If you’re able to spend 2 to 3 days in Napa and Sonoma, you’re in for a treat. A few days in California’s famous wine country is plenty to catch the highlights while visiting some lesser-known sections. As you’re constructing your Napa and Sonoma itinerary, consider what we have to suggest for how to spend your days. A general tip for visiting the area is to choose a section of it to explore each day. This will dramatically cut down on your driving time, granting you more time to spend at each winery.
How Many Days in Napa & Sonoma?
2 or 3 days are ideal to spend in Napa and Sonoma. This grants you plenty of time to see everything that makes these valleys special. Consider spending one day in central Napa and one day in central Sonoma.
If time grants you a third day, venture out further to where wineries have been built on top of the hills, some straddling the line between Napa and Sonoma. The further you get from downtown Napa and Sonoma, the more beautiful views you’ll get to enjoy while sipping the region’s most delicious wine.
Getting To and Around Napa & Sonoma
You’ll absolutely want a car while visiting Napa and Sonoma, especially if you’re visiting for several days. Most wineries are spread out throughout the valleys. As we mentioned before, plan your days around certain regions of each valley.
This decreases your driving time between each destination and allows you to spend more time enjoying the wineries. If you need to rent a car for your trip, you can browse Rentalcars.com which shows deals across a number of major car hire companies.
You can also choose to hire a driver for the day. Most hotels in the downtown areas have connections to a driver service. You pay by the hour and are transported in your own car. Napa and Sonoma drivers know their way around the area well.
If you prefer to prebook, one option is this private wine tour for up to 6 people or this group tour if you prefer to join with other people. If you want to spend your day in style, you can even hire a private limo tour!
By hiring a driver, you remove any risk of driving while intoxicated and can rest assured you’ll be safely transported between stops during your day of wine tasting.
2 to 3 Days in Napa & Sonoma Itinerary
Kick off your time in Napa and Sonoma by spending day one exploring Napa Valley. If you have 2 days in Napa, use the second day to explore wineries seated deep in the valley and enjoy their breathtaking views. Finally, use day three to check out Sonoma Valley and downtown Sonoma.
Day 1 – Explore Napa Valley
Explore Downtown Napa
For your first day in Napa and Sonoma, spend the morning exploring downtown Napa. Enjoy breakfast by the waterfront, stop by Oxbow Market, and check out the many shops and tasting rooms this downtown area has to offer.
Several companies offer food and wine tours of downtown Napa. You can also opt for an historic kayak tour along the Napa River. Oenotri, Morimoto, and Allegria are three excellent food options to choose from, however there are countless opportunities for tasty meals in Napa.
Keep in mind that downtown Napa will have more tourists than Sonoma, which is worth noting when trying to determine if you want to spend more time in Napa or Sonoma.
It’s larger, offers more commercial wineries, and lodging therefore usually sees more tourists each year. However, if you have a morning, afternoon, or evening to spend in the area, you won’t regret it.
Throughout Napa Valley you’ll find an assortment of wineries with a range of specialties. Mumm is renowned for their sparkling wines and an excellent first stop while tasting in Napa Valley.
With roots in GH Mumm, the leading champagne brand in France, Mumm Napa has mastered the art of sparkling wine. They use traditional French techniques in their winemaking and have been doing so in Napa since the 1970s.
The tasting patio at Mumm overlooks vines backdropped by lush green hills. It’s quiet, quaint, and a peaceful destination to begin your wine tasting excursion. Make sure to book your reservation in advance.
Upon arrival, you’ll select which flight of wines to taste. At Mumm, you’ll sample the winery’s flagship wines as well as some of Napa Valley’s best sparkling wine.
Pride Mountain Vineyards
If you can survive the drive to Pride, there’s a t-shirt saying such ready for purchase upon arrival. Pride Mountain Vineyards is known for its robust red wines.
A visit here includes a brief estate tour, wine cellar tour, patio tasting, and barrel tasting. The tour guide might even test your taste buds by offering a taste from a barrel and a bottle of the same wine. Can you taste a difference?
Pride Mountain is famous for its stunning views. The curvy road to the vineyard rewards guests with outlooks over Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
When visiting Pride, you might notice a brick line through the parking lot dividing the vineyard in half. This line marks where half of the winery is in Napa and half in Sonoma. Pride has several tasting options when making your reservation, so you can choose the one that works best for you.
As one of the most popular wineries in the Valley and a must-visit when planning a Napa itinerary, Domaine Carneros is the perfect final stop on your day of wine tasting.
The winery is known for its pinot noir and sparkling wines. We recommend Domaine Carneros as the final stop for the evening sunset view that comes with an end-of-day tasting here.
The estate is beautiful and stands out against the hillside. The patio at its front is where most wine tastings happen. This patio overlooks hills and valleys that are glowing in hues of pinks, yellows, and oranges during the evening hours.
During your tasting, you’ll choose from three flights of wines. A flight of reds, flight of sparkling wines, and a mixed flight composed of the winery’s best of both categories. Domaine Carneros is located in the Carneros region of Napa Valley and was established in 1987.
Since it was created, the winery has been using the same traditional winemaking methods that the founding Taittinger family. It’s the perfect place to wrap up your first day of three in Napa and Sonoma.
Day 2 – Calistoga & More Vineyard Tours
Located on the northern tip of Napa Valley is Calistoga.
If you’ve heard of Calistoga before it was probably in conjunction with mud baths. The area around the town is volcanic. Many spas have transformed this natural feature into volcanically-heated mineral springs and mud baths. Downtown Calistoga is filled with shops, restaurants, and bars.
There are several spas with a variety of relaxing packages for you to enjoy. Try sitting in a mud bath followed by a massage and mineral pool soak. You can also opt to stick with just a classic massage, manicure, or pedicure. If you want to spend a night in Calistoga, that option is also available to you.
From Calistoga you can also hop on a hot air balloon for an unmatched view over wine country. You can visit a geyser, explore Calistoga’s Petrified Forest, go for a hike on Palisade Trail, as well as visit the nearby Castello di Amorosa.
Visit St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
As one of the few certified sustainable wineries in Napa and Sonoma, St. Francis Winery is one to add to your itinerary. Not only is the wine delicious, but the estate is also stunning and the views from the back tasting patio are unbeatable.
While sipping from your flight of wine, you’ll look out over rows of vines toward rolling hills. St. Francis also accommodates dinner parties, large groups, and other kinds of visits aside from a classic tasting.
Visitors can also opt to take a pedal wine trolley through the vineyards to sample the winery’s most renowned wines and see the vineyard.
Chateau Montelena’s estate will rival some of the most famous French vineyards. A visit to this winery is in such high demand that their tastings are fully booked out months in advance.
The winery prides themselves on crafting wine from traditional methods, without the assistance of modern technology. Wines from this estate have consistently ranked among the best wines of the year by countless publications. Everything from Departures to Forbes has highlighted a wine produced by Chateau Montelena.
Your experience wine tasting at the chateau and can be as personalized as you like. Reserve a private, customized tasting with a wine specifically curated to your preferences.
Stick with a classic tasting of Chateau Montelena’s premium wines or opt for an estate tour. Regardless of the route you take, a visit to this winery ensures a memorable time.
Day 3 – Explore Sonoma
Hike Sonoma Overlook Trail
To break up your wine tasting days, try getting outdoors with a short nature hike in Sonoma Valley. The Sonoma Overlook Trail is an easy and pleasant 3-mile hike that offers great views of the valley at the end.
The trailhead is just a few blocks north of Sonoma plaza, making it an easy stop during your two to three days in Sonoma and Napa.
Along the hike, visitors are treated with colorful wildflowers and local wildlife. Guests should also keep in mind that dogs, bikes, and horses are not permitted on the trails. The lower portion of the trail is usually closed during the winter.
Those who have completed the hike remark that it’s well maintained, but it can get muddy and slippery during wet or cold weather. A hike earlier in the day lends to a quieter and more peaceful walk. The trail sees more traffic later in the day.
Taste at Landmark Vineyards
If you’re a lover of pinot noir and chardonnay, and if you want some of the best wine in Sonoma Valley, pay a visit to Landmark Vineyards. Landmark Vineyards was founded in 1974 by the great-great-granddaughter of John Deere.
Here, grapes are aged in French oak barrels and use naturally occurring yeast to ferment the fruit. Visitors can taste in one of two places when sampling Landmark wines.
The Kenwood Estate Tasting Room and the Hop Kiln Estate Tasting Room both offer opportunities to taste the winery’s most delicious wines.
Visit Buena Vista Winery
Buena Vista Winery is the oldest commercial winery in California wine country. Located on the southern tip of Sonoma Valley, Buena Vista was founded in 1857 and is now a California Historic Landmark.
The founder, known as the “Count of Buena Vista” bolstered an unwavering love of wine. He had a vibrant and eccentric career filled with adventures in the American West and political exile.
The Count’s sentiment toward creating excellent wine has been carried on through the years. Buena Vista produces everything from pinot noirs to zinfandels to champagne. Visitors can choose a classic tasting on the outdoor patio or indoor tasting room.
They can also opt for a tour of the winery’s barrel room. Buena Vista Winery comes highly recommended as a destination on your Napa and Sonoma itinerary.
Take a Bike Tour
Try mixing up how you experience Sonoma by taking a bike tour. Explore historic downtown Sonoma or nearby vineyards. Starting from Sonoma, you’ll have easy access to paved bike paths that lead you throughout the area.
You can choose to take a full-day or half-day tour. Each tour is hosted by a knowledgeable guide who provides Sonoma wine and cultural history. Bike tours lead you through the quieter roads of Sonoma Valley to visit wineries by an off the beaten path route. Some options include this 16-mile bike tour that visits up to 3 wineries or this leisurely small group tour.
Many bike tours change their path each day, so if you enjoy yourself one day, feel free to hop on a bike and cruise through a different part of Sonoma the next. Bike tours offer a unique and personalized visit to Sonoma Valley. You can prebook a bike rental here where they will also give you tips on routes.
Where to Stay in Napa & Sonoma
If you’re planning a 2 or 3 days in Sonoma and Napa itinerary, then you’re going to need to find great place to stay while in the region. There are countless places to choose from in the area and you’re sure find a place that suits your needs. If you’re wondering where to stay in California wine country, check out these suggestions:
Inn at Sonoma – If you’re looking for luxe stay in Sonoma but still want something quiet and cute, then look no further than this hotel. They have a number of wonderful rooms available, fantastic amenities, a central location and a full breakfast and afternoon wine and hors d’oeuvres are served daily. Click here to see their availability
Archer Hotel – Another great luxury option in Napa, this hotel is an excellent choice for those with a bit of a higher budget. Located in Downtown Napa, they have a range of plush rooms available and countless amenities to ensure that your stay is a great one. Click here to see their availability
Blackbird Inn – If it’s a cute bed and breakfast you’re after, this place is a fantastic choice in Napa Valley. They have a handful of wonderful rooms available, off freshly baked biscuits daily and have a number of other options to make your time in Napa truly memorable. Click here to see their availability
Cinnamon Bear Creekside Inn – Another family-run bed and breakfast, this place is a great choice for those wanting to stay in Sonoma. They have a handful of clean and comfortable rooms on offer, a full English breakfast available each morning and a great location for discovering the regions. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental – If you’d rather have your own place than stay in a hotel, then a private vacation rental is a good choice for you. There are tons of options available in Napa and Sonoma — this cottage on a private vineyard or this beautiful, modern cottage are just two great examples of many choices. Click here to browse more Napa private rentals
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Napa hotels!
Your Napa and Sonoma itinerary can be as personalized as you wish. The activities and wineries suggested here are great options, but there are countless experiences to have in California’s wine country. You’ll taste some of the world’s best wine and learn about their unique histories.
Are you planning 2 or 3 days in California’s most famous wine region? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!