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Tell your friends you're headed to Napa and their next question more likely than not is "which wineries are you going to visit?" Naturally, the valley's award-winning wineries and vineyards are a must on your travel itinerary, but be sure to spend time in downtown Napa enjoying all it has to offer. You'll find a thriving arts scene, shopping, restaurants, walking tours, outdoor activities, seasonal festivals and more. Here are six ways to explore this beautiful California city and Do Napa.
The Napa ARTwalk
The Napa ARTWalk is a rotating exhibition of stand-alone and integrated sculptures (each available for sale) around Downtown Napa and the Oxbow District. Pick up a guide at the Napa Valley Welcome Center on Main Street or download it here, and learn about the Otocast audio app for a self-guided tour at this link.
One way to embark on this artistic journey is to begin at the historic Napa Mill (tip: start with breakfast or lunch at the Napa General Store) to view the newest exhibit along with more established art pieces. This is also the site of Alan Shepp’s mosaic fountain entitled "Ars Longa Vita Brevis," or "Life is Brief But Art Endures," with his colorful vignettes capturing the history of Napa and the animal denizens of the Napa River. Follow the path along the riverfront and admire Terrence Martin's metal art "Fish On" (a 2010 ARtwalk People's Choice winner) as you head downtown to peruse more works. End at the striking 9/11 Memorial Garden, a collaboration with the City of Napa and local artist Gordon Huether incorporating steel beams from the Twin Towers.
Oxbow Public Market
The Oxbow Public Market is a downtown riverfront hub, a 40,000 square foot marketplace with indoor and outdoor seating for restaurants, locally-owned businesses and their wares, and grocers showcasing California artisans and regional specialties. Start your day here with breakfast, spend the afternoon drinking, dining, and shopping, or stop in for Happy Hour and dinner. You can read more about dining options here.
CIA at Copia
Next door is the Culinary Institute of America at Copia. Here you can attend cooking classes with topics ranging from "California Bounty" to "Indian Cuisine"; from "Homemade Cheese" to "Eclairs and Their Cousins". Learn about "The History of Napa Valley in 8 Glasses" in the Vintners Theater, or bring the kids for Sunday Family Fundays.
The Restaurant at CIA Copia (see more here) also welcomes guests with a sleek dining room, open kitchen, and olive tree-shaded patio to enjoy lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Take note of more pieces by famed Napa artist Gordon Huether, including "Bob & Margrit" atop the CIA's 75-foot tower, a tribute to Robert and Margrit Mondavi, and "The Fork" at the restaurant's entrance, composed of over 8,000 recycled utensils.
Downtown Tasting Rooms
Downtown Napa also plays host to a variety of wine tasting rooms, many in walking distance to each other for easy ambling. One of the most unique settings is the Capp Heritage Tasting Room. Settle in with a tasting flight in the main room with a striking antique mahogany and brass bar and steampunk elements, or relax in the Deco Room anchored by a circa 1910 stained glass ceiling dome (tip: visit on Saturday nights for live music). If you're lucky, you'll have time to chat with Gary Koehler, who is not only the tasting room manager, but a singer, songwriter and historian - be sure to purchase his CD and ask him about the Capp family and great-great-grandfather David Hudson's Napa legacy.
Chocolate Tasting Class at Anette's Chocolate
A visit to one of Anette's Chocolate locations (1st Street or Oxbow Market) is a given, but you're in for more decadent fun if you combine her confections with a chocolate class. Anette Madsen and her brother Brent are famous for their wine-infused chocolates and other sweet treats, and at their 1st Street location, she leads a variety of classes. Sign up for the 45-minute Chocolate Tasting Class ($20 per person) to learn about the history of chocolate and candy-making, the proper way to taste and savor, and how regionality and chocolate-making methods influence distinctive flavors.
Afterwards, take a seat on the cozy patio to linger with coffee, ice cream, candy, and more, or purchase packages of chocolates, truffles, caramels, marshmallows, and candied popcorn along with award-winning wine-infused dessert sauces and fantastic brittle.
Enjoy Napa Valley Rental and Tours
Napa native and local expert Justin Perkins of Enjoy Napa Valley has been leading tours in Napa Valley for 25 years, loves his job, and it shows. His signature Napa River History kayak tours are understandably popular due to his warmth, enthusiasm, and wealth of knowlege. Along his tours, you'll learn fascinating details, from flora and fauna to historical anecdotes and local tips. Enjoy Napa has recently expanded to bicycle tours and Justin will work with individuals and groups to customize bike routes, such as this one that started at Oxbow Public Market and led past vineyards and gorgeous Napa views to the Gordon Huether Gallery (look for an upcoming feature on artist Gordon Huether).
For more information and to plan your next Napa trip, visit DoNapa, the official website of the Downtown Napa Association.
On a beautiful fall afternoon, I arrived in Napa, joining fellow travel writers for an exploratory press trip of downtown Napa's unique offerings. We were hosted by the wonderful team of the Downtown Napa Association on our guided journey. Join me on a photo recap of the culinary highlights of our October weekend.
Napa General Store: 540 Main St Ste 100, Napa, CA 94559, (707) 259-0762.
Located in the historic Napa Mill district on the riverfront, this inviting restaurant, wine bar, and shop is filled with local artisanal products, jewelry, clothing, wine-related gifts, furniture, and more. The shop is open from 8 am to 6 pm, and breakfast and lunch is served daily with a special brunch menu on the weekends. Guests can dine in the cozy cafe or enjoy Napa's beautiful weather on the pretty patio.
On the lunch menu, you'll find soups, salads, sandwiches, and flatbreads. I opted for the vermicelli salad, an ode to Vietnamese bún gà nướng. It was the perfect warm-weather choice, featuring a heap of chilled rice noodles, lettuce, cucumber, carrots, and mint topped with peanuts, a crispy spring roll, and fried shallots. Another popular order is "Our Famous Chinese Chicken Salad" combining shredded chicken breast, red and green cabbage, scallions, and toasted almonds tossed with a soy-sesame dressing and garnished with crunchy wonton strips.
Wine tastings are offered daily from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm, focusing on wines made by smaller Napa Valley wineries and boutique producers not often seen outside of Northern California.
Our group were invited to sample four wines to accompany our lunch, two whites and two reds. We started with a chardonnay comparison between Herencia Del Valle cool-climate Carneros Chardonnay and Dos Lagos neutral-oaked Cloaked in Secrecy, before moving on to Ecletic Winery's Charbono from Suisun Valley and Napa General Store's exclusive Petite Sirah made by Julie Johnson, owner and winemaker of Tres Sabores Winery. I loved learning about the smaller producers and esoteric varietals. For example, Eclectic's charbono is an unusual Italian grape varietal with wine produced in very limited quantities and in the US grown almost exclusively in California on less than 85 acres.
Oxbow Public Market: 610 and 644 First Street in Napa; (707) 226-6529
Located in the Oxbow District of downtown Napa, this 40,000 square-foot marketplace is a community gathering spot celebrating local restaurants and purveyors. You'll find shopping, drinking - from coffee bars to distilleries - and a variety of dining venues. The Market is open seven days a week except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. I didn't have a chance to eat here on this visit, but did some strolling.
Some options that caught my eye include Hog Island Oyster Co. (serving oysters and seafood small plates and entrees), Five Dot Ranch Cookhouse and butcher shop (owned by the Swickards, a seven-generation family of Northern California ranchers), Live Fire Pizza (offering indoor and outdoor seating for beer, wine, antipasti, and wood-fired pizzas), and Three Twins Ice Cream (organic ice cream made with cane syrup and all-natural flavors). I suggest spending a few hours exploring this vibrant scene - something I plan to do on my next trip!
Eight Noodle Shop:1408 Clay St, Napa, CA 94559; (707) 637-4198
We picked a beautiful day to have lunch on the sunny patio at Eight Noodle Shop, a comfortable spot boasting an Asian-influenced menu (steamed buns, rice plates, ramen) and handmade noodles. The draw here is not only the delicious dishes, but friendly owner David Lu, who guided us on our menu choices including addictive Korean chicken wings coated in a crunchy batter and a spicy-sweet gochujang glaze.
What else to order? I would recommend all of the dishes I tried: Fried pot stickers stuffed with juicy pork and shrimp; sesame pork "dry" ramen enrobed in a thick and creamy sesame sauce studded with minced pork, preserved pear, and diced long beans ("one of my favorites" said Lu); Kimchi fried rice topped with soy-braised beef cheeks, sliced cucumbers, and fried eggs; butterscotch panna cotta made with white miso and scotch whisky; and five-spice Okinawa donuts with caramel and apple cream.
Crush Ultra Lounge: 875 Bordeaux Way, Napa, CA 94558; (707) 251-3066
Don't let the name Crush Ultra Lounge fool you into picturing a simple and familiar bar menu, as it did me. My expectations were quickly adjusted when we arrived at the stunning Meritage Resort and Spa, where this entertainment lounge is located. I love the fact that you can enjoy great food and drinks at Happy Hour, wind down after a day of wine tasting, or meet with a bunch of friends for dinner and bowling, as our group did. Some of my favorite bites were the flaky Sonoma duck samosas with coriander yogurt dipping sauce, the short rib sliders layered with horseradish aioli, celery leaves and crispy shallots, and Niman Ranch spiced ground lamb skewers with avocado, tomato, and goat cheese, especially good with my Negroni below (a cocktail favorite).
Sit at the bar or in front of the fireplace, or relax at seating areas with high-back leather chairs. Bonus! After dinner, try your hand at shuffleboard, pool, or one of six bowling lanes.
Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ: 975 First St., Napa; (707) 226-3976
This local favorite is a combination restaurant, wine bar, and retail shop and you'll find it a lively, casual spot to settle in for a menu ranging from charcuterie plates and pimento cheese dip to Caesar salad and a Bounty Burger with Wagyu beef (all from a suprisingly tiny kitchen!). Of course, the BBQ plays a starring role and the best way to sample and share is The Bounty Hunter Smokin’ BBQ Platter. We feasted on smoky pulled pork, sliced brisket, a slab of meaty St. Louis-style ribs, and coleslaw.
You'll find suggested wine pairings for each menu item with 400+ bottles available and 40 wines by the glass, in addition to craft beers and an extensive selection of hard-to-find spirits. I had to order a rye whiskey flight when I saw one offering an exclusive Bounty Hunter barrel of WhistlePig 10 Year rye (Vermont), along with Sazerac 6 Year (Kentucky) and High West Rendezvous (Utah).
And although BBQ features predominantly in the name, Bounty Hunter is also known for its beer can chicken roasted with Tecate beer and lime, which I can attest is the best I've ever had - juicy and tender with a crispy skin seasoned with a Cajun spice blend that includes fennel, coriander, thyme and turmeric. It's a must-order.
Celadon: 500 Main St G, Napa, CA 94559; (707) 254-9690
Celadon is an award-winning fine-dining restaurant tucked away in the Napa Mill riverfront district. To enter, pass through a verdant arched entryway which opens onto a rustic indoor-outdoor space outlined with whitewashed brick walls and anchored by a freestanding fireplace.
Open for lunch and dinner, its global menu is inspired by flavors from Asia to the Mediterranean. A fat Dungeness crab cake reflected Thailand with a green papaya, carrot, and cilantro salad and a chile-spiked sambal aioli.
If it's a special, I highly recommend the clam chowder, one of the best renditions I've had since moving from my homestate of Massachusetts. I also loved the signature cinnamon and cardamom-scented Morrocan lamb shank served with its rich braising jus and Israeli couscous with dried apricots and sultanas.
The Restaurant at CIA Copia: 500 1st Street, Napa, CA 94559; (707) 967-2555
Lunch at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia before my flight home was the perfect finale to a fantastic time spent in Napa (look for more details on the CIA at Copia on my next Napa feature).
Open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, the restaurant makes use of the fresh produce grown on-site. Guests can dine on the patio shaded by olive trees, in the airy dining room, or at the chef's counter, or enjoy a pre-dinner glass of wine or craft cocktail in the lounge, such as a barrel-aged Vieux Carré, one of my favorite classics.
Seasonal dishes draw inspiration from around the world, such as these four favorites at my luncheon:
- Crudo of local halibut with citrusy Japanese ponzu, pomegranate seeds, and micro-cilantro.
- Fire-Roasted Tomato Toast, a take on the Spanish tapa of pan con tomate with boquerones/marinated white anchovies.
- Vitello Tonnato, a northern Italian specialty and a personal favorite of mine - thin slices of rare roasted veal served chilled, draped in a creamy sauce of egg yolks and preserved tuna, and garnished with capers and arugula.
- Eggplant Involtini, grilled eggplant slices rolled around a goat cheese filling and nestled in a smoked tomato sauce.
Finally, if you're looking for the perfect B&B serving some of the best breakfasts in Napa, click on the photo below for details of my stay at The Inn on First.
I was hosted by the Downtown Napa Association on a media press trip.
The Inn on First has a prime location within walking distance to the shops, restaurants, wine tasting rooms, and riverside activities in downtown Napa, a picturesque setting with lush landscaping, and is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway with luxurious rooms featuring whirlpool tubs, gas fireplaces and no TVs. They were also the first Northern California B&B to be certified “green” by the State of California, and serve some of the most delicious breakfasts in town. The Inn on First has it all.
This inviting bed and breakfast is a lovely property owned by Jamie Cherry and Jim Gunther consisting of the main historic mansion and a separate building with first-floor Garden Suites and second-floor Honeymoon Suites. Checking in, you are greeted by your hosts in a bright and airy foyer and shown the main rooms, including the dining room and living room with a baby grand piano that guests are welcome to play.
You'll find thoughtful details such as a split of Mumm sparkling wine and truffles made by innkeeper Jim in your room, complimentary picnic baskets and wi-fi, and a decanter of California port in the mansion sitting room.
You'll find other relaxing spots on the property that invite you to relax and linger such as a quiet fountain-side retreat and a firepit for cozy Napa evenings.
I stayed in the Heritage Estate suite, a beautiful room located in the Garden Suites decorated in cool grays and complete with a heart-shaped two-person whirlpool, spacious bathroom, gas fireplace, and an enclosed private deck.
After a restful night in my comfortable king bed, I woke to a sunny morning and al fresco breakfast on the main patio. Chef/owner Jim Gunther is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and delights guests daily with his homemade specialties. You'll find classic favorites and creative dishes such as breakfast lasagna, tempura sushi roll omelettes, and roasted pear tacos with strawberries and whipped cream. In fact, he has a breakfast repertoire of over 150 dishes, which you can make yourself with his cookbook, A Napa Valley Breakfast Book. It also makes a perfect Napa gift or souvenir.
I started in the dining room at the buffet which offered a platter of flaky warm cinnamon twists, homemade granola, yogurt and fresh fruit, before making myself a breakfast parfait and heading to the patio.
Here, Jim served one of his signatures, fantastic breakfast risotto tots. I loved these crispy nuggets containing creamy herb-flecked risotto that were topped with a poached egg and accompanied by thick slices of toast and jam (homemade of course!). In a weekend of wonderful food at Napa's many excellent restaurants (read about those here), this was a highlight, and I can't think of a more perfect way to begin your Napa exploration.
I was hosted by the Downtown Napa Association on a media press trip. and my stay was complimentary.
Luxury Boutique Brand Leads Downtown Palm Springs Redevelopment with Hotel Opening
PALM SPRINGS, CALIF. (PRESS RELEASE) – Soaring to new heights in Palm Springs is Kimpton The Rowan Palm Springs, now accepting reservations in anticipation of its opening this fall. The seven-story, 153-room urban desert escape anchors the city’s major downtown revitalization project and features Palm Springs’ first and only rooftop pool, two restaurants and two bars, serene views of the majestic San Jacinto Mountains, and inspiring spaces for meetings & events.
The first full-scale hotel built in the area in decades and Kimpton’s first project in the Palm Springs market, Kimpton The Rowan Palm Springs is a celebration of the desert’s organic, rugged beauty artfully balanced with refined glamour and modern touchpoints. The hotel sits at the intersection of the high desert and local scene, where the base of the San Jacinto Mountains meets the center of the city’s best shopping, dining, outdoor pursuits and arts & culture scene.
“Palm Springs has stunning architecture and design, an inspiring landscape, and a stylishly cool spirit that’s exactly what the Kimpton brand is all about,” said Abe Liao, General Manager of Kimpton The Rowan Palm Springs. “With amenities like our rooftop pool – the first in the city – and several guestrooms with balconies, guests have a new way to stay and play in Palm Springs while still enjoying the desert’s authentic aesthetic and laidback vibe.”
A collaborative effort between Powerstrip Studio and the Kimpton Design Team, the design of Kimpton The Rowan Palm Springs is inspired by the resurgence of the Midcentury Modern movement, reimagined from a contemporary viewpoint while retaining the era’s essence, and infused with a playful beat. The light-filled spaces embody a sunny mix of minimalist, modern-desert urbanity with clean-lined furniture, custom art installations such as a 16-foot macramé owl behind the front desk and lobby-adjacent library display, grand staircase, and rooftop where six luxury cabanas line the pool. Subtly designed geometric patterns in an optimistic color palette – blues and greens in the guestrooms and pinks and oranges on the pool deck – are tempered with natural wood, creamy neutrals and white.
Guests can opt for Mountain View rooms with picturesque views of the San Jacinto Mountains, Balcony rooms with private outdoor terraces to chill and unwind, King rooms with a glass-walled bathroom offering views of the desert landscape, spacious Spa rooms with separate soaking tubs and glass-enclosed showers, and for the ultimate luxury stay three one-bedroom suites and a presidential suite, each with its own wraparound balcony.
Guests can get a genuine taste of Palm Springs throughout the property with treats by local purveyors in the Honor Bars and menus driven by locally sourced ingredients in the dining concepts. In the lobby living room, guests can enjoy a craft cocktail at Window Bar before heading out for the night or a nightcap before turning in. Juniper Table, a refined yet casual Mediterranean café, offers food & beverage for dining in or on the go. Perched atop the prime rooftop space is 4 Saints, an open-air bar and restaurant by day that transforms into an alluring environment after sundown and nightlife venue during peak season weekends.
For custom meetings, events and weddings, the hotel offers more than 5,000 square feet of multipurpose indoor and outdoor space including a ballroom, rooftop annex, and boardroom.
ABOUT KIMPTON THE ROWAN PALM SPRINGS: Entering the Palm Springs hospitality scene fall 2017 is Kimpton The Rowan Palm Springs, a 153-room urban oasis that effortlessly blends laidback cool and rugged desert beauty with high style, culture and unrivaled Kimpton hospitality. Kimpton The Rowan Palm Springs boasts the city’s first and only rooftop pool complete with six luxury cabanas, two restaurants and two bars, idyllic views of the San Jacinto Mountains and desert landscape, and 5,108 square feet of multipurpose indoor and outdoor space for custom events & meetings. With its prime location anchoring the very center of the revitalized Downtown Palm Springs, Kimpton The Rowan Palm Springs puts guests just steps away from some of the city’s best dining, shopping, art and attractions. For additional information, visit www.rowanpalmsprings.com or call 800.532.7320.
ABOUT KIMPTON HOTELS & RESTAURANTS: San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is a leading brand of boutique hotels and restaurants and the acknowledged industry pioneer that first introduced the boutique hotel concept to the United States. In 1981, Bill Kimpton founded the company that today is renowned for making travelers feel genuinely cared for through thoughtful perks and amenities, bold, playful design and a sincerely personal style of guest service. Out to help people live full, balanced lives, Kimpton aims to inspire with touches like yoga mats in every room, complimentary coffee and tea to start the day, hosted evening Wine Hour, in-room fitness programming and complimentary bike rentals. The award-winning restaurants and bars are led by talented chefs and bartenders who offer guests a chance to dine like a local.
Kimpton is consistently ranked as one of the top companies in the Market Metrix Hospitality Index, Upper Upscale Segment, for Customer Satisfaction. The brand is highly-regarded for its innovative employee culture and benefits and has been named a FORTUNE magazine “Best Place to Work” seven times since 2009. Kimpton is continuously growing and currently operates over 60 hotels and 70 plus restaurants, bars and lounges in 30 plus cities in the U.S., Caribbean, and Europe. In January 2015, Kimpton became part of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) family of hotel brands. For more information, visit www.KimptonHotels.com.