The most populous state of all and also one of the most popular for vacations and tourism, California has so much to offer. Whether you're heading to the northern part of the state or choosing to spend your time in South California instead, you'll find so much to see and do. From the Hollywood Hills of LA to the redwood forests of NorCal, the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco, Balboa Park of San Diego, and so much more, California is a traveler’s paradise.
As well as being famed for big cities, world class family attractions, and incredible scenery, California is also widely associated with wine-making and classy cuisine. The state has its own Wine Country region, with some of California’s American Viticultural Areas (AVA) like Napa Valley standing out as some of the best and most productive in the entire country.
The city of Napa and the surrounding Napa Valley area are wonderful places to visit, with lots of wineries, tasting rooms, and five-star restaurants just waiting to be enjoyed. It’s a popular area with couples, due to its stunning scenery and romantic nature, but can also be adored by families and groups of friends. And if you’re lucky enough to be visiting a nearby city, you can actually do a day trip to Napa quite easily. Here’s how to plan the perfect day trip from San Francisco to Napa.
Getting to Napa from San Francisco
Napa is about 50 miles away from Downtown San Francisco, so you can get there quite easily and quickly by driving, but you might also choose to sign up for an organized tour or even rely on public transport to get around the Napa Valley for your day trip. Driving is definitely the easiest and most flexible option, but you might have your own reasons for traveling to Napa a different way.
Getting to Napa from San Francisco by Car
If you choose to drive to Napa from San Francisco for your day trip, the route you take will depend on your starting point. Those on the West Side of the Bay, for example, will want to go over the Golden Gate Bridge and then follow US-101 and CA-37 north and following the signs for Napa. If you're over on the East Side, however, you'll be better off following the I-80 and eventually connecting with the CA-29.
Either way, the drive will take about an hour in total, and then once you get to Napa, you'll have the freedom to either park up and check out the city or carry on to local wineries and vineyards. The advantage of driving to Napa for your day trip is that a car allows you to choose when you set off, when you head back, where you park, and where you stop along the way.
Getting to Napa from San Francisco on a Tour
Various tour operators offer guided tours to Napa and the Napa Valley direct from San Francisco. Many of these companies provide small group tours, giving you an intimate experience and allowing you to visit some of the top spots in Napa and taste some great wines along the way.
You can even go the extra mile and book a private tour experience for total privacy and intimacy, but you'll need to pay a little extra for this service. The cheapest option will be large group tours, but the impersonal and crowded nature of these tours can ruin the Napa experience for many people.
Getting to Napa from San Francisco by Public Transport
If you choose to rely on public transport for your day trip to Napa, you'll need to be prepared for a much slower day overall. Public transportation isn't particularly speedy around Napa, so if you really want to make the most of your day trip, this might not be the best option.
Still, if you do decide to use public routes, you can take the San Francisco Bay Ferry over to Vallejo and then connect with the Napa Valley VINE buses. You'll need to plan ahead and know which stops you want to get off at for individual wineries, however, and you'll need to look for the number 29 bus if you want to go direct to Napa.
Important Information and Things to Do in Napa
- Getting Around - If you just want to stay in Napa and experience all it has to offer for your day trip, you can get to most of the tasting rooms and restaurants with ease purely by walking. Napa isn't the biggest city in the world, and it's a charming place to walk around. To get around a little faster or go a little further, you can also choose to rent a bike, and there are even bicycle-based wine tours you can try. The Napa area also has buses you can use, but the schedules are quite relaxed and limited, so if you want to really go outside of Napa itself, your best option is to take a car.
- Best Time to Visit Napa - Many cities and locations in the United States tend to be busiest around summer, but this isn't the case in Napa. It's actually the months of early fall (September and October) which see the biggest crowds in Napa, and the prices also tend to rise during this time of year too. So if you'd prefer to save a little cash on your Napa trip and avoid some of the crowds, visiting in spring is a good option.
- Things to Do in Napa - The city of Napa is a beautiful place, renowned for its late 19th century architecture and great shopping districts. Walking along the river is one of the top things to do in Napa, as this is where you'll find some of the best boutiques and restaurants. You should also be sure to check out the Oxbow Public Market for fresh produce from local farmers. Visitors can also check out various tasting rooms around the city or even hop on board the Napa Valley Wine Train to visit local wineries in style.