One of the Napa Valley's recent success stories is the transformation of Napa, its largest and oldest city (population 78,000), into a spry, hip destination with cool nightspots and affordable lodgings. Although it's definitely a work in progress—you'll still find empty storefronts amid the wine bars, bookstores, and restaurants—Napa attracts more visitors every year.Napa was founded in 1848 in a strategic location on the Napa River, where the Sonoma-Benicia Road (Highways 12 and 29) crossed at a ford. The first wood-frame building was a saloon, and the downtown area still projects an old-river-town vibe. Many Victorian houses have survived, and in the original business district a few older buildings have been preserved, including the turn-of-the-20th-century courthouse and several riverfront warehouses. A walkway follows the river through town, making it more pedestrian-friendly, and new restaurants and hotels keep popping up. If you base yourself here, you'll undoubtedly want to spend some time exploring the beautiful countryside, but don't miss seeing what the Napa Valley's least pretentious town has to offer.
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Things You Can't Miss
Take in the valley as you sit back for three hours, rolling past vineyards, drinking wine and eating fine food in a restored Pullman dining car.
The visit begins with an aerial tram offering views of Napa Valley on the way to a tasting room. Then sip as you stroll on a self-guided winery tour.
Revel in gorgeous views as you drift peacefully over the valley. Then tuck into a post-flight breakfast. You won’t regret the early wakeup call.
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Here’s the place to pick up the local wine, cheese and produce that make this valley famous. You’re just a basket away from a scrumptious picnic.
Castles are reminiscent of the British monarchy, but you don’t have to travel to England to see them. See which historic American castles made our must-see list.
The Francis Coppola winery offers what the others do, but also has a gallery featuring Godfather memorabilia, bocce courts and a pool to lounge by.
Courtesy Coppola Winery
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You can’t go wrong at the Model Bakery in Napa — from a satisfying loaf of one their artisanal breads to a dozen decadent Chocolate Rad cookies.
At the Judd’s Hill Winery Bottle Blending Day Camp you’ll taste, learn and blend — and leave with a bottled and labeled wine of your very own.
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