Main Street in St. Helena, Calif., was once the center of a small agricultural town set between the Napa Valley's vine-covered ridges. Today this strip is an upscale allée of luxurious indulgences. Its varied shops and casual but highly regarded restaurants are housed in contemporary and historic buildings. In just four core blocks you'll find a quartet of glittery jewelry boutiques, an abundance of housewares salons (look for specialties such as custom-embroidered French linens at Jan de Luz and Italian ceramics at Vanderbilt & Company), and a bounty of high-priced sportswear stores for both sexes. And—not surprisingly, given the locale—there are numerous shops specializing in culinary comestibles: the St. Helena Wine Center, Olivier Napa Valley (for savory oils), and the elegant Woodhouse Chocolate.
Pint-size locals and tourists alike can delight in the buckets of tiny toys tucked behind the English watering cans at Napa Valley Vintage Home. And youngsters find it hard to wait for the sandwiches at Giugni's once they spy the sweets packed into the venerable deli's array of five-and-dime–style glass jars. Lyman Park, a cedar-shaded pocket of greenery at the north end of Main's commercial zone, is designed for anyone seeking a quiet rest. For a prolonged respite, head one block north of the park to a pale yellow Victorian bed-and-breakfast once inhabited by the curmudgeonly writer Ambrose Bierce. For other elegant lodgings, contact the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce: (800) 799-6456, St. Helena.
WHERE IT IS Toward the north end of the Napa Valley, 65 miles north of San Francisco.
WHO WILL LIKE IT Visitors who enjoy strolling, dining, and shopping in a naturally beautiful setting with an old-time flavor.
WHEN TO GO The valley is beautiful throughout the year, but early fall can be quite hot; think twice about weekends, which can mean traffic-clogged roads and crowds of wine tasters.
Illustration by Michael Klein
This article was first published in September 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.