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7 Charming Small Towns Near Napa Valley That Aren’t, You Know, Napa

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There’s no denying that Napa Valley is a world-class wine region, but it’s also ideal for people to really enjoy the entire experience, from sipping vino on some gorgeous patio and savoring seasonal fare to staying at a quaint inn with vineyard views and hiking in the many surrounding state parks. That’s the true magic of California wine country. That said, some travelers do complain that the actual city of Napa feels a bit built-up and mass-market with huge resorts, big-name wineries and lots of tourists. And that’s a fair argument. However, a short drive in all directions sit some adorable small towns near Napa Valley that have fantastic food, wine and accommodations, lots of charm and generally just a more low-key vibe. Basically, the setup is exactly what you’d imagine when picturing a relaxed wine country getaway. Scroll on for seven of our favorite towns across California wine country.

THE 12 MOST CHARMING SMALL TOWNS IN CALIFORNIA


Flowers Vineyard & Winery/Facebook

1. Healdsburg, California

How to Get There: 1 hour 30 minutes San Francisco International Airport
Where to stay:

Healdsburg is our favorite wine country destination. Tasting rooms (hello, Marine Layer Wines), art galleries, independent stores, boutique hotels and award-winning restaurants—notably Barndiva and Chalkboard—are all within a few blocks of the main square. There’s a fantastic farmers market on Saturdays where you can buy California-grown dates and yummy baked treats. Do yourself a favor and visit some of the wonderful wineries just outside of town, including Aperture Cellars, Flowers Vineyards & Winery, Truett Hurst and Reeve Wines.

Benziger Family Winery/Facebook 

2. Glen Ellen, California

How to Get There: 1 hour 25 minutes San Francisco International Airport
Where to stay:

A hidden gem that’s often driven right through without even realizing, Glen Ellen is the definition of quaint. Yet this tiny, two-square-mile community has way more to offer than its size would suggest. It's home to Benziger Family Winery, an OG in the sustainable, organic and biodynamic wine space. You’ll also find beautiful Jack London State Historic Park, a fan-favorite and Michelin-rated restaurant the Glen Ellen Star and a few enchanting hotels.

Alila Napa Valley World of Hyatt

3. St Helena, California

How to Get There: 1 hour 35 minutes San Francisco International Airport
Where to stay:

It’s no accident that St. Helena (pronounced Hel-een-uh) is one of the most beloved towns in Napa Valley. Are you going to pass up verdant vineyards, an exemplary culinary scene and luxury hotels? We didn’t think so. Tempting as it may be to pack your itinerary with wine tastings and dinner reservations, it’s worth setting aside some time to pop into the gift shops and galleries along Main Street.

Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection 

4. Calistoga, California

How to Get There: 1 hour 45 minutes San Francisco International Airport
Where to stay:

Any place that combines pampering and sipping wine is fine by us. So, naturally, we love Calistoga. A trip to this Napa Valley town combines an almost inordinate amount of pleasurable pursuits—natural hot springs, mud baths, yoga, wineries (perhaps most famously, Castello di Amorosa, a medieval Tuscan castle winery that does tours and tastings), art, gourmet cuisine and spa resorts—into a totally enticing package. No wonder it’s often described as a wine country oasis.

Cornerstone Cellars/Flickr

5. Yountville, California

How to Get There: 1 hour 20 minutes San Francisco International Airport
Where to stay:

Yountville has a lot to offer—especially in the way of gastronomic delights. It’s practically overflowing with Michelin-starred restaurants (The French Laundry, Bouchon and Ciccio, to name a few), plus world-class tasting rooms, renowned art galleries, upmarket hotels and natural beauty. Some places would get caught up in all that acclaim. But this pedestrian-friendly small town in the heart of Napa Valley seems entirely unphased by its own brilliance.

((brian))/Flickr

6. Sebastopol, California

How to Get There: 1 hour 20 minutes San Francisco International Airport
Where to stay:

If you ask us, Sebastopol doesn’t get the attention it deserves. This quirky, creative Sonoma County town has a thriving downtown with indie shops, cafés and some surprising eateries such as Jam’s Joy Bungalow. The coolest attraction is probably The Barlow, an apple-processing plant turned outdoor market district with artisanal coffee, farm-to-table food, artisan clothes and home goods as well as local vino (we highly recommend doing a flight at Pax Wines), beer, and spirits.

Hamel Family Wines

7. Sonoma, California

How to Get There: 1 hour 15 minutes San Francisco International Airport
Where to stay:

Unlike the city of Napa, Sonoma never lost its small-town sensibility or laid-back pace. Life still revolves around leafy Sonoma Plaza. The surrounding streets are lined with architecturally beautiful buildings that house tasting rooms, bottle shops and restaurants. There’s also plenty to do within driving distance of the main drag, whether it’s visiting Sonoma State Historic Park or indulging in a food and wine pairing at Hamel Family Wines.