All aboard! For the ultimate train adventure, step aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train into an elegantly restored early 20th-century Pullman car for a taste of what premium class train travel was like in the early 1900s.  During the weekends in April and May, Afternoon Tea service is offered for families (kids 10 and up)—read on for all the details on why the Napa Wine train is a truly unique, special occasion experience that your family will not soon forget!


In 1864, the railroad was built in order to take visitors arriving from San Francisco up to a resort in Calistoga. The Napa Wine train’s inaugural journey began in 1989 and has been a staple in Napa ever since with the railroad and train playing an integral part to Napa’s growth and development. 


The 36 mile round trip journey to St. Helena starts at the Napa train station and showcases exquisite wine country scenery (and the famous Napa sign!) as it rambles idyllically along Hwy 29 past 100+ vineyards. Of all the ways to enjoy Napa scenery with your family, the Napa Wine train really lets you sit back and relax… all without a designated driver.

The Experience

Check-in starts at the train station where a wine store, lounge and restrooms await. Boarding is by groups and done so via the Locks of Love Bridge, where a token of your love can be left with the collection. A professional photo is taken before boarding of which the digital copy is complimentary with physical copies available for purchase following the tour. 

Stepping into the train car truly feels like time travel with rich mahogany panels coupled with tasteful brass accents engulfing the car. A champagne (or cider) toast sets the right tone and as the train pulls away, attentive staff offer four types of tea: Yunan black, earl grey, chamomile and rooibos. 

First, a carrot ginger soup (quite possibly our favorite part of the meal—next to dessert, of course) was served followed by a beet salad. Finger sandwiches followed with the lobster vul-au-vent (fancy speak for a pastry shell filled with lobster) and radish and creme fraiche being favorites. 

Cheese and grapes, macarons, bon-bons (how could there not be bon-bons on a train?) and other sweet treats finished the tea service by which time we were bursting at the seams. We also loved that periodically during the trip, narratives and insight is given by the staff regarding the history of certain wineries and interesting facts and tidbits we otherwise wouldn’t have known. This made it seem like a fun history lesson set in an actual piece of living history! 

Good to know: 

  • While the afternoon tea service is for the 10 and up crowd, other tours and experiences are available with no minimum age. Seeing as two or three hours is a long time for anyone to sit still, parents of the younger set might want to bring some form of entertainment  
  • Diaper changing is not permitted on board and children aren’t allowed to wander the cars 
  • The Afternoon Tea service menu is not modifiable but we were told other tours can change their menus with advanced notice 
  • The two types of seating are booths and plush armchairs and we recommend a booth because eating in an armchair seems like a recipe for spilling with kids  
  • Tickets range from $245-$295/person which makes it great for a special occasion celebration

Sponsored by the Napa Valley Wine Train but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer


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