Downtown Napa – Gateway to the Napa Valley

From the first building to be erected in the Napa Valley in 1848, the downtown area of the city of Napa grew rapidly over the following three decades to support the growing commerce arising from the abundance of grains and grapes grown in the fertile valley, and increasing tourism.  Even in the 1870’s, Napa Valley had become a popular weekend or permanent retreat for San Franciscans attracted to the beautiful scenery, mild climate, medicinal springs and convenience to the metropolis.  Visitors would take one of the daily steamboats to the highest navigable part of the Napa River – where the Hatt Building at Main and Fifth Streets stands today – and board the train for the trip up-valley.

As a point of embarkation, the downtown area west of the river near the bend or oxbow became a bustling town with several hotels, theaters, shops and restaurants for locals and visitors alike.  Today, Downtown Napa relives its past as the Gateway to the Napa Valley but with modern appeal, with a range of world-class restaurants, casual dining, full-service hotels, stylish wine lounges and contemporary entertainment, making it a great base to stay while discovering wine country.  Being at the southern end of the Napa Valley, it is also the most convenient way to get a taste of wine country if you only have a day or weekend to visit.

Downtown Napa is compact with most activities and restaurants located within walking distance of the area hotels and inns.

Main Street Environs

Main Street, the commercial center of Downtown Napa, retains its 19th century character with national landmarks such as the Winship Building on First and Main, and the Opera House, built in 1880 and re-opened in 2003 after a $13 million investment.  Going south on Main towards Third Street is the Veterans Memorial Park – the epicenter for seasonal concerts and festivals – and the Riverfront complex, home to the new Napa Valley Visitor’s Center and Restaurant Row.  At the end of Main Street at the Napa River is a quiet oasis and the site of the Historic Napa Mill, home to the ‘grand dame’ of Downtown Napa hotels, the Napa River Inn, as well as more great eats.

Oxbow District

East of the Napa River on First Street is the Oxbow District, anchored by the Oxbow Public Market, a 26,000 sq. ft. specialty food and casual dining complex with a focus on sustainability.  It is just down the street from The River Terrace Inn and the Westin Verasa Resort.

On the other side of McKinstry from the Oxbow Public Market is the depot for the Napa Valley Wine Train, a trip that everyone should try at least once for a sense of history – as it runs on the same tracks used by the original trains from the 19th century – and to drink in the beautiful scenery at your leisure,.

The West End

This section of Downtown Napa centers around First and Franklin Streets and includes recent developments such as the Napa Square and the AVIA Hotel across the way.

The West End also includes Downtown Napa’s growing cultural attractions such as the new Uptown Theatre, which draws some of the country’s greatest acts from rock, jazz, comedy and country, as well as art galleries and public art works.

Getting here

Downtown Napa is reachable either by the Bay Bridge connecting north to Highway 80 or via the Golden Gate Bridge going north on Highway 101, then east on the 121.

The greenest way to get here is to leave your car behind in San Francisco and taking the ferry to shuttle service offered by the Napa Valley Wine Train.

For a map of Downtown Napa and for more information, visit the Napa Downtown Association website.  For Napa Valley visitor information, visit the new Napa Valley Welcome Center at 600 Main Street at the Riverfront or call (707) 260-0106.

Special thanks to our guest blogger Annette Hanami

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