Last year, I celebrated Valentine’s Day weekend in Sonoma and Napa, California, and what a fantastic destination for a couple’s trip. So in honor of Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I’ll share highlights and tips from our long weekend itinerary in the hopes that you’ll be inspired to take this trip with your significant other. If you’ve already been to this area of California, I recommend a return trip. There is so much to do for couples who love wine, culinary excellence, outdoor soft adventure, and/or wellness and spa travel; you can have a completely new experience each time you visit, even beyond the wineries.
We rented a car in San Francisco and drove to Sonoma to begin the long weekend. No trip to this area would be complete without taking in the majesty of a redwood forest. Muir Woods attracts the crowds but Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve in Sonoma Country is an off the beaten path hidden gem and truly allows you to feel the majesty of a redwood forest. It’s truly other-worldly to walk among these trees, some of which are over 300 feet tall and over 1,000 years old! The paths are wide and flat for easy walking, and in the winter, the river runs and bubbles and the rain mists down lightly. You feel like you could see a sprite around the next turn.
When in Sonoma, I recommend staying at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. It offers a 40,000 square foot spa with its own source of thermal mineral water, golf at the Sonoma Golf Club and daily wine tasting in the lobby living room just five minutes from charming downtown Sonoma. Perfect for a romantic weekend whether you want to relax, tour the area or be active.
After an evening enjoying the wines and foods of the region at the Fairmont’s Michelin-rated Santé Restaurant, we made a point to take a guided morning hike to work off some of those calories! Later in the day, we took a leisurely stroll around Sonoma’s downtown plaza which is an 8-acre, tree-filled park surrounded by shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. On the list for our next trip are some unique activities including a bike trip that visits three wineries and includes a picnic lunch. Also, a hot air balloon ride to see wine country from a bird’s eye view and horseback riding in the vineyards will be in the “next time” itinerary!
Next, we were on our way to nearby Napa and it’s ultra-famous Silverado Trail which is lined with wineries. The wineries range widely in size and offerings. I highly recommend that you plan in advance and make reservations for upgraded experiences and tastings due to the sheer number of wineries and the crowds. Note – I’m happy to help you navigate the options. Arranging a driver is also a smart idea if you don’t have a designated driver in your group. I know that after a wine flight at the Beringer winery, I wasn’t in any condition to drive 😊
Tip – if you want to avoid the crowds in peak season, there are some interesting festivals in Napa Valley in January! The lighted art festival, truffle festival and Napa Valley Restaurant Week all take place in the first month of the year.
For a romantic dinner for two, head to Napa’s preserved riverfront area. We enjoyed creative cocktails and delectable global comfort food at highly rated Celadon. The large fireplace in the center of the space kept us toasty warm, and we have it on our list to return and sit on their quaint patio just steps from the riverfront. A walk around downtown Napa under the stars is the perfect way to digest after a gorgeous meal.
On our last day, we drove up to quaint Calistoga and saw the terminal end of the wine train that in the early 1900s transported visitors to this historic spa resort town. Today it offers a 26-mile old-world, luxury experience round trip from St. Helena stopping at wineries along the way. You can ride the rails for a special Valentine’s day trip, complete with strolling musicians and a love lock experience at the end.
Stay at the highly recommended Calistoga Ranch located in a private canyon on a 157-acre property marked by ancient oaks and bungalows that blend into the landscape. The Bathhouse spa, state-of-the-art fitness center, yoga deck and swimming pool overlooking the wineries make this Virtuoso network property unique. A hidden gem feature is an outdoor shower in each bungalow! Romance, nature, and relaxation – an understated luxury experience.
If you’re looking for a tailored itinerary with hidden gem experiences, I have local connections with insider access who will customize your trip to your exact specifications.
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Hidden Gem Tip: Not sure that going to Napa and Sonoma in the offseason won’t be fun? We had some rain but enjoyed mild temperatures and not much in the way of crowds (which I loved). Low season also means the best rates and availability, including top-level Virtuoso perks for network properties like the Fairmont and Calistoga Ranch.
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