Compared with other California areas, Napa and Sonoma Counties may be a bit light on typical tourist attractions like amusement parks or museums, but they definitely offer oenological, culinary, artistic and natural delights to stimulate your senses and soothe your soul.
This simple California Wine Country map will introduce and orient you to the area and, it’s hoped, help you make the most of your Wine Country visit.
Front and center on most visitors’ to do list are the area’s wineries, but we encourage you to also think of the entire countryside — the roads in between the various towns and their local wineries — as one gigantic attraction.
Consider picking up a picnic or renting a bike and drinking in the surrounding beauty — along with drinking some delicious wine. It’s true, you know, that the simplest pleasures are sometimes the most rewarding.
That said, though, there are definitely some not-so-simple things to enjoy here, like wineries with incredible, multi-million-dollar architecture and art collections. Keep in mind, too, that even the sky’s not the limit in Wine Country because you can also take a hot air balloon ride to soak in the beauty from above!
Getting To and Around Wine Country
Many Napa-Sonoma Wine Country visitors either combine their visit to the area with a trip to San Francisco, while others fly into a Bay Area airport (SFO, OAK, SJC — San Francisco, Oakland or San Jose) for the express purpose of continuing on with ground travel to a final destination in Wine Country. Sacramento International Airport (SMF) is yet another option for flight cost comparisons, but drive time to Wine Country from either the Sacramento or San Jose airport is roughly double that from San Francisco or Oakland. A much-better airfare might make that worth your while, however.
Alternatively, travelers whose final destination is Wine Country may want to look into flying into the Charles M. Schultz Sonoma County airport in Santa Rosa (STS). At the time of this writing, STS offers nonstop flights on Alaska Airlines to Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX), Los Angeles (LAX), Orange County (SNA), and San Diego (SAN) and on American Airlines to Phoenix (PHX), Dallas (DFW) and Los Angeles (LAX).
It’s (usually) not an arduous drive from San Francisco, though. As you can see from the Google map renderings included here, in slightly more than an hour you can be in either the Napa or Sonoma.
Do be advised, though, that weekend traffic can easily double that drive time. Many wineries open early (around 10am), and you may want to plan on an early start.
If you’d prefer to avoid the expense of renting a car and the hassle of driving, there are other options for visiting Napa from San Francisco. First, there’s an Amtrak train that runs from Emeryville, which is easily reached from San Francisco via BART or bus. (We recommend you look into Wanderu for researching/booking that travel.) Once Amtrak delivers you to Napa’s Soscol Gateway Transit Center, you can either rely on Uber/Lyft to transport you to and from the wineries you want to visit or you might also choose to just visit tasting rooms in downtown Napa. There are quite a few options available (see the Info Chart linked in the Napa Resources section below).
Your other options are tour-oriented, and there’s no shortage of companies or individuals to hire for this.
There are guided tours, of course, but you can also to hire a town car or limo to transport you to wineries of your choosing. This option is especially attractive if you’re traveling in a group and/or if you want to make the visit especially romantic and memorable.
At this point, you might be wondering whether you should focus your Wine Country exploration on the Sonoma Valley or the Napa Valley. Ideally, we recommend you do both! Sometimes you have to choose, though, and we appreciate them both — equally, really — but for profoundly different reasons. Napa tends to feel more “luxe” and seem “dressed to impress,” while Sonoma feels more authentic, more real, at least to us. Basically, though, both are farming communities at heart — good people who grow wonderful grapes and foodstuffs — that employ somewhat different marketing techniques.
Wherever you choose to go, you’ll want to do some research and advance planning. We’ve used the resources below to plan several fun trips, and we’ll keep adding to the list as we discover new ones.
Sonoma County Travel Planning Resources
The above Wineries & Lodgings maps come courtesy of WineRoad.com, and the site also has a facility that allows you to design your own map. They have an app, as well, and will even mail you a hard copy map upon request!
And, here’s an interactive map for Dry Creek Valley, if you prefer.
Napa County Travel Planning Resources
PLEASE NOTE: Hours of operation, driving times, etc., can vary with then-current conditions. While every effort is made to provide accurate information,we cannot be responsible for errors or for changes that may have occurred since publication. Please confirm all information with actual service providers.The information provided on this website is done so without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied.