One of the best things about living in or visiting San Francisco is its proximity to wine country. About an hour drive north of the city and you’re suddenly in the middle of vineyards and tasting rooms. Quite a different experience from the busy city of San Francisco! This Napa Valley day trip itinerary will highlight the best things to do in Napa Valley if you’re driving up from San Francisco for one day.
Visiting Napa from San Francisco: The Ultimate Napa Valley Day Trip Itinerary
Before getting into the details of spending the day in Napa, you should know that Napa Valley is made up of many different regions. The most well-known wine regions in the area (from south to north) include Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St Helena, and Calistoga. The further north you go, the further away from the city you’ll be. I prefer to start in the north and work my way down so that I’m closer to San Francisco on the way home.
If you’re looking for vineyard suggestions, don’t miss The Best Vineyards to Visit in Napa Valley
Transportation and Getting Around
The easiest way to get to Napa is by driving. There isn’t a direct bus or train that will take you to the valley unless you’ve signed up for a wine tour. I prefer to explore at my own pace, and thus prefer to drive. If you’re worried about drinking and driving I would highly advise taking an Uber/Lyft to Napa and getting transported around that way. While it will be much more expensive, it is better to be safe than sorry.
If you do drive to Napa, getting around is fairly easy! Each winery will have free parking, taking the stress out of you finding your own parking.
Napa Valley One Day Itinerary
Located an hour(+) north of San Francisco, start your day early to ensure you get to Napa by the time the wineries begin opening (around 10 am). If you want to grab something to eat on your way to Napa, stop at Ariscault Bakery for their famous chocolate almond croissant.
If you prefer to eat breakfast in Napa, then don’t miss Oprah’s favorite English muffins from The Model Bakery located in downtown Napa and in downtown St Helena.
For your first tasting, head north to St Helena to wine taste at V. Sattui. V. Sattui opens at 10 am and reservations are required. It’s a family-run winery, only selling wine on-site, meaning it isn’t available anywhere else. I enjoy V. Sattui for its laid-back atmosphere and expansive outdoor area. There’s also a food truck stationed in the garden which is perfect for lunch after your first tasting. (Note that most wineries will not have full lunch menus, only small bites here and there).
As the afternoon comes, start heading down south for your next tasting. If you prefer to do another wine tasting, head to Round Pond Estate Winery in Rutherford. It’s the ultimate “California” tasting room with big palm trees leading you to a gorgeous building overlooking the vineyards. Make sure to book reservations in advance!
If you don’t prefer another tasting (or if you have time to fit both activities in), head to Oakville to visit the Oakville Grocery. The Oakville Grocery is the oldest continually operating grocery store in California, having opened in 1881. Here you can grab picnic supplies, a sandwich, a bottle of wine, and sit out on their patio. Or you can head across the street to the Oakville Wine Merchant where you can purchase wines by the glass.
If you’re up for one last tasting before heading back to San Francisco, stop at Darioush in Napa. Darioush is a Persian-inspired winery, built by a man from Iran. He wanted the winery to resemble the Persopolis and the wine to resemble French wine. Reservations are required and the winery closes at 5 pm.
Napa has some incredible restaurants, so don’t drive back down to San Francisco without stopping for dinner first! For French food, head to Angele Restaurant & Bar; a riverfront bistro in an old boathouse. Or if you prefer Italian, head to Bistro Don Giovanni.
And if you find that you need to stay the night in Napa, downtown Napa has many great hotel options. I prefer the Archer Hotel Napa or Andaz Napa, both located near each other downtown.
This Napa day trip itinerary is perfect for those visiting from San Francisco, looking to dip their toes into Napa Valley. While one day is short and sweet, it’s the perfect option if you’re limited on time.