Date Night: the Napa Wine Train

We’ve been visiting Napa and Sonoma for years, but it wasn’t until last week that we finally spent an evening enjoying the Napa Valley Wine Train. We’ve seen it glide past (while we’ve sat at a red light, roshambo-ing for the role of designated driver) and have always been curious. So when they offered us a chance to come aboard for a date, I didn’t hesitate.

In case you aren’t familiar with it, the Napa Valley Wine Train is an antique train (think refurbished 1915-1917 Pullman Cars) that runs on 25-miles of track through the valley while you sip wine and eat a multi-course meal (prepared onboard). This summer, it celebrates its 25th anniversary!

Here are some scenes from the evening—which was gorgeous!


When you first arrive at the station (which is right beside the awesome Oxbow Public Market), you’re invited aboard by car and offered a chance to have your photo taken. (We of course opted for our own cheesy pics.) Alternatively, many guests joined the train directly from the Marriott, where we made an initial stop.




Once you sit down, there’s a welcome glass of wine before dinner begins with antipasti.

And as the idea is to evoke the spirit of luxury rail travel, it was fun to follow the first course with a palette-cleansing dish of sorbet, before our main fish (and more wine).


Everything was delicious but perhaps the highlight were the views—these long summer evenings meant that we spent the entire golden-hour admiring the valley. There’s no shortage of amazing places to eat in Napa, but so often you end up inside and facing a bar at the most lovely hour of the day.


After dinner, we walked around the cars and toured the train. We stepped out onto the platform of the caboose as the train switched tracks for its return, and then moved to a lounge car for dessert—and dessert wine. You could get four tastes of anything for $10, so we opted for sweet wines to finish. We joked a bit about it being a “three hour tour”—you can’t say it without the song getting in your head!—but the time passed pretty quickly.

Of course, I do think it would be fun to return sometime and take Hudson and Skyler on one of the lunch rides. Hudson had had a harder time than usual saying goodbye that night and had asked where we were going. I told him “out to dinner,” but in my head I was thinking “and oh my goodness. On. A. Train!” It would have killed him if I’d told the whole truth.

We were surprised, actually, to see a fair number of small children on the train (most were very young and fell asleep during the trip), but I would think the daytime trip might be more suitable. I also imagined the crowd would be much older than us (I’m not sure why), but I was surprised on that account, too! It’s not inexpensive, but prices are reasonable for a multi-course dinner and 3-hour-train ride—particularly in Napa.

The whole thing made for a lovely, leisurely evening—ideal for a date filled with that most elusive (these days)… sustained conversation.

P.S. More fun things to do in Napa and Sonoma Valley:  A Napa Weekend travelogue (with a stop in Healdsburg); Visiting Oakville Grocery; Celebrating at Scribe Winery; Shopping at Shed in Healdsburg; and passing a romantic weekend in Calistoga.

I was not compensated for this post, however our tickets were generously given to us by the Napa Valley Wine Train. I’ve always wanted to try this—thank you! 

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