When you think of Napa, California, you think of wine, as you most certainly should. Napa Valley produces some of the finest wines in the world. Every serious oenophile has a pilgrimage to Napa on his or her Bucket List. But even if you’re not really into wine, Downtown Napa offers a thriving food, and art scenes with plenty of opportunities for shopping, entertainment, and adventure. Throw in a well developed riverfront, some cool architecture, free parking, and pedestrian friendly terrain, Napa is easily one of my favorite Bucket List destinations!

(Special thanks to the Downtown Napa Association for hosting me on my most recent trip. You can see some of my social media posts from the trip by following the #DoNapa hashtag.)


Napa is rapidly moving into the upper echelon of foodie destinations. And with the Culinary Institute of American in it’s back yard, that should really come as no surprise. Restaurants like the Michelin starred La Toque, Iron Chef Morimoto’s Morimoto Napa, Oenotri, and The CIA at Copia have really helped put Napa on the world culinary map. The Oxbow Public Market has over 20 vendors, a wide variety of food offerings, and even has a taproom for the Fieldwork Brewing Company. Gott’s Roadside is a local favorite that serves everything from burgers with sweet potato fries to ahi tuna tacos! As a southerner, one of my personal favorites is Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin’ BBQ where you can chow down on some great BBQ while sipping wine or bourbon in the presence of stuffed animal heads. 

BBQ Platter from Bounty Hunter


One of my favorite things about Napa, is the city’s love and appreciation for art! In addition to shops and galleries that showcase works of local artists, the city sponsors the Napa Art Walk which takes you on a journey to see an impressive array of sculptures throughout the city. This short video is just a sampling of the art encountered around town on my last visit.


Personally, I’m not much of a shopper, but my wife loves to shop and sees it as her personal patriotic duty to jump-start the economy all by herself. Downtown Napa has over 60 boutiques and specialty shops which are sure to keep her busy while I explore the downtown tasting rooms and the Napa General Store with it’s generous stock of wine art and wine paraphernalia. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the store is a pretty darn good place to eat breakfast or lunch as well.

Crafts made from wine barrels at the Napa General Store


The Uptown Theater and SILO’s are a couple of places where you can catch live musical performances. But on this trip, I experienced a music and food pairing at Blue Note Napa. A concert/show by the incredible flamenco gypsy jazz group, Barrio Manouche, paired perfectly some scrumptious Spanish tostada thingies that the chef prepared just for that night’s show! I may or may not have had a decadent “PB&J” Peanut Butter Mousse with Strawberry Compote and Black Sesame Crumble for dessert. (Maybe if I deny it, the calories won’t count:) 

Barrio Manouche performing at Blue Note Napa


Napa has plenty to rouse your inner adventurous spirit.

  • Exploring Napa Valley in 100 year old rail cars on the on the Napa Valley Wine Train always makes for a great outing.
  • Few things are more romantic than an early morning hot air balloon ride over the vineyards.
  • The Napa Valley Vine Trail is currently under construction and will be a 47 mile trail for walking, running, or biking once completed (which will be soon!!)  
  • The Napa River which runs right through town and provides plenty of opportunities for water activities like fly fishing and kayaking.

Here’s a time lapse video of my kayak adventure. It’s kinda shakey but you’ll still see a lot of cool stuff – including a race with some geese.   

Take a “gander” at on of the geese I was racing. (The geese won:)

The winner of Rick vs. Goose


Of course wine reins supreme in Napa. Once upon a time driving out to the various wineries to sample wines was the Napa tourist thing to do. You can still do that but if you intend to visit several wineries, it’s probably not a good idea to do a lot of tasting unless you do a lot of spitting or unless you have a designated driver. Staying in Downtown Napa offers a great solution as there are over 20 tasting rooms that you can enjoy, all within easy walking distance. You can purchase a Downtown Wine Tasting Card for $15 that allows you to experience 12 of the tasting rooms for 1/2 price! On this trip, I particularly enjoyed the Vintner’s Collective tasting room. My favorite new (to me) wine from this trip was a 2014 Walala Pinot Noir from Whetstone Wine Cellars.  

Charcuterie and wine from Whetstone Wine Cellars

What are your favorite things to experience in Napa? 


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