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Wine Country Day Trip: The Best of the Old and New in Downtown Napa

New hotels have moved in, along with more tasting rooms, restaurants and fine boutiques.

Straddling both sides of the river, downtown Napa has numerous clever reuse projects in historic buildings, including the Historic Napa Mill, home to a luxury spa, a charming riverfront hotel and Silo’s—a cozy spot to catch live performers.

In recent years, new hotels have moved into downtown Napa, along with more tasting rooms and fine boutiques. As the city continues to evolve, many old favorites also continue to thrive and draw savvy visitors who also journey to Wine Country to see what’s new.

Napa Valley Wine Train
The Wine Train departs from downtown. (Courtesy Napa Valley Wine Train)

Explore

There’s no better way to enjoy getting to know Napa than with a scenic walk along the Napa River Trail. From the paved path, observe the oxbow in the river, for which several local attractions are named.

At the CIA at Copia, individuals, couples and families can enjoy cooking classes and chef demonstrations, and adults can opt for wine courses and tastings. Enjoy seasonal fare at The Restaurant at CIA Copia, check out the events calendar or simply explore the beautiful grounds.

CIA at Copia in Napa
Take a class led by a culinary celebrity at the CIA at Copia. (©John Barkley)

Napa is also a destination for live music and engaging entertainment, with must-visit venues Blue Note Napa and Jam Cellars. The popular Napa Valley Wine Train operates year round and offers a three-hour, 36-mile throwback round-trip excursion in vintage Pullman rail cars. Running between Napa and St. Helena, the train stops at a number of celebrated vineyards. Special packages are available, including a murder mystery dinner.

Jam Cellars tasting room
The music-themed Jam Cellars tasting room has a state-of-the-art sound system and classic vinyl collection. (Courtesy Jam Cellars)

Eat

There’s something for everyone at the Oxbow Public Market: an emporium of handcrafted chocolates, locally produced olive oil, wine and liquor and housewares and gifts. Start your day with an English muffin sandwich from Model Bakery, or head over to the Westin Verasa to enjoy breakfast at Bank Café, featuring fresh juices and savory egg dishes.

Lunch and dinner at Compline begin with vino by the glass or bottle, selected by the bistro’s master sommelier. Sample local cheeses, seasonal soups and starters, and save room for king salmon or duck for two. At Ca’Momi Osteria, rustic, authentic Italian fare comes in the form of light antipasti plates of burrata and roasted veggies, and plates of housemade pasta perfectly al dente.

The new Compline
Grab a glass of vino and a bite at the new Compline. (©Kali Photography)

Dinnertime in downtown Napa is a delight. At longtime Michelin-starred La Toque, the discreet dining environment boasts several booths with windows into the open kitchen. There are several tasting menus to choose from and expert pairings available from the staff sommelier. Offering views of the river walk, Morimoto is a longtime Napa favorite for its namesake chef’s inventive Japanese tasting menus and sake list. With Wine Country name recognition comes Charlie Palmer Steak Napa. Located on the ground level of the Archer Hotel, this sleek steakhouse focuses on sophisticated steaks, seafood and plenty of locally produced sides and bottles of vino.

Miminashi eatery
Miminashi, a stylish Japanese izakaya-style eatery that’s maintained steady local buzz. (Courtesy Miminashi)

Drink

One highlight includes Vintner’s Collective, which brings together bottles from more than a dozen boutique wineries from across Wine Country. Walk-in for a tasting, or call ahead to reserve a private appointment. Brown Downtown is open every day pouring its signature zinfandel, and reservations aren’t required but are recommended.