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4 Towns of the Napa Valley

Updated on April 19, 2013

Napa Vineyards

Visit the gorgeous Napa Valley!
Visit the gorgeous Napa Valley! | Source

Napa Valley Towns

You love wine. You love food. Your best friend returned from a romantic getaway to Napa and raved about it for weeks. So you've decided it’s time to head west to the famous Napa Valley and try all the good wine and food for yourself. But where to stay? The Napa Valley consists of 4 main towns, each with their own unique charm. Which one is right for you?

Napa Town on the Napa River

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Napa - A River Town

The first and most obvious one is the town of Napa. Napa town is located furthest south closest to San Francisco. The town lies on the picturesque Napa River, with restaurants and hotels lining the waterfront area. In Napa you’ll find the famous Napa Wine Train depot where you can embark on gourmet wine lunches and dinners. Check out their vista dome car for an extra special view of the passing valley. After your wine train experience, walk over to Oxbow Market, an indoor collection of boutique and gourmet food vendors. From Oysters to cupcakes to Fine teas and wine bars, you won’t go hungry or thirsty here! A great place to sit and check your email with the free WiFi provided.

My favorite hotel here is the River Terrace Inn, a boutique hotel located within walking distance to the wine train and downtown Napa. I recommend reserving a River view room, which provides a serene view of the river and surrounding countryside. Their restaurant Cuvee is a great place for dinner or breakfast. We love to include breakfast at the River Terrace with our Napa vacation packages as the high beamed ceilings and stone walls mixed with contemporary décor and gourmet cuisine is a perfect way to start your day. If a more traditional styled room is more to your taste, try out the Napa River Inn, the frilly pink bedding and curtains and antique furniture give off an air of traditional elegance.

Yountville - Gourmet Capital of Napa

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A Foodie's Paradise

Heading south on Highway 29 from Napa, you’ll find yourself in Yountville, a foodie’s paradise. Yountville has more Michelin stars per capita than any other town in the United States! No need to get in your car while staying in Yountville, just take a casual stroll along the Oak-lined streets when seeking out a memorable evening meal from a Michelin starred chef, the perfect breakfast pastry and coffee, light shopping in one of the many boutique shops, or some additional wine tasting in one of the four tasting rooms.

Be prepared to spend more money on both your hotel and restaurants here. Often described as the Beverly Hills of Northern California, this picturesque village is not for the budget-conscious. You are spoiled for choice for luxury hotels here. For those looking for a spa getaway the Vintage Inn & Spa will not disappoint. For a more contemporary hotel, try Hotel Yountville. Opened in 2011 and recognized by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine as one of the “hot 100 new hotels and restaurants in the world,” the Yountville resort specializes in offering personalized service to each guest. And then there is Bardessono, which is in a league of its own. A LEED certified luxury hotel, it was voted the most romantic hotel in the US by tripadvisor. Be prepared to pay at least $600/night, but it’s worth every penny. For a girlfriend getaway, I recommend the Napa Valley Lodge. This 4-star Tuscan-styled hotel has a beautiful pool and rooms equipped with two queen beds (we love our girlfriends, but if we can have our own bed, all the better!). Start your morning off each right with their champagne breakfast, complimentary with each night of your stay.

St. Helena - Victorian Elegance to Old-World Italian

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Casual Elegance in the Vineyards

St. Helena is a charming Victorian town located in the heart of Napa Valley. It exudes casual elegance and grace. Here you’ll find the quaint and luxurious bed and breakfasts you associate with wine country. The largest hotel here is the Harvest Inn, an English-Tudor style property with beautiful gardens. Located right across Highway 29 from the Harvest Inn, you’ll find Tra Vigne, one of the best Italian restaurants in Napa Valley. House in an old ivy covered stone building, you feel more as if you are in Tuscany than in California. St. Helana is brimming with famous wineries including V. Sattui, Beaulieu Vineyard, Grgich Hills and Beringer. Our favorite smaller wineries are Vice Versa and Del Dotto where you can tour their opulent Venetian Caves.

For all of you who are a fan of roadside diners, a trip to Gotts is a must. Easily one of the best diners around, there is always a long line of people waiting to sample the food. Don't let the crowds put you off, it will well worth the wait! Other great restaurants of note are Farmstead, Cook & French Blue, each worth a visit. Farmstead is owned by Longmeadow Ranch, a hidden gem winery and serves fresh, gourmet local cuisine.

Historic Calistoga

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Laid-Back Napa

If you’re looking for a sense of the old Napa Valley, the laid-back era of Napa, then head to Calistoga. There are still parts of an old wooden sidewalk and lovely views of the mountains. Calistoga is at the very far north end of Napa Valley and is famous for its natural springs and spas. You can stay at the Roman Springs Inn or try something more luxurious and stay at Auberge du Soliel. The views from their outside terrace are breathtaking.

In Calistoga, you truly feel as if you are getting away from it all. Tucked away under impressive tree-lined peaks, Calistoga has a more remote and relaxed feeling than the rest of the Napa towns located in the Valley. For those wishing to escape busy Napa or the picture perfect-ness of Yountville, Calistoga is the town for you.

From Calistoga, you can head west over the mountain into Sonoma County. Or head out Highway 128 through Knights Valley and find one of the prettiest drives in Napa. In Calistoga, you can visit the “Napa Castle”, an authentic Tuscan Castles brought over stone-by-stone and rebuilt on a hilltop with commanding views of the valley. The Italian gift shop here is wonderful for finding a unique present to bring back home. You’ll also find Sterling Winery where you will have to take a gondola-style tram up the mountain to reach their tasting room. From Sterling, you have an amazing view of the Napa Castle below.

The Napa Castle

View the Napa Castle from Sterling Winery
View the Napa Castle from Sterling Winery | Source

Which Napa Town Will You Choose?

Which Napa town best suits you? Contemporary Napa Town with its picturesque waterfront & Napa Wine train or the food mecca of Yountville? Or try the more traditional St. Helena or rural Calistoga. Each town offers you unique Napa wine tours, foodie experiences and outdoor activities.Can't choose which town is right for you? Perhaps you'll just have to try them all out on multiple trip to Napa!

About the Author

Allie Lynch is the managing director of Authentic Wine Country, an award-winning company specializing in unique tours, vacations, groups and events in Napa, Sonoma & France Wine Regions. She also is the co-founder and CEO of Winebookings.com, a mobile concierge site specializing in unique activities and experiences in the California Wine Country. This online tool allows people to book wine country tours, activities, wine tasting, foodie experiences, exclusive events and more! She also serves as an executive director for Authentic Ireland, a company she founded in 2000.

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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 2 years ago from Auburn, WA

      I'm neither a foodie or wine person, but I spent sometime in Yountville in December. And I was impressed. Ate at Bottega (not sure of the spelling). Greatest meatballs I ever tasted. I'm from NYC, so I've tasted some great meatballs. We made it to few other spots (great pizza place by the lodge t00). Beautiful area and want to go back.