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Things to do in Napa Valley…That Have Nothing to do with Wine

While sipping wine is the obvious reason people visit Napa Valley, there are a lot of things to do that go well beyond the vines. Given we’re living in the age of socially distanced activities, being outside has its draws now more than ever. Here are few of our favorite things to do in Napa Valley that are both outside and have nothing to do with wine tasting.

If you’re looking for more things to do in Napa Valley, click over to our Napa Valley Wine Country Travel Guide.

Napa River Kayaking

See the city from a new perspective by kayaking along the Napa River, which snakes through beautiful Downtown Napa. Take in breathtaking views of the mountain ranges and valleys, while exploring the nature preserve and oxbow. Experience the wildlife along the river including Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, otters, beavers, fish, deer, rabbits, turtles, beavers and over 58 different species of fish.

TIP: Enjoy Napa Valley offers kayak tours and rentals for all skill levels. Napa Valley Paddle also provides guided trips of the Napa River that are perfect for those new to paddling, as well as unguided trips that are ideal for adventurers that want to create their own experience and choose which routes to take.

Things to do in Napa Valley - Gondola ride
Photo Provided by Downtown Napa

Napa Valley Gondola

Transport yourself to Europe by taking a Venetian gondola ride along the Napa River with Napa Valley Gondola. Gondola sightseeing cruises are perfect for couples or groups up to six passengers. Sip some wine, enjoy Italian serenaded songs and relax. Along the way, the tours offer a basic history of the river and riverfront. The gondolas are hand-made, Venetian bell gondolas that were imported from Venice in 2018.

Napa Art Walk

Napa Art Walk is a biennial rotating exhibition of public installation art displayed around Downtown Napa. The 2019-2021 exhibit theme “Sense of Place” has 8 sculptures from 8 artists from the Western U.S. All of the art is outside on the sidewalks of Downtown Napa making it easy to discover or visitors can take a self-guided tour

Oxbow Riverstage

Oxbow Riverstage is an outdoor festival-style concert venue located in Downtown Napa that kicked off in 2019. (2021 festivals are on but vaccination or negative Covid-19 tests are required.) Oxbow Riverstage features a series of outdoor concerts and events at Oxbow Commons during the summertime months. You can sit back and enjoy the concert or walk around take in the region’s craft beers and spirits, local Napa Valley wines, tasting food, art and more.

Take a Hike

The City of Napa is surrounded by rolling hills providing built in hiking trails for all hiking levels. And that’s just the city, the entire Napa Valley is filled with even more to explore.

You can enjoy tree-lined paths, lake views and lush hillsides overlooking the San Francisco Bay at Skyline Wilderness Park. The Mt. George Waterfall Trail provides views of billowing waterfalls. This five-mile hike winds along the creek and is a great location to see wildflowers in bloom. If you’re traveling with a furry companion, Alston Park’s upper part known as Canine Commons is a popular off-leash dog area. One of the closest hikes to the city center is Westwood Hills. This heavily wooded park provides three miles of trails through beautiful oak trees that lands you at an expansive view of the city.

You can explore all the hiking trails in Napa Valley by checking out this hiking trail maps. The hiking app, All Trials will also hook you up with even more trails to sip in throughout the Napa Valley.

Spa Day

With more than 15 spas it’s easy to indulge. If you’re staying in downtown Napa, there are a few spas you can walk to –  The Spa at Napa River Inn, Napa Valley Massage and Wellness, Blue Water Day Spa and GreenHaus Day Spa.

Hot Air Balloon Rides

Fly above the valley floor in a hot air balloon. These typically take place first thing in the morning and will require advanced reservations. A few suggested companies to work with.

Explore Napa on Two Wheels

Explore Downtown Napa and beyond on two wheels. Many lodging properties offer guests bikes to enjoy during their stay or visitors can easily rent one around town from local shops like Napa River Velo. Nothing beats cruising along the Napa River and taking in the sights and sounds of nature.

One way to see the Valley is via the Napa Valley Vine Trail which takes you from South Napa all the way up to Yountville. Along the way you can experience the city, the art of RAD Napa, and the views of legendary vineyards. If you want to try a little wine tasting and riding, try a Bike Wine Tour.

Go on Safari

Technically this is in Sonoma, but being able to go on a safari only 45 minutes from downtown Napa is something not to overlook. Safari West offers a few tour options as well as glamping onsite in one of the luxury tents. I mean really, waking up in wine country BUT feeling like you’re in the middle of Africa is wild! Either option won’t disappoint as you’ll get to search for nearly 900 animals from over 90 unique species that roam through the 400-acre preserve.

Elaine Schoch

Elaine N. Schoch

Elaine Schoch (pronounced the German way – Shock) is the editor and founder of Carpe Travel as well as an award-winning travel writer, wine judge, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and certified American Wine Expert. She is married to The Husband and has two kids, Princess One and Two – who’s interest and knowledge in wine is quite extensive. Not to mention the stamps in their passports.

Robert Morrison

Thursday 4th of August 2022

Great article! You should mention the largest employer in Napa county, Napa State Hospital.

Ali

Wednesday 27th of July 2022

I understand the options for people going to Napa for a week. I’m a native Californian who grew up and went to college near Napa. To me, Napa IS about great wine and good food. For other activities within a drive are Sausalito, San Francisco, Mt. Diablo and Sacramento for tubing. Just my two cents.

Elaine Schoch

Friday 29th of July 2022

I agree that Napa is totally about the wine but there are some folks who like to do other things, so I'm finding with our planning services. I prefer to mix the two - something in the morning without wine and then sip through the valley the rest of the day. ;)