Napa Valley is a year-round destination worth any wine enthusiast’s time. Napa Valley became internationally recognized in 1976 when a couple of California wines wowed judges more than French wines in blind taste tests.
What makes Napa Valley wines so special? The combination of climate, soil, and scenery makes for world-renowned grapes.
Napa Valley boasts summer bustling with activity, spring of lushness and new growth, autumn colors and harvest energy, and the winter season cozies. There are benefits and cons to visiting this stretch of paradise in California every season.
To help you decide when to schedule your next getaway, we’ve highlighted the best time to visit Napa Valley, the worst time, the cheapest time, and more. Let’s dive in!
Why You Should Visit Napa Valley
The Napa Valley in California is a must-visit if you love impressive scenery, good food, great wine, and charming or luxurious hotels. Of course, the best thing to do in Napa Valley is to explore the top wineries.
Besides these serene destinations, there are countless hotels with scenic backdrops perfect for relaxing getaways. Learn about the wine-making process, taste delicious cups of reds and whites, or take in the views of the vineyards from a hot air balloon.
Napa Valley boasts many Michelin-star restaurants for dining experiences you won’t soon forget. Reserve your table in advance at:
The best part? Napa Valley has landscapes that make jaws drop. This lush valley has rows of orchards and vineyards, mountains in the distance, and sunsets that make golden hour something to budget time for.
Continue reading to learn more about the best time to visit Napa Valley and take in all the amazing sights and flavors.
Overall Best Time to Visit Napa Valley
The best time to visit Napa Valley is during the harvest season between September and October. You can watch as the clusters of grapes are removed from the vines, de-stemmed, and turned into your favorite blend.
During the harvest, wineries burst with life as grapes burst from the vines. You’ll smell wine fermentation in the air, see the skins of grapes in the presses, and feel the buzzing energy in the air of the harvest season.
Napa Valley in the fall is one of the best times to visit because the trees and orchards change color. Your photos will be a sea of spectacular yellows and reds from the autumnal foliage.
Plus, the weather this time of year is comfortably cool. The benefits of traveling during the autumn are:
- Sights of the harvest
- Colorful foliage
- Comfortable weather
The busiest time of year to visit Napa Valley is the summer season, so visiting during the fall is one way to beat the heat and the crowds. That will hopefully mean you won’t have to deal with the relentless competition for hotels and other reservations.
However, the fall colors and harvest activity attract travelers, so hotel rates are higher than the low season but still reasonable compared to the high season.
Cheapest Time to Visit Napa Valley
The cheapest time to visit Napa Valley is during the off-season or the winter months between December to March (avoiding holidays).
Temperatures during the winter months are cool, with a high possibility of rain. That leads to fewer travelers, meaning hotel rates are cheaper, and you’re more likely to find discounts on tours.
Speaking of tours, since wintertime sees fewer guests, the attention you’ll get on your wine tasting experience will be better than during the crowded summer months.
Least Busy Time to Visit Napa Valley
The best time to visit Napa Valley to avoid crowds is during the winter season. December to March is considered the off-season for Napa Valley tourism.
The benefits of traveling during the winter are:
- Less traffic between destinations
- Affordable rates
- More reservation slots are available
Keep in mind that the grape vines shed their leaves between December and March. While Napa is still extremely beautiful this time of year, the landscapes are not as alive as in other seasons. You’re likely to encounter cold weather and rain during the off-season.
Worst Time to Visit Napa Valley
The worst time to visit Napa Valley is during the summer months. Not surprisingly, summer is the time that everyone flocks to Napa Valley to take advantage of the summer heat and great wine.
Summer crowds shoot hotel rates sky-high and bring traffic to the roads around the vineyards.
You’ll need to plan far in advance to ensure you get reservations where you want at the times you want, and you’ll spend more than you would any other time of year.
Napa Valley by Season
Ready to start picking your travel dates? Now that you’ve narrowed down the best season to travel, learn more about the best time to visit Napa Valley by each season.
September marks the beginning of the harvest season in Napa Valley. The weather is warm and sunny, with only one day of average rainfall throughout the month. Hotel rates begin to go down as the high season slows and crowds disperse.
The leaves begin to change color, and the grapes are nearly fully-formed bunches dangling down trellises. From September and October, you’ll have the chance to see workers picking up grapes for harvest.
Besides the colorful autumn foliage and the smell of wine fermentation in the air, October brings with it lots of spooky fun. Some businesses organize pumpkin hunts, carving competitions, and even costume events.
If you’re lucky, you might even get a chance to see a showing of the iconic Disney film Hocus Pocus under the stars! All of this makes fall an ideal time to take a family vacation to Napa Valley.
March marks the end of the rainy season in Napa Valley. It gets about seven days of rain, so travel closer to the end of the month for better chances of clear skies throughout your entire trip.
As spring arrives, Napa Valley finds itself full of new life as flowers bloom after the heavy rains from the previous months. The valley is lush and green, and the weather experiences much more comfortable temperatures.
Choosing spring is a great time for wine tasting as you won’t be dealing with balmy weather. What’s more, the more agreeable conditions are perfect for exploring the area as you’ll be able to hike and bike without having to suffer the oppressive heat.
In fact, several companies offer guided biking tours, so you won’t have to worry about missing out on specific sites or landmarks on your visit.
Summer in Napa Valley begins in June. With it comes a tourist-heavy season and hot summer months that bring clear skies but very high temperatures.
Pack lots of water and sun protection, especially if you’re out touring vineyards for the day. However, it is July and August which will make you feel swelteringly hot with highs of 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
This season has higher traffic than others, and you’re likely to be waiting in lines at wineries and restaurants. What’s more, hotels are certain to be booked early, driving up prices and limiting your options if you don’t make a reservation in time.
In addition, conditions can be more challenging, so be sure to stay hydrated while you wait in the sun.
Of course, summer in Napa Valley has plenty to offer to visitors. Many vineyards organize tours and have. Elsewhere, you can experience the incredible, sun-kissed vistas available in Napa by taking an unforgettable balloon ride.
These kinds of opportunities are rarely available in other seasons. So long as you don’t mind lots of crowds and unending heat, you’ll have a blast during this period.
Winter tends to be the off-season for Napa Valley tourism. You’re likely to encounter a couple of days of overcast skies or rain during a four-day trip. Despite that, you’re just as likely to find warm, sunny days and brisk, cool mornings and evenings when it’s not raining.
It’s best to bring cozy clothes for evenings and mornings when temperatures get cool. This period brings with it plenty of opportunities for family-friendly activities and lots of festive fun.
So, if you had your doubts about visiting the area due to its reputation as wine country, this might be the best time to visit as a family. The first major celebration in Napa is Thanksgiving.
You can expect to find numerous discounts at restaurants while you might also have the chance to take advantage of special offers at numerous wineries. Yet, it is Christmas time when Napa Valley comes into its own during winter.
Many towns celebrate the festive period with elaborate decorations and some places, such as Calistoga, even have spectacular lighted parades. Besides plenty of beautiful sights, there are also lots of kid-friendly activities.
While you’re not likely to have a “White Christmas,” you should be able to get a good deal on hotels if you avoid holiday dates. Just remember that there will likely be a surge in traffic on Christmas and Thanksgiving, so prepare in advance for any activities you want to do.
Things to Consider
Besides dates and seasons, there is much more to planning a vacation to Napa Valley. Doing so can ensure that your trip is a success, free of any unwanted surprises.
Napa Is Expensive
Napa Valley is not a cheap destination to travel to, especially during the high season. Wine tours and tastings will set you back between $20 to $75 each.
If you don’t have a car, transportation costs will add up quickly. A five-star hotel in the Napa Valley ranges between $505 to $835 per night, so budget accordingly.
Make Reservations for Everything
A vacation to Napa requires a little bit of pre-planning because you need advanced reservations for restaurants, hotels, and wineries. While some places may accept walk-ins, many do not.
The good thing is that once everything is reserved, you can coast through your vacation without a care or worry.
Give Yourself Time to Get to the Winery
Budget time between your tours because top spots in the Napa Valley aren’t close to each other. During the high season, traffic on the scenic roads is not rare. Add some extra time between reservations to avoid being charged as a “no-show.”
Have the Transportation You Need
Napa Valley is a vast part of California, and you are not likely to see everything the area has to offer in one trip. However, you will give yourself your best chance of doing so by knowing how you’ll get around.
After all, it can take upwards of an hour to get from one end of Napa to the other. With that in mind, research what kind of car rentals are available where you are booking, or if there are alternative transportation options.
Frequently Asked Questions
Find the answers to your top questions about the Napa Valley below:
What is Napa Valley famous for?
The Napa Valley in the United States is famous for its quality grapes and picturesque vineyards. Napa, California, boasts some of the most expensive wines in the country and several Michelin-star restaurants.
Celebrities, oenophiles, and casual wine enjoyers flock to the Napa Valley for decadent and fun Napa wine tastings and tours.
How long is a wine tasting?
Wine tastings in the Napa Valley are usually between one to two and half hours, depending on the vineyard or if you partner food pairings with wine tastings.
What grapes are grown in the Napa Valley?
Napa Valley is, of course, famous for its grapes. You’re likely to recognize the names of the grapes grown in Napa Valley:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
- Sauvignon Blanc
Are Napa Valley wineries open any day?
The majority of Napa Valley wineries are open seven days a week during the growing and harvesting seasons. If you plan to do a tasting over a holiday, check the vineyard’s hours in advance to avoid disappointment.
How long should I spend in Napa Valley?
Four days and three nights is the ideal amount of time for a vacation to Napa Valley. Head to Napa Valley wineries as a long-weekend getaway to explore, taste wine, and still have time to relax.
How many wineries should you visit in one day?
Plan to visit a maximum of three wineries in one day. Napa Valley wineries close earlier than you may think, so squeezing in more than three in one day is unlikely logistically.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Napa Valley?
Napa Valley is truly a year-round paradise to vacation. However, the best time to visit the Napa Valley in California, United States, is during the harvest season between late August to October.
The grapes hang in big clusters on the vines during the fall, begging for you to snap a photo of them. You’ll smell the wine-making process, see the buzz of activity in the vineyards, and have the backdrop of the incredible autumnal leaves for all of your photos.
Check some of the most incredible Napa Valley wineries off your travel bucket list. Stay at luxurious hotels and wine and dine like a celebrity on your Napa Valley vacation.