The Napa Valley Wine Train offers one of the most memorable and entertaining dining experiences in all of wine country. Now it’s rolling out an exciting new experience for wine aficionados and mystery fans alike, the Murder Mystery Dining Tour.
From its downtown Napa station, board the antique Pullman rail cars for a journey back in time. The vintage train, with its velvet banquette seating, brass embellishments, and restored mahogany wood paneling, sets the ultimate stage for a prohibition-era speakeasy turn murder investigation scene. Passengers are encouraged to don their best 1920s attire starring fedoras, sequins, tassels, and feathers to tap into their inner flapper or mobster.
As the sun sets, the train embarks on a three-hour voyage, rolling through some of Napa Valley’s most picturesque stretches. As views of vineyards, quaint Napa Valley towns, and the flourishing Rail Arts District unravel outside the train windows, a three-course gourmet dinner is served atop tables set with china and white linen. While the thrill of the train ride is a huge part of the experience, the dinner itself is not to be outdone.
The ever-changing seasonal menu highlights fresh and local ingredients, made to order in the train’s four onboard kitchens. Guests have the pleasure to order from six entrée selections including sliced tenderloin of beef, lemon-thyme roasted chicken, catch of the day, or pepper cured pork tenderloin. In true Napa Valley fashion, an extensive onboard wine list is also available, featuring over 40 different local wines as well as a sizable cocktail menu. Dinnertime passengers are also welcomed to bring a bottle of their own and corkage fees are $20 per 750ml bottle. The Napa Valley Wine Train has a wine store and gift shop at the station which is another great place to search the shelves for quality wine before the trip.
As the train makes a stop in St. Helena and begins its descent to downtown Napa, guests are invited to the dessert lounge where the murder mystery dinner theater begins. Coffee along with the pastry chef’s daily creation are served as the characters from Mafia Don Lou Zar’s Juice Joint are introduced. Guests are welcomed into a world of mystery and mayhem by pinstripe suit and feather boa costumed characters who seat the audience members, explain the rules of the game, and assign suspect roles. The roles played by audience participants are usually those of suspects who are given a backstory and light costuming, such as hats or glasses, to bring the plot to life.
Teams are formed among fellow passengers, most frequently with one’s table mates, who must work together to gather information, trade clues, and uncover secrets. The immersive nature of the show encourages guests to get out of their seats and mingle with fellow diners while interrogating and bribing suspects. The goal is to solve the crime before the culprit runs free. Those who are correct in deducing the identity and the motive of the murderer receive an award and major applause from the audience.
This fully-engaging murder mystery experience is guided by an amazing cast of professional actors from the Murder Mystery Company. Their comedic caper ensures an entertaining evening full of laughter, drama, and intrigue. It all adds up to be a dining experience far from a traditional night out. There are so many reasons why murder mystery dinners are on trend as a popular date night idea. The fact that this murder mystery dinner takes place while riding the wine country rails, simply elevates the overall experience even more.
The glory days of luxury rail travel may be long gone, but the Napa Valley Wine Train is keeping a glimmer of them alive through their daily dining experiences and annual special events. The Napa Valley Wine Train offers full and half-day tours with stops at many Napa Valley icons such as Grgich Hills Estate, Raymond Winery, and Castello di Amorosa. The train also offers additional themed tours, including a Hop Train which explores the local craft beer scene and the Santa Train, a family-friendly adventure that runs during the holiday season.
The Murder Mystery Train operates on select dinner trains throughout the year. Ticket holders are requested to arrive at 5:30 p.m. as the entertainment begins in the Station before the passengers board the train at 6:00 p.m. The train departs the Napa Valley Wine Train Station at 6:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $216 per person. For more information and upcoming dates, please visit www.winetrain.com.
NOTE: This article originally appeared in Napa Valley Life Magazine.
I market, photograph, write about, and (mostly) drink wine.