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Best Enjoyed with a Sip of Wine - It’s Napa
“Wine can be a better teacher than ink, and banter is often better than books.” - Stephen Fry
The seat of Napa County, the largest of five towns in the Napa Valley, and gateway to the finest vineyards and wineries in California, if not the entire USA, it’s hard to think of Napa as anything but a must-visit destination. It’s not just your favourite tipple that awaits you; Napa is home to an enticing downtown district, great shopping, and a vibrant arts scene. Accommodation options range from homely B&Bs to upscale hotels. All you need to do is choose your favourite.
A short stay in Napa is probably best spent in the downtown district. Set beside the Napa River, this area, once a sleepy town, is now something of a glamourpuss. While a weekend break won’t leave much time to drive between wineries, you needn’t miss out on the vino; there are dozens of wine tasting rooms in the downtown area. The most popular include Vintner’s Collective, which is housed in Napa’s oldest stone building, and JaM Cellars, which effortlessly combines wine tasting with a vinyl turntable music system. The arts are also prevalent in downtown Napa; be sure to squeeze in some live entertainment at the Uptown Theatre, an art-deco masterpiece in the West End. Also, look out for the individual sculptures displayed as part of the rotating biannual Napa ARTwalk. Getting hungry? Head to the Oxbow Public Market where there are restaurants and cafes to suit every taste.
Napa Downtown is a treasure trove of shops, with everything from antique emporiums to clothing boutiques on offer. Your first port of call should be the Napa Tourist Information Center on First Street where you can not only pick up some useful tips for your stay but also shop for handmade Napa Valley goods (as well as indulge in a glass of wine, of course). For more artisan purchases, head to the one-of-a-kind stores along Main Street, just a six-minute walk from the tourist information centre. Choose a new outfit from one of the city’s fine clothing shops or pick up a souvenir for someone special back home; options include everything from fine cigars to locally produced cheese. Need a pick-me-up while shopping? Dotted between the shops along Main and First Streets are ice cream stores and coffee shops that will tempt you in.
Enjoying a longer break? Pad out the visits to wine tasting rooms with trips to some of the area’s wineries. There are many within Napa itself so you won’t need to travel far from your hotel to get to the good stuff. Some of the best include Artesa Vineyards, Trinitas Cellars, and Domaine Carneros. Leave time to explore the wineries of the wider Napa Valley, too. Popular destinations include the V Sattui Winery in St. Helena, where reservations are not required for groups of ten or less, and the Cade Estate Winery in Angwin which, thanks to its setting on the Howell Mountain, serves up stunning views with its signature Sauvignons. If visiting all these wineries sounds exhausting, a less strenuous way to experience the best of the area is aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. This 20th-century Pullman train takes guests on a three-hour exploration of the valley.
At some point, you’ll need to take a break from swirling wine around a glass; seeking out some fabulous food is the perfect way to prepare your body for the next wine tasting adventure. From retro-style burger joints to Michelin-starred restaurants, foodies are well catered for here. Whether you prefer light bites to upmarket multi-course meals, you’ll also want to tick off a trip to the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena; visitors to its Greystone campus can enjoy on-site dining and cooking classes and shop for about every kitchen gadget ever thought up. You can combine a love of artisan and gourmet food with a helping of history when you visit the Oakville Grocery Store, California’s longest continually operating store of its kind.
There’s more to Napa and the surrounding valley than wine, food, and shopping (honestly!). If you’re visiting with family or simply doing something a little different during your stay, there’s plenty in the area to keep you entertained. Several portions of the Napa Valley Vine Trail are perfect for exploring on a Segway, although it’s probably best that you leave any wine tasting for afterward. Other outdoor activities include hiking and cycling in the Vaca and Mayacamas mountain ranges. Culture vultures will want to soak up the atmosphere on St. Helena’s Main Street and pay a visit to Castello di Amorosa, a stunning Italian medieval-inspired castle in Calistoga. And thrill seekers won’t miss the chance to drop in at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, just 25-minutes from downtown Napa.
Napa: Wine and dine and so much more.