Downtown Napa is a truly walkable destination that offers an abundance of things to experience. The city has dozens of tasting rooms, world-class restaurants, boutiques, captivating entertainment and art displays that you can explore without ever setting foot in a car.
Downtown Napa also has so much more to offer than just wine as there are plenty of great places to enjoy cider, craft beers and cocktails such as Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar or California Brandy House. For those who love outdoor activities, they can spend some time on the Napa River on a Venetian gondola cruise or on a kayaking tour.
Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through Downtown Napa and check out the fantastic farmers markets, food halls and lovely shops. For those who want to experience Napa’s arts and culture, they can spend an afternoon admiring outdoor murals, sculptures, fine art galleries or spend an elegant evening at the Napa Valley Opera House. We interview Craig Smith, Executive Director of the Downtown Napa Association to learn more about the offerings and history of the area.
Why should visitors choose Downtown Napa when planning a trip to wine country?
Craig Smith Executive Director, Downtown Napa Association: Downtown Napa is known for being wine country’s most walkable destination. It is one of the most accessible areas in the entire region because you can explore all of its attractions without having to think about driving. Eliminating time spent in a car or in traffic is a huge perk because visitors can then spend more time enjoying themselves on an easy, stress-free vacation. It is a truly remarkable destination that has so much to offer and there is something for everybody. We have an abundance of tasting rooms, great lodging properties, amazing restaurants and plenty of boutique shops.
What are some great lodging options for visitors looking to stay in Downtown Napa?
Craig Smith: Downtown Napa is filled with nearly 45 hotels and B&Bs for visitors to choose from. The Cambria Hotel Napa Valley is a wonderful newer hotel that is conveniently located within walking distance of Downtown Napa markets and shopping. The property has an outdoor hot tub, fitness center, bicycle rentals, as well as a full-service restaurant. It also has an incredibly stylish and expansive two-story lobby featuring a unique U-shaped bar.
Another great option is the Archer Hotel, which is a stunning boutique hotel that’s located in the heart of Downtown Napa with dozens of tasting rooms and world-class restaurants nearby. It is the idyllic setting for a romantic getaway offering luxury guest rooms and a beautiful spa. It is also home to Sky & Vine, Napa’s only rooftop bar where you can enjoy panoramic views of the valley.
What are some wine tasting options you’d recommend?
Craig Smith: Downtown Napa is home to more than 45 wine tasting rooms with more on the way that are all within walking distance of each other. You can park your car and leave it. Our tasting rooms also offer a unique experience when discovering Napa Valley wines compared to what you might get at a vineyard up the valley.
Here visitors can enjoy a more personalized setting with an expert readily available. Explore Be Bubbly, which is the first and only dedicated Champagne and sparkling wine lounge in Napa Valley. Or head to Vineyard 29, one of Downtown Napa’s newest additions, which combines time-honored wines with a new world technology concept. Visitors here drink for a good cause as Vineyard 29 contributes its bottles to help raise money for organizations that support research and delivery of health care and access to education innovations for K-12 students and teachers.
Any inside tip during a visit?
Craig Smith: Napa Valley’s only rooftop bar (Sky & Vine), tiki lounge (Wilfred’s Lounge) and Champagne and sparkling tasting room (Be Bubbly) are all located in the heart of Downtown Napa. The first and only of their kind, these are all unique places that visitors can only experience in Downtown Napa. Additionally, I like to remind visitors one of the best things to pair with wine is chocolate.
There are a handful of places in the city where you can find some exquisite chocolate goodies, and the Anette’s Chocolates is one of them. This local gem makes all of their products by hand and is one of the oldest operating chocolate makers in the city.
For those interested in outdoor experiences, we offer plenty including nearby hiking trails and experiences on the Napa River. Many of our lodging properties also offer complimentary bike rentals for guests to enjoy while in town.
Tell us about the history of Napa.
Craig Smith: The city of Napa was originally founded in 1847 by Nathan Coombs. The very first business to open was a saloon, followed by a general store a year later in 1848. The river played a large part in the location of where Napa is today. The town was strategically built on the river because it was where the steamships could easily transport both cargo and passengers. Over time the area grew to be a large center of commerce, and by the mid-1850’s Downtown Napa’s Main Street was a thriving city.
The first winery and vineyard opened in 1859 up the valley as more people began to take an interest in agriculture and wine making. The California Gold and Silver Rushes that followed continued to expand and develop the city. By the 20th century, Napa had become the primary business and economic center for the Napa Valley due to its accessible location and stellar climate for growing grapes. Today, Downtown Napa continues to thrive and is known as the premier Napa Valley experience offering visitors and locals alike a variety of things to do, taste and see.
Why is DoNapa so important to tourism and the local community?
Craig Smith: We treasure all visitors, both domestic and international, that come to Downtown Napa. They stay in our lodging properties, dine, shop and experience the abundance of wine tasting opportunities. While wine country is a draw, visitors have a choice of which city they would like to stay in. DoNapa’s marketing efforts aims to get visitors to choose to stay in Downtown Napa. Tourism benefits local economies, businesses and residents alike.
Created in 2010, the Napa Tourism Improvement District (TID) also known as DoNapa is the official destination marketing organization for Downtown Napa/City of Napa. With a mission to increase overnight visitation and improve the local economy, the Napa TID promotes the city’s nearly 45 hotels and bed and breakfast properties, premier dining, wine tasting, shopping, outdoor attractions and local entertainment through various marketing strategies.
What do you love about Downtown Napa?
Craig Smith: What I love about Downtown Napa is the quaint and welcoming feel to it. The area is beautifully well-kept and the locals here are incredibly hospitable. Even though we attract visitors from all over the world, it never loses its authentic and friendly charm. I also love the many different types of crowds we attract. Whether it’s couples on a romantic getaway or friends celebrating a special occasion, most visitors to Downtown Napa come because we are a food and wine-centric destination. The area brings together like-minded people, many of whom are culinary enthusiasts that appreciate the city’s elevated cuisine.
What are some restaurant options you’d recommend?
Craig Smith: Downtown Napa’s food scene is one that always seems to keep getting better and better. From fine dining to casual restaurants, there is something for every taste and budget in Downtown Napa.
Oxbow Public Market visitors can choose from a variety of excellent dining options, all with an emphasis on local, artisanal ingredients. Here you will find
Milestone Provisions, which is an experience not to be missed. This concept was recently opened by acclaimed restaurateur Eric Lilavois. The unique space houses a butcher shop, restaurant, and ice cream parlor all under one roof. Visitors interested in fine dining can head to the Michelin Star restaurant La Toque, and experience acclaimed Chef Ken Frank’s modern French cuisine.”
How many visitors come to downtown Napa each year?
Craig Smith: Napa Valley welcomes on average about 3.85 million visitors a year, and about 70% of these visitors choose the City of Napa. It has the highest reported visitation rate of all other towns in the region. With a population of about 78,000, it is the largest city in Napa County. Downtown Napa is home to more than 45 tasting rooms, and citywide there is an upwards of nearly 45 lodging properties and 80 eateries.