Sure, wine country is beautiful in summer when the sun is shining and the sky is blue. But winter in Napa Valley is also surprisingly serene and fun, even when it’s pouring down rain. Rainy days simply nudge you to double-down on cozy and intimate activities, which is easy when there are so many great places to do both.

Here are some of our favorite rainy day trip ideas.

  • Take a scenic drive. Winter rains bring lush green hills, vineyards blanketed with mustard blooms, and moss-covered forests, perfect for exploring from the comfort of your car on a rainy day. Pack a cooler with snacks, and choose from four of our favorite scenic drive routes. Don’t forget to stop and pick up some wine along the way – each scenic drive includes winery stops in case you want to stock up for a cozy night in when you return to your hotel.

  • Bone up on history. Napa Valley is home to several history museums, all of which paint colorful pictures of the respective communities they serve. In Calistoga, the Sharpsteen Museum provides a compendium of information about the town’s past as the wellness capital of California. In St. Helena, the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum is a great spot to learn about the eponymous author’s time in Napa Valley. In Yountville, the Napa Valley Museum offers great perspective on the history of the valley overall. And in Rutherford, the 1881 Napa Wine History Museum at Oakville Wine Merchants shines a spotlight on some of the tools farmers and vintners used to ply their craft over time.

  • Tackle the Ale Trail or Taco Trail. In the mood for a beer or a foodie challenge? Check out some of the nearly two dozen breweries, microbreweries, and watering holes serving up craft beer on the Napa Valley Ale Trail. Or grab your favorite hot sauce and see if you can tackle the Napa Valley Taco Trail – which explores the best tacos in the valley, from American Canyon all the way up to Calistoga. See how many spots you can hit.

  • Taste luxury. Elusa Winery is the first winery inside a luxury resort (Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley), and the Evolution of Elusa Experience is perfect for inclement weather. Begin with a taste while touring the winemaking facility and caves. From there, enjoy a sit-down vertical tasting paired with local cheeses and snacks. Linger and enjoy some of the spectacular artwork, including a piece with an oenology textbook cut to look like leaves.

  • Head for the hills. Up Deer Park Road, in the tiny town of Angwin, check out NBC Pottery, a husband-and-wife duo that makes all sorts of ceramics and art. The couple – Nikki Ballere Callnan and Will Callnan – have crafted one-of-a-kind plates and bowls for some of the most beloved and awarded restaurants in the region. The studio and gallery is open to the public six days a week, and many of its nicest pieces are for sale.

  • Catch a movie. Founded in 1913, St. Helena’s 140-seat Cameo Cinema California's oldest continuously operating single-screen movie theater. Owner Cathy Buck has infused this classic ‘movie palace’ with Napa Valley’s legendary style and hospitality and state-of-the-art technology: the Cameo is the only single-screen Art House Cinema in the United States to boast a state-of-the-art Barco 6k Cinema Laser Projector and Dolby Atmos Surround Sound. Perhaps Buck’s biggest accomplishment is that she has kept the theater independent. A movie here is only part of the experience.

  • Lounge by the fire. Napa Valley has its share of great fireplaces. First on our list: The fireplace in the renovated Pennino Salon at Inglenook. Listen to vinyl or a live piano player while you’re getting cozy; if you’re feeling saucy you can play chess, backgammon, or even craps (they’ve got an epic antique table once owned by the Countess di Frasso). Other great fireplaces around the valley can be found at The Charter Oak restaurant, the Archer Hotel, the salon at Domaine Carneros, and the tasting room at Silverado Vineyards.

  • Visit a food hall. Stroll through Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa and browse shops like Napa Bookmine, Whole Spice, Anette's Chocolates, Napa Valley Distillery, or The Olive Press. Don’t forget to stop by Ritual Coffee for a hot pour-over. The market is also a great spot for lunch – nibble on a warm empanada from El Porteño, enjoy a hot pizza from Live Fire Pizza, or sip on Matzoh Ball Soup from Loveski Deli, Chef Christopher Kostow’s take on a Jewish deli.

  • Go caving (sort of). There are many wine caves in Napa Valley, but none is as old (or romantic, for that matter) as the one at Schramsberg Vineyards. In this hallowed hollow, winemakers have been making and riddling sparkling wine for more than 50 years. A variety of experiences incorporate a tour of this cave—one of which includes a wine and cheese pairing.

  • Take a rainy day art walk. So long as it’s not an atmospheric river (yes, that’s really a thing here), embrace the moodiness of a rainy day, grab an umbrella, and see some great art. The Yountville Art Walk features approximately 35 sculptures around downtown Yountville, and Napa’s RAD (Railroad Arts District) is a collection of large-scale murals by local and globally-renowned artists. Are you a fan of contemporary art? Take a public tour or enjoy self-guided access to the galleries, Courtyard, and Sculpture Meadow at di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art.

  • Go for the mud. Spas are a huge part of the Napa Valley vibe – they have been for years – and you don’t need sunshine to get yourself a good mud bath. There are plenty of options for this service, but the mud baths at Spa & Baths at Dr. Wilkinson’s Resort are some of the best. The mud and volcanic ash mixture they use today is the same mud recipe they’ve used for 70 years. For another spin on the traditional mud bath, try the three-part treatment at Spa Solage at Solage Calistoga, which includes a mud experience, a water endeavor, and a sound immersion.

Rain or shine, it may just be the best day you’ve spent in Napa Valley after all.

Top photo credit: Bob McClenahan