Exploring the California Wine Country can be an adventure by itself. However, experiencing it via bike, hot air balloon, train or horseback adds elements of intrigue that can make for a more memorable vacation altogether. There are plenty of tour operators that have devoted their entire business to providing adventurous excursions set within Sonoma and Napa Valley. Read on to find a few alternatives to traditional wine country touring...
1. By Car
By far the most common method of visiting the Napa Valley and Sonoma County is by renting a car (compare prices), grabbing a few wine country brochures or guidebooks and hitting the road for yourself. If however, you are inclined to shake it up a bit – consider the California Wine Country Jeep Tours. These jeep tours promise to give you an off-road experience that puts you in the vineyard, not just the tasting room. These tours bring an innovative approach to learning more about the vine and the wine.
2. By Train
The Napa Wine Train offers a unique Wine Country travel experience. Aboard the Wine Train you can enlist in a three hour, 36-mile ride from Napa to St. Helena and back in a magnificently restored railcar. Choose from a variety of excursion options, from the luncheon package to the dinner adventure, along with specific winery tour packages available to several well-known wineries.
In addition, the Wine Train also hosts holiday and themed Wine Train specials throughout the year. Everything from Murder Mystery dinners to family friendly functions, where kiddos eat free, are available on the Wine Train Calendar! Just check out the special events section to find up to date information on the next available Wine Train programs.
3. By Bus
The Wine Country Shuttle Tours offer the benefit of having both a designated driver and a Wine Country itinerary all taken care of for you. They stop at four Napa Valley Wineries (Domaine Chandon, V. Sattui, Andretti Winery and Rutherford Ranch Winery), include a picnic lunch and finish with a ferry ride back to San Fran.
4. By Limo
Beau Wine Tours offers a variety of luxury tour options from the classic limo service to the extended Humvee limo. Beau Wine Tours can set you up with one of their Sonoma or Napa Valley tour itineraries or you may customize your itinerary to suit personal preferences. This is a great place to start if you are looking to explore the California Wine Country scene without having to worry about tasting and then driving, sorting out winery directions or getting stuck in tourist traps. Consider this option if you just want to focus in on the region's featured wines.
5. By Bike
Napa Valley Bike Tours gets you up close and personal with the best of the Napa Valley! From simple one-day tours to true cycling vacation packages, the Napa Valley Bike Tours can take you through both Napa and Sonoma with plenty of add-on options to boot. Check out a sample itinerary and get to peddling through some of the Wine Country’s most scenic backroads and byways.
Bicycle Adventures also offers wine country 4-day and 6-day itineraries in addition to budget bike tour options. Or take a peek at Discover France Adventures' offering 5 and 7-night biking itineraries that cycle through Napa Valley (including several farm to table stops) and circle through redwood forests and back down the coastline with quick hike, horseback, and canoe excursion options. Into DIY bike trips? Then check out Napa's Vine Trail, a 47-mile trail that's underway to connect Vallejo's Ferry all the way to Napa's historic town of Calistoga at the north end of the valley.
6. By Balloon
Napa Valley Balloons will get you up, up and away to sneak a sunrise glimpse of one of California’s prized jewels, the Napa Valley. The balloons glide over the valley at an altitude of 2,000 feet. The ride lasts about one hour and includes a continental breakfast.
Up and Away is the hot air balloon company to contact for rides over Sonoma county. Up and Away is known for carrying smaller passenger parties as well as for providing a gourmet breakfast at the trip’s end, often at a local winery.
7. By Boat
Getaway Adventures offers day trips for Wine Country kayak tours through Sonoma county. They also feature multi-sport itineraries that include biking, hiking, and kayaking wine tours.
8. By Foot
Zephyr Adventures and California Wine Hikes both offer Wine Country hiking itineraries. Zephyr Adventures has an engaging 5-day itinerary that provides an opportunity to get up close and personal with the winemakers themselves in an easy-going, yet educational atmosphere.
9. By Motorcycle
California Motorcycle Rentals provide yet another adventurous avenue to explore the California Wine Country. What could be more fun than renting a Harley to navigate the backroads of some of California’s most compelling sights and venues?
10. By Horseback
Gorp Travel has several amazing itineraries lined up for their California Wine Country Trail Ride. If you are looking for something a little less extensive, you might consider a Napa or Sonoma horse carriage tour complete with a gourmet picnic.
However you decide to navigate through California's most beloved wine country, you won't be disappointed. Fantastic wine finds, charming scenery, and a very hospitable atmosphere will be waiting to greet you whether you travel by bike or by boat. Need a few specific Napa winery tours to get the Napa party started? Check out 8 Great Napa Winery Tours here. Want a Beginner's Guide to the Best of Napa Valley Wineries? We've got you covered here.