Majorly Instagrammable estates, world-class culinary hotspots, a relatively mild year-round climate, luxury spas, and, duh, the wine. Obviously. Napa has it all and is a dream destination that we could never get enough of. Whether you’re traveling for a minimoon, bachelorette party, birthday celebration or just a weekend getaway, Napa is the ideal destination for any occasion and with any combination of travel partners. As obsessed as we are with Napa, it does take a little bit more planning and research than your average domestic weekend trip and isn’t one that we’d recommend doing on a tight budget—although it can be done. Read on for all of our tips, tricks, and recs for pulling off the perfect Napa trip. Cheers!
A NOTE ON COVID-19:
If you do choose to travel right now, it is important to do so as safely and responsibly as possible. A few notes about how Napa in particular is managing the pandemic.
Napa and Sonoma counties have a mask mandate in place, and a mask should be worn in all public areas, except when eating and drinking. This includes when walking outdoors any time that 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained. We would suggest continuing to wear your mask when your server comes to your table as well. Wearing a mask primarily protects the other person and it’s important to show your server the same respect and caution that they are showing you.
All restaurants and wineries must operate exclusively outside at this time. This may change your experience slightly. For example, you may not be able to partake in all of the standard tours, such as any cave experiences or barrel tastings, but you will still have a wonderful time! In addition, your host may be less hands-on than normal in terms of walking you through the wine making process, tasting notes, etc.
From our experience, hotels were thoroughly sanitized and housekeeping services did not take place during a stay to minimize the number of people entering and exiting a room. In addition, efforts are being made at some hotels to allow a few days between guest stays in a particular room.
Lastly, we are advocates for taking any additional precautions that you can prior to traveling. While we did not have any symptoms, we tested both before and after our trip and quarantined while awaiting results each time. We recognize that we could be asymptomatic carriers.
Between the compounded effects of both COVID-19 and the recent wildfires, Napa Valley’s businesses need our support more than ever, but please visit as responsibly as you can!
How To Get There
If you live in the Bay Area, Napa is the perfect weekend destination! If not, you’ll most likely be flying to get to Napa. With three local airports, you have a lot of options depending on what your priority is—ease or price. No matter which airport you fly into, though, expect a bit of a drive.
If you’re looking to get as close as possible to wine country, you’ll want to fly directly into Santa Rosa (Sonoma County Airport). Flights here are less frequent, more expensive, and depending on where you choose to stay in wine country, could still require a 20-40 mile drive. One bonus of this airport, though, is that you can check up to a case of wine for free when you’re flying home! Love that.
For the average traveler, you’ll want to fly into SFO (San Francisco International Airport). As one of the busiest airports in the country, you’ll have no problem finding flight options and a great flight deal. Hello, more money for wine tastings! From SFO, you have about a 1 hour drive into Napa. We’d recommend either renting a car or, if you’re celebrating a bachelorette, renting a limo or party bus for the ride. Pro Tip: If you’re landing earlier in the day and choose to rent a car, take the Golden Gate into Sausalito on your way to Napa and stop off for a bite to eat or glass of wine with killer views of SF and the Bay.
Lastly, Oakland is a third option for flying into Napa. Technically, Oakland is a little bit closer to Napa than SFO, but could be more challenging to find flight deals depending on where you’re coming from. We recommend setting flight alerts on Google Flights and Hopper for all three airports (Santa Rosa, San Francisco, and Oakland) and booking whichever comes back as the best value between price, arrival/departure times, and flight route.
Where To Stay
One of the most common misconceptions when planning a Napa trip is that you want to stay in Napa proper. When most people say they want to go to Napa, they are referring to Napa Valley or the entire wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties. It is a HUGE area, and choosing which town or area to stay in is so important to a successful and enjoyable trip. We’ll break down the options, high-level, below:
Napa – As the biggest town in Napa Valley, Napa is the most lively area that you could stay with restaurants and bars within walking distance of one another, most of the larger hotel chains (Westin, Embassy Suites, Marriott, etc.) and is a pretty centrally located spot for whatever you choose to do in the area. Plus, the Napa River is a pretty cute spot to walk along.
Yountville to St. Helena – These towns are technically 10 miles apart (about 20 minutes), but for the ease of writing this guide, we’ll group these towns together (along with Oakville, Rutherford, and the other small towns between these two.) In our opinion, these towns are what people typically dream of or imagine when they think of wine country and visiting Napa. Slow-paced, romantic, a vineyard view from your room, etc. These towns are also where all of our favorite wineries and restaurants are located.
Calistoga – Calistoga is often considered the end (or beginning) of Napa Valley and offers a similar wine country feel to Yountville and St. Helena, but in a much quieter and relaxing way. Calistoga would be a perfect area to stay for a honeymoon or anniversary trip. Super charming, secluded, understated, and laidback.
Sonoma – Sonoma is technically in a completely different county, but we think it’s still worth mentioning when planning a Napa trip. Sonoma is, in our opinion, much less commercialized and touristy. Think of it like Napa’s laid-back little sister. Sonoma is an incredible place to visit and actually grows more grapes than Napa, and it’s a stunning area with some of the best Pinots in the world. We ultimately do prefer Napa Valley, but always say that Napa is not a trip to do on a tight budget. Sonoma can be a more affordable option for hotels, restaurants, tastings, and still a very fun place to visit.
There are so many insanely beautiful and luxurious hotels, resorts, and Airbnbs in the area. For the purpose of this guide, we would recommend Silverado Resort. While it’s not in the heart of any of Napa Valley’s towns, its location is central enough to allow you to plan activities in most of the spots around the valley. It’s an expansive and beautiful resort property with multiple pools, two golf courses, a spa, and plentiful restaurant options, all while being a surprisingly affordable option—by Napa standards, that is. For any Real Housewives super fans like us, the OC wives stayed at Silverado on their Napa trip (season 10, episode 3, to be exact). If it’s good enough for Heather Dubrow, it’s more than good enough for us.
How To Get Around
Unless you have a DD in your group (unlikely since you’re in wine country), we’d recommend hiring a driver for your day of wine tasting. Napa Valley is a huge area and the wineries stretch out along a highway, so walking just isn’t an option. Ubers and taxis are harder to come by and because Napa is a place where reservations are definitely required, you won’t want to waste any time between appointments waiting around for an Uber. If you’re traveling with a group, hiring a driver is actually very reasonable. Definitely plan ahead for this and don’t wait to figure it out upon arrival. Drinking and driving just isn’t the move.
Where To Eat
Our second favorite part of the guide! Napa Valley is a foodie mecca. So much work and research goes into pairing wine and food, so of course, in a world-famous wine region, there is no shortage of good food. Napa Valley is overflowing with some of the best chefs in the world ready to feed you after you’ve drunk your body weight in wine. It does, however, mean that many of the restaurants are at a slightly higher price point than you’re probably used to—we promise, they’re worth it!!
We recommend doing RH Wine Vault (yes, another of the highly Instagrammable concepts from Restoration Hardware) for pre-dinner drinks or wine tasting and then following up with dinner at Bistro Jeanty. They’re both in the heart of Yountville. RH Wine Vault has an incredibly Instagrammable aesthetic with string lights, outdoor couches, and a backdrop of a vine-covered building. Bistro Jeanty is all things French, and who doesn’t love some steak frites and cocktails with names like La Vie en Rose? You literally can’t go wrong, and they’re currently offering cocktails to go.
If you’re staying in Napa proper and love sushi, we’d recommend Morimoto in Napa. This will not be cheap, but it’s so worth it if you love sushi. You can sit inside or outside on the river, and the vibe is exactly what you want: very cool and modern. We’d stick with the sashimi and nigiri because the fish quality is so fresh. We’ve never had so much sushi delivered to us at once—a true dream. They also have great cocktails and an amazing wine list. There are a few locations around the world, so it’s not exclusive to Napa, but we still have to recommend it.
If you’re on your honeymoon or truly ready to ball out, The French Laundry is a must. We’ve never had the chance to eat here, but it is often regarded as one of the best restaurants in the world. A multiple course fixed menu with wine pairings for every course and each person has his/her own waiter. What we can only imagine to be a once in a lifetime experience.
Other wine country favorites include:
The Bistro at Auberge du Soleil – Perfect way to break up your day of wine tasting if you’re in the Rutherford/Yountville area. We could never afford to actually stay here, so lunching is the perfect alternative to get all of the chic French vibes at a fraction of the cost.
Farmstead Restaurant – A farm-to-table concept that somehow blends Southern comfort food with a signature light, fresh California flair.
Goose & Gander – A St. Helena staple famous for its burger and cocktails, as well as a signature Sunday brunch. Brunch runs from 11am-3pm, though, so it usually cuts into our wine tasting schedule. It’s a great option if brunch is your last plan on your way out of town on Sunday!
Ad Hoc & Addendum – Neighboring restaurants from Thomas Keller. Ad Hoc serves a renowned family style meal that changes daily. Addendum is famed for its legendary upscale fried chicken.
Oxbow Public Market – Centrally located near Napa proper, this is a great stop for groups with a variety of tastes or dietary needs. It’s an easy, casual spot to grab everything from Hog Island oysters to banh mi to pasta—with drinks, of course.
Where To Drink
Napa is all about the wine, so now let’s get to the good stuff! There are so many wineries in Napa Valley that you could visit every weekend for a year and still not hit them all. Here are our favorites to get good wine and a good ambience.
Del Dotto is one of those wineries that’s a can’t-miss. They have three tasting rooms, which makes it an easy stop no matter where you’re staying, but currently, only the Piazza is open due to COVID. You may recognize it from a recent KUWTK episode—Kylie’s first wine-tasting trip—but we’ve loved it before we were influenced by our favorite family. We highly recommend the barrel tasting (if you’re there during non-COVID times, you’ll actually get to taste from the barrel in their wine cellar). The tasting is $80 for 9 wines and includes a wood-fired pizza and tomato appetizer—a must to avoid getting white girl wasted.
For a casual lunch stop where you can still wine taste, V Sattui is a must. They offer a number of different types of wine tastings, and their marketplace and deli is full of yummy bites for lunch. Instead of doing a wine tasting here, you could also grab a few bottles from their marketplace and enjoy a picnic lunch. Honestly, the wine here is good (I mean, it’s Napa), but not out of this world. We stop here on every Napa visit though, because the food is good, easy, and convenient, and you don’t have to stop your wine tasting fun.
We are champagne and sparkling wine lovers, but, regardless, we always recommend the first tasting stop of your day to be for a sparkling tasting flight. We love wine, but 10am still feels a little aggressive to start exploring some bold cabs. Domaine Carneros is our favorite stop for this (you’ll feel like you’re actually in Champagne, France with the incredible tasting room) or Mumm Napa if you’re looking to taste some champagne that’s exclusive to the winery, and not what you’ll find at your local grocery store. For a bougier champagne experience, we recommend Schramsberg. Domaine Chandon is another option for sparkling that is super popular, but if you’re choosing between one or two options, it wouldn’t be our top choice.
For anyone staying in Sonoma, SIGH. is a must stop when you’re done with wine tastings, but not ready to end your day of drinking. A highly Instagrammable champagne bar. They’re currently set up in Sonoma Square due to COVID and offer a variety of frozen cocktails, their usual champagne offerings, as well as apps.
Other wine country faves:
HALL Wines – A must for any cab lovers in particular
Inglenook – Stunning property owned by Francis Ford Coppola
Castello di Amorosa – A literal castle
Artesa – Stunning, expansive views of Napa
Opus One – Luxurious experience, but with a somewhat more formal, exclusive vibe. Would not recommend this one for a bachelorette party.
Stag’s Leap – Iconic spot in Napa Valley that some would say put the region on the map in terms of international acclaim and respect.
Tips & Tricks For Planning A Successful Trip
Plan ahead!! Napa is absolutely a place that requires advanced planning. Make reservations for all the wineries and restaurants that you plan to visit. You may be able to just walk into some of the tasting rooms at the end of your day, but for the actual wineries and acclaimed restaurants, you absolutely need reservations and we’d recommend starting to book at least a month out.
MyMaps will be your best friend. When you first decide to plan a trip to Napa, you will be inundated with opinions and recommendations. There are just so many stellar spots. In the last two years alone, we’ve spent 13 days total in Napa and still feel like we’ve just scratched the surface. As you begin to compile all of your recs, plot them all on a map. See where things seem to naturally group together location-wise and plan each day around that. The towns can take a significant amount of time to travel between and, if you’re on a tight schedule, you will want to minimize your driving time.
Be realistic. We are obsessed with wine tasting and there are certainly some destinations in the country where it’s possible to squeeze six or seven tastings into a day if you’re ambitious. Napa is not one of those places. We wouldn’t recommend more than four tastings in a day. Most wineries open for tastings at 11 (10 if it’s sparkling wine) and most start their last tastings at 3:30 or 4. Plan for each tasting to last 60-90 minutes.
Budget accordingly! As we’ve mentioned several times, Napa is not a great place to do on a budget. Accommodations can be pricey, there are many world-renowned (aka expensive) restaurants, and the tastings are not cheap. Most of our previous wine tasting experiences were for tastings ranging from $15-30 with the tasting waived with the purchase of one bottle. In Napa, however, the average tasting fee is about $60 with some going well over $100, and the tastings are waived with the purchase of upwards of six bottles or joining a wine club. You can absolutely still visit Napa or Sonoma and find spots for less, but just know that it may not be the full wine country experience that you’ve imagined.
Perfect First Time Itinerary
Friday, Day 1
If you land in the morning/afternoon, drive over the Golden Gate + stop for lunch in Sausalito on your way to wine country.
If you land in the late afternoon/evening, head straight to RH Wine Vault for a tasting
Dinner at Bistro Jeanty
Cocktails to go + check into The Silverado Resort (or your accommodation of choice)
Saturday, Day 2
Breakfast at Bouchon Bakery (Expect a line here, but it’s worth it! You can easily take your food to go, so waiting to order is the longest part here).
Champagne Tasting at Mumm Napa (If you want to get in as many tastings as possible, book your tasting as soon as they open!)
Tasting at HALL Wines (You’ll have to skip this one if your champagne tasting starts any later than 10AM)
Lunch + Tasting at V Sattui
Tasting at Piazza Del Dotto
After changing and freshening up, grab pre-dinner cocktails at Sky & Vine Rooftop. If you’re running late, be sure to stop here after dinner!
Dinner at Morimoto
Sunday, Day 3 – Option A if you’re heading home on Sunday/just doing a weekend trip!
Brunch – Napa is famous for their Sunday brunches. We’d recommend: Goose & Gander, Brix, or Auberge du Soleil depending on which is closest to where you’re staying!
Champagne Tasting at Domaine Carneros
Late lunch in Sausalito if you didn’t get the chance to stop on your way into town
Sunday, Day 3 – Option B if you have an extra day to spend in Napa Valley!
With an extra day in Napa, you’ll have time to explore Calistoga, an area many people miss on their trips!
Brunch at Sam’s Social Club
Champagne Tasting at Schramsberg
Tasting at Castello di Amorosa
Late lunch from Oakville Grocery on your way out of Calistoga – Easy to go sandwiches, apps, etc.
Pool time at Silverado Resort (Napa has pleasant, sunny weather most of the year)
(Tasting at Stags’ Leap Winery if you’d rather do another tasting or are visiting in a cooler time of year!)
Dinner and drinks at Ad Hoc
Monday, Optional Day 4
Late breakfast at Grace’s Table
Drive back to San Francisco and fly home
If you have a late flight, this would be the perfect day for the spa!
Images: Michael Warwick / Shutterstock; Giphy (2)
Traveling during a global pandemic is a sensitive and very hot topic right now. Full disclosure: I travel for a living, so it’s part of my job to take to the roads and skies as much as possible, despite the pandemic. As someone who has recovered from COVID-19 and has recently started traveling again, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of travel in 2020.
There are some really great improvements to travel this year, and there are some not-so-great behaviors out there. For the most realistic picture of 2020 travel, I want to share all aspects with you so you can make an informed decision about whether traveling right now is right for you. Make sure you also check out the CDC’s recommendations for travel before you go, which include tips like checking your destination’s COVID cases and travel requirements or restrictions.
Travel precautions have improved A LOT over the course of the pandemic, and airlines and hotels are doing everything in their power to keep travelers safe. One upside is that even the worst travelers are mandated to adhere to certain safety guidelines on planes, trains, and hotels.
Everyone is trying to figure out what’s acceptable during these times, but getting on a plane isn’t the pandemic red flag that many think it is. In fact, a recent study by United Airlines in partnership with the Department of Defense indicates an airplane is the safest indoor public space. It also details why the risk of exposure while onboard (even on a full flight) is almost non-existent. However, the CDC notes that spending time in airport terminals and security lines can put you into close contact with other people and contaminated surfaces, which can introduce risk.
Masks have been mandated by most governments and large industries, so that’s non-negotiable when you board a plane or enter a hotel, and there’s no arguing about it with the staff on hand—don’t even try, Karen.
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10 Tips For Staying Safe While Flying During the Pandemic: No matter your reason for travel, flying can be scary these days These 5 tips will help you stay as safe as possible on your journey. If you don’t want to be traveling now, that’s okay! But, you can travel responsibly IF you take proper precautions & use common courtesy 📍Be sure to save this post for your upcoming journey 1) Wear a mask! This seems simple but there’s more to it. Get N95 masks. These are the best masks for protecting YOU. Most masks are generally to protect other people from you, but an N95 will be your best chance to protect you from others 2) Avoid Eating on plane. Additionally, you will want to eat and drink prior to leaving your house, put your mask on and it’s best if you DO NOT break the seal while onboard. If you have to take a sip of water, know you are breaking the seal around your mask and be careful not to touch your face 3) Wear a face shield. Face shields add an extra layer of protection, and also will cover forehead and eyes. They also prevent you from touching your face 4) Wipe your seat, and entire area prior sitting down with disinfectant wipes. @lysol has just been confirmed to kill Coronavirus, so use those if possible. Additionally, you can tag @passengershaming in your seat wiping and may even get a re-share. 5) Stay away from people in boarding area and walking through the airport. 6) Wash your hands like your life depends on it, because it does. 30 seconds! 7) Instead of Uber, use a black car service like @blacklane to get to/from the airport. Blacklane is taking extra cleanliness precautions to ensure safety of customers 8) Keep checking the seating chart to make sure you are socially distancing your seat if your flight isn’t full Perhaps that means giving up your first class upgrade for an empty economy like @mommypoints recently did, or flying an airline like @delta which is operating at 60% 9) Shower in hot water as soon as you get home & put your contaminated mask and clothes in a garbage bag or straight into laundry 10) Pick a hotel that is taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their travelers. Look at last vid of @conradnydowntown
Major hotel brands like Marriott and Hilton have each come out with their own new safety standards that include PPE for employees, and new sanitization procedures for hotel rooms. I have recently stayed at both the Conrad New York Downtown and the JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa. Both properties are going above and beyond to make COVID-conscious travelers like myself feel safe and protected. These include measures such as extra sanitizing, mask requirements, and even waiting 24-48 hours to turn rooms over between guests, so that the cleaning staff is less likely to be exposed to germs.
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Social distancing at its finest. 🧍🏻♀️. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .🧍🏻♀️ Did you know that Cancun was certified as a safe destination by the World Travel and Tourism Council? Basically the WTTC will give a Safe Travels stamp of approval to certain destinations where new safety measures and global protocols have been so adopted to help protect travelers. Life was good in Cancun at the @jwcancun — I was able to let myself almost forget about the stress of the pandemic for a little while because it was SO safe there! Some of the measures they took to protect me were utilizing a car service that is also following guideline, where you have a temp check, and your hands, shoes, and luggage sanitized before getting in, plus the obvious a mask! Additionally, all staff wears masks, masks are encouraged to be worn by all guests, but will be mandatory beginning in August whenever inside. Also, hotels are maxing our at 30% capacity, which means there’s plenty of room to stay away from other guests and social distant at the resort! More details to come on TrustedTravelGirl.com soon! What would make you feel safe while traveling? #jwmarriottcancun #jwcancun ——— #seaturtle #seaturtles #cancun #mexico #rivieramaya #tulum #visitmexico #mariottcancun #prettylittletrips #cancunmexico #southoftheborder
Some destinations are being recognized by the World Trade and Tourism Council for their commitment to keeping travelers safe and healthy. The Phillippines just became the 100th destination to receive the “Safe Travels Stamp” of approval from the WTTC. Other “safe” destinations include Aruba, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Indonesia, and parts of Mexico. Destinations are even limiting the number of guests allowed in a hotel. When I was in Cancun, the state of Quintana Roo was limiting properties to a maximum of 30% occupancy.
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😳Why the hell did I wear this? Because you can travel without being part of the problem and while protecting yourself, and I want to make a point. Today, I am traveling through TWO of the most infected states in the United States of America COVID. But, I’m on a mission to share with you what exactly international travel looks like right now. I’m working closely with my destination to learn everything they are doing to keep guests and staff safe… and it sounds like it’s nearly fool-proof. So why didn’t I dress this way on my last flight? My last trip was a nearly empty 3 class (Flagship First, Business and Economy) flight with a business class seat, and no one next to me. Also, I was leaving a city and state (New York) with almost no COVID cases. But, here… my own city (Los Angeles) tested for nearly 4300 new cases on Tuesday alone. The city of LA— Not the entire state. That’s MASSIVE. And don’t even get me started on Texas (DFW). I want to show you that you CAN travel (if you need to or want to). You can travel and be safe, and you can travel and not be part of the problem. I don’t go to grocery stores, I wash my groceries, I have only seen 1 friend in semi close proximity since March 5th. I am careful. So if I’m going to expose myself, it’s going to be for travel— not for a party, or a trip to the grocery store, or anywhere else. It’s all about limiting contact as much as possible. You can be home and be more of a problem than someone who travels safely. But, a traveler travels. It’s essential to my sanity and my career. The other reason I’m wearing my space suit is my Antibodies… I feel safe having SOME low level antibodies left, but I just had A LOT of testing done and they are slowly going away. Although, long term immunity is looking likely in T-Cells, we just don’t know! Better safe than sorry, and better a trip to Mexico than a trip to the grocery store! It’s all about being RESPONSIBLE. See you in the skies soon… because travel always comes back! —— #backtotravel #traveltheworld #wearetravelgirls #girlovetravel #glt #traveldeeper #indtravel #prettylittletrips #beautifulplaces #travelisback #traveldeeper #travelstories #hazmatsuit
As with anything, though, there will always be a loud minority who can ruin it for the rest of us. I’ve seen some pretty bad behavior during my recent travels. Unfortunately, we live in a world with a lot of entitled people who care more about their “personal liberties” than the safety of others. Guidelines are just obstacles to them, and they don’t give a sh*t about endangering your health or making things difficult for those who have to enforce the rules.
Even when rules are in place, there are people who will look for the loophole. For instance, you are allowed to remove your mask while eating or drinking, so I’ve seen people nurse the same drink over a period of several hours in airport lounges and on planes. Some will take a sip whenever someone approaches them; others don’t even bother to pretend. You can bet I’ve sent in a few submissions of these maskless jerks to @PassengerShaming.
In some areas, those entitled people are actually a majority, and certain states and cities have refused to put mask mandates in place. As of today, 34 U.S. states require masks in public. You can bet I won’t be promoting or visiting the other 16 states that don’t care about the health and well-being of their residents or visitors. In my opinion, it is a necessary burden of traveling to do the research on destinations and support those that are taking this pandemic seriously.
The Future of Travel
The sad truth is, the travel industry is forever changed. We’ve seen huge downturns before with 9/11 and the 2008 recession, so it’s not hopeless—travel always comes back. But there are businesses that survived those downturns that won’t survive this pandemic. Landmark hotels like the Hilton Times Square and the W New York Downtown are closing for good. Closures like this mean fewer options for travelers. We will have fewer hotels to choose from, fewer airline routes, and fewer destinations open to Americans than ever before.
Also, a U.S. passport used to be a golden ticket to nearly any destination, but that’s no longer the case, as we’re not managing this crisis as well as other countries. In fact, we are only welcomed into approximately a dozen countries at the moment, which would have been unthinkable before this year.
On the bright side, cleanliness will never be taken for granted again. Passengers won’t settle for crusty airplane seats or dirty lavatories ever again. Fastidious cleaning procedures are here to stay, and that’s a “new normal” we can all embrace.
It’s not all doom and gloom in the travel industry. While urban destinations like Chicago and New York have suffered greatly, other destinations are booming. Mountain resort towns like Aspen, Park City, and Jackson Hole are seeing record numbers of tourists escaping the restrictions of urban environments for fresh air and outdoor adventure. Hotels, restaurants, and tours are booming with summer visitors, and many people are already planning their annual ski trips.
So, this isn’t the end of the travel industry, but a definite shift for everyone. By traveling safely and responsibly, we can show our support for the three-trillion-dollar industry that so many families rely on. Getting COVID tests and donning PPE is a bit of extra work, but it beats watching our favorite places slide into bankruptcy.
If you’re about to travel, hopefully you have a greater understanding of what to expect when you catch your next flight. If you’re not ready, that’s okay too; we’re all figuring this year out as we go.
Image: averie woodward / Unsplash; trustedtravelgirl / Instagram
Hudson Valley is hot right now. The trendy upstate playground has been drawing city dwellers (along with the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers) for years, but given the current sitch, it’s even more popular these days. Good thing restaurants have reopened and local developers have been going after fixer-uppers with hotel potential, like Chip and Joanna Gaines with a vengeance.
Just as New Yorkers flock to the Hamptons in the summer, Manhattan creatives come to Hudson Valley to hibernate in the fall and winter. And considering most of the land surrounding this grouping of idyllic towns and hamlets is either covered by water or trees, it’s quite ideal for social distancing and keeping your six-feet-apart stance.
Whether you’re getting away for the weekend with your besties or bae, or planning a solo trip because that’s the kind of self-sufficient traveler you are, Hudson Valley has it all. And we’ve rounded up the best places to stay and things to do while you’re there. Read on for our top recs and Insta-worthy locales.
Where Is Hudson Valley?
Hudson Valley is in New York, duh. (Hudson River, anyone?) Hudson Valley is technically comprised of a bunch of different waterfront cities and towns, as well as rural farmlands and forests, so you can easily get your glamping on here or post up in an old Victorian-house-turned bougie hotel. HV stretches as far as the capital Albany in the north, toward Yonkers and Westchester County bordering NYC in the south. For trip planning purposes, some of the best spots to check out in Hudson Valley are Hudson, New Paltz, Beacon, Kingston, Woodstock, Rhinebeck, Gardiner, Tarrytown, and Sleepy Hollow. (Yes, Sleepy Hollow is a real place with charmingly spooky vibes. But that’s a given.)
How Far Is Hudson Valley From New York City?
Hudson Valley is much closer to New York City, than, say, the Hamptons, which is why New Yorkers are trading in The Big Apple for apple picking in the sticks. Depending on where you’re heading, you can be there in as little as 30 to 40 minutes, or a few hours. From NYC to Hudson, NY it’s roughly 107 miles.
How To Get To Hudson Valley
Road trip, obvi! The scenic route is much preferred, especially if you’re traveling from non-NYC places (and if you don’t want to sit near strangers for social distance reasons). With that said, Metro-North and Amtrak are options if you don’t have your own wheels or don’t want to drive. Just mask up at Grand Central Station or Penn Station, grab a seat six feet away, and chill for two hours until you get to Hudson, or wherever you’re going. Note: Metro-North service ends at Poughkeepsie, with Amtrak’s Empire Corridor trains continuing north to and beyond Albany.
How To Get Around Hudson Valley
If you’re a Hudson Valley newbie, you might assume everywhere within the area is relatively close. On the contrary, it’s much more spread out and Ubers and cabs are somewhat nonexistent—or super f*cking expensive. So, with that in mind, pick an area and stick to it instead of trying to do the most in a weekend. Or plan ahead and hire a driver, because drinking and driving isn’t cute. We’ve also curated these thoughtful itineraries below based on geographical whereabouts and you’re welcome for that.
Things To Do In Hudson, NY
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Historic Hudson is clearly the HBIC of Hudson Valley. Not only does Hudson proper bear the namesake of the upstate hotspot, but it has one of the longest main streets, packed to the gills with cute shops, hotels, and restaurants, plus antique stores and art galleries. As for activities, when you’re not playing House Hunters: Hudson Valley or bopping from one mid-century furniture store to the next, try one of these delights:
Stop by Opus 40 in Saugerties on the drive up to Hudson. You’ve probably seen snaps of the outdoor sculpture park on your ‘gram, and it’s high time you go.
Let your inner wino loose at happy hour at Sonder Hudson on Warren St.
Be one with nature (the Catskills is right next door and prime hiking territory).
Get blitzed on a craft brewery tour with stops at Hudson Valley Brewery, Hudson Brewing Company, Yard Owl Craft Brewery, Suarez Family Brewery, and Two Way Brewing Company (you can also ferry to breweries if you don’t want to drink and drive to farther ones #smart).
Antique your ass off. The downtown stores can be pricey, but drive to nearby Coxsackie Antique Center for the good finds and then you can lunch at Reds, a locals-loved fish fry joint.
Hit up The Quiet Botanist on Warren St. for dry botanicals and apothecary elixirs.
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Where To Stay In Hudson, NY
We live for The Maker, the newest boutique hotel that opened this past summer. With the trendiest digs in HV (think: a Georgian mansion filled with fringed lamps, jewel-tone interiors, lots of sumptuous velvet couches, and ‘20s vibes), rooms don’t come cheap. Peak season fall/winter rates range from $350-1,200 a night on weekends, but #YOLO. There’s an all-day Euro-inspired café, a restaurant housed in a glass conservatory, and a speakeasy-style lounge tucked away in a 19th century restored carriage house. Then there are the rooms. 11 swanky suites and rooms designed with a boho sensibility are themed after The Artist, The Architect, The Writer, The Gardener, and other creatives you can bump into around Hudson.
Outside The Maker, hang a right down Warren, then a left toward the train station and you’ll run into Wm. Farmer and Sons. This modern-meets-vintage hotel and bar room also has 11 dreamy rooms (most with clawfoot tubs you’ll never want to get out of) and thoughtful extras that really make a betch feel at home. I mean, look at these details?!
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The bright and cozy sitting area in our Anne Marie suite is perfect for kicking your feet up with a glass of wine or beer from the mini bar, challenging your travel companion in a game of gin rummy or just chilling out in front of the tube. Whatever your pleasure, relax, stay, enjoy the moment.
Their restaurant is tops for cozy, dimly-lit vibes and a damn good menu, with signatures ranging from SNAIL LASAGNA and roasted broccoli parm, to cast-iron caraflex cabbage with foie gras if you’re about that foraged life. And let’s not forget the gorg farm-to-glass cocktails.
For a more affordable alternative, check into The Wick, Hudson, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel. It’s nice, clean, pet-friendly, directly across from the train station, and right around the corner from Warren Street. Rates start at $180 a night.
Where To Eat In Hudson, NY
Aside from the aforementioned haunts, these restaurants and bars are also noteworthy in town: The Cascades for deli favorites, Swoon Kitchenbar for brasserie fare, Backbar for Malaysian cuisine, Grazin’ Diner for burgers, Hudson Food Studio for killer Vietnamese cuisine, Lil’ Deb’s Oasis and pop-up Feugo 69 for Pan-Latin nibbles and plenty of quirky flair, and the Tavern at Rivertown Lodge for brunch or dinner in a revamped 1920s movie theater. And bar-bookshop The Spotty Dog!
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Things To Do In New Paltz, NY
The adorable village of New Paltz sits in between the Gunks (Shawangunk Mountains) and Catskill Mountains, 90 miles north of NYC. New Paltz and Hudson couldn’t be more different however, and are about 40 minutes from one another. While Hudson is a postcard-perfect movie set stand-in, New Paltz is a more remote college town compared to “Upstate’s Downtown”.
There’s still a main drag dotted with the usual suspects—bars, restaurants, novelty stores, and artsy randoms—but this Ulster County enclave is also smack dab in the middle of protected nature preserves. As for other ways to pass your time, we’ve got you covered.
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🎃Happy Halloween! Don’t forget about our Outdoor Orchard Trick-or-Treat event today — we will have candy stations for kids, a spiked festive cocktail, and a $150 gift card raffle for anyone who is dressed in costume. We will be open until 7pm, hope to see you! . 📸: @diannnnneee . . . . . . #twinstarorchards #halloween #trickortreat #pumpkin #spooky #costume #fall #pumpkins #scary #boo #autumn #halloweenfun #halloweentime #photooftheday #cider #hardcider #drycider #hudsonvalley #cidertime #farmstand #tastethisnext #local #newyork #hudsonvalleyeats #upstateny #hudsonvalleyevents #getwithtipsy #hudsonvalleydogs #poughkeepsieny #upstate
New Paltz is a PSL-sipping, plaid-wearing, apple-picking basic bitch’s wet dream. And even though there are breweries and wineries galore, educate yourself and go to a phenom cidery, k? Brooklyn Cider House set up production here for good reason, and their growing grounds (Twin Star Orchards) should be your first stop when you’re ~thirsty~. Wood-fired pies, mouthwatering burgers, and hard ciders that will blow your mind await. P.S. backdrops include cute ponds and vines for one-foot-forward Insta opps.
Nestled in the heart of the Gunks is Mohonk Preserve, New York’s largest nonprofit nature preserve. Surrounding the historic Mohonk Mountain House, a Victorian “Castle of New Paltz” that dates back to 1869, you can explore the Preserve’s 8,000 acres of mountain cliffs, forests, fields, and streams from one of five local trailheads. According to mohonkpreserve.org, a day-use pass is $15 for hikers and $20 for bikers, climbers, and horseback riders (if you plan on getting your gallop on by bringing your own horse). There’s also cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
Stroll the impressive lineup of 17th-century abodes, churches, and archaeological sites that line Historic Huguenot Street, where the area’s first French settlers moved in.
Head to Robibero Family Vineyards to sample the local grapes, or take a short drive over to Gardiner’s Whitecliff Vineyard and Winery for an outside tasting by reservation.
Stock up on artisan kitchenwares at Blue Cashew.
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Where To Stay In And Around New Paltz, NY
Bougies and people that like to stay put can live their best life at Mohonk Mountain House. Whether you’re traveling with your boo or your (small) crew, their grand estate rooms with terraces overlooking the peaks and valleys are unparalleled in the area. Plus there’s an epic spa and we could all use a little more self-care these days. Even though rates start in the $500-700+ range, you’ll be relieved to know it’s all-inclusive style with three daily meals and unlimited activities. And I’m not talking free cards in the lounge. Try your hand at tomahawk throwing, lace up some skates over at the Skating Pavilion, become a disc golf pro, go rock scrambling through the Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze, and do all the sporty things during a round of croquet, bocce, or shuffleboard.
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Fall is better in the mountains 🍂🏰🍁 📷: @sonoyy . . . #mohonkmountainhouse #mohonk #happyplace #getoutside#greatoutdoors #fallfoliage #fallcolors #fall #biking #nightphotography #aerialphotography #naturephotography #getaway #weekendgetaway #boating #running #familyvacation #rockclimbing #mountaintop #mountainresort #resort #autumn #mountainbiking #archery #romanticgetaway #hudsonvalley #upstateny #upstatenewyork #historichotelsofamerica #historiclandmark
Hasbrouck House: I could wax poetic for days about how awesome this undiscovered gem in Stone Ridge is. For starters, it’s a restored 18th-century Dutch Colonial mansion that’s downright dreamy—and right outside New Paltz. 25 well-appointed rooms with modern bathrooms are spread out across the main building, Stable House, Carriage House, and three-bedroom private cottage. For $250+ a night, you can expect all the bells and whistles that come with proper Hudson Valley habitats, but you won’t blow your entire paycheck staying here. There’s free parking on the premises along with doughnuts and cider in the morning, as well as complimentary passes to Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk Preserve, and there’s also plenty of forest bathing opps around their 50 acres and private lake. When you get hungry, pop into the onsite bar and restaurant, Butterfield, or be on the lookout for the Baba Vegan Food Truck that swings by once a week to satisfy plant-based cravings. A basement billiards room, hot air balloon bedecked lounge with board games, and Aesop amenities round out their list of additional perks.
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Where To Eat In New Paltz, Stone Ridge & Woodstock, NY
Spend the day at Arrowood Farm Brewery, where you can sip craft ales and cocktails by fire pits while munching on Bavarian pretzels and tostadas.
In downtown New Paltz, we like Main Street Bistro, Bacchus, Clemson Bros., A Tavola Trattoria, Main Course Marketplace, Huckleberry, and IPho for banging noodle soups, bánh mì, and vermicelli.
Go into a fried chicken coma at Kitchenette Chicken Shack in High Falls—and good luck not trying to go back 20 times during your trip.
For breakfast or lunch in Stone Ridge, hit The Roost or Hash.
For one of the best dinners of your life in Hudson Valley, make a res at Butterfield at Hasbrouck House, where everything is local AF from the farm-grown veggies and cultured butter, to the house-made bread, trout, duck, and venison dishes.
For other dinner options in Woodstock and Saugerties, there’s Phoenicia Diner’s sister spot Dixon’s Roadside BBQ, Silvia, and The Red Onion.
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This is what we call early sweater weather, when the days are full of sunshine and the evenings are getting cozy. ⠀ Come hang with us this weekend ☀️🍂 ⠀ WEEKEND HOURS Saturday 12-10 Sunday 11:30-8 ⠀ Cheers! ⠀ #hudsonvalleyhappenings #fall #catskills #accordny #hudsonvalley #upstateny #hygge #farmbrewery #drinklocal #eatlocal #beer #craftbeerlover
Things To Do In Tarrytown & Sleepy Hollow, NY
Stroll the Scenic Hudson RiverWalk Park at Tarrytown, which comprises 31+ miles along the shoreline from Tarrytown up.
Visit The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. From now through Nov 22nd, see 7,000 pumpkins light up fall nights in Croton-on-Hudson.
Get your spook on (and relive 4th grade English class) learning about the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman on a walking tour of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. P.S., Washington Irving is obviously buried here.
Tour the gardens at Lyndhurst. Hudson Valley has been home to some of the most powerful families of New York over the years, and Lyndhurst (AKA the Jay Gould Estate) is serious goals. As one of the most impressive Gothic Revival marvels like, ever, you have to see this thing in person—and obviously take photos. Even the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is moving to Lyndhurst in June 2021 because it’s that major. While inside tours are closed for the season, you can still purchase a Daily Grounds Pass to wander around and contemplate what life must be like for the 1%.
Also worth mentioning is another one of Tarrytown’s most famous homes: Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate. It’s currently closed due to the pandemic, but boy, will it be a beauty to see when it reopens in the new year.
Where To Stay In Tarrytown, NY
If you’re looking for a low-key weekend or a workcation just minutes from Manhattan, check into Tarrytown House Estate, where complimentary WiFi and desks make WFH totally doable—especially when you can sneak drinks by the lawn fire pits in between Zooms. This Westchester County staple has been artfully restored and now boasts several modern rooms in the King Mansion, plus 26 acres of sprawling land fit for hiking, biking, and other outdoorsy things. They’re also pet-friendly and will arm your furry friend with a BarkBox upon arrival. Take a Sleepy Hollow kayak tour through the Hudson River, pick seasonal fruit at Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm, do dinner at Goosefeather, and let your inner athlete loose during badminton, bocce, and croquet.
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Where To Eat In Tarrytown And Sleepy Hollow, NY
Make a res at Chef Dale Talde’s Goosefeather for crazy good Chinese barbecue and dim sum under strings of backyard lights. If you’re looking for vegan-friendly options, check out Sweet Grass Grill. Waterfront tavern RiverMarket is great for a biodynamic wine list and thoughtfully curated market. There’s also The Twisted Oak for Italian-American signatures, Pik Nik BBQ for smoked meats, Bistro 12 for Mediterranean fare, and Hudson Farmer & the Fish for sweeping views and seasonal staples.
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Anytime is a good time for pizza 🍕 Come and get one of our wood fire pizzas designed to your liking. With toppings ranging from baby arugula to even jumbo shrimp 🍤 and much more! * * * * * #pizza #woodfiredpizza #tarrytown #restaurant #yummy #delicious #swag #cool #pretty #foodporn #appealing #drinks #cocktails #togo #takeout #delivery #ubereatsdelivery #doordash #goodtimes #drinks #slurp #bar #liquor #thirsty #instagood #wow #drinkup #photooftheday #greattime #instadaily
More Places We Love In Hudson Valley
Cedar Lakes Estate in Port Jervis, NY: Escape to the heart of Hudson Valley where your personal pine cottage is waiting. Cedar Lakes is now booking three- and four-night stays through winter. All meals, a selection of beverages (boozy and non), and use of the property are included in the $125 per person, per night resort fee. You’ll also be treated to the following comped activities: Monday night football in their Treehouse (!), morning farmer’s markets stocked with fresh produce, Friday night trivia, and Saturday fall fests with campy pastimes (think canoeing, tennis, fishing, basketball, field games, and more). Did we mention there are Bob Ross-inspired paint nights? (BYO wig!)
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GOOD NEWS! We are now offering shorter stays beginning October 5 🍂 Come enjoy 3-night stays, either Monday-Thursday or Thursday-Sunday in our Sleepy Pine Cottages or Garden Suites beginning October 5.* (All other cottages continue to require a 6-night stay.) Interested in the Farmhouse? Enter FALLFARMHOUSE for 20% off from now until November 22 🎃 *All accommodations are Monday-Sunday for Thanksgiving week
Crabtree’s Kittle House Restaurant & Inn in Chappaqua, NY: Crabtree is another beyond-cute inn made for a romantic getaway with your main. Nestled in a hamlet in Westchester County, it has charm for days and maybe a few ghosts, since it was built in 1790 and served as a former roadhouse during the Prohibition era. Famous for hosting late-night ragers before becoming a private girls’ school and then a restaurant and inn, it has quite the collection of stories within its walls (along with an award-winning wine cellar in the basement). The restaurant’s ever-changing, locally-sourced menu also makes this landmark a one-stop shop for old-world accommodations and fine dining.
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Treat Dad to a special Father’s Day this Sunday! Choose from our brunch and dinner options on premise and takeout ➡️ www.crabtreeskittlehouse.com/dining #fathersday #dad #garden #outside #socialdistancing #brunch #dinner #takeout #togo #curbside #family #together #special #hudsonvalley #westchester
Image: Mohonk Rd, New Paltz. Jueun Song / Unsplash