Napa From Our Xpertz

Just 88 kilometers (55 miles) north of San Francisco, the 56 kilometre long (35 miles) Napa Valley comprises a string of small towns surrounded by dozens of wineries with acres of vineyards as far as the eye can see, all worth a visit. Napa Valley is exactly what you expect when you think of wine country: chateau wineries, long sunset restaurant dinners, bold wines, great hiking, exhilarating mud baths and some of the finest and most luxurious small-scale boutique hotels anywhere in California.

After many years as a blue-collar burg detached from the Wine Country scene, the Napa Valley's largest town (population about 80,000) has evolved into its shining star. Masaharu Morimoto and other chefs of note operate restaurants here, several swank hotels and inns can be found downtown and beyond, and nightlife options include the West Coast edition of the famed Blue Note jazz club. A walkway that follows the Napa River has made downtown more pedestrian-friendly, and the Oxbow Public Market, a complex of high-end food purveyors, is popular with locals and tourists.

The market is named for the nearby oxbow bend in the Napa River, a bit north of where Napa was founded in 1848. The first wood-frame building was a saloon, and the downtown area still projects an old-river-town vibe. Many Victorian houses have survived, some as bed-and-breakfast inns, and in the original business district a few older buildings have been preserved. Some of these structures, along with a few newer ones, were heavily damaged during a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in 2014.

If based in Napa plan on also spending at least a half-day strolling the downtown area. Chefs of note operate restaurants, several swank hotels, and inns can be found and nightlife options include the West Coast edition of the famed Blue Note jazz club. A walkway following the Napa River makes for a pedestrian-friendly downtown and the Oxbow Public Market is popular with locals and tourists.

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