By Paul and Teresa Lowe
If you haven’t visited Napa in a few years then you don’t really know Napa. A newly renovated downtown Napa has become a rather glamorous destination for live music shows performed by major acts, and also a cool spot for weekend getaways and extended vacations. There are several new restaurants, trendy shops and open air bars within a six to eight block area around the Oxbow Public Market and the restored Napa River front. Yes, wine tasting rooms are found on almost every corner. Be sure to get a wine card from local vendors. ($30). This will most definitely save you a few dollars as you sample a wide variety of fine wines not only from Napa but from the world. Any season of the year can be a good reason to visit this gorgeous part of northern California.
Model Bakery –
Among the places where you could start your day with a hot breakfast is the Model Bakery (located next to the Oxbow Market). This shop has been around since 1908 and is perhaps best known for its light and buttery brioche breads, melt in your mouth pastries and also English Muffins, sandwiches, pizza and wonderful coffees. Come early the lines can be long. Price ($-$$)
Andaz Napa Hotel – http://napa.andaz.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html
Eating breakfast here is like an old fashion country house gathering- served family style. Every morning features a different breakfast menu. The portions are huge! The chef says he uses only the freshest ingredients mostly from local growers. The food is scrumptious and the dining experience is absolutely exquisite. Price ($$-$$$)
Bank Cafe –
The cafe, located inside of the Westin Verasa Napa Hotel, is considered one of the best hotel restaurants in town. The Michelin Star (Highest achievement in the restaurant industry) Chef Ken Frank says he prepares his menus for guests who enjoy being surprised and delighted by flavors infused throughout the premium quality meals and unique wine pairings and also local craft beers. Indeed the dishes are truly extraordinary! Price ($$-$$$$)
Frati Gelato Cafe –
Desserts don’t get any better than a, hand made fresh everyday, cup of gelato. ______ owners and operators of the cafe were once part of the rush rush corporate world. _____is a retired physician. But the two felt incomplete. Their real passion was centered around serving people in a delicious and different way. The gelato served here is wildly flavorful! This is a small shop located along the riverfront. Locals say don’t ever leave Napa without stopping in for a cup. Price ($-$$)
Andaz Napa Hotel –
From the moment you set foot onto the property you’re made to feel like royalty. Checking into the Andaz is non conventional. A hotel host staffer greets you with a warm smile and computer tablet in hand to register you into a room. Once the formalities of check-in are complete you’re offered a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres – nice touch. This boutique hotel, located in the heart of downtown Napa, is only a few years old and has a modern design and also a very relaxing visitors atmosphere. Inside guests rooms is a full size soaking bathtub, thick luxurious sheets atop a wonderfully comfortable bed. Andaz Napa Hotel. Pet Friendly. Price ($$-$$$$).
Napa River Inn –
This downtown Napa hotel has a long illustrious history in the community. The property was originally home to the historic Napa Mill – a one time center hub of old Napa. Many of the rooms of this boutique hotel have a fireplace and offer views of the Napa River. Guests are treated to a glass of fine wine at check in and a complimentary breakfast. The breakfast comes from the downstairs bakery Sweetie Pies. Napa River Inn. Pet Friendly. Price ($$-$$$$).
Embassy Suites Napa –
This hotel has an appearance that will remind you of a posh resort. You’re treated to beautifully manicured landscaping to an opulent lobby with fireplace and registration counter. The suites are rather nice-well appointed,comfortable and large. The folks who work here are genuinely polite and welcoming. The grounds, at the moment, features a pond that’s home to a family of friendly beautiful swans. Pet Friendly. Price ($$$-$$$$)
The resurgence of downtown Napa has primarily been led by the city’s mayor. After a recession, a devastating earthquake and declining tourism, Honorable Mayor Jill Techel has made it her mission to breath new vitality into this beautify city by the Napa River. Locals say she and chamber of commerce general Craig Smith are leading the community’s comeback-saying “we live in a new Napa. “ You can often see Craig riding his bicycle through downtown. Wearing a big smile, he absolutely loves sharing the history and new highlights of this historic community. Their message to travelers; enjoy the smiles, laughter and new friendships you encounter.