Napa County is Solano County’s world-famous neighbor.
Wine is the reason for that fame, of course. The county has about 400 wineries. Some, such as Beringer and Mondavi, are large and corporate-owned. But most are family owned. Most offer tastings throughout the year and glorious colors from the bright yellow mustard hues in spring to the vivid reds and blush hues of the harvest season.
There are more than 100 restaurants in Napa County including the world-famous The French Laundry, which occupies a historic French steam laundry in Yountville, having won top ratings and reviews from many publications.
The Napa Valley has several towns: Napa, Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga. A drive down Highway 29 will take a visitor through all of them, as well as by some of the valley’s most famous wineries.
But people need not travel the valley by auto. The Wine Train takes tourists along train tracks that are near Highway 29. Those who want an aerial view can take a ride in a hot-air balloon with many journeys cruising aloft into nearby Solano County. The valley is also a popular spot for cyclers.
Napa is the county’s biggest city and the county seat. It features a historic downtown and a new shopping and dining area called the Oxbow, all along the Napa River. It also has historic neighborhoods with Victorian homes.
Other towns are on a smaller scale and offer shopping and restaurants. Calistoga is famous for its spas and mud baths and is near the valley’s own Old Faithful Geyser, a testament to the geothermal activity underground there.
The valley offers opportunities for those who like to hike. Skyline Park at the south end of the valley has trails leading to Lake Marie and into the hills with views of the Bay Area. Bothe-Napa State Park on the northern end of the valley has a trail through coastal redwoods.
On the east side of Napa County is Lake Berryessa, one of the largest bodies of fresh water in California. Lake Berryessa offers boating, water skiing, wake-boarding plus quiet coves for kayaking and fishing. The city of American Canyon offers hiking paths on levees along Bay Area marshes.