Budget restaurants and a bustling new riverside have the Valley's namesake town hopping.
Napa’s hopping these days, with its all-budget restaurant scene, winetasting rooms, new riverside promenade, bustling covered market, and revitalized performing arts venues. Once a center of manufacturing, the city of 75,000 still proudly sports some blue in its collar and boasts nearly 3,000 vintage homes—some of them housing bed-and-breakfasts—as well as handsome old storefronts in a central commercial district that’s a pleasure to discover on foot. (707) 257-0322, napadowntown.com . Area code is 707 except as noted.
Get an eyeful of glorious Italianate Victorian homes or an impressive art deco post office on self-guided historic architecture walks outlined in a handout from the Napa Downtown Association. Also available from the association is a $25 pass that lets you sample vintages at 12 winetasting rooms within walking distance of each other. 1310 Napa Town Center, 257-0322, napadowntown.com . To sip and dine as you glide past vineyards, hop aboard one of the restored vintage rail cars on the Napa Valley Wine Train. 1275 McKinstry St., (800) 427-4124, winetrain.com . With more than 20 food vendors, the airy Oxbow Public Market has plenty of food-tasting opportunities and frequently hosts live music and cooking demos. 610 and 644 First St., 226-6529, oxbowpublicmarket.com . Fresh from a top-to-toe restoration, the 1937 Uptown Theatre Napa features marquee acts such as Rosanne Cash and Lily Tomlin. 1350 Third St., 259-0123, uptowntheatrenapa.com .
If you’re looking for a Michelin-star experience, try the quail and lentils braised with snails and bacon and other seasonal French-California dishes at La Toque in the swanky Westin Verasa Hotel. 1314 McKinstry St., 257-5157, latoque.com . The fresh take on Indian cuisine at Neela’s includes samosas stuffed with shrimp and mango pickle, served in a space alive with bold colors. 975 Clinton St., 226-9988, neelasnapa.com . Graze on Spanish- and Latin-inspired tapas such as salt cod drizzled with truffle oil at Zuzu. 829 Main St., 224-8555, zuzunapa.com . Constantly packed for breakfast and lunch, Alexis Baking Company and Cafe features terrific changing specials that might include cornmeal pancakes with poached pears. 1517 Third St., 258-1827, abcnapa.com .
At Cedar Gables Inn & Tavern, which occupies an Old English-style mansion from 1892, the nine period-furnished rooms come with a three-course gourmet breakfast. From $179 for AAA members. 486 Coombs St., (800) 309-7969, cedargablesinn.com . The city’s first five-story building, Avia Napa Hotel opened in 2009 with 141 rooms, contemporary decor, and an in-house restaurant and wine bar. From $134 for AAA members. 1450 First St., 224-3900, aviahotels.com . Best Western Plus Inn at the Vines offers 69 rooms furnished in traditional style and an outdoor pool and hot tub. From $117 for AAA members. 100 Soscol Ave., 257-1930, innatthevines.com .
Photograph by Steven Rothfeld; courtesy Oxbow Public Market
This article was first published in April 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Check out the rest of our Napa Valley  package:
Calistoga : Old West meets Old Faithful
Oakville : take a deep dive into wine culture
Rutherford : acclaimed wineries and exceptional natural attractions
St. Helena : upscale yet folksy Main Street
Yountville : the Valley's fine-dining capital