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 six reasons why choosing downtown Napa as your home base makes 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 (and your haute hotel).
Lovers of pinot noir and chardonnay should head to Walt Wines, across the street from the Oxbow Public Market. Sign up for a current release tasting, root 101 experience or wine & chocolate pairing (yes, please).
Enter through the red door at Shadowbox and get treated to a limited-production, food-friendly wine tasting experience hosted by the winemaker and co-owner.
The selection at the urban-chic Brown Downtown Napa includes several red varietals and a white wine dubbed Betelgeuse.
A tasting at Mia Carta can focus on one of its small-production wineries or can include the multiple styles and appellations of several of its wineries.
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.
Not much in life is more anticipated than a fantastic meal. Downtown Napa restaurants are plentiful and renowned, for good reason.
Downtown Napa's Charlie Palmer Steak is right at home in Archer Hotel Napa. Under the direction of executive chef Francisco Lopez Jr., the restaurant offers artisanal cuts of beef, classic steakhouse dishes and locally sourced ingredients.
Around the corner from Archer Hotel Napa is Todd Humphries' Kitchen Door, a globally inspired, contemporary restaurant with a 20-seat bar and private patio.
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 Wine Bar at Copia is worth all the buzz. State-of-the-art self-dispensers have up to 24 curated offerings. Prepaid wine tasting cards allow guests to choose their wine(s) and pour sizes and taste on their own terms.
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 and small plates.
Melted is Napa's homage to grilled cheese. 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 Cheval de Frise with roast beef, cheddar, crispy onions and Dijon.
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 + entertainment
You prefer opera, classical or rock concerts? What about comedy shows or just-released movies? 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. In the historic Napa Valley Opera House, 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 restored 1937-built 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? Napa Palisades is 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) 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 has an inviting smoking lounge for customers to savor their purchases while watching the flat-screen TV or connecting with other cigar enthusiasts.
Downtown Napa’s a shopping delight, with stores that run the proverbial gamut.
A guest and pet-lover favorite, Milo & Friends Pet Boutique is a one-stop shop for your pet's health and wellness needs, spa products, holiday goodies and "birthday pawty essentials."
Whole Spice ensures that fresh herbs and spices change its patrons' culinary experiences forever. Best sellers include Napa Valley Rub, Aglio Olio E Pepperoncino and Chipotle Honey Rub.
Find beautiful and rare household goods at The Marketplace at Copia. Cookware, pottery, linens, accessories, children's culinary tools and books — it's a great place to find a gift for the chef in your life.
The Bennington is a locally owned home and gift store offering home decor, specialty foods, collectibles and Napa souvenirs.
At Napa’s Honey Whiskey, you'll find "a modern bohemia with a combination of on-trend items and a pinch of eclectic" in clothing, accessories, gifts and goods.
Scott Lyall Clothes for Men, on the Riverfront, offers upscale designer clothing for men.
Feast It Forward on McKinstry Street sells glassware, cookbooks, kitchen items, spices and home decor.
Blue Diamond Jewelers is a Napa mainstay, with an array of jewelry designers at every price point and a deep commitment to the community.
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 San Francisco (SFO) or Oakland (OAK), Alta Transportation Services is available to and from all Bay Area Airports, including San Francisco International (SFO), Oakland International (OAK), Sacramento International (SMF) and local FBOs, including the Napa Jet Center (APC) and Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (STS).
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.
The destination experience known as First Street Napa is home to the wine-country-chic Archer Hotel Napa. With five-star bedding in luxe guest accommodations (many with balconies and fireplaces), plus Charlie Palmer Steak and the fabulous rooftop with Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar, the intimate Whiskey Bar, the serene water deck, the rooftop spa, a well-appointed fitness studio and valley views, this boutique hotel provides curated local touches and stellar, sincere service in the heart of the city.
Enjoy your time in downtown Napa!