Hop aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train for an experience of a lifetime. This rolling restaurant features gourmet multi-course meal, an extensive wine menu, and extraordinary views all around. They serve up both lunch and dinner most days of the week as well as a few specials options on key holidays.
While all rides include a meal, there are also a few tours that include stops at local wineries. The half-day experiences stop at one winery while the full day experiences stop at one to three wineries, depending on the option you choose.
Tours last between three to six hours. Some, but not all, of them include one complimentary glass of wine. You can also buy a glass or two of wine off their menu of more than 40 local options.
Read on to learn more about this train, the tours offered, what you should wear, and answers to other frequently asked questions.
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The Napa Valley Wine Train purchased their first railcar in 1987. All of the cars on this historic train are from 1915. Built by the Pullman Standard Company, they were originally in use by Northern Pacific Railway.
After two years of work, four railcars took their inaugural journey on September 16, 1989.
Today, the Napa Valley Wine train consists of 16 railcars and 4 engines. Although some people confuse it as being just a wine tasting touring train, it is mainly a restaurant on train tracks that rolls through the valley.
Their Executive Chef, Donald Young, and his team prepare all of the meals on board. There are four kitchen railcars.
They serve up dishes with fresh ingredients and offer some of the tastiest meals in the valley. For each meal selection, you will have a choice of dishes from a selection of three to four dishes per course.
Since it is a high-end restaurant, they will work with you if you need modifications for your diet. You just need to let them know ahead of time, so they have what they need on board for your meal. When you enter, just let any of the attendants know which person in your party ordered a dietary specific meal.
The cool thing about this experience is that you also have the chance to watch the chef and his staff in action. The main kitchen railcar has a large window and viewing area, so you can see them create the perfect meal.
Your journey starts with check-in at the Napa Valley Wine Train depot in downtown Napa at 1275 McKinstry St, Napa, CA 94559. Check-in starts 45 to 60 minutes before your journey. Once you are finished with that, you can roam around the historic depot until you hear the boarding call.
They begin boarding about 30 minutes before the train leaves the station. As long as you are still in the depot, you will not miss the boarding call.
Some packages include private tables and others include up to 4 people at one table. All of the tables are against the windows, so each seat has an amazing view of Napa Valley.
The experiences vary slightly, but after you are seated, you are welcome to order a glass of wine. Non-alcoholic drinks such as soda and water are included with your ticket price, so you are welcome to order one of those beverages also.
Your journey begins after everyone is onboard. During the first 10 minutes, you will roll through the city of Napa. After that, you will be surrounded by vineyards and wineries for the remainder of your journey.
All experiences are round trip, so your journey begins and ends at the Napa Valley Wine Train Station in downtown Napa.
There are eight daily Napa Valley Wine Train Experiences. In addition, the Dining Experiences offer both lunch and dinner, so in total, you have 10 options. There are also a handful of special events that run a few times each year.
The Dining Experiences are the only ones on my list that run both day and night. The experiences are similar, and you stay on the train the entire time during both the day and night options. The daytime experience last three hours and the evening ones run for around 2 hours.
All daytime Dining Experiences leave the station at 11:30am. The evening train leaves at 6:20pm.
1. Vista Dome: The Champagne Vista Dome is a two-story dining car with the best views around the Napa Valley. The experience includes a welcome glass of sparkling wine along with your multi-course meal. It runs around $235 to $265 per person depending on the time of year. All tickets include private tables.
2. Gourmet Express: The Gourmet Express is a less expensive option. This experience includes lunch or dinner in one of their one-story dining cars. They also serve lunch in two seatings. While you wait for your meal or after your meal, you can enjoy the views from one of their lounge cars. It does not include a complimentary glass of sparkling wine but does include a multi-course meal. This dining option runs from about $160 to $180 per person. For these seatings, you may share a table with another party.
The half day tours include a stop at one winery. You will enjoy a multi-course meal on board, do a tour at a winery, and then return to the train station at the end. These journeys last between three and four hours.
3. Grgich Hills Winery Tour: This includes a two-hour train ride, lunch, and a private tour of Grgich Hills Winery. The owner, Mike Grgich, is one of the best winemakers in the valley and is behind the winning Chardonnay from the 1976 Judgement of Paris. Your tour starts with lunch on the train. After lunch, you will head over to Grgich for your one-hour tour. You will then finish with a nice dessert on board the train as you head back to the station. This tour leaves at 11:30am and runs around $215 to $255 per person.
4. Raymond Winery Tour: Your other half-day tour option is the Raymond Winery Tour. This tour leaves via shuttle from the Napa Valley Wine Train Station at 10:30am. You will then drive over to Raymond Winery for a 1.5-hour tour and tasting. Once complete, the shuttle will take you to the St. Helena train station to board for the second half of your journey. The final 1.5-hours of your trip includes a multi-course meal on the train as well as beautiful views around the valley. It costs between $215 and $245 per person depending on the date you book.
The final four regular tours are all full day tours. They last from about 5 to 6 hours each and include stops at one and three wineries. All include a gourmet multi-course lunch on the train. All leave the station at different times, so make sure to plan ahead.
5. Ambassador Winery Tour: This tour departs the Napa Valley Wine Train station at 11:30am. Your meal service begins before the train leaves the station, so you have plenty of time to eat. You will then ride the train to the St. Helena station. You will arrive at 1:10pm and pick up the motor shuttle to Beringer. You will then enjoy a one hour tasting at Beringer. The second tour of the day is at Whitehall Winery. You will arrive here by shuttle at 2:30pm and your tour ends around 3:30pm. Your shuttle will then take you back to the Napa Valley Wine Train station in downtown Napa where you will arrive just after 4pm. It's $280 to $310 per person.
6. Castle Winery Tour: This tour includes a stop at one winery. Your journey begins with a 1.5-hour ride during lunch to the station in St. Helena. Here you will board a motor coach which takes you to Castello di Amorosa for a two-hour tour and tasting. You will leave the winery around 3:30pm and arrive back in Napa around 4pm. This tour is $280 to $310 per person.
7. The Legacy Tour: This tour includes three one-hour tours at Napa Valley wineries. The tour begins with check-in at 9:45am with the train leaving at 10:15am. You will enjoy a glass of sparkling wine and your first course as you make your way to Robert Mondavi Winery. You will then re-board at 12pm and enjoy your second course as the train makes the 30-minute trip to Charles Krug. This tour runs until 1:45pm. You'll hop on board again to enjoy your third course as you ride the train to V. Sattui Winery. You will spend just over an hour here and return to the train at around 3:20pm. Your final course is dessert, which you will enjoy as you ride the train back to the Napa Valley Wine Train station. You will arrive here around 4:15pm. This tour is $340 to $400 depending on your booking date.
8. The Estate Tour: The final tour is the Estate Tour. This includes a stop at three wineries. Your tour begins with check in at 10:15am and you depart at 10:45am. Your day starts with a light breakfast trio and a glass of sparkling wine. You will arrive at Domaine Chandon at 11:15am for a one-hour tour. You will then jump back on the train for your second course and arrive at Raymond Vineyard at 1pm. After your one-hour tour, you will again hop back on the train for your main course. Your final winery tour is at Inglenook. You will then be back on the train again around 3:50pm. You'll have dessert as the train makes its way back to the station, arriving around 4:45pm. This one is around $345 to $385 per person.
Murder Mystery: If you love murder mysteries, then hop aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train for one of their Murder Mystery dinners. These two-hour rides include both excitement and elegance as you roll through the vineyards. They last 2 hours each and leave Napa around 5:30pm. There are a few different story lines, and each offers recommended attire, so you fit into the theme. In total, they run more than 20 of these each year. They are $300 to $600 per person depending on the date and theme.
Romance on the Rails: This event seats just 16 parties and is aboard the Vista Dome. It's an elegant two-hour journey. Included with your ticket is a taste of sparkling wine and two glasses of private labeled wine as well as a multi-course meal. It runs 8 to 10 times a year and costs $285 to $305 per person.
Thanksgiving Dinner Package: They run two trains on Thanksgiving Day with one for lunch and one for dinner. You can choose from the Vista Dome and Gourmet Express options (same offerings as above). Both options are 3.5 hours. They start at around $175 to $180 per person.
The Napa Valley Wine Train is an upscale restaurant experience. While they don't have a strict dress code, I do recommend that you dress up a little.
You can wear business casual attire or class it up even more in the evening. If you plan to do one of the trains with the tastings at local wineries, make sure to wear casual or comfortable shoes. You will be standing on and off for up to an hour at a time.
Here are a few more tips on what to expect from the weather throughout the year, so you can pack accordingly.
If you are planning on visiting Napa with family, you will find that kids are welcome on the Napa Valley Wine Train. There are certain tours that include kid pricing and options.
A couple of things to note if you plan on riding the train with your kids. They do not allow the kids to run around the train and/or be unattended. If you have a little one that has a hard time sitting still, you may want to reconsider this as an option.
I think kids will enjoy it though as there are great views out the windows and who doesn't love riding around on a train!