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Sonoma or Napa? 1st timer!

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posts: 16
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Sonoma or Napa? 1st timer!

Hi, My husband and I are thinking about coming to California during Thanksgiving. I'm trying to decide which would be better to stay at? Sonoma or Napa. We are in our 30's, like to have fun-not too too crazy though. We love wine tastings & like everything from laid back to fancy atmospheres (depending on our moods). It would be our first time coming & do not know the area. I've heard there are bus tours to the wineries, which we would like instead of renting a car. (safe, because we plan on drinking). I would appreciate any guidance or suggestions. Thank you !

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 26,353
reviews: 131
1. Re: Sonoma or Napa? 1st timer!

Well if you are coming in for the holiday weekend, you may need to book soon. People go to the different valleys(I presume that is what you mean) instead of the town of Napa or the town of Sonoma -- based on the types of wines they want to drink or wineries they want to visit.

Sonoma county has an amazing coast line and people go there, spend time in the wineries, visit the Redwood forests at Armstrong state park, go to wineries along the Russian River and then go to the beautiful Sonoma Coast as well.

NapaValley has its towns like Napa, (the larger of the towns) Yountville, with great restuarants St Helena and Calistoga among others and there are great places to stay, amazing wineries to visit and you can get Spa treatments, mud baths etc in Calistoga.

here is a post from earlier today about Healdsburg v/s Napa


You may want to look at things to do in Napa sonoma and read the forums and that will give you a good idea. Based on what you have told us you could go to either valleys.

Wrt to tours. there a bus tours, chauffeured tours, bike tours, take your pick. You do need to get to that area so perhaps a car would be good but then you can take one of these tours. Here is the link for Napa tours.


Some of the best B&Bs and hotels are in the Napa Valley -- too many to name them all as well as some amazing world class restaurants.

Edited: 5:26 pm, September 23, 2011
Napa, CA
Destination Expert
for Napa
posts: 5,453
reviews: 22
2. Re: Sonoma or Napa? 1st timer!

Either Napa or Sonoma would probably work for you. Each has it's own uniqueness, fine wineries, and excellent restaurants. California though has a car culture and it will be tough getting around (and even to Napa or Sonoma) without renting a car. It can be done but it's a slow and inconvenient process to get around by public transportation.

Both Napa and Sonoma are fairly conservative areas. So, if you are looking for wild, crazy things to do, you might be better off staying in San Francisco or going down to LA.

As far as drinking is concerned, if that is your main motive, it's a lot cheaper and safer to just stay at home and buy some nice bottles of wine and consume them there. The cost of tasting wine by the ounce in tasting rooms can be quite expensive and if you hire a driver for the day, the cost goes way, way up. Most people can taste small quantities of wine at several wineries in a day and not get wasted.

Petaluma, California
posts: 58
reviews: 12
3. Re: Sonoma or Napa? 1st timer!

It partially depends on your mood: if you are leaning towards laid back, I'd go with Sonoma; towards fancy: Napa. Both are gorgeous and have great food and wineries. If your focus is not just wineries, I'd lean towards Sonoma; you can see the coast, the redwoods, etc. as well as visiting world class wineries.

If you're wine tasting and don't have a designated driver, I think a tour or hop-on-hop off bus or limo is a good idea. People often underestimate just how much drinking they're doing when it's just a taste here and a taste there. Pack a picnic and get some food in you, too. There will be amazing picnic areas at may of the wineries.

united states
posts: 1,260
reviews: 26
4. Re: Sonoma or Napa? 1st timer!

Ginnie, since its your first trip, why not go with what you know....check your wine rack and see where most of your wines come from and visit there. That way you can include a familiar place or two along with new ones and be assured that you will find wines you like.

5. Re: Sonoma or Napa? 1st timer!

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