and sunset throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Preserved Forest

If you've ever wanted to time travel, then California has a spot that you'll absolutely adore. The Preserved Forest houses petrified redwood trees that are over 3 million years old.

The redwoods and surrounding ecosystem in this area fell to the explosion of a volcano some 3.4 million years in the past. Nowadays, you can walk through what remains of a once-great forest and see for yourself what the world the dinosaurs explored may have looked like. It's a great place to go to learn more about California's geological and ecological history - and also to relearn just how small we humans are when compared to the wonders of old.

The Preserved Forest's hours vary with the season. Ticket costs range as follows:

  • Adult $12.00
  • Senior $11.00
  • Junior $8.00
  • Child $6.00

If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Lake Henessey

Come summertime, it feels natural to get out onto the water. If you're visiting California and don't want to face the challenge of the open ocean, why not go boating on Lake Henessey?

The north side of Lake Hennessey
The north side of Lake Hennessey | Photo by Anthonysthwd

Lake Henessey offers up its waters to anyone who wants to go boating or fishing. Boating permits cost $4 per day or $25 per year but do note that you'll need to drop daily fees off at the Lake Hennessey boat launch each time you go out on the water. The good news is that you can secure a fishing permit here for the low, low cost of $1. Submit this daily fee with your boating fee, or buy a yearly pass for $5.

You can head out on the lake at any point between sunrise and sunset. Make sure that your motor doesn't exceed 10 horsepower, or you won't be allowed to enter the lake.

If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Las Posadas State Park

Napa Valley isn't just meant for summer vacationers, though. If you want to get your ski on in the wintertime, head on over to Las Posadas State Park.

The trails here are ideal for mountain bikers and skiers alike. You'll be able to challenge yourself with sharp drops and smooth tracks leading around Inspiration Point.

If you're more inclined to climb, Las Posadas can see to your needs. Do note that the cliffs in this area aren't so forgiving of beginner climbers. If you have more experience, though, you'll be able to take advantage of the rock drops and other natural challenges that the area boasts.

You can visit Las Posadas State Park between sunrise and sunset most days out of the year, but make sure to check the weather before you go in case of inclement closings. To learn more about this Napa Valley spot, you can visit their website.

Old Faithful Geyser of California

As it turns out, Old Faithful isn't just a geyser in Montana. You can find California's own Old Faithful Geyser in the heart of Napa Valley.

This geyser, along with its sisters, is called "faithful" because of its regular eruptions. Seismologists can use the geyser not only to monitor California's geological health but to detect earthquakes. If the geyser doesn't shoot off at its regularly scheduled time, you'd better believe that an earthquake is on the horizon.

You can visit Old Faithful seven days a week between 8:30 AM and 6:00 PM PST free of charge. If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Mt. St. Helena

Mt. St. Helena rests within the boundaries of Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, the first hotspot mentioned on this list. That said, it is a Napa Valley monument that stands on its own.

The mountain is open to hikers who are willing to make the five-mile trek to its peak. Up on top, you'll be able to look out over the vast majority of the San Francisco Bay area, potentially even spotting the top of Mt. Shasta, which rests some 192 miles away.

You can visit the park from sunrise to sunset free of charge, but note that dogs are prohibited from visiting. If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Unique Things To Do In Napa Valley

California is a hub of individualism - and there are plenty of unique spots peppered throughout Napa Valley for you to visit.

Safari West

You don't have to travel overseas to walk on the wild side. Safari West, founded in the late 1980s, allows you to get up close and personal with exotic wildlife. You can choose to take a tour through the Sonoma Serengeti or to sleep through the night in one of Safari West's in-safari, luxury tents.

The cost of tours and overnight stays will vary, based on your preferred package. You'll need to reserve your spot on a tour and on the Serengeti, as well, to get the best experience Safari West can offer.

If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Sonoma TrainTown Railroad

TrainTown sounds like it should be a park for children. Instead, its creator, Stanley L. Frank, transformed it into a garden-estate railway that stands alone in the United States.

Founded in 1958, TrainTown allows visitors to ride a train through 10 acres of Japanese gardens and Californian agriculture. This attration is open between September 1st ad June 1st of every year on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Come between the hours of 10 AM and 5 PM to see Frank's legacy for yourself.

Admission csots $7.50 per person, with children under 12 months able to enter for free.

If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom | Photo by Jeremy Thompson

One of many Six Flags amusement parks, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is one of California's most popular weekend spots. The park boasts 11 roller coasters for children and adults to enjoy as well as wildlife presentations and exposure to zoo-like exhibits.

Park hours vary based on the time of year you intend to visit. Ticket prices, too, will fluctuate based on the package you want and the size of your visiting party. If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Napa Valley Balloons

Napa Hot Air Balloon

For a truly unique view of Napa Valley, you need to take a ride with Napa Valley Balloons. Strike off from the ground between sunrise and sunset every day and take in the beauty of the valley from the sky.

You're required to make a reservation to ride with Napa Valley Balloons, and the cost of your ride will vary based on the ticket package you desire. If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Napa Valley Museums

For the more historic tourist, there is a multitude of museums peppering Napa Valley that make the area all the more accessible.

Jack London State Historic Park

Robert Louis Stevenson is far from the only author to have an impact on Napa Valley's tourist industry. When you visit the Jack London State Historic Park, you'll be able to explore the author's legacy, both in text and in the environment.

This 1400 acre stretch of land hosts London's cottage along with several other monuments that were key to London's life. The Cottage was restored in 2006 and is accessible from noon until 4 PM PST on a daily basis.

The park itself is open from 9 AM to 5 PM every day, with admission varying depending on what exhibits visitors want to see.

If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art

Dan Nadel currently curates the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art. When you drop by this museum, you have the opportunity to explore two exhibition halls showcasing over 40 different California artists. Pair these galleries with the museum's rotating exhibits, and di Rosa comes to serve as a celebration of California and of contemporary art as a whole.

The museum operates from Wednesday to Sunday every week and is open from 10 AM to 4 PM PST. Admission ranges as follows:

  • Adult: $18.00
  • Senior, Educator, and Student: $!5
  • Children (17 and under): Free

If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Napa Valley Museum

Founded in 1972, the Napa Valley Museum rests near Mt St. Helena. It highlights the area's regional history and goes into great detail about the culture that now makes up Napa Valley.

If you want to learn more about the area's geological and anthropological history, then this museum will guide you through California's volcanic past and into its artistic future. The museum is open from 11 AM to 4 PM every Wednesday through Sunday and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Admissions prices range as follows:

  • Adults: $15.00
  • Children (17 or younger): $7.50
  • Seniors: $7.50

If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Napa Valley Specialty Shops

Last but not least, let's talk about one of the best places in Napa Valley to indulge in a bit of shopping.

Oxbow Public Market

Oxbow Public Market consists of 40,000 square feet of delicious food, great wine, and organic produce.

While it may be a little difficult to find a cheap souvenir in this marketplace, you can still find some of the best food you've ever eaten in your life. Oxbow Public Market encourages tourists and locals alike to eat more organically and to enjoy the produce grown by nearby farms that actively engage in sustainable agricultural practices.

The market opens up at 7:30 AM and closes at 9:30 PM PST, with the different shops therein varying their hours based on availability. These hours hold true every day of the week except Tuesday when the market turns its attention to an 8 PM Locals' Night.

If you want to learn more about this Napa Valley spot, visit their website.

Best Things To Do With Family in Napa Valley

Napa Valley is kid-friendly, even with its wine-heavy reputation. If you're bringing the family out to California for a visit, there are dozens of different places in the valley you can take them for a good time, including:

  • Sonoma TrainTown Railroad
  • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
  • Napa Valley Balloons
  • Old Faithful Geyser

These spots will keep your kids entertained while also allowing you more time to bond as a family.

Free Things To Do in Napa Valley

A trip to Napa Valley doesn't have to break the bank. There are plenty of places to visit in Napa Valley that are free to enter, including:

  • Robert Louis Stevenson State Park
  • Skyline Wilderness Park
  • Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
  • The Preserved Forest

Note, too, that it's free to walk around shopping centers like Oxbow Public Market, although the urge to spend might be a little tempting.

If you're heading out to Napa Valley for your next vacation, don't let the area's wine-oriented reputation fool you. The valley is full of exciting attractions for everyone. All you have to do is look for them.

Looking for more awesome things to do in this wonderful state? Make sure you check out this post about the 19 best cities to visit in California. Not far from Napa, just to the south of the Bay Area, I highly recommend working the Monterey Bay area into your itinerary too, as well as Big Sur. Here are a few posts that will get you started with your research on these areas -

Best Things to do in the Monterey Peninsula, CA

6 Stunning State Parks in Big Sur, California

10 Awesome Self-Drive Day Trips around Monterey, CA

Top things to do in and around Santa Cruz, CA

If, however, you wish to explore north of the Napa Valley area, then I have some recommendations for that as well -

Our North California Bucket List

Redwoods National Park - The Complete Guide

19 Things to Do in Napa Valley (Besides Wine Tasting)

Share this post -

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *