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Best Time to Visit Napa | When to Go & Travel Tips

Best Time to Visit Napa | When to Go & Travel Tips

Napa is one of the many beautiful cities located in the golden state of California. You probably know this city best due to Napa Valley, which is California’s wine country area.

But, Napa has plenty of history behind it besides being an excellent place for wine. Napa, founded in 1847, is close to the Napa River, which used to serve as a popular boat transportation trail and port.

Napa was a vital port for shipping precious metals like gold and other products such as quicksilver, wood, and livestock. Grape farming became popular too in the Napa area, later making Napa, California’s wine country.

Napa City is home to around 78,800 people and welcomes slightly less than four million visitors each year.

So, what makes Napa so special that all these people choose to vacation there? Let’s look at some information that can answer this question for you to help you decide when the best time to visit Napa is!

Why You Should Visit Napa

Vineyards of Napa at sunrise during the best time to visit Napa Valley California

haveseen/Shutterstock

California is generally a great place to visit for a vacation, as most cities have plenty of things to do to keep you, your family, and your friends busy. Napa is one of the cities that has a growing list of activities.

Many activities in Napa have to do with food, wine, and other local brews. But, there are plenty of other things available to make everyone happy during your trip!

Napa is a gorgeous area filled with hiking trails and sprawling vineyards, providing plenty of fresh air and natural beauty. Speaking of vineyards, wine tasting and vineyard tours are popular activities in the Napa Valley area.

Napa Valley provides the perfect growing place for wine grapes, which ultimately leads to the production of some delicious wine varieties! If you aren’t too interested in going to a vineyard, Napa’s dining options might intrigue you.

Napa is home to many Michelin star restaurants, offering delicious food with a variety of atmospheres and price ranges. And if you still want a taste of some Napa wine without the tour, most restaurants carry all kinds of wine from local wineries.

Mosey over to downtown Napa where you’ll find plenty of shops, breweries, more restaurants, art, tour opportunities, and stunning views!

You can even go on a hot air balloon tour to get a bird’s eye point of view to see how gorgeous Napa is. Whatever you’re looking for during your trip to Napa, you’re sure to find it!

Overall Best Time to Visit Napa

Welcome sign that says Welcome to this world famous wine growing region, as pictured during the best time to go to Napa

Cassiohabib/Shutterstock

The overall best time to visit Napa is January to March. This probably seems like a short time period, but there are a few reasons why you’re better off visiting during these months.

These reasons include the weather, the fact that these months are part of Napa’s low season, and the low rates and deals you can get. From January to March, you’ll be catching some amazing and comfortable weather, allowing you to walk around with ease.

Although these three months are in the winter, the temperatures in Napa will always stay in the 50s and low 60s during the day. The sky is usually clear and sunny as well, so the most you’ll need is a sweatshirt or a light jacket!

Because January to March is in the winter, kids are in school, and most people are at work, meaning that not many people are traveling to Napa. But, this is an excellent thing if you choose to travel during this time because there are smaller crowds.

Waiting in lines and feeling squished between people isn’t the highlight of anyone’s vacation, so the fewer people, the better. Along with this low season comes low rates for airfare and hotels!

The demand is low when fewer people travel to Napa, which causes airlines and hotels to lower their prices to entice people to travel. This is the perfect opportunity for you to score a great vacation while saving quite a bit of money at the same time!

Cheapest Time to Visit Napa

Vineyard pictured with orange leaves during the cheapest time to visit Napa Valley, the Fall

Jario Rene Leiva/Shuttestock

The cheapest time to visit Napa is from fall into early spring, specifically October to May. This time frame also coincides with the best time to travel to Napa.

During this time you’ll find cheap prices on both airfare and hotels, and you might also be able to find some deals on tickets to do certain activities, such as tours. Generally, this time frame allows for cheaper prices because Napa is in low demand during these months.

During this time frame, you can find hotel rooms at up to half price, bringing the cost of your trip down significantly as lodging is usually a considerable expense.

If you do a little digging, you might be able to find coupons for tours, kayaking, and other activities too. If you’re on a budget and choose to travel during the fall and winter months to save some money, you might be wondering what the weather will be like on your trip.

You probably know California for its sunny skies and high temperatures. You’ll still get the sunny skies in the fall and winter, but temperatures will be lower.

Temperatures during the fall and winter months range from the 50s to the 70s during the daytime, keeping the air mild.

These milder temperatures tend to steer tourists away, as most people want warm weather on vacation. But, this aids in reasonable prices and all of these temperatures are perfect for outdoor activities, as you’ll be able to enjoy them comfortably.

Least Busy Time to Visit Napa

Napa pictured during the least busy time to visit, the Winter

Michael Warwick/Shutterstock

Napa’s low season tends to be between late October and May, with January, February, and March being their least busy.

However, just because these months are the least busy, doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to do. The weather is rather enjoyable during the low season, and Napa offers plenty of outdoor and indoor activities for you to participate in.

People, especially families, tend to travel most in the summer months because this is when kids are out of school and parents can take time off.

Because of this, the last of the crowds tend to drop off around September and October as everyone goes back to school and work. Fewer people traveling, of course, means smaller crowds and shorter lines.

Temperatures in the low season vary depending on the month you visit, but daytime temperatures will never go below 50 degrees. This is gorgeous weather for walking around wine vineyards.

In fact, fall to spring is Cabernet season in Napa, where you’ll be able to sample some delicious Cabernet wines from the wineries and restaurants. The low season is when you’ll find the best deals on flights, hotels, and tickets for activities, due to there being less demand for Napa.

Sometimes the airlines and hotels will offer deals on their websites, or you can look on travel websites, which usually have the better discounts. Plan your activities ahead of time, so you have time to search for coupons.

Worst Time to Visit Napa

Entrance sign to Calistoga during the Summer heat, the worst time to visit Napa Valley

Allard One/Shutterstock

The worst time to visit Napa is June through August. Sometimes this time frame can last into October, depending on the harvest season in Napa.

Harvest season is the big decider on how long the tourist season will last. It is a good idea to stay updated with this information before booking your trip to Napa if you don’t want to visit during crowded times.

Many people travel to Napa in the summer because that’s when their family has time to go. Then on top of that, people like to visit Napa during the harvest season, which starts in late summer, so you can expect there to be large crowds in the summer months.

These crowds of tourists make it difficult to do anything and cause longer waiting times for activities. These larger crowds mean that Napa is in higher demand compared to other points in the year.

This causes airlines and hotels to increase their prices, so you can expect to spend a lot of money if you visit Napa in the summer. It isn’t likely that you’ll find any discounts on tickets to tours and other events during this time either, so expect to pay full price.

In addition to large crowds and high prices, the weather is another reason to reconsider traveling to Napa in the summer.

The daytime temperatures in Napa during the summer are often in the 80s. So, if you aren’t fond of the heat, Napa’s summer weather might be bothersome to you, making simply walking around a little uncomfortable.

Things to Consider

Calistoga, California - May 10 : Wine barrels stacked outside of the Chateau Montelena, May 10 2015 Calistoga, California.

Wollertz/Shutterstock

Before you start booking your trip to Napa and looking for suitcases, there are a few things you should consider.

  • Napa is predominantly famous for its wine and food. While they do have plenty of other activities to do, most of them revolve around wine and food in one way or another. So, if you love great-tasting food and impeccable wine, Napa is the place for you.
  • Think about the type of tour you want to experience. Group tours will typically take you to well-known sites. But, if you want something a little smaller and slow-paced, look for private tour options. Private tours often take you to the hidden gems of Napa, such as smaller locally-owned wineries.
  • The Napa Valley area is large. Napa Valley consists of five major towns. This includes Calistoga, St. Helena, Yountville, Napa, and American Canyon. Unless you’re staying for a long time, it’s wise to map out your trip ahead of time to ensure you see everything you came to see. 
  • Pack accordingly. There’s a lot of walking involved when you visit Napa. Many tours are on foot, so pack the correct footwear. People tend to pack fancy clothes and shoes for vineyard tours, but save your feet and wear sneakers. If you’re brave enough to travel to Napa in the summer, you’ll need sunscreen, shorts, and short sleeves.

Frequently Asked Questions

Scenery of downtown Napa pictured during the best time to visit

MmTaira/Shutterstock

Here are some common questions people have when planning their trip to Napa.

How many days do you need in Napa Valley?

Four to five days should be enough time for you to explore the areas you’re looking forward to. But, plan your itinerary ahead of time and make reservations for the restaurants you plan to eat at. Doing this will save you a lot of time and keep you moving smoothly to each destination you plan on visiting.

Do you need a car in Napa?

If you stay near your hotel and visit the restaurants and shops nearby, then you won’t need a car. You can easily access these areas on foot.

But, if you want to visit wineries, they tend to be in more rural areas as the grapes need a lot of space to grow. You may want to rent a car or look for other transportation options to reach the wineries on time.

Napa has transportation options consisting of:

  • Rideshare services
  • Buses
  • Shuttles and trollies
  • Trains

There are also some car rental services in the Napa area if you want your own car.

Is Napa Valley worth it?

Well, this all depends on what you’re looking for. Yes, Napa can be expensive at times, but it’s a gorgeous area. And if you love a good meal and some great wine, then Napa will surely be a winner for you. 

To make spending a trip to Napa more palatable, you should always travel in their low season and look for every deal and discount you can find. Saving money on airfare and hotels will allow you to spend more money on tours and other fun activities during your visit to Napa.

Is there a difference between Napa and Napa Valley?

Yes! Napa is a county, and Napa Valley is an area within that county. In Napa County, there is a long strip of land that sits between mountains. This long area is Napa Valley.

You’ll typically find most of the wineries located in Napa Valley due to this rougher terrain. Grapes grow well in loose, drainable soil.

What should I pack for Napa?

This all depends on when you plan on taking your trip to Napa. If you’re traveling during the low season, the temperatures are typically lower, so you should pack things such as clothing you can layer.

Sweatshirts and light jackets are a great idea to bring. If you plan on taking your trip in the summer months, you’ll need some breathable clothing and sunscreen to protect your skin from UV rays. The UV rays in California can reach up to 13 on the UV index scale in the summertime.

This is the extreme end of the scale where your skin can get severely damaged without sunscreen. Sunburn is a short-term problem, but skin aging and other serious issues are long-term problems that could eventually come along with it.

Overexposure to UV rays is what causes issues later on in life. The sun helps your body by giving it vitamin D, but you still need sunscreen to prevent overexposure.

Some other things you should consider packing in general include:

  • A bag or backpack
  • Fancy clothing if you plan on visiting fine dining restaurants
  • A bathing suit
  • Comfortable shoes, such as a good pair of sneakers or some other shoe that has good support for your feet

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Napa?

The overall best time to visit Napa is between January and March, as these months are the least busy times.

Not only this, but these months offer great comfortable weather and some pretty low prices for airfare, hotels, and tours. Use the above tips to help make your trip to Napa the best it can be!