About Napa Valley

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Wine Country Tour Shuttle

Napa Valley is recognized as one of the world's top producers of wines, but you probably can't sample as much as you want when you have to drive from vineyard to vineyard. Enter Wine Country Tours, which offers a safe and educational way to enjoy wine at top vineyards in Napa. The nine-hour tour begins at the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco, stopping at four vineyards for tastings and tours, as well as a picnic lunch, before boarding a cruise back to the city. Tickets cost $95, and may include extra tasting fees, but the price is well worth the beautiful drive and the peace of mind. (Photo: Brent Miller, WineCountry.com)

The Napa Valley may be known first and foremost for its annual contribution to wine, but with its variety of cultural programs, outdoor and historical attractions, and distinguished cuisine, it has plenty to offer that won't fit in a glass. And like a good pairing, wine tasting and other leisure activities—such as vineyard picnics, art appreciation, cycling the valley, and spa treatments—bring out the best of one another.

The main towns and cities of the Napa Valley are (from south to north) Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga. The city of Napa is the county seat, and while there are plenty of restaurants and B&Bs, it is in many ways the least charming of the Napa Valley cities. Yountville may be small in size, but with its variety of top restaurants and wide selection of inns and B&Bs, it's got a large presence. St. Helena is a favorite stop for valley visitors in search of boutiques, and Calistoga at the top of the Valley offers many day spas and hot springs. There are also the towns of Oakville and Rutherford, and while small, they are home to a number of wineries.

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Expect to pay city prices in this country destination. The celebrated wine and food and elegant outdoors come at a price that's reflected in prices for lodging, dining, and winery tastings. Though it's not a cheap destination, there are ways to spend wisely to get maximum value in the valley.

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