Experience Napa Valley Like a Tourist On a Local’s Budget!By Lisa Adams Walter
While millions of tourists carefully plan their annual (or once-in-a-lifetime) visit to the Napa Valley, residents, on most any given day, can revel in much of what has made our county a world-class destination.
Tourists arrive with a vacation mindset, and likely a, “Hey, we’re on vacation!” budget to match. I love this place that we call home. It’s my desire to live the wine country lifestyle to the absolute max—but, let’s face it; most people can’t spend like they’re on vacation every single day. Therefore, I’ve been on the hunt for tips and deals for “Napa Valley Locals,” so that we too can enjoy the best of the valley.
Generally, off-peak seasonal (think about the times when the roads are not crowded) and Sunday through Thursday time slots are great times to experience our region. The winery tasting rooms are uncrowded, and many tourist-focused businesses make special offers and deals.
One of my favorite ways to really feel like I’m getting away is to schedule a spa treatment at a resort destination. A simple massage that, naturally, comes with therapeutic and healing benefits, can take me away! To maximize the experience, use of the resort facilities throughout the day are often available with the purchase of a spa treatment. Indian Springs Resort in Calistoga is one site that offers restorative treatments and the option of spending a few hours or the entire day. As a paying spa guest you could relax by the Buddha Pond, or use their Olympic-sized mineral pool (which is naturally heated from 90 to 102 degrees throughout the year) for free.
I’ve also found a handful of restaurants that completely cater to repeat customers (that’s you, the local). One example is Hurley’s Restaurant in Yountville. Chef Bob Hurley, notoriously known for community support, has created a quintessential, wine-country style restaurant, focused upon fresh, seasonal ingredients. Locals will love the “no corkage” policy for al a carte diners at Hurley’s. Yes, you can bring a bottle of wine in to this restaurant to enjoy with your meal—for free! Remember appropriate “corkage” etiquette: bring a bottle that isn’t sold on their wine list (it would be okay to call in advance and check) and always add the value of the bottle as if it was sold on the restaurant wine list into your final equation, so that your gratuity to the server includes a percentage that would cover the price of that wine as if you had ordered it from the list.
Hurley’s Restaurant also features a Vintners’ Lunch Special (two courses for $20, or three courses for $25). The menu changes daily. This is a screaming deal, and a glass of Hurley’s house Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon can be added to the meal for just $6.
Art and culture also attract tourists and elevate our lifestyle. Napa Valley Museum in Yountville (on the beautiful campus of the California State Veterans Home) offers several affordable membership levels. Members can attend a multitude of events at the museum for free. Additionally, this historical and artistic resource, on the second Saturday of every month, offers free admission to Napa County Residents. “Local visitors have the chance to learn about the history of the area in which they live and experience some of the great art,” said Kristie Sheppard, Napa Valley Museum Executive Director.
Downtown Napa satiates the senses. Food, wine, shopping and entertainment are plentiful. If you’ve been shy about spending time downtown, there are some appealing reasons to make the trip. The Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ hosts a popular, weekday Happy Hour from 3 to 6 p.m., featuring 2-for-1 Bounty Hunter brand glasses of wine, 2-for-1 draft beers, deals on house wine purchases and pre-dinner nibbles that begin at just $5 per plate. If you are hungry at lunchtime (Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.), the Pony Express Lunch includes a sandwich, side and non-alcoholic beverage that will be ready in ten minutes for just $10. They also have more than 40 wines available by the glass, more than 400 by the bottle, several artisan beers and a selection of some of the world’s finest spirits.
The Grand Hand Gallery, an award-winning gallery of American craft and fine art, is a relative newcomer that opened in downtown Napa in June of last year. Every Wednesday, locals (Napa County residents) are eligible for 10% off all purchases. Gallery Manager, Kristina Young, added, “We are also going to start a special incentive program… when a customer spends $350, they receive a discount on their next purchase. It’s specifically designed for repeat customers, which also translates to ‘local.’ We know that as a small business we have to have strong local support to survive the slow season.”
Uptown Theatre brings a world-class line-up of acts into the valley every month. Locals can invest in memberships that include benefits such as advance ticket sales (get the best seats in the house!), premier, reserved seating, logo goods, drink coupons, show posters and meet-n-greet opportunities. If you plan to attend several shows, a membership would be worth the price.
Get out and enjoy the Napa Valley like a tourist. If you have tips and ideas to share that I might be able to include in a future issue, please send them my way firstname.lastname@example.org.