A lot has changed over the years in world famous Napa Valley wine country. My husband and I lived in downtown Napa in the early 1980’s. While there were plenty of things to see and do in Napa in the day time, the night life was like a vintage California wine in an underground cellar – cold, dusty and waiting to be uncorked. We’ve since moved to the East Bay, but when we visit Northern California wine country I still like to do Napa like a local.
Napa wine tasting like a local
With over 400 wineries in the Napa Valley, it’s easy to become overwhelmed when wine tasting. To do Napa like a local, pick up the downtown Napa Wine Tasting Card. This ($30.) wine tasting card offers access to 12 downtown Napa tasting rooms all within walking distance. On my latest visit to downtown Napa I visited Bounty Hunter Bar, Capp Heritage, NakedWines.Com (yep, the online retailer has a tasting room in downtown Napa), Napa General Store and Trahan Winery. Dog lovers, taste Sadie’s Red Wine, an adorable wine label with the winery mascot, Sadie, who is now in doggie heaven.
Napa dining like a local
For the foodies visiting Napa, there are currently 65 restaurants in downtown Napa within a 20 block radius. I noshed my way through Napa with dinners at Carpe Diem and City Winery, breakfasts at Napa General Store and C Casa (inside Oxbow Public Market), followed with lunches at Oenotri, Bounty Hunter and Kitchen Door (also inside Oxbow Market.) Napa locals know to order the house made pasta and charcuterie plate at Oenotri, the beer can chicken at Bounty Hunter, the deviled eggs and mushroom soup at Kitchen Door, huevos rancheros at C Casa and olive oil cake with caramel gelato at City Winery. I may not be a local any more, but I can personally recommend all of these local favorites.
I was also impressed that sophisticated City Winery, with locations in Chicago, New York and Nashville, chose to open a joint in downtown Napa – inside the historic Napa Valley Opera House! Not only do they serve good food paired with live music, locals know that City Winery offers 35 local wines on tap. UPDATE: City Winery has since closed this location.
If you think Napa only offers a food and wine scene you’d be wrong. Explore the ARTWalk in downtown Napa, with outdoor sculpture exhibitions – you can even learn the dance moves to the Cha, Cha, Cha! Or wonder over to the Veterans Memorial Park Amphitheater by the Napa River Walk for free Friday night concerts in the summer.
Looking for big name entertainment? The Uptown Theatre, with its restored 1937 art deco interior, has hosted Boz Scaggs, Willie Nelson, Chris Isaak, Pat Benatar and even Snoop Dogg. Silo’s, a wine bar and jazz club located in the Historic Napa Mill, is also an evening option with blues, rock, jazz, pop and country music. The Napa River Inn is also part of the Historic Napa Mill and has a sweet waterfront location.
Explore Napa outdoors like a local
Napa locals love their outdoor adventures and are generally fitness-minded. When I stayed downtown, I noticed visitors and locals alike walking and jogging on the river front promenade. The Vine Trail is currently under construction with eight walkable miles in downtown Napa. It used to be that horseback riding was open to the public in Napa, but horse lovers have to head to Sonoma for wine country horseback riding. Kayaking is popular on the Napa River and, my personal favorite, bike riding on the Silverado Trail. Our group used Getaway Adventures and they set us up with new Specialized bikes & helmets for a leisurely ride from Oxbow Public Market to Luna Vineyards – one of the first wineries on the Silverado Trail – so an easy bike ride.
The Spa at Napa River Inn is new since my last visit to downtown Napa. Tell me what you think?
How do you do Napa like a local?
Article, photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. Thanks to the folks at Downtown Napa Association and the Napa Tourism Improvement District for inviting me to Do Napa like a local.
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