Donapa Itineraries

A First-Timer's Guide To Downtown Napa

In a region that features first-rate culinary experiences, unparalleled hospitality and some of the finest wine in the world, it can be hard to determine what exactly you should do as a visitor to Downtown Napa, especially if you’re a first-timer. You certainly can’t go wrong with any of the wide array of activities available to you here, but if you need some inspiration, we’ve put together this First-Timer’s Guide to Downtown Napa.


Start your day off right

The perfect morning awaits

To start your day off right, there are many options Downtown for coffee or breakfast. Try popping into Model Bakery, a longtime favorite haunt for locals and visitors alike. Their English muffins have even made Oprah’s favorites list a few times! There, you will be surrounded by the heavenly smell of fresh bread, pastries and coffee. It’s the perfect pick-me-up to give you an energy boost before a day full of exploring the rest of Napa’s stunning Downtown. Or, if you’re looking for a touch more sweetness, look no further than Sweetie Pie’s Bakery, located in the historic Napa Mill. They offer a wide selection of breakfast pastries, cakes, pies and more (we recommend picking up something for later, too, so you can enjoy a midnight snack after a full day of exploring). Another great option for a quick morning bite is Monday Bakery. Don’t be fooled by the name — this charming Downtown bakery is anything but drab. Pair a gorgeously crafted espresso beverage with a breakfast or lunch grab-and-go option, made with locally sourced ingredients as much as possible.

Once you’ve secured your freshly brewed coffee and delectable homemade pastry, try taking a stroll along the riverfront. Napa boasts temperate weather nearly year-round, making scenic Downtown the perfect place for a morning walk any time of year. On Saturday mornings, head over to the Napa Farmer’s Market to support some local artisans. In addition to a wealth of fresh, locally-grown produce, you’ll also find all sorts of handmade goodies, such as decorative art pieces, handmade clothing, jewelry and more. Or, if you’re feeling like you want to get a bit more of a workout in, try renting a cruiser or an e-bike and traversing Downtown on wheels.


Lunch, Shopping and Goodies

Oxbow has it all

After a light breakfast, head in the direction of Oxbow Public Market. There, you’ll be greeted with a wide array of local restaurants, shops selling everything from artisanal cheeses to handmade confectionaries and, of course, some of the best wines and spirits in the valley. The best part? They’re all under the same roof, so you won’t have to go far to see the full scope of some of Napa’s best local businesses.

Stop by Eiko’s at Oxbow sushi counter for some fresh nigiri, or hit Loveski Deli for a fresh sourdough bagel. Or, if you’re after something a little more filling, have a seat at any of the full restaurants situated at Oxbow. C Casa, for example, offers unmatched Mexican cuisine with a California twist, or Hog Island Oyster Co. serves up freshly caught oysters on the half-shell as well as a myriad of other bay-sourced seafood dishes. Pro tip — we recommend keeping lunch light, so you can enjoy dinner later.

Once your appetite is satisfied, peruse the aisles of locally-made gifts and goodies of all kinds.

No visit to Oxbow is complete without the purchase of at least a couple of souvenirs. If you have a sweet tooth, a stop at Annette’s Chocolates or Kara’s Cupcakes is a must. Looking to take home something for the kitchen? Browse spices, cheeses, olive oil and more at any of the vendors specializing in artisanal foods and drinks. And of course, make sure to pop into the Napa Bookmine before you leave, and snag a new read for the trip home.


Dinner, Drinks, and good times

The Dinner of your dreams

As the afternoon melts into evening, Downtown Napa comes more alive than ever. If you’re still not quite ready for another meal, have a seat at a craft cocktail/wine bar for an early evening drink. Head up to the Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar, situated atop the Archer Hotel, and enjoy a craft cocktail, a glass of wine or a craft beer — if you happen to be there on a Tuesday, you can even try a margarita on tap as a part of their Taco Tuesdays. For fans of whiskey, plan to make a reservation at their Whiskey Bar, which features more than 150 different whiskeys and a number of whiskey-based specialty cocktails. Sky & Vine looks out across picturesque valley vistas, making it the perfect photo opportunity. Closer to the ground, you can’t go wrong with The ArBaretum, an eclectically decorated cocktail spot that’s closer to an art exhibit than your standard bar. Or, take advantage of the beautiful weather that Napa enjoys for much of the year, and grab a “garden to glass” brew at Napa Yard, an outdoor beer garden right across the street from Oxbow. Keep the good vibes going with a stop at Wilfred’s Lounge, Downtown Napa’s own take on a classic tiki bar and unwind island-style with a tropical craft cocktail.

The sun is sinking, and your pre-dinner cocktail hour is ending. Where to next? Downtown Napa has a wide variety of fantastic restaurants sure to make your dining experience unforgettable — there are almost too many to choose from! If you are looking for a more upscale place to dine, check out Angèle, a French bistro sitting a stone’s throw from the riverfront, nestled within the historic Hatt Building. Here, you can indulge yourself in classic French culinary such as escargot or veal sweetbreads while sampling from their extensive wine list. Nearly next door to Angèle is Celadon, offering a taste of international flavors presented with that refined Napa Valley flair. Or, perhaps you’re interested in visiting some of Napa’s Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants, such as Torc or La Toque.

No matter which exquisite dining experience you choose, make sure to save room for dessert. Napa’s Vintage Sweet Shoppe will have you feeling like a little kid in a candy store again, but this time, you can enjoy wine with your chocolates. Grab an ice cream, some truffles or even a chocolate-dipped bottle of wine to go, or take a seat on their patio to unwind after dinner.

Maybe you’re in the mood for a quick drink stop. The CIA at Copia has added the Haven Cocktail Lounge to their garden balcony, allowing visitors to enjoy a stunning cocktail made with garden-fresh ingredients while looking out over the campus’ verdant gardens. Vermeil Wines on First Street offers a wide selection of local and international wines served up in a casual, laid-back environment. Think, sports bar meets wine tasting room — and they are open as late as 11 pm on the weekends. For fans of sparkling wine, Be Bubbly is a must-stop. As Napa’s first and only sparkling wine-exclusive wine bar, Be Bubbly is focused on providing you with the best collection of regional and international bubbles possible. With community events such as live music running almost daily, there is always a new experience to check out at this tasting room.

Depending on when you end your meal, you might have time to catch some local talent. Blue Note Napa, a jazz club occupying the first floor of the historic Napa Valley Opera House, invites you to unwind in their intimate live music venue, where they have shows most weekends. The Uptown Theatre also often features live music, comedy or other entertainment acts of all kinds.

Where to Stay

Planning a trip to Downtown Napa is like shuffling a deck of cards: each magic combination is completely one-of-a-kind. These itineraries are just a glimpse into what it is possible to experience here in the heart of California’s wine country. Check out the full scope of unforgettable activities, gourmet cuisine, world-class wine and unmatched hospitality available to you on your next visit. Book a stay at any of the luxurious lodging options available here in Downtown and experience all that wine country has to offer. Plan your next adventure today — we’ll be waiting, glass of bubbly in hand!