THE BEST OF THE WINE COUNTRY
3 The Best Experiences beyond the Wineries
Hot-Air Ballooning over Napa’s Vineyards: Admit it: Float- ing over lush green pastures in a hot-air balloon is something you’ve always dreamed of but never gotten around to actually doing. Here’s your best chance: Napa Valley is the busiest hot- air balloon “flight corridor” in the world—and what more romantic place to sail up, up, and away? For recommendations on the best Napa hot-air balloon companies, see “More to See & Do,” in chapter 4.
Spreading Out Your Picnic Blanket for a Gourmet Alfresco Feast: You’ve been with the crowds all day—sitting with them in traffic and sipping elbow-to-elbow in the tasting rooms. If the thought of joining the masses for a meal after all that seems about as romantic and relaxing as a New York subway ride, can- cel your restaurant reservations and pack a picnic instead. Both Napa and Sonoma have some of the most spectacular picnic spots on the planet, not to mention incredible artisan food products and excellent places to fill your basket. See “Where to Stock Up for a Picnic & Where to Enjoy It,” in chapter 4 for details on picnicking in Napa. For details on picnicking in Sonoma, see “The Local Farmer’s Market” and “Where to Stock Up for a Picnic & Where to Enjoy It,” in chapter 5.
Pampering Yourself at a Spa: The Wine Country is the per- fect place to relax—so what better place to indulge in a tension- relieving massage, a purifying facial, or a rejuvenating body wrap? My favorite spas are St. Helena’s Health Spa Napa Val- ley (& 707/967-8800), the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa (& 800/257-7544), and Hotel Healdsburg (& 707/ 431-2800). See chapter 4 for details on Napa spas, chapter 5 for Sonoma, and chapter 6 for Hotel Healdsburg.
Horseback Riding through the Wine Country: If you like horses, consider seeing the countryside from the saddle. Triple Creek Horse Outfit (& 707/933-1600) orchestrates rides in both Napa’s Bothe-Napa Valley State Park and Sonoma’s Jack London State Historical Park. The season runs from April through October. See “More to See & Do,” in chapters 5 and 6.
Touring Sonoma’s Wineries on Two Wheels: With quiet, gently sloping country roads and lots of bucolic scenery, Sonoma is perfect for cycling. Local bike tours will rent you a bike, take you on one of their organized excursions to wineries, provide a gourmet lunch featuring local foodstuffs, and also