California’s wine country is a hot destination for locals and visitors alike. And there are so many destinations to choose from. Whether you’re heading in for the wine, food, natural beauty, the art scene, or something else, you’ll be able to get the most out of them all right in Downtown Napa. And do it all within a short and beautiful walk.
Downtown and wine country may not sound like things that go together but spending a vacation in Downtown Napa puts everything you love about wine country at your fingertips. All without needed to get behind the wheel, and without sacrificing any quality.
Between the ease of getting into town. The money you’ll save without needing a tour or driver. And the boutique spots to explore all make Downtown Napa a topnotch wine country destination.
Note: Thank you to Downtown Napa for hosting me on this chance to explore the region. Some accommodations, activities, and meals were provided at no cost to the author. All opinions remain my own. You’ll also find a few affiliate links in this post which allow me to keep Traveling Nine to Five up and going.
It’s the First Wine Destination You’ll Pass
As you head into California’s most prominent wine country you’ll drive your way into Napa County. No matter which direction you’re coming from Downtown Napa is one of the first spots you’ll reach. You can save 30 minutes to an hour verse hitting one of the other towns in the Napa Valley.
This shorter drive, or cheaper ride, into wine country can help you make the most of a visit. Especially if you’re only visiting for a weekend.
You’ll Find 25 Tasting Rooms Within a Handful of Blocks
Of course, you’ll want to know, how is the wine in Downtown Napa. The answer is that it’s some of the best you’ll find in the region! Many of the tasting rooms are by some of the top winemakers in the community. And these are just a few of my favorites.
Mark Herold is best known for his award-winning Cabernet Sauvignons, and while you’ll find them here, you’ll truly fall in love with his unique blends of Southern Rhone and Spanish styled varietals. You won’t want to miss Mark Herold Wines for something unique in the region and an easy location just a block over from Oxbow Market.
Pop by Uncorked by Oxbow to try some power packed red wines and do so while enjoying a patio perfect for spending an entire afternoon. Or pop by in the evening when they’ll have live music to enjoy along with a glass of their wine.
If you’re looking for a classic Napa Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon swing into JaM Cellars where you can enjoy those and more wine. I particularly enjoyed the large windows and cozy seats where you can soak up the sun inside.
You’ll want to try as many of these tasting rooms as you can, and Downtown Napa offers a great way to do this without breaking the bank. Make sure to get one (or two) of the Downtown Napa Tasting Cards. They’ve partnered with ten of the tasting rooms downtown where you can get half off each tasting for only $15. Plus, it’s good for a whole year so you can keep saving on every trip you take.
Countless Restaurants from Casual to Fine Dining
One thing Downtown Napa does particularly well is pleasing the palette, no matter what your mood or your budget is. Some of my favorite places to eat in Downtown are the casual affordable spots. At the same time, it’s fun to splurge on some of the culinary highlights in the city. And the perk is that all of these are within less than a 10-minute walk of each other.
For a quick and delicious bite stop by Gotts Roadside. Whether you’re in the mood for a flavor-packed burger, a delicious chicken sandwich, or a topnotch veggie burger, you can have any friend walking away satisfied. Or pop into Grace’s Table for a delightful brunch.
If you’re looking to step it up a little for dinner and enjoy a few courses while staying in a $$ range you’re in the right place. A few of my favorites include Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin BBQ, you’ll want to try a few of their wines or spirits and split a few of their BBQ dishes to get a flavor of everything they offer. If you’re feeling Italian stop by Ristorante Allegria which is housed in an old bank building and a Napa classic. Or if you’re in the mood for Mediterranean give Tarla a try, I particularly enjoyed their spanakopita and short ribs.
Now, if you’re looking for a splurge meal, Downtown Napa is just the place to do it. Take a look at 1313 Main to enjoy some elevated California dining. Their Chef’s Menu has rave reviews and for seven courses is a steal! Or swing by TORC where you’ll find a blend of a traditional steakhouse, new American, and all the best things from the Farm to Fork movement.
And if you need a sweet treat you’ll find plenty of those as well. Consider swinging by the Vintage Sweet Shoppe. This is where all the wineries get their chocolate from and it was even better here. They also do a wine tasting and chocolate pairing that is a part of the tasting card. Or pick up a pastry from Sweetie Pies Bakery where you can find the perfect treat from am to pm.
Exploring the Regions Art Scene
Wine country tends to go hand in hand with art communities and Downtown Napa is no exception. Right in downtown, you can find every type of art you could ask for, from art galleries to public art to music venues to cooking classes (yes, I think food is art).
Kick off your time in Downtown Napa with exploring some of the areas public art. You can visit the Rails Arts District for beautiful murals. And a great way explore the whole downtown is the Napa Art Walk. Get to know the city and download the app where you can learn more about these beautiful sculptures and the area.
You’ll want to see who’s playing downtown when you’re visiting as many topnotch acts make their way into the city. Check out Jarvis Conservatory and Silo’s Napa for a few of the options of where you can find live music in the city.
One of my favorite art forms is the art of cooking a good meal, and you can learn from some of the best in the business at The CIA at Copia. That’s the Culinary Institute of America, where you can take cooking classes right in Downtown Napa.
Spending an Afternoon Exploring Everything in Oxbow Public Market
If you really want to explore the best of wine country without having to go far at all, Oxbow Public Market is the spot to hit. You can taste wine, beer, and spirits. You can enjoy local seafood, butchery, chocolates, spices, tea, and so much more.
My top tips for exploring Oxbow is to go hungry and bring friends so you can share and try more places. A few of my favorites include Hog Island Oyster, arguably the best spot of oysters on the West Coast. Get a few raw and a few of the grilled and you will not leave disappointed. Then pop over to Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant where you can explore some of the areas best cheeses, which might be even better than the local wine they offer. And you’ll want to grab a few taco or some nachos from C Casa.
As there is so much quality wine in Downtown Napa you might want to consider trying Fieldworks Brewing, where they offer beers with a hoppy flare. Or try the different spirits offered at the Napa Valley Distillery. They both offer tasting options where you have a chance to explore all that they offer.
Don’t forget to visit some of the local shops based in the market as well. You can wander them and bring home a little of Napa with you.
Then You Can Shop till You Drop
Speaking of shopping. One great part of Downtown Napa you’ll miss while driving between vineyards is all its great boutiques.
Starting in Oxbow will give you a chance to hit a handful of great spots all at once. My favorite is Napa Bookmine. It might be a tiny bookstore but their selection always leaves me with a couple books in my hands. Also, check out WholeSpice, it’s a cute shop where you can find your favorite classics, unique blends, and some new spices you’ve never tried.
If you’re looking for a cute outfit you won’t be in short supply. I particularly enjoyed the Miyamo boutique. I walked in, saw so many things I loved, and realized their reasonable prices. Of course, I ended up walking away with a beautiful maxi dress I can’t wait for it to be warm enough to wear. We also had to stop in Danielle, since it’s my sister’s name, and you’ll find a great selection of classic pieces with a twist.
And if you’re looking for some home decor to bring back from wine country, look no further than the Napa General Store. From furniture to small details you’ll find something (or many things) cute to bring home from your trip.
Stay in a Little Luxury on the River
You’ll find a plethora of luxurious places to stay in Downtown Napa ranging from the Andaz on the high end to cute boutique hotels like the Churchill Manor. One reason you might be heading to wine country is for a room with a beautiful room. And you don’t have to give that up by staying in Downtown Napa.
You’ll just have to book your room at the Napa River Inn. It’s a perfect blend of a luxury hotel and bed and breakfast. You’ll find cozy robes in your room, wine at check-in, and breakfast in bed in the morning. And you’ll find rooms with beautiful views along the river.
Did you catch that, breakfast in bed? It was a perfect way to start the morning. With fresh juice, good coffee, and a breakfast sandwich and pastry from Sweetie Pies Bakery.
You’ll find a spa where you can add just about any treatment you want to your stay. And you can reach anything in this post in under a ten-minute walk. If you’re feeling lazy, Napa River Inn is perfect since it has multiple restaurants, tasting rooms, shops and more all within a block.
Catch a Train or a Tour into Napa Valley
You can easily spend a week in Downtown Napa exploring everything it has to offer without getting into the car. But it is true that there is so much to explore outside of downtown as well. Thankfully, staying in Downtown Napa makes it a breeze to explore all of the Napa Valley.
Right in Downtown Napa is where you hop on the Napa Valley Wine Train. This is a great way to relax with a little luxury. You can forget the car (and needing a designated driver), and visit a few wineries.
Or if you’re looking to get active, consider renting a bike. The Napa Valley is constantly expanding its bike trails. There are many areas in the valley you can easily explore from Downtown Napa. Check out a map of trails here.
If you’re looking for a more traditional tour there are so many different ones to consider. They’ll pick you up from right in downtown and bring you back in time to walk to a delicious dinner.
Do It All While Walking Around Downtown Napa
While there is more to explore in wine country than the wine itself. The ease of exploring the best of wine country while taking out the complication of needing a designated driver makes the experience more fun for everyone. It either saves you money by not having to pay for a driver or tour. Or it allows everyone with you to experience each place you visit.
Downtown Napa allows you to see the best of California wine country all while taking out that complication. You’ll be able to eat, taste, shop, and more all while walking your way around the region. And if you’re exploring more of wine country check out a few of my other favorites.