Destination: Downtown Napa
Does anyone really need to be coerced into visiting Napa Valley? We think not. But deciding what to do, places to eat, tasting rooms to visit and where to stay can be dizzying for newbies and repeat vacationers alike. We’ve compiled this list of seven reasons why choosing downtown Napa as your home base will make your valley visit all the more memorable in all the best ways.
Walkable wine-tasting rooms
Let’s face it: You’re in Napa to relax, grow your wine knowledge and sample the good stuff. One of downtown Napa’s best features is the walkable distance between nearly three dozen tasting rooms. No rental car, no designated driver, no getting lost — just a wide variety of vintners showcasing wines within strolling distance of one other.
Stop in at Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin’ BBQ, offering more than 40 wines and 40 whiskeys by the glass, as well as 400+ highly allocated wines on the shelves.
JaM Cellars brings a vinyl-record vibe to the tasting experience, as well as buttery chardonnays and award-winning cabernets.
Vintner’s Collective highlights more than 25 of the most celebrated boutique producers; pair your flight of wines with an artisanal cheese and charcuterie board.
At RiverHouse by Bespoke Collection, guests can enjoy wine tastings in an atmosphere of art, antiquities and objects d’art.
The selection at the urban-chic Brown Downtown Napa includes several red varietals and a white wine dubbed Betelgeuse.
A new-to-First-Street-Napa wine bar and restaurant is Compline, offering a 90-minute deep-dive into the world of wine via a “virtual tour” that includes a lecture, discussion and — naturally — tasting of eight wines.
The John Anthony Lounge is a famed tasting room and lounge that’s open late (10 AM – 10 PM Sunday through Wednesday, 10 AM – midnight Thursday through Saturday); call ahead for a private or group tasting event.
Visit Uncorked at Oxbow (across the street from the famed Oxbow Market), a lively tasting room that serves up wine, food, music and education in the only bonded barrel tasting room downtown.
Or pick up a Downtown Napa Wine Tasting Card for $15, which allows you to visit a dozen tasting rooms at half the price — you can surely toast to that.
What is more anticipated than a fantastic meal? Downtown Napa restaurants are plentiful and renowned, for good reason.
Downtown Napa welcomes Charlie Palmer Steak to Archer Hotel. Blending celebrated chef Palmer’s bold American style with executive chef Jeffery Russell’s steakhouse talents, the restaurant offers artisanal cuts of beef, classic steakhouse dishes and locally sourced ingredients.
Ca’ Momi is an “obsessively authentic Italian eatery” known for its use of local and organic ingredients to craft antipasti, entrees, vegetables, house-made pastas and VPN-certified pizzas. Friday and Saturday nights feature live music, and the first and third Friday of every month presents a whirlwind dance party with salsa, cumbia and merengue influences.
The French country restaurant and bar Angèle, with a riverfront patio, serves refined bistro fare, wine and cocktails in the historic 1890s ship chandlery now known as the Hatt Building.
Morimito Napa is an environmental blend of traditional and contemporary styling, with exquisite Japanese cuisine and Napa’s only sake and Japanese whiskey bar.
The Restaurant at CIA Copia is more than just a restaurant and worth all the buzz. Guests interact with chefs in the gorgeous open kitchen and choose from seasonally inspired menus. If a gourmet restaurant experience isn’t quite enough, guests can take in daily cooking and beverage classes and wine tastings, peruse the art collections and take away their own favorite CIA finds from the lifestyle store.
The Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant’s Wine Bar offers up delicious fare selected by its expert cheesemongers, alongside flights of wines, draft beers and an assortment of charcuterie.
Basalt draws its culinary influences from around the state and presents plates beautifully. Choose from a prix-fixe menu or start with burrata followed by caramelized scallops with a side of cheddar grits — it’s all beyond good.
A midday snack can be found at Melted, a Napa-style homage to grilled cheese. Chances are, you’ve not tasted these delights. Served with tomato basil soup for dipping, these versions are served with savory white bread waffles and a selection of such interior melts as the “Delivering the Groceries at 138 BPM” (BBQ tuna, smoked gouda, bacon, micro greens, carrots and dill).
Need something sweet? Head over to Sweetie Pies Bakery for a tempting selection of scones, muffins, croissants, coffeecakes, breakfast pastries and quickbreads. It’s also open for breakfast and lunch.
Lively night life and entertainment
You prefer opera, classical or rock concerts? What about comedy shows? Just-released movies your thing? Downtown Napa delivers, and then some. A well-rounded calendar of entertainment and nightlife caters to a variety of entertainment preferences.
Blue Note Napa is the jazz club and gourmet restaurant you’ve heard about — and for good reason. In the historic Napa Valley Opera House, the Blue Note combines the feel of an intimate Greenwich Village jazz club with a wine-country vibe, along with gourmet-to-table cuisine, exciting art and, naturally, crazy-good local wines.
Congregate, discover and celebrate with wine and beer producers, as well as chefs, from California and beyond at Cadet — a wine and beer bar that’s truly hoppin’.
The 1937-built, restored art deco Uptown Theatre is Napa’s home for the finest acts in music and comedy.
Old-timey shimmying up to the bar more your style? You’re in luck at Napa Palisades, an Old West saloon with “farm to face” food and a slogan worth arm-wrestling for: “Be here, drink beer.” They sling great, local craft beers (including their own brews) and whiskeys, along with American comfort food with a twist, while guests eyeball eight big-screen TVs.
Cigar and tobacco aficionados and novices alike will want to stop in at Napa Cigars on First Street. Specializing in premium cigars, unique tobacco blends and high-end pipes, the store also has an inviting smoking lounge for customers to savor their purchases while watching the flat-screen TV or connecting with other cigar enthusiasts.
Silo’s at Napa River Inn is an intimate music room with live jazz, blues, rock, reggae, smooth jazz and Motown sounds. “The worst seat in the house is 30 feet from the stage.” That’s not shabby. Silo’s also features outdoor concerts on its River Bend Performance Plaza. A small but tempting menu compliments the full bar and inspired cocktail selections.
Napa Art Walk
This biannual rotating exhibition of juried sculpture created by artists from the Western United States brings an extra vibrancy to the streets of downtown Napa.
The 2017 – 2019 Napa Art Walk theme is “Shifting Perspective” and includes 10 sculptures from 10 artists from four states. These pieces demonstrated the power of perspective concerning how, when and where the art is viewed, as well as art that plays with scale or context and that asks the viewer to pause, reflect or take note. Every exhibit is for sale, and 10 percent of all sales during the exhibition support future Napa Art Walk exhibitions.
Want your own virtual tour guide through the Napa Art Walk? Download Otocast — a free app with an interactive map, descriptions, links to websites, videos, photo galleries and custom narratives.
Downtown Napa’s a shopping delight, with stores that run the proverbial gamut. Napa Valley Olive Oil MFG. ignites the budding chef who stops in for both local and global olive oils, plus balsamic vinegars from Italy.
The Roost offers a large selection of modern, antique and vintage items for the home and offers weekly chalk paint classes.
The Home Index (previously known as Poor House) sells furnishings for the home and gifts, as well as offering design and space-planning services, color consultations and construction management.
At Napa’s Riverfront, Cake Plate is a unique, on-trend boutique for both ladies and gents looking for classic yet modern styles.
Scott Lyall Clothes for Men, also on the Riverfront, offers upscale designer clothing for men.
Napa Valley Traditions on Main Street sells unique gifts, tabletop, local foods, wine, gift baskets, coffee and tea — you name it.
Napa Valley Jewelers is a Napa mainstay, with an array of jewelry designers at every price point and a deep commitment to the community.
Need some time for yourself? You’ll find your spa bliss, with a playful twist, downtown on the Archer Hotel rooftop; created by the acclaimed Francis & Alexander spa design team, this spa has solo- and couple’s-treatment rooms for soothing massages and revitalizing facials.
Easy access from San Francisco
The City by the Bay is not only a destination town in its own right, it’s also the gateway city to Napa Valley due to its proximity and its international airport, SFO. Visitors to downtown Napa can, very literally, arrive by plane, train (and ferry) or automobile.
For those flying into SFO or Oakland (OAK), Evans Airport Shuttle departs from the airport several times per day. A $40 fare ($30 for a child under age 12) delivers you to the Napa Terminal on Solano Avenue. Guests with their own aircraft may land at Napa County Airport.
By train (via ferry)
From San Francisco, Napa-bound guests may choose to ride the San Francisco Ferry, which leaves the city at 8:15 AM and returns by 7 PM. Guests experience some of the best views of the San Francisco skyline on the way to being delivered to the Napa Valley Wine Train Shuttle, which then stops at the Napa Valley Wine Train Station. Guests then can board the Napa Valley Wine Train, built entirely out of steel in 1915 as first-class coaches. This local train travels from Napa to St. Helena and back again. Several vacation packages are available; reservations at least 24 hours in advance are required.
From San Francisco, driving by car to downtown Napa takes approximately one hour. From the Golden Gate Bridge, Take Highway 101 North to Highway 37 East, then Highway 121 toward Napa. At the Highway 121/29 junction, take Highway 29 North into town.
From the Oakland Bridge, take Highway 80 East, then the Napa/Columbus Parkway exit on the right of 80; stay in the left two lanes and exit, continuing west on Highway 37 until reaching Highway 29, which takes you into town.
After all that wonderful walking, shopping, dining and wine-tasting, where will you stay that will live up to the memorable moments you’ve just enjoyed in Napa? Downtown, of course.
New to First Street Napa is the wine-country-chic Archer Hotel. With five-star bedding in its luxe guest accommodations, many with balconies and fireplaces, plus Charlie Palmer Steak and a fabulous rooftop bar with valley views, cabanas, a fitness studio and a spa (coming soon), this boutique hotel provides curated local touches and stellar, sincere service in the heart of the city.
Enjoy your time in downtown Napa!