Sure, wine country is beautiful in summer when the sun is shining and the sky is blue. It’s also surprisingly fun in winter, even when it’s pouring down rain.

Rainy days simply nudge you to double-down on cozy and intimate, which is easy when there are so many great places to do both. Even with social distancing still in effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are plenty of options to spend a rainy day in Napa Valley. 

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 the Napa Valley. In Yountville, the Napa Valley Museum offers great perspective on the history of the valley overall. And in Rutherford, the wine history museum at 1881 Napa shines a spotlight on some of the tools farmers and vintners used to ply their craft over time. 

  • Tackle the Taco Trail. In the mood for a foodie challenge? Grab your favorite hot sauce and see if you can tackle the Napa Valley Taco Trail! The trail 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, Napa Valley), and the 90-minute Complete Elusa Experience is perfect for inclement weather. After a splash of sauvignon blanc in the hospitality room, you’ll head on a tour of the winery and the caves. From there, enjoy a sit-down tasting of petite sirah and three different cabernet sauvignons, including one made with grapes from just outside the door. The wines are 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 seven days a week, and many of the nicest pieces are for sale.

  • Catch a movie. Founded in 1913, St. Helena’s 140-seat Cameo Cinema is 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. The 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 one at the renovated Pennino Salon inside 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 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 spend the morning browsing shops like Napa Bookmine, Whole Spice, Napa Stäk, Hudson Green & Goods, Napa Valley Distillery, or the Olive Press. Don’t forget to stop by Ritual Coffee for a hot pour-over. Don’t forget to stop by Ritual Coffee for a hot pour-over. And after the spring of 2022, be sure to check out Chef Christopher Kostow’s take on a Jewish deli, Loveski.

  • Go caving (sort of). There are many wine caves in the 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. Five different experiences incorporate a tour of this cave—one of them also includes wine tasting and a food pairing. Visiting the property is more meaningful now than it has been in a long time, as the 2020 Glass Fire destroyed much of the surroundings and threatened the winery buildings, too.

  • 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 40 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? di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art offers free site walk weekends, where guests can stroll through the outdoor sculpture garden.

  • 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 new mud baths at Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs are some of the best. The mud they use today is the same mud recipe they’ve used for more than 60 years; because of naturally occurring enzymes in the mud, it’s perfectly sanitary for multiple people to use in a day. For another spin on the traditional mudbath, try the three-part treatment at Solage, 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 the Napa Valley after all.

Photo credit: Bob McClenahan