Napa Valley isn't very big, despite its magnum-sized reputation. It's just 27 miles from the town of Napa on the south end to Calistoga on the north and barely 3 miles between CA Hwy 29 and Silverado Trail, the only two north-south roads. You could stay anywhere and get to everywhere without too much trouble, but you'll have more fun if you match where you stay to your plans and preferences.
To help you do that, we've summarized the most important characteristics of each Napa Valley town, from a standpoint of deciding where to stay in Napa Valley. They're listed from south to north:
- Town of Napa: Overlooked for many years as visitors sped northward, downtown Napa is on the upturn these days. The town has more B&Bs than other Napa Valley towns, it's easy to walk from downtown hotels to local restaurants and wine-tasting bars - and the old Opera House hosts some great modern-style musical groups. The AVIA Napa Hotel is a great choice here.
- Yountville: Home to the French Laundry and a cadre of other fine restaurants, Yountville is small but cute and some of the nicest hotels are there, too, including Bardessono, one of our personal favorites.
- St. Helena: Located halfway up the Napa Valley, St. Helena only has a few places to stay, but it's a good base for exploring everything in the area - and it has nice little downtown with some good places to eat.
- Calistoga: Overall, the most affordable place to stay in Napa Valley (and the farthest north), Calistoga has a walkable downtown with some fun shops and restaurants. It's also chock-full of mud baths and spas.
- Other Locations: Some of the nicer Napa Valley resorts are strung along Silverado Trail on the east side of the valley. On the extreme south end of the valley, the Carneros Inn is a great place to stay, with cute little cottages and lovely views.