St. Helena's central location makes it a great base for exploring all of Napa Valley, and its nineteenth century charm makes it a fun, relaxing place to hang around, too.
Will I Like It?
Food-lovers will especially like food shopping, wine-tasting and dining in St. Helena.
5 Great Things to Do in St. Helena
- Wine Tasting, Winery Tours: Popular wineries near St. Helena include Beringer, Spring Mountain and Schramsberg (sparkling wine). Port wine lovers may also want to visit quirky Prager Port Works with its "original web site" and some fine port wines.
- Shop on Main Street: A stroll down this tree-lined street lined with 19th-century buildings will take you past a nice selection of art galleries, clothing shops and food shops, several of them offering local olive oils for tasting. Woodhouse Chocolate, a beautiful boutique that displays their exquisite chocolate candies like jewels at Tiffany's. They're almost (but not quite) too pretty to eat, but give in - it's a sweet place to end your walk.
- Silverado Museum: It's not for everyone, but if you're a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson, the this museum next to the city library has the largest collection of Stevensonia outside of his native Scotland.
- Learn About Cooking: Take in a cooking demonstration or class at the Culinary Institute of America, and you'll get to sample the results.
- Foodie Fun: Dean and DeLucca on the south end of town carries a full line of gourmet and specialty foods, premium wines and high-end kitchenware, but St. Helena has some local spots that can make a foodie swoon. Sunshine Market (1115 Main St.) may look like an ordinary grocery store, but inside you'll find an extraordinary selection of cheeses, wines and other gourmet products. Further down Main Street, Steves Hardware (1370 Main Street) carries a full line of nuts and bolts, but they've also got an outstanding kitchen department, with everything from tiny tart pans to mammoth pasta pots.
Best Time to Visit St. Helena
St. Helena is fun in any season, but it's quietest in late fall and winter. On mid-summer weekends and during the grape harvest, gridlock is the norm.
Best Bites in St. Helena
You'll find a number of great places to get a meal in St. Helena, from haute cuisine to a simple breakfast:
- Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America (1/4 mile north of town on Highway 29) serves some fine cuisine.
- Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen (1327 Railroad Avenue), run by James Beard award-winning chef Cindy Pawlcyn is a favorite of Napa Valley tour guide Jesse Warr of A Friend in Town, who says his customers like it, too.
- Market: An American Restaurant (1347 Main Street) lives up to its name, serving traditional American foods like meat loaf or macaroni and cheese, made from the freshest local ingredients.
- Tra Vigne (1050 Charter Oak Avenue) is a wine country classic, serving Italian dishes in an upscale setting.
- Gott's Roadside (Taylor's Refresher) (933 Main Street) is the gourmand's version of the 1950s roadside burger stand, serving grain-fed beef and boasting an extensive wine list, it's a must-try, and don't skip it just because you don't eat beef. Their chicken and vegetarian offerings are delicious, too.
- The Model Bakery (1357 Main Street) has been baking here since the 1920s. It's a good place for a continental breakfast, lunch or a snack.
- Gillwood's (1313 Main Street) is a local favorite for breakfast or lunch.
St. Helena Lodging
Where to "Go"
You'll find public restrooms in the park on Main Street just north of Oak.
Getting to St. Helena
St. Helena is 66 miles north of San Francisco and 19 miles north of the town of Napa, in the middle of Napa Valley. 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.