Did you know there are two Napas? There's the Valley, a tourist mecca and one of the world's best-known wine regions. But there's another Napa, a town of about 80,000 residents. The look is charming. Downtown Napa boasts more pre-1906 structures than any other city in the San Francisco area.
If your last visual image is from news coverage of the 2014 earthquake that looked more like downtown Baghdad than someplace for a visit, it's time for an update. The rubble is long gone, and construction projects are underway that are transforming the area into an ever-more exciting place to visit.
Why Should You Go? Will You Like Napa?
Downtown Napa's newest food and wine venues make it a more attractive place to stop every year. If you like to stay in bed and breakfast inns, it has plenty of them, in some beautiful old buildings. You'll find some newer hotels downtown that are within an easy walking distance of eateries, shopping, and wine-tasting bars.
Don't miss sampling some of the fine food experiences in Napa. The Dever Family's Vintage Sweet Shoppe is in the historic Hatt Mill complex. Their wine-filled chocolate truffles have been featured on the Food Network. Just across the river on 1st Street is Oxbow Public Market, where you could spend hours grazing your way through all the delectables on sale, including Napa favorites Gott's Roadside, Hog Island Oysters, and the Model Bakery.
5 More Great Things to Do in Napa, California
Del Dotto Winery: One of our favorite Napa wineries, Del Dotto offers unique wine-tasting straight from the barrel, exploring the relationship between the wine and the wooden barrels it's aged in.
Napa Mill and River Walk: The last remainder of Napa's former industrial center is now a hotel/dining/shopping complex, home to several nice restaurants and food shops.
Downtown Napa Wine Tasting: You'll find several great places in downtown Napa where you can sample the wares of many area wineries without having to run around. Try Bounty Hunter, where the food and atmosphere are as good as the wines they pour.
We know it's popular, but we don't recommend the Napa Wine Train, where you're imprisoned in a train car passing the back doors of wineries, eating a mediocre (and expensive) meal.
Annual Events You Should Know About in Napa, California
- March: Napa Valley Marathon - closes Silverado Trail until early afternoon
- May: BottleRock Napa Valley - A 3-day festival featuring music, food, wine and brew
- July thru August: Music in the Vineyards, a Chamber Music Festival
- November: Napa Valley Film Festival features independent films and top film industry guests. This festival also includes some of the culinary world's best chefs and of course an abundance of wine.
- December: Holiday Candlelight Tour features some of the town's most beautiful private homes.
Where to Stay in Napa, California
Find your hotel the way we do. Start by reading reviews and comparing prices on Napa hotels at Tripadvisor. You can also check out a few places where you can go camping in Napa Valley, including one place that's in the town or Napa.
Getting To Napa, California
Napa, California is 46 miles from San Francisco, 82 miles from San Jose, 59 miles from Sacramento, 190 miles from Reno, NV and 399 miles from downtown Los Angeles. From San Francisco, take U. S. Hwy 101 north across the Golden Gate Bridge. Exit at CA Hwy 37 East (exit 460A), then follow Hwy 121 north and east, and finally, go north on CA Hwy 29.
Race days at the NASCAR Raceway at Sears Point can cause slow going through the Hwy 37/121 intersection. An alternative (which is also a good route anytime if you're traveling from the east side of San Francisco) is to take I-80 north, exiting at American Canyon Rd. West, which connects to CA Hwy 29 north.