Things to do in Downtown Napa: A Traveler’s Guide

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  • on FEBRUARY 9, 2020
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Courtesy of Facebook: Napa River Inn
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Napa Valley boasts plenty of beautiful spots to call home during a visit, but if you’re looking for a wide variety of things to do and see all in one convenient location, downtown Napa is the place to be. This once sleepy downtown has undergone a major renaissance in recent years and is now home to an impressive collection of luxury lodging, hip wine bars, celebrity-led restaurants, wine tasting rooms, and beautiful river walks. So park the car, forget about traffic, and take advantage of the urban oasis that is downtown Napa. Here’s your guide to making the most of a visit.

Eat Well

Oxbow Public Market, Courtesy of Oxbow Public Market

From award-winning fine dining to farm-to-table casual eateries, downtown Napa is a foodie haven. Simply put, you’ll want to make room in your bellies to chow down on all the delicious offerings that Napa has to offer. First on the agenda should be a visit to the lively Oxbow Public Market. A gathering place for gourmet grub in Napa, Oxbow is where you can find everything from oysters and tacos to chocolates and cupcakes. In fact, there are over 20 merchants under one roof, providing endless ways to eat and drink yourself silly!

For more delectable fare, follow your nose to Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ. In addition to pulled pork and beer can chicken featuring house-made rubs, Bounty Hunter has 40 wines available by the glass. Another good option is Morimoto, the sleek Napa River restaurant from celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto, where an extensive selection of sushi, seafood, Wagyu beef, sake, and Japanese Whiskey can be found. Nearby is the noteworthy restaurant, Angèle, renowned for its upscale French country cuisine and quaint, romantic atmosphere since 2002. While wine is a natural pairing with French fare, when your palate needs a break from the grape juice, you can’t go wrong with one of Angèle’s fantastic cocktails.

Sip & Savor

JaM Cellars, Courtesy of JaM Cellars

Housed in a former saloon and brothel from the late 1800s, the Vintner’s Collective is a good place to sample a wide variety of Napa Valley wines from one location. Here, you’ll find over two dozen quality boutique producers who are too small to have their own tasting rooms, with various tasting spaces from which to enjoy their coveted wines. Down the street is New Frontier Wine Co., a must-stop for serious oenophiles looking to taste fine wines from some of the world’s most renowned winemakers – wines normally only available by allocation.

Make a point to stop into Acumen Wine Gallery, featuring a small but high quality collection of organically grown estate wines from Atlas Peak, and WALT Wines, located near the Oxbow Public Market, where tasters can sip their way through 1,000 miles of pinot noir from within the bright, cheerful space. At the eclectic JaM Cellars, wine tastings take place in the casual setting of their music and wine lounge. In addition to JaM’s classic vinyl collection and Rolling Stone Magazine clad walls, the tasting room also plays host to weekly live music sets known as JaMSessions. Finally, Mayacamas’ historic winery may be tucked high up in the mountains, but visitors can sample these classic, age-worthy wines in the comforts of Mayacamas’ sleek urban space right in the heart of downtown.

Compline is a wine bar, restaurant, and bottle shop in one, and a worthy stop while venturing around Napa. Founded by two sommeliers, Compline’s wine collection is complete with bottlings from around the world, including some obscure varietals from lesser known regions. Stop in for a glass and light bite, and be sure to check their calendar for educational tastings and events. Around the corner, Cadet Beer & Wine Bar is a popular spot for wine, beer, and tasty provisions. Come for their worldly selection of wine, from rare Champagne to Sonoma Coast pinot noir, bottled beers, and old school vinyl collection. Plus, there’s always a fun lineup of regular events and guest wineries worth checking out.

If a refreshing pint is calling your name, head to Stone Brewing‘s Napa outpost, located inside a historic building from 1877. Locally-brewed craft beers on tap, an eclectic food menu, and indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the river make it a no brainer for beer fans.

Other Things to Do

Cooking class at CIA at Copia, Courtesy of Facebook: CIA at Copia

Foodies and wannabe chefs won’t want to miss heading to the CIA at Copia, the ultimate destination for wine, art, and food-related happenings and exhibits. Take a cooking class in the state-of-the-art teaching kitchen, explore the collection of specialty cookware at the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum, or dine on ethnic fare during one of the Monday night pop-up dinners. The CIA at Copia is a wonderful place to immerse yourself in Napa’s culinary community.

For shopping, head to First Street Napa, the heart of shopping in downtown Napa, where you’ll find a variety of boutiques offering the best in fashion, home décor, art, and gifts. Just a short walk away is the historic Uptown Theatre. This renovated art-deco theatre from 1937 regularly welcomes musical and comedy performers, and is a fantastic place to catch a show — the intimate setting means there’s never a bad seat in the house.

Looking for something to do that won’t cost you much, if at all? Rent bikes for a scenic ride along the paved Napa Valley Vine Trail, which runs 12.5 miles from Napa to Yountville. Or, rent kayaks or paddle boards from Napa Valley Paddle for a fun experience out on the water. They offer guided and unguided rentals by the hour, day, or weekend. Another great activity that won’t break the bank is simply walking around downtown to experience the Napa Art Walk, an urban exhibition of public artworks. The sculptures change every couple of years, highlighting the work of various artists from throughout the West Coast. And in the summer months, head to the Veterans Memorial Park Amphitheater for live music during the community’s free summer concert series on Friday nights.

Explorers at heart won’t want to miss the Napa Scavenger Hunt Walking Tour.  It’s a self-guided walking tour and game you play by following clues provided on your smartphone.  Follow the clues, find interesting sights and solve fun puzzles and challenges along the tour.  Use coupon code NAPA10 to save 10%!

Sleep Soundly

Room at Andaz, Courtesy of Andaz

The 141-room Andaz is ideally situated right in the heart of downtown Napa, offering the comforts of a boutique hotel with the convenience of being walking distance to shops, restaurants, and tasting rooms. Loft-style rooms feature hardwood floors and deep soaking tubs, while spacious suites offer an added dose of luxury in the way of rain showers, fireplaces, and terraces overlooking downtown. If a view of the river is what you’re after, head to the Napa River Inn, perched above the Napa River in the historic Napa Mill. Stay in one of the colorful rooms — featuring pillow top mattresses, free Wi-Fi, and fresh pastries delivered daily — and take advantage of the inn’s full service spa and evening wine receptions, but be sure to venture out to enjoy some of Napa’s best restaurants right outside your door.

Located in a quieter part of downtown is the alluring Hennessey House, a 10-room bed and breakfast with a tranquil garden setting and Victorian charm. Along with friendly service, the inn’s welcoming amenities, including gourmet breakfasts, a 24-hour sauna, and evening wine and cheese, make a stay here feel extra special.

 WineCountry Inspo: Downtown Napa embodies everything we love about Wine Country — mouthwatering food, excellent wine, a booming arts scene, and a cheerful vibe — making it one of the most interesting places in Napa Valley to explore. So, when you’re ready to plan your stay, check out our exclusive WineCountry hotel perks. All you need to do is book using one of our Promo Codes to get perks like complimentary early and late check-out at Andaz, a VIP welcome basket at Napa River Inn, and more!

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Hana-Lee Sedgwick

Hana-Lee Sedgwick is a writer and editor based in Santa Barbara, California. A Certified Specialist of Wine and Sommelier, Hana-Lee specializes in all things wine, food, and travel, and her work regularly appears in publications such as The Tasting Panel, Edible, and Food & Home. Follow her on Instagram at @wanderandwine.