Napa Valley.. a wine lovers dream destination! I am not exaggerating when I say I am the ultimate wine lover. I live in Las Vegas and for my 21st birthday I didn’t want to go to the Vegas night clubs, no… I chose to come to Napa Valley! You can read my 21st Birthday in Napa guide here, but don’t judge me for the horrible photos because it was pre-photography days 😉
This time around I wanted to do Napa Valley better than before, so in this perfect 3 day Napa Valley Itinerary you can expect a perfect mix of big name wineries, boutique wineries, fun non-wine activities to give you a little break, and some awesome food recommendations!
At the bottom of the itinerary, I include some bonus tips and tricks, advice on the best time to travel to Napa, & a few must-pack items. You ready?!
There’s a chance this free guide contains affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through one of these links I may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that goes towards little Rosie’s dog treats! This trip was hosted by St. Helena Tourism, but all opinions are 1000% my own.
Where to Stay in Napa Valley
What most people don’t realize is that when people talk about visiting Napa, they are talking about visiting the Napa Valley, not usually the town of Napa. Napa Valley has many different towns to choose from, all having their own charm and list of wineries!
I have been to Napa two times now, staying in downtown Napa (the more touristy area) and a small town within Napa Valley, St. Helena. They both have their perks, but I would definitely recommend staying in a smaller town like St. Helena!
Let me explain why..
On my first trip to Napa I chose to stay in Downtown Napa, not realizing that most of the wineries are deeper into the valley. There is one main road that takes you through Napa, so as you can imagine.. that gets BUSY! It takes a very long time to get from your hotel in downtown to the wineries.. AKA less time for wine tasting 😉
On my recent trip, I made my home base St. Helena because it’s right in the middle of Napa Valley (all of the best wineries in Napa are minutes from your hotel), the restaurants were incredible, you’re surrounded by rolling hills of vineyards, and the downtown area was quaint & adorable!
If staying in St. Helena sounds better to you, I would recommend the best hotel in the area, Wine Country Inn and Cottages! Each room had a balcony with an incredible view, the hotel is surrounded by vineyards, and you are minutes away from all the best wineries in Napa! Plus, they deliver freshly cooked breakfast to your room every morning to enjoy on your balcony (it’s the little things, right?!).
The ULTIMATE Napa Valley Itinerary
Like I mentioned previously, this itinerary is St. Helena based since that is where I stayed! Most of the best wineries are right around this town and the town itself has a ton of great wine bars and shops.
TIP: If you are staying in St. Helena and want to follow along on this itinerary, be sure to purchase St. Helena’s wine passport!! It gives you VIP access to tastings at 12 of the area’s best wineries. It’s an incredible deal (like, $85 for an $800 value good of deal), and most of the wineries listed on this itinerary are included 🙂
In this itinerary, I broke it up into three days, making it a perfect three day weekend! This itinerary leaves plenty of room for traveling to / from Napa and PLENTY of wine tasting. 😉
Day 1: Travel to Napa & Explore Downtown St. Helena!
Day one will likely consist of traveling to Napa Valley. I would not plan too much for this day considering you never know how much California traffic you are going to hit, ha!
Tips on Traveling to Napa: I would recommend flying into either Oakland or Sacramento! They both are around the same amount of travel time, except if you are flying in during rush hour, then Sacramento will be much faster. Once you land, the drive time to Napa is roughly an hour and a half.
Once you arrive in St. Helena, stop at Gott’s Road Side for some pre-wine tasting grub! Gott’s road side is a California staple and was founded in St. Helena. Expect to see a long line at every time of the day, which just proves how good the food is! 🙂
Next up, it’s time to relax by hopping around some wine bars in downtown St. Helena. I love including a day like this on the itinerary because you don’t need to hire a driver ($$$) for multiple days, the wine is just as good as all the wineries in the area, and these are all walking distance from each other! Here we go…
TIP: If you end up following along on this itinerary, make sure you pick up your St. Helena Wine Passport from the visitor center on Main Street!
Davies Vineyard is a beautiful tasting room right in downtown St. Helena! They have a cozy atmosphere with couches to lounge at or private tasting rooms. The tasting room is also surrounded by small rows of vineyards, so you still get those pretty vineyard views for your tasting!
Davies Vineyards is a sister property to the well known, Schramsberg Vineyards! Their historic property, Schramsberg Vineyards, is more known for their sparkling wine while their newer property, Davies, is known for their regular wine.
I opted in for their Red Wine Flight, which costs $60.00 per person for a flight of 5 wines!
VGS Chateau Potelle
VGS Chateau Potelle was a winery that truly surprised me! The wine was delicious, the service was incredible (usually the family owned, boutique wineries treat you like royalty), they had such a unique history, and the wine tasting included a delicious food pairing.
The owner was actually from Bordeaux, France and came to Napa to spy on the region and see what all the hype was about! He ended up loving the region more than his home in Bordeaux and opened up his own wine tasting room. See, told ya they had a unique history! 🙂
I opted in for the food and wine pairing, which costs $95.00 per person for a flight of 6 wines paired with bites of food. You can also do just the wine pairing if you want to skip the food. If you end up purchasing St. Helena’s Wine Passport, this winery is included in it. 🙂
Erosion Taproom and Wine Bar
Depending on what time you get into Napa, you can try to squeeze in one more wine bar on your day one itinerary! Erosion Taproom and Wine Bar is an adorable stop right on Main Street. They actually have the bar split between two areas, one for wine tasting and one for beer tasting.
This is also a great wine bar to double dip as souvenir shopping since they have tons of cute wine merchandise & canned wine to bring home for your family!
This wine bar is also included on the St. Helena Wine Passport! 🙂
This restaurant was SO good. They had so many unique, signature items on their menu and of course.. all the best wines from the area. 🙂
TIP: Get the Hand-Pulled Mozzarella (off menu item) and the Butterscotch Panna Cotta Dessert… TRUST ME. Click here to check out their menu!
Day 2: Wine Taste at The Area’s 4 Best Wineries
Day two is where you get to explore some of the area’s best and most scenic wineries! Even though these wineries are all very close together, I would still recommend getting a driver to take you around. Even though Napa wineries advertise X amount of tastings on their site, they almost always give you extra tastings!
Which hey, isn’t a bad thing! 😉
Plus, the main highway through Napa gets insanely backed up and can be quite dangerous to cross. If you do drive, make sure you pace yourself, make plans to eat throughout the day, and avoid making left turns along the road! On this itinerary, I plan it in order so you minimize your left turns and makes the driving time between wineries super fast. 🙂
They don’t call it a Perfect Itinerary for nothing!
Stop #1: White Hall Lane Winery
Your first stop of the day is going to be Whitehall Lane winery, which is a small, family owned winery. I love getting a mix of the smaller boutique wineries with the big name wineries, because the experience is vastly different.
At big name wineries, they usually have an impressive production process, massive property, and… tons of crowds. The smaller, boutique wineries have a unique production process, interesting history, and take the time to get to know you and answer any questions you have.
At Whitehall Lane, your tasting includes a tour of their facility and their production process. You end with a flight in their gorgeous tasting room, which has a view of the area!
Joseph and I loved this stop so much that we actually signed up for their wine club! 🙂
This winery is a included in St. Helena’s Wine Passport, otherwise tastings start at $60.00 per person.
Stop #2: Nickel & Nickel or Far Niente
Stop #2 is one of the most well-known wineries in the area, Nickel & Nickel. If you are a wine lover of any sort, you must have heard of this winery by now!
So… I messed up by planning this tasting appointment too late. Nickel & Nickel and Far Niente are sister properties, carrying the same wine. Far Niente however, is a gorgeous and historic property that is definitely the preferred property to visit!
The only catch is, their tasting appointments sell out weeks in advance. If you plan to taste at this property, make sure you schedule your tasting well in advance! Tastings start at $80.00 per person at Nickel & Nickel and $90.00 per person at Far Niente.
At Nickel & Nickel, they definitely knew what they were doing! It is a guard gated property where they check your name at the gate. Once you arrive at the property, you are greeted by name by your sommelier with a glass of champagne!
Once you get to your table, the wine is already pre-poured for your tasting with some cheese. Your assigned sommelier sits with you to go over all the wine, the history of the property, and of course.. a few mentions to their wine club membership 😉
Stop #3: Sequoia Grove Winery
Sequoia Grove Winery was such a scenic winery where you are surrounded by 100+ year old Sequoia trees! A few more glasses of wine & I would have forgot I was wine tasting in Napa Valley! 😉
This winery is located right off the main highway, very close to downtown St. Helena! The best way to describe this winery was that they had it all. They had beautiful vineyard views, an amazing location in Napa, friendly and boutique-winery service, historic barn on the property, and of course.. amazing wine!
We opted in for their 4 flight tasting, which was $40.00 per person. Click here to schedule your tasting!
Stop #4: Raymond Vineyards
Your last stop of the day will be Raymond Vineyards, which is a large production winery. The number one word to describe Raymond Winery is that they are extremely unique! They do not follow the status quo when it comes to Napa wineries.
Let me explain…
When you arrive, you are greeted with signs showcasing the different wine tasting “experiences” they offer. Some of the experiences include wine tasting in their garden among the vineyards, their Cabernet tasting in their “Crystal Cellar,” wine maker for the day where you can blend your own wine, rent out their red room to enjoy wines by the bottle (perfect for a larger party), or their “sensory wall” where you can smell and feel the different flavors to the wine!
You could easily spend several hours exploring all the Raymond Vineyards has to offer! PLUS, this winery is included in St. Helena’s Wine Passport! 🙂
Day 3: Explore the Shops in St. Helena & One Last Winery!
On your last day in beautiful wine country, I would sleep in, eat a good breakfast at your hotel (did I mention that Wine Country Inn delivers hot breakfast to your room every morning?!), and hit downtown St. Helena!
Like I mentioned before, downtown St. Helena is adorable, quaint, and has some really amazing shops to check out! The last day is the perfect day to shop for any last minute souvenirs, and downtown St. Helena has a shop for everyone.
TIP: If you have someone at home watching your pet, you MUST bring them home a souvenir! I don’t make the rules?! 😉
Here are some must-see shops…
Meuse art gallery is located right on main street and is home to a California-local artist. He was British born artist who now has two locations in Carmel-by-the-sea & in St. Helena!
I am not an artistic person at all, so when I visit an art gallery I am always pretty amazed. This artist, Simon Bull, has paintings that are vibrant and beautiful! I’ll let the photo speak for itself..
New West Knife Works
My parents are big Napa-lovers and recommended this spot! Also located right on Main street, New West Knife Works is a luxury knife shop where you get to have a full experience. They give you one of their tomahawk axes to test out before you explore their knife collection.
They were SO kind to me even when I was awful at throwing the axe, ha! They showed me many different trick shots to try out and of course we had to leave with a knife of our own. 🙂
St. Helena Chambers of Commerce
Their shop is also located on Main Street, you can hit all these spots without having to move the car, win win! 😉
After you picked up some last minute souvenirs and explored the quaint town of St. Helena, it’s time to end your Napa weekend on a high note by tasting at one last winery!
Hall Winery is just minutes from downtown St. Helena, right on your way out of the valley. They have the most gorgeous property to explore, which I already want to go back since we went on a rainy day.
When I went to Hall Winery I did the tour and tasting, but I would actually recommend skipping the tour and getting a glass of wine to wander their beautiful property. They have a big tasting room with floor to ceiling windows, balcony deck with fire pits and comfy couches, and couches / chairs along the vineyards outside.
Hall Winery is included in the St. Helena Wine Passport as well! Have I mentioned yet how good of a deal it is?!
Best Time to Travel to Napa Valley
Even though California has year round great weather, traveling to wine country is very seasonal! If you want to experience the vines in full bloom when the views are the best, you will want to travel in the summer – early fall months. However, Napa can be very busy and very crowded, so traveling at the peak season may not be for everyone!
I would recommend mid fall, right before the leaves fall off the vines! This way you still get the beautiful vineyard views, but limit the crowds and heat. 🙂 For specifics, I traveled the end of October / beginning of November and it was PERFECT! All of the vines began to turn beautiful shades of yellow, red, and green.. it was gorgeous 🙂
What to Pack for Napa Valley
I never want to bore you with a long packing list & always just include a few must-pack items for this specific trip! For Napa, I would highly recommend packing these few must-haves:
- Quick Guide to Wine Tasting – Napa is one of the top wine countries in the world! You will want to know a bit about wine so you appreciate it more while you are there! This quick and easy guide you can read while you are on the plane.
- Portable Charger – In wine country, you are constantly popping in and out of service throughout the day. That means your phone is constantly roaming for service. A portable charge is a must!
- Liquid I.V. – Wine hangover are real people!! If you are drinking wine all day long, it can be super dehydrating! I drink a ton of water and when I am wine tasting, it’s never enough! Drink one of these babies before you go to bed and you’ll feel brand new. 🙂
- Wine Tasting Hat – Are you even wine tasting in Napa without a cute wine tasting hat?! I LOVE this hat from Urban Outfitters! It comes in a ton of different colors and is super affordable (especially for the quality). Click here to check it out!
- MPI Presets – Edit your photos on the go with MPI Presets! My preset packs start at only $3.50 per pack (10 presets) and have over 300 5* reviews! Click here to check them out. 🙂
Bonus Tips and Tricks for Visiting Napa Valley
- Make sure you include a mix of well known wineries and family owned, boutique wineries! It’s good to have a mix of “bucket list” wineries that are big names & lesser known ones you can discover 🙂
- Always over budget time, there is SO much traffic on the main road and a lot of the times the wineries will give you some extra tastings to try out.
- Mentioned this a few times, but if you are following along on this itinerary, save yourself hundreds of dollars by buying the St. Helena Wine Passport!!
- Try planning your wine route to not make too many left turns on the main road. It will save you a ton of time and make it a lot more safe!
- Book your tastings in advance to secure the best times. Like I mentioned before, I tried to taste at Far Niente, but they were booked weeks out!
- Budget 1.5 hours at each tasting so you have time to travel in between. Most people only schedule an hour at each tasting, but give yourself time to travel in between the wineries + explore the property after your tasting is complete.
Okay, that’s a wrap!
As the ultimate wine lover, Napa Valley is such a bucket list destination. One that I want to check off my bucket list over and over (and over) again! 😉
I hope this Napa Valley Itinerary was borderline too informative, but if you have any questions never hesitate to comment below so I can answer them for you! 🙂
Wine Lover like me?! Here are some more itineraries I think you would love:
- 3 Days in Paso Robles, California (hey, that’s where I got married!!)
- Guide to Napa Valley Towns
- Wine Tasting in Willamette, Oregon
- Champagne Tasting in Champagne, France
Looking for other California Itineraries? I have a TON:
- 7 Day California Road Trip Itinerary
- 2 Days in Yosemite National Park
- Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary
- Unique Things to do in San Francisco
- Quick Guide to Visiting Monterey, CA
- Santa Barbara Day Trip
- 27 Things to do in Buena Park – Including Knott’s Berry Farm!
- ALL CALIFORNIA ITINERARIES!