Visiting Napa Valley on a Budget

GDP shares great tips on where to eat and stay at a moderate cost


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Visiting Napa Valley on a Budget
It's easy to write about the Napa Valley as a tourist destination, but just how useful is that information once you become an actual visitor? A list of high end hotels and restaurants is both fun to write and to read, but in my life it's not terribly useful. You see, I am a bit of a budget traveler, by necessity as well as choice. I travel frequently enough so that splurging on every meal would bust both my wallet and my gut.
 
So today, instead of listing the best of the best, I'm simply going to share my impressions from a recent visit with you. After a long day of tasting and writing—what you'll find me doing on most wine country visits—I prefer a relatively light, simple dinner and a comfortable place to sleep. That's it. It may not work for you, but it did for me and this is how I did it. 
 
And just to be clear no one gave me any discounts or covered any cost for any of these recommendations; they were all out of pocket expenses.
 
Napa Valley Sign Image Via Shutterstock

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  • Snooth User: napagirl68
    Hand of Snooth
    87843 2,661

    Good recommendations, especially the recommendation to stay in Calistoga. In addition to reasonable accommodations, there are a few Calistoga tasting rooms that do not charge a tasting fee, and many that charge a minimal tasting fee. This information can be found through the hotel/inn you are staying at, or the local Chamber. Also, ask your hotel or inn for complimentary wine tasting passes for wineries that normally would charge a fee. Folks on a budget can practically taste all weekend with little to no charge using these methods. And Napa Valley tasting fees can be quite high- $20/person is not uncommon, and perhaps on the low end of the price range.

    Calistoga is also quieter and less crowded during tourist season than the other parts of Napa Valley.

    Personally, I would recommend a trip to Sonoma instead, with many fine wineries, low to no tasting fees, and less crowds. Many Sonoma wineries also have free tastings with Visa Signature card.

    Feb 25, 2013 at 2:34 PM


  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 2,876

    Alas, we were just up in the Dry Creek Valley this weekend, and the prevalence of tasting fees is rising rapidly. Holdredge was $10, reimbursed with purchase, Ridge was $5 for a lesser flight, $10 for pricier wines, and $10 for a pour of Monte Bello. (Depending on the size of that pour, that could be a cheap way to try Monte Bello.) We bailed at Ridge, I can take a chance on their wines because it's not much of a chance anyway.

    I've stayed at the Comfort Inn, although it's been a long time. It was right before the Napa Valley Marathon--if you're a runner, that's a great weekend to go up there, and the Inn is up on the end of town by the starting line, so you can walk to warm up. Glad to hear it's still nice.

    Feb 25, 2013 at 4:52 PM


  • Snooth User: winenana
    685466 29

    Join ATC. http://www.affordabletravelclub.net for low cost accommodations, including breakfast, with friendly folk. Napa and Sonoma areas and others have numerous members. Many are very familiar with the wineries in the area. They have a printed folder of members or an online program...all over the world. We have belonged for years and have stayed all over the country. Comfort Inn has gone way up in price the past few years.

    Feb 25, 2013 at 5:32 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 204,222

    Napagirl is telling folks to go to Sonoma!

    I'll be in Sonoma next week so more goodness to come on that front.

    If anyone has suggestions on little known options for great food I'mm all ears!

    Feb 25, 2013 at 5:51 PM


  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,563

    This is a great article, Greg. When I go to Napa Valley, I heave a big sigh and figure I am going to pay through the nose. Now, I know I am going to spend serious dollars at some of the restauarants, and those are dollars very well spent . But the alternatives that you have listed sound really great.

    One idea I may have for you in Sonoma County is Mary's Pizza. The one I've visited is in Rohnert Park, but I think they have other locations. Warning, it does seem to be family-oriented. So, if this is the night to take out the soccer team, then it won't be peaceful. We've picked up pizza and taken it to our hotel, and for us, who do not have kids, that works out well.

    Feb 25, 2013 at 8:29 PM


  • Snooth User: jeffhoo
    1134367 40

    Don't know if this is "little known" or not, but the wife and I had an AMAZING trip to Napa last May. Decided to head over to Sonoma one afternoon to check out spots for "our next trip." Had lunch at The Girl and The Fig and it ended up being my favorite meal of the week. I can still taste the pork belly and poached egg sandwich. Two words - yum and me!!

    Feb 25, 2013 at 9:12 PM


  • Snooth User: JNAI
    521428 10

    You can't do napa without a visit to Taylor's refresher. It's a napa legend and super yummy. Also, longmeadow ranch's resto is good and reasonable. Mustards grill as well. None of these places are too spendy, and they're great for first time visitors to experience the essence of the valley, albeit tourist style. To stay? The el Bonita motel is a popular choice if you don't want to break the bank. I've never stayed there, but I hear it's a good value choice. And it's right in st. Helena!

    Feb 27, 2013 at 12:53 AM


  • Snooth User: Al Faison
    196612 155

    Greg, I hope you get a chance to read this before you go to Sonoma. I really strongly recommend that you stop by my favorite winery there, Ravenswood, and enjoy some of Morgan Peterson's dad's great Zinfandels. The range from Joel Peterson's bargain priced Vintner's Blend Zin to his Single Vinyard Designates has something to tantalize any palate. Hope you'll review some of his wines soon. Al Faison

    Feb 27, 2013 at 5:44 PM


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