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Top Ten Things To Do In Napa Valley

by Monty Preiser


We often hear people say they don't want to visit the wine country because they can't drink wine all day. We tell them not to be concerned, because the combination of superb weather, an educated population, and numerous art lovers is enough to drive lots of other activities. We list 10 of the best (in no particular order) below.


Located between Calistoga and Santa Rosa, Safari West maintains over 400 acres with some 350 species of animals.
2 ½ hour tours are led by a resident naturalists, with half the time being spent in an open-air safari vehicle, and half on foot. The organization offers regular tours, private twilight safaris in the summer with wine and cheese (from 7:00 until the sun is gone), and private sunset safaris in the spring and fall, also featuring wine and cheese. Various renditions of these private tours occur on holidays.

Contact 800-616-2695 or 707-579-2551 for times and more information.


In Napa, at least, most hot air balloon rides begin before dawn in order to take advantage of the optimal air currents and atmospheric conditions. There are many companies operating rides, and different options are available. Some, for example, include various types of brunches and/or wines. The hour you are in the air is spectacular.

For more information you may call:
Adventures Aloft: 800-944-4408
Balloons Above the Valley: 800-464-6824
Calistoga Ballooning: 800-359-6272
Napa Valley Balloons, Inc.: 800-253-2224
Up & Away Ballooning: 707-836-0171


There are some wonderful shopping opportunities in the Valley, beginning with the revitalized downtown area of Napa, and going all the way north to Calistoga. We can't list every specialty shop in wine country, but the following are some of the places to go.

Downtown Napa
The Hatt Market in Napa
Southern Yountville, including Vintage 1870 Shops
Napa Valley Grapevine Wreath Company in Rutherford
Olive Oil Shop at the corner of Rt. 29 and Rutherford Rd.
Main St. in St. Helena
Lincoln Ave. in Calistoga
Ca' Toga Galleria in Calistoga, featuring works of resident artist Carlo Marchiori


There are few places in the world better suited to biking than the Napa Valley. In the morning temperatures are jacket cool (even in the summer) and early evenings are very pleasant. Even in the middle of the day, the dry heat lends itself to cycling. There are tours available that combine biking and wine tasting, or you can plan your own schedule.

For more information and rentals, the following can help:
Napa Valley Bike Tours: 707-251-8687
St. Helena Cyclery: 707-963-7736
Napa Valley Bike Tours: 707-2453


There are some beautiful hotels and country clubs in the Napa Valley offering modern health clubs and spas, but when most people refer to a spa in wine country, they are speaking of Calistoga, a town founded in the 1860's for its volcanic ash and peat-moss mud and mineral baths. Calistoga sits near natural mineral and mud springs, as well as near functioning hot water geysers, thus making it the ideal spot to luxuriate.
For more information we suggest you go On Line, or contact the Chamber of Commerce.


Is there anything more peaceful (unless you're a nervous wreck) than riding smoothly and silently through the air in a glider? Crazy Creek Gliders operated out of Calistoga for years, and has moved about 20 - 30 minutes north to Middletown to keep up with their expansion and need to park more planes. You can choose from varying lengths of rides.
For more information and reservations call 707-987-9112


Located in Vallejo, about an hour from mid Valley, is Six Flags Marine World, America's only combination wildlife park, oceanarium and theme park. Need one say more?
For more information call 707-644-4000


There are only a few courses in the Napa Valley itself, but at least the golfer won't have to go cold turkey. You can find one 18 hole public course in Napa, and two 9 hole public courses - one in Yountville and one in Calistoga. Private links include 18 holes at both Silverado and Chardonnay Country Clubs, and a 9 hole at Meadowood country club.

Chardonnay Golf Vlub: 707-257-1900
Napa Municipal Course: 707-255-4333
Vintner's Golf Club: 707-944-1992


Napa River Adventures offers a variety of watercraft that allows people of all ages and abilities to experience the beautiful Napa Valley, and the Napa River. Regularly scheduled cruises on an electric, luxury riverboat offer the opportunity to relax in comfort on a guided narrated tour of current river developments, local history and ecology. You will enjoy the gorgeous sweeping vistas of the mountains, and see and learn about wildlife such as the Great Blue Heron, the osprey, the egret, and the kingfisher. You can also bring wine. Canoes and kayaks are available for those looking to get a closer look into the wetlands and surrounding marshes.
For more information and reservations call 707-224-9080.


Throughout the year there are dozens of festivals honoring many things that have nothing to do with wine, as well as a number of shows, concerts, and arts demonstrations. To name a few, we let you know there is the Napa Valley Dog Show, The Zarzuela Opera Festival, The Napa Chef's Market, The Wine Country Film Festival, The Music Festival for Health, Bluegrass jams, The Micro-Brew Fest, The Mustard Festival, The Memorial Weekend Sprint Car Races, The Silverado Parade, The Napa Valley Shakespeare Festival, and The Antique Car Show.

We recommend calling the various Chambers of Commerce for more information.
Calistoga: 707-942-6333
Napa: 707-254-1142
St. Helena: 707-963-4456
Yountville: 707-944-0904

Along with his wife Sara, Monty's (Nightlawyer12@aol.com) weekly wine articles are published by Wine on Line International and by Sallys-Place, and are taken electronically by many in the wine industry. The Preisers are wine columnists for the Boca News, and are contributors to various magazines and newsletters throughout the country. They judge the annual Hilton Head Winefest and Monty is the founder of the Hilton Head chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food. Sara and Monty are also founders of Creative Professional Programs, Inc., a company specializing on a world wide basis in the education of business professionals in conjunction with learning about, and enjoying, fine wine and dining. In March of this year the Preisers published The Preiser Key to Napa Valley, the only comprehensive guide to wineries and restaurants in the Napa Valley.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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