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Napa Valley, California

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Wine is what is most people think most often think about when they hear the words Napa Valley. In fact, if you drive up scenic Route 29, you will see many of the most famous names in wine making. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg and we will show you some of the other delightful sights you can experience while traveling through the Napa Valley area.

To properly see Napa Valley as a whole, you need to get up high. There are some interesting ways to do this:

  • Hot air balloons, floating across the sky like colorful soap bubbles.
  • A glider flight from a nearby airport and you can soar among the clouds and ride the thermals like a bird over Mt. Diablo state park.
  • Hang-gliding is another way to fly like an eagle, perhaps for the very adventuresome a flight over Napa valley in Biplane from 1943.
  • A Boeing Steerman originally designed in 1930, routinely flies tourists over the wine country.
  • But, to truly be like a sky god, skydiving is your ticket getting the view as seen through the eyes of an eagle.
  • A mountain view offers some of the best ways of seeing the sights.

Morning sunrise, while taking a dip in one of the many spring fed pools is only for the daring. Remember, the water is from the melting snow higher up.

Mt. Diablo

As the mists clear, the grandeur of the valley appears seen from the heights of Mt. Diablo, named after the devils thicket, which was a mis-translated to “mount” from the Spanish in the past, by settlers. During one long summer, brush fires wreathed the mountain in flames like a scene from Dante’s Inferno.

Gold Panning

The Gold rush in California isn’t over. You can still take “pan-in-hand” and get gold the old-fashioned way. Gold panning is still alive and well. Over $58 billion was taken out of the area between 1844 and 1855. Some estimate this was only 20 percent of the mother lode that was ever found. Today, you can still go up near the Yuba River and dip pan and swirl, and be excited by the sight of gold flakes appearing as the mud is washed away. Gold tours are also available for those who yearn to learn about how it was when the ‘49ers panned and mined for gold in Napa Valley’s colorful past.

Silverado Mine

The area isn’t just famous for the Gold Rush. In 1858, the Great Silver rush began in Napa Valley. Many of the Silver mines are still in operation to this day. But if you want the feel of the old west tours of some of the old mines are available for the adventurous. The Silverado Mine, made famous by Robert Louis Stevenson, on the top of Mt. St. Helena is just one. The once boomtown of Silverado, is now just a quiet get away from its place along a strip of the Silverado Canyon Road, that belies the 1878 mad rush for silver in the area. For the hiker, going up to see the old mine site can be something to add to your travel itinerary.

Fishing

If you want something else to do in the rivers and streams besides gold panning, fishing is in abundance. The fly fisherman has the Yuba, Lower Sacramento, and Putah Creek near the scenic Monticello dam to choose from. Again, tour packages are available with expert guides to show the beginner the ropes on how to be an angler.

Bicycling

If you’re athletically inclined or health conscious, bicycle tours of the area let you experience the valley as you go from vineyard to vineyard, through the entire length of the valley.

Hiking & Horseback Riding

Mt. Diablo has been mentioned before is also a site for some of the most beautiful hiking trails in Northern California, which includes 38 preserved horse trails with Mt. Diablo itself as the centerpiece. The scenery here alone is worth making the trip to Napa Valley.

Guided Tours

How about wine tours with a twist: ride your bike, walk, or bring your kayak along for a different way to see the Napa Valley and Sonoma wine country. There are guided tours that allow you to do all three. Different packages are available depending on your time and stamina.

Wine Train Tour

If kayaking isn’t your thing, perhaps a leisurely trip on the Wine Train through the area is more your taste. Travel in class on a vintage 1900’s train that runs with stops between Napa and St. Helena, along Route 29, through the heart of the Napa Valley wine country. Running since 1989, and it has carried more than 2 million visitors. The Wine Train, started by Vincent DeDomenico of Rice-A-Roni fame, is a unique tour with special stops at wineries and includes fine dining in a special dining car. Special events are held all year.

Accomodations

Where to stay, you ask? During your visit to Napa Valley, there are many Bed and Breakfasts to choose from. With over 75 B&Bs, there is something for everyone's price range and taste.

If a hotel is more to your liking and budget, then one of the 55 hotels that dot the area will be right up your alley.

Activities in Napa Valley

Activities nearby are varied, fun for the whole family including:

  • Rock climbing
  • Jet and water skiing at Lake Tahoe
  • Hang gliding
  • Water parks
  • Parasailing at Lake Tahoe
  • Water park excitement for the whole family’s enjoyment
  • Hiking and backpacking in Mt. Diablo State Park
  • Horseback riding along rustic mountain trails
  • Golf for the those enjoy the sport of kings

Getting Around

Cars are often the preferred method of travel throughout the area. Route 29 is the main thoroughfare giving you free access all over the area to stop and see what strikes your mood.

Limousine tours of the wineries are for those who wish to sample various wines that Northern California has to offer. The prices are reasonable and the drivers have a wealth of knowledge about the area history and sites to see.

Motorcycles are another popular mode of touring. Imagine you’re in the valley with a group of your friends or by yourself on the winding roads; the roar of the engine and the sound of the tires on the road makes for an exciting and yet relaxing ride through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world.

Wineries

The wineries themselves are the focal point of the area. The combination of the fertile volcanic soil, for growing the grapes, the magic of fermentation, and wine making secrets, makes some of the finest wines in the world possible.

There are over 450 wineries to choose from, in a wide assortment, that can satisfy everyone from the budding wine connoisseur to the most jaded of tastes.

One of the most recognized names is Mondavi. The Mondavi family in 1943, acquired the Krug Winery, established in 1861. With innovative ideas, the Mondavi name was made synonymous with fine wine all over the world. With number one ranked wines, Mondavi continues to produce quality premium wines.

Other names like Faustina, where hand crafted small lots of wine are still made in the traditional manner and Gridley Family, may not be so well know outside wine circles.

All these famous wineries have regularly scheduled tours, and with wine tasting as the highlight at the end of the tour, is part and parcel. Try a glass, or 3, of the best vintages found anywhere.

Shopping

Walnut Creek is nearby for shopping in malls, restaurants and small, specially shops featuring local crafts and food delicacies.

Dining

Speaking of food. Hundreds of some of the finest dining establishments around are in Napa Valley. Everything you can think of from burgers and pizza to the more refined Spanish tapas and wine. If you desire something more upscale, then the many bistros and 5 star restaurants will tempt you with their array of mouth-watering appetizers, delicious entrees, or sizzling main courses and fabulous desserts. There are over 300 restaurants with over 11,000 dishes to entice you in the Napa Valley area.

Mexican and Southwestern style cooking representing the original Spanish settlers of the area in the and form the core of 29 restaurants, featuring everything from a simple burrito to ancient Aztec recipes.

If old-fashioned American food is your desire, then there is a restaurant to fit each and every one of them. From burger palaces to surf and turf and beyond, there are many of which will become your favorite. Steakhouses abound with Cole’s Chophouse, and Perl where steak is king. Gourmet French dining is also available at Bistro Jeanty, Solbaror, and The Fume Bistro, to name a few.

Asian cuisine is also here in all its glory from the holdovers of the Gold rush to the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Asian immigrants have long been a part of the history of California. Many fine Asian restaurants are here to tantalize your taste buds and dazzle your eyes with the color and the aromas to send you to the gates of the Forbidden City itself.

If you are on a budget, a wide variety of fast food chains are to be found all over the area.

Art & Photography

Arts and crafts abound in the many shops and roadside stands that can provide you with hours of shopping exploration and looking for that special treasure to ornament your home or jewelry to adorn a loved one.

For the art Lover, the Napa area is a dream come true. With many talented local artists and native artisans you have a wide selection to browse in the many galleries and if you are an artist the area provides for rare opportunities in both nature and landscape painting. Photographers will, as the artist and painters mentioned before, will fall in love with the landscapes and the scenic mountains that can provide the backdrop for your art. The many craggy valleys and peaks provide texture and shadow that the black and white landscape photographer will find hard to resist using the zone system formulated by Ansel Adams, who traveled widely from Mexico to Yosemite, shooting some of the most beautiful landscapes ever photographed.

Yoga & Meditation

Those who seek peace of mind and body, there is yoga in many forms such as Bikram, Iyengar, and Taoist practices that bring peace to mind, body, and spirit. Zen mediation centers are located here too. At the Tibetan Center for Qigong, not only can you practice meditation, but also the healing arts of Qigong. Martial artists come here for the isolation and quiet to perfect their skills into the zone and pilates teaches grace in movement that dancers crave.

Old Faithful Geyser

Your trip to the Napa Valley area would not be complete without a visit to the Old Faithful Geyser of California. Not to be confused with Yosemite’s famous Geyser of the same name. Heated by the volcanic fires beneath Mount Saint Helena, this is one of only three geysers in the world, so named. Once every 30 minutes or so, Old Faithful blasts a stream of super-heated water and steam up to 100 feet into the air which has amazed millions of visitors over the years.

Featured in National Geographic, this attraction near Napa also has a petting zoo for the kids showcasing the famous Jacob’s four horn sheep and the Tennessee fainting goats. Here you can meet Guard Lamas, originally from the Andes.

Napa Valley is a place of breathtaking beauty. Where fine wine and great food go together. A place for the artist as well as the photographer. Where your whole family can have fun frolicking in lakes or walking on cool country trails. You can soar like a bird. Go out for a scenic tour or just a summer getaway. A long afternoon drive with a special someone. Napa Valley has it all. Go there for the fun and stay for the wine in a land where the sun is always shining.


Travel | United States


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