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Napa Valley: Napa, Calif.

Budget restaurants and a bustling new riverside have the Valley's namesake town hopping.

Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, image
Photo caption
Fresh produce is available year-round at the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, Calif.

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.

to do
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.

eats
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. 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.

sleeps
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

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

This article was first published in April 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.