Once a name on the signpost as visitors sped north to see "wine country" that bears the same name, since the turn of the twenty-first century it's become a destination that's worth stopping for.
Spared by the 1906 earthquake that devastated much of San Francisco and bypassed by the late 20th century's well-intentioned modernization, Napa boasts more pre-1906 structures than any other city in the San Francisco area.
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, and if you like to stay in bed and breakfast inns, it has plenty of them, in some beautiful old buildings.
See It Now: Photo Tour of Napa, California
There's a big project afoot on the Napa River to prevent floods that have devastated the town in the past, and until that's done, you may occasionally find a lot of noisy construction going on, but if you go now, you can say you knew about it first.
Best Time to Go to Napa, California
Any time of year is nice in Napa, but summer can be crowded, and fall around harvest time is also busy.
If you've got a taste for chocolate, don't leave Napa without stopping at the Dever Family's Vintage Sweet Shoppe, whose wine-filled chocolate truffles have been featured on the Food Network.
5 More Great Things to Do in Napa, California
Take a Guided Tour: Let someone else do the driving and worry about the traffic. We highly recommend A Friend in Town tour company, owned by my friend Jesse Warr.
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 nice 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.
- Oxbow Public Market: A lot of nice food and wine in one spot, including Napa favorites Gott's Roadside (Taylor's Refresher) and the Model Bakery.
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
- January-February: Napa Valley Mustard Festival: You've gotta have something to do after the harvest is laid in and before the new vintages come out, so why not celebrate food?
- March: Napa Valley Marathon - closes Silverado Trail until early afternoon
- August: Music in the Vineyards, a Chamber Music Festival
- December: Holiday Candlelight Tour features some of the town's most beautiful private homes.
Napa, California's Best BitesSome of the most popular Napa dining spots include:
- Bistro Don Giovanni: Italian food worth driving for
- Cole's Chop House: There's a reason why the last 4 digits of Cole's phone number spell M-E-A-T.
- Zuzu: A cozy, Spanish tapas bar
- Angele: Located in the Hatt Mill complex, with a French menu
- Celadon: also in the Hatt Mill, serving what they call "Global Comfort Food" and boasting an award-winning wine list
If pastry and coffee is your morning pleasure, try Sweetie Pie's Bakery in the Historic Napa Mill complex.
Where to Stay in Napa, California
For help getting the best possible deal, read about how to find a good place to stay, cheap.
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 the 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 connect to CA Hwy 29 north.