Girlfriend getaways and romantic weekend vacations in Napa Valley and Sonoma County are typically wine-focused, but everyone needs a break from all that drinking for a few hours. Sure, you may scoff. Hear me out! There are plenty of fun things to do in Napa Valley and Sonoma while you and your friends or romantic partner relax and gear up for the next round of winery tours and wine tastings. The various towns in California Wine Country are so charming, in fact, that the sober “down time” will be just as memorable as the hours spent discovering, say, smaller more boutique wineries. Things to do in Napa Valley and Sonoma abound (and I’m not even getting into amazing restaurants yet). Here are three very different non-winery activities to help show the wide range of things to do in Napa Valley and Sonoma County.
The Healdsburg Art Walk, in Healdsburg. Of all the Napa Valley and Sonoma County towns, Healdsburg is uniquely artistic and creative. Now, there are First Friday Art Walks in Healdsburg, but you can explore the galleries in this terrific little town any time. The plaza in Healdsburg alone has around 20 art galleries, which include paintings, sculpture, jewelry and more created by local Sonoma County artists. During the peak travel seasons of the year — meaning, from May to mid-December — the first Friday of every month celebrates these artists with organized walks with music, food, art, photography and, naturally, wine (galleries open their doors for the Art Walk from 5-8pm). The camaraderie invoked by strolling through the shops with similarly curious people, while talking to the artists and perhaps buying something, cannot be understood. It really feels like being part of a community, even if for just a couple of hours.
Safari West, in Santa Rosa. It’s one of the craziest, least expected things to do in Napa Valley and Sonoma. What is it? It’s a huge safari-style outdoor zoo with giraffes, ring-tailed lemurs, zebras, cheetahs and more wandering around. Imagine this: you’re touring one of Napa Valley’s famous wineries in the morning, and then a few hours later you’re bumping along in a jeep, checking out gazelles and colobus monkeys. What a day! Safari West offers tours, obviously, with seasoned “guides” that can tell you about the ethics and sustainability of the destination activity. The animals are given plenty of room to roam, and are incredibly well taken care of (so don’t worry). Visitors can stay the night and sleep in safari-style permanent tent structures; they are more like luxury glamping than camping, with heaters and running hot/cold water. Waking up to wild animal sounds is a pretty unusual experience to have during a long weekend in California Wine Country, believe me.
Spa Day! There are quite a few day spas, and hotel/resort destination spas in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Talk about detox; after a day of winery tours and a night of more indulging at one of California Wine Country’s world-class restaurants, time to relax, pamper yourself and hang out in robes with your friends or date. I’m not going to provide an exhaustive list of the area spas, but here are three resort-based favorites:
- The Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, in Sonoma. This is a destinations spa and many weekenders stay at the Fairmont just to indulge in its Willow Stream Spa experience. Many treatments include local products along with the massages, facials and other treatments seen across the Willow Stream Spas of the world (16 total, in other Fairmont resorts).
- The Auberge Spa at Auberge du Soleil, in Rutherford. Auberge du Soleil is probably the most luxurious, most high end and fancy resort in Napa Valley/Sonoma County — and that says quite a lot, considering its competition. The Auberge Spa is only available for guests of the resort, so if you want your spa day here, plan accordingly. Start with a soak here; soaking springs provide views of vineyards and Auberge’s ow nolive groves. While there are an assortment of spa packages and signature spa treatments, listing them here won’t do justice to the incredible atmosphere of the place.
- The Spa at Meadowood in Meadowood Resort, St Helena. Meadowood is another classic luxury resort in Napa Valley, and its spa is notable as well. Guests of the resort should treat themselves to in-room massages, it’s something of a specialty here. Treatments that highlight the locale include the Wine and Chocolate detoxifying wrap and massage, and the Grape Seed Harvest Wrap.
There are, needless to say, plenty of other things to do in Napa Valley and Sonoma County besides these three recommendations. Biking on Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail, hiking along Sonoma County walking paths, and window-shopping are other fun, non-winery things to do. These three suggestions, however, hopefully illustrate the breadth of the diversity of California Wine Country activities and attractions. The next time you want a brief respite from wine tasting amidst its glorious vineyards, consider checking out any of these activities. They will enhance your girlfriend getaway or romantic long weekend escape.