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Best Things to Do in Napa: Spring, Summer, Fall, & Winter

Mustard blooms are a seasonal highlight in Napa Valley

With mild year-round weather and a long warm season from May to October, Napa is a popular destination at any time of the year. But the seasons do dictate the kinds of activities and opportunities (as well as crowds) you might encounter on your visit. From summer music festivals and grape harvesting to fall foliage and winter holiday events we’ve rounded up the best things to do in Napa season by season. 


The Best Things to Do in Napa in the Spring

Spring is a lovely season to visit Napa Valley. With mild temperatures, wildflowers blooming in the surrounding hills and fewer crowds at the most popular wineries and restaurants, visiting Napa in March, April, or May is a great choice for those who want to hit all the highlights and enjoy nice weather without the high traffic of summer. 

Spring in Napa Valley is a fantastic time to be outside. Bike the Vine Trail from North Napa to Yountville to experience the mustard season (bright, beautiful yellow blossoms) in vineyards along the trail with views of Atlas Peak and Stags Leap.  Consider pulling off the main drag to explore Alston Park just 3-blocks west of the Vine Trail.

Stretch your legs a bit more with a short hike to Linda Falls in Angwin. At just 1.3 miles round-trip, this trail offers a lot of bang for the buck including a multitude of native plant species, a few switchbacks and the gorgeous falls themselves, which cascade over volcanic boulders. This hike is particularly lovely in spring when wildflowers are beginning to bloom and the flow tends to be abundant. Note that in the dry season, the waterfall can reduce to a trickle. 

Wildflower lovers will want to add Moore Creek Trail near Lake Hennessey to their list. In April, the wildflowers bloom making a hike or mountain bike ride along this trail truly spectacular. Kayakers can catch the wild radish bloom in the wetlands at Fagan Marsh State Marine Park and cyclists will enjoy seeing them at Buchli Station following the mustard season in late March and April.


What to Know About Visiting Napa in the Spring

Spring in Napa Valley is considered a shoulder season so visitors can enjoy fewer crowds and lower rates on everything from accommodations to tours to spa treatments. The weather is pleasant but can be rainy, so pack and plan accordingly. While the major wine-oriented events like harvest and crush happen at other times of the year, the wineries are open year-round and vineyards become lush with growth in the spring months and wine tasting is always on the menu. 


The Best Things to Do in Napa in the Summer

Summer is the start of harvest season in Napa Valley, which means it is a great time for wine tours. The champagne harvest occurs in August followed by white wines in early September. Wineries and restaurants bustle with activities and outdoor music events such as Festival Napa Valley get into full swing. Napa Valley is at its busiest in the summertime, with more things to do than there are hours in the day! 

If you need a break from the crowds and want to get some exercise, summer is a great time for outdoor activities in Napa Valley. Go for a hike or bike ride in Bothe Park in St. Helena which provides plenty of shade and slightly cooler weather because it is tucked away on the west side of the valley and avoids afternoon sunlight. Or head to the wetlands in Los Carneros at Buchli Station for a tranquil walk among the marshes. Look for shorebirds in July and August and myriad songbirds which arrive in September. Cyclists will enjoy pedaling through champagne vineyards and the rolling hills of Los Carneros that are cooled by the San Pablo Bay breeze. 

Finally, nothing beats paddling the Napa River in the summer months. Seeing the valley from the water is one of the most unique things to do in Napa Valley. The shaded, forest-lined stretch above the Oxbow District is the best place to go when the tides are above 2 feet. Or ride the tide one-way with the San Pablo Bay Breeze at your back from Kennedy Park to the forested Oxbow District and beyond. Kayaks, paddleboards, lessons, and tours are available through Napa Valley Paddle.

Golfers take note, the PGA’s Fortinet Championship takes place mid-September and brings with it not only top-tier professional golf but live music and wine experiences.  It's the triple crown of Napa Valley: PGA golf, cabernet harvest and fly fishing for the big dogs on The Napa.


What to Know About Visiting Napa in the Summer

Napa is often considered at its best in the summertime, but between fantastic weather and popular events like music festivals and harvest season, it’s also the most expensive and busiest time to visit. Restaurant, spa, and tour reservations will need to be made well in advance and prices are at a premium. However, the weather is stellar, with long warm days and mild evenings–and for wine lovers–experiencing at least one harvest season is a must. 


The Best Things to Do in Napa in the Fall

Red wine drinkers take note: Napa Valley’s Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel as well as blending varietals are harvested in late September and October, making fall a great time to visit if you prefer reds. With the grape harvest in full swing, locals are super active in town, and there are plenty of events, tours, and tastings to be had, with noticeably fewer crowds than the peak summer months. 

Fall weather is spectacular in Napa Valley, and as the trees begin to turn, it’s a great time to explore the many outdoor activities and events the region offers. From booking a table at the exquisite Harvest Table for a one-of-a-kind alfresco dining experience to checking out St. Helena’s Hometown Harvest Festival held annually in mid-October, to fly fishing for striped bass in the Napa River or Napa-Sonoma Marsh there are countless unique things to do in Napa in the fall.

Nature lovers will appreciate Napa in the fall because it’s the most active time for wildlife on the Napa River and in the wetlands for wildlife, including migratory and songbirds as well as the salmon run, which takes place in October. With an abundance of wildlife and the leaves taking on their spectacular autumn hues, bikers, kayakers, and hikers will also find plenty to do in Napa Valley from late September through November.


What to Know About Visiting Napa in the Fall

Like spring, fall is considered a shoulder season and better rates can usually be found for accommodations. Crowds mellow out too, compared to summer months. However, with the harvest still in full swing, late September through October are still bustling in the valley. You can expect excellent weather and plenty of enticing ways to enjoy it if you visit Napa Valley in the fall.


The Best Things to Do in Napa in the Winter

Despite being the least popular and busy season to visit Napa Valley, there are many amazing things to do in Napa in the winter. For nature lovers, the mustard bloom takes place in the fields and hillsides all over Napa from January until March. It is also bud season on the grapevines, with ‘bud break’ occurring traditionally on February 15th. This is an especially good time to explore The Vine Trail from North Napa to Yountville by bike. You can ride along vineyards with views of Atlas Peak and Stags Leap or extend your trip to Kennedy Park. Love to paddleboard? Don’t miss a chance to paddle the King Tides on the nearby Petaluma River. This twice-yearly influx of water caused by gravitational forces creates a thrilling adventure for paddlers, allowing them to ride the tide from Lakeville Landing toward San Pablo Bay. 

For foodies and wine lovers, Calistoga’s Winter in the Wineries Passport gives passport holders access to 19 wineries in the region for two months (Dec-Jan). It’s a great opportunity to visit lots of vineyards and taste an array of new varietals while enjoying low-season pricing and fewer crowds. Napa Valley Restaurant Week is also a wintertime treat, taking place for 10 days in late January at various locations throughout the region and allowing diners to experience multiple restaurants at discounted rates for prix-fixe menus.

For the athletically inclined, the Napa Valley Marathon takes place in early March, offering runners a scenic course as well as the chance to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Follow your run with a recovery session at one of Calistoga’s renowned hot springs, or one of the area's many fantastic spas. 


What to Know About Visiting Napa in Winter

Winter in Napa is considered the low season, meaning better rates and fewer crowds. However, it is also the rainy season, so visitors should pack and plan accordingly. However, it is less windy and there is great visibility in the winter, making outdoor activities quite pleasant on dry days. Finally, winter is when Cabernets are released, attracting aficionados of this varietal in droves. 


As you can see, different seasons offer distinct opportunities in Napa Valley. When you are considering the best time to visit, it’s helpful to be aware of how weather and crowds can impact the most popular activities and destinations in the area. The best things to do in Napa vary not only by season but will be different for every person, whether you want to experience the bustling, vibrant harvest season or have a more laid-back spring or winter trip.

Here at Napa Valley Paddle, we strive to make the most of every season with guided kayaking and paddleboarding tours, expert instruction, and equipment rentals and sales. As watersport enthusiasts, we want to introduce people of all ages and abilities to what we believe is one of the best things to do in Napa – spend time on the water. Explore our tours and learn more about our company, right here.