This travel guide is brought to you in partnership with Downtown Napa. All opinions are my own.
When we want to escape the coastal fog, we love to hop in the car with our dog and head to Napa. As one of our favorite Nothern California destinations, in today’s travel guide, discover a few of our recommended places to sip, savor, and sleep in this world famous wine growing region.
Having visited Napa over the years, one of the things I’ve enjoyed seeing is the continued growth and renewal in the area. Having undergone extensive revitalization over the past decade (with more new developments in the works), Downtown Napa has become one of the best spots to stay and play in Napa Valley.
While Napa got its start in the 1840s, it still pays homage to its early roots in many ways.
From Victorian mansions (that have turned into inns) to river-front restaurants and unique boutiques, downtown Napa is a convergence of modern amenities mixed with the charm and character of this bustling historic town.
As one of the southern-most destinations in the sprawling Napa Valley, the easily walkable Downtown Napa is home to dozens of wine tasting rooms, chic hotels and romantic B&Bs, award-winning restaurants, and lots of fun activities. Not to mention – it’s very dog-friendly too!
Where to Stay in Downtown Napa
Since Napa is known to be a romantic travel destination, staying at a local B&B is always a good idea – especially when it’s at The Inn on First Bed & Breakfast Inn – which was ranked on the 2017 Top 25 B&B List by BedandBreakfast.com.
This conveniently-located, pet-friendly luxury inn is a brief 15-minute walk to the heart of downtown Napa (where many restaurants, shops, and wine tasting rooms are situated). Plus, the picturesque, tree-lined neighborhood that it’s located in makes dog walks an even more enjoyable experience for visitors traveling with pets.
This “home away from home” instantly makes guests feel welcome. Upon checking in, we were greeted by innkeeper Jamie Cherry with freshly baked cookies and afternoon treats, which we especially appreciated after a long drive.
As I walked around the living room and entry area of the inn, I noticed a few things that caught my attention. One book, in particular, was titled “Wine Dogs” (which reminded me that the B&B owners were dog lovers). Plus, they even had a baby grand piano inside the living room, which they told us we could use, should we feel inspired.
After giving us an overview of the property, where to find things, and what to expect, we were led to our spacious and beautifully appointed room. Featuring a private fenced-in patio and surrounded by a lush, manicured garden, the suite-sized room was also ideally situated, making it easy to access the property’s on-site private parking lot.
From a heavenly king-sized bed and his-and-hers sinks to stylish studded leather chairs and modern artwork, the rooms in this historic inn (built over a century ago) have been impeccably maintained.
Since the property owners wanted to create an atmosphere that inspires guests to relax, they even added an iPad (with built-in musical playlists to “set the mood”), a gas fireplace, and a heart-shaped whirlpool inside the room. Not to mention – each room comes with a complimentary half-bottle of bubbly.
Since the inn is renowned for their gourmet daily breakfast (serving up over 155 unique recipes that change daily), it’s no surprise to learn that they even wrote a cookbook called A Napa Valley Breakfast Book. Each morning, guests are treated to a flavorful and filling breakfast that has been designed to keep them satiated until the afternoon.
During our stay at The Inn on First, we met Co-Owner Jim Gunther, who we found out is also a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and prides himself on “only using fresh ingredients” for their made-from-scratch breakfasts. Not only were the breakfasts, home-made granola and various pastries truly delectable, Jim’s affable personality and fantastic Napa restaurant recommendations made our mornings even brighter.
What To Do in Downtown Napa
From fine dining and wine tasting to shopping, cultural events, and even outdoor activities, there are so many enjoyable things to do in downtown Napa. Over the years, I’ve done everything from kayaking on the Napa River to attending live concerts and even catching a few theater shows.
Since we’re food and wine aficionados, one of our favorite pastimes is indulging at great restaurants and wine tasting rooms. In downtown Napa, there’s no shortage of fabulous spots to choose from.
During the daytime, the river-side Oxbow Public Market (pictured below) is a bustling place to visit. From shopping for artisan-made home goods and local fresh produce to enjoying gourmet food vendors (like Hog Island Oysters, Anette’s Chocolates and authentic Mexican food from C Casa Napa), this epicenter of culinary finds is definitely a must-see when visiting Downtown Napa.
Where To Eat in Downtown Napa
During our trip to the market, we found a popular quick-service restaurant called C Casa Napa.
Boasting free-range chicken and grass-fed beef, this eatery whips up innovative and flavorful street food fare and small plates, such as Salmon Tacos, Vegetable Quesadillas, and Dungeness Crab Salad. Plus, they offer both indoor and outdoor seating, which is great for warm weather days.
They vary up their menu seasonally, by offering new and different dishes filled with fresh, healthy ingredients.
When it comes to discovering restaurants with a view, we suggest heading down to the river-front Basalt (picture below) – a contemporary hotspot with epic views, a hip and modern setting, and a fun atmosphere.
Featuring a happening bar scene, photo-worthy dishes, and friendly, upbeat staff, it’s easy to see why this beautiful restaurant has garnered over 625 positive reviews on OpenTable.
Great for romantic date nights, girls’ night outs, and special celebrations, this beautiful restaurant is also a fun spot to “see and be seen”, since it’s one of the local hangouts. When it comes to food, we recommend ordering steak for the main course and brussels sprouts for a starter. Plus they also offer vegetarian dishes, like a pea risotto.
Another fabulous dining option in downtown Napa (that’s also pet-friendly) is Compline Wine Bar, Restaurant & Wine Merchant (pictured below).
This beloved wine bar & restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Napa, just around the corner from the gorgeous Archer Hotel. Created by Master Sommelier Matt Stamp (who hailed from The French Laundry in Yountville) and Ryan Stetins (formerly at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago), this industrial chic indoor/outdoor eatery is a must-try for any foodie.
Adjacent to the restaurant is a whimsical life-sized art display featuring a giant squirrel surrounded by massive acorns and a shady oak tree (which is one of the protected tree species in the area). This fanciful attraction not only made us smile, but it also acts as an enchanting backdrop for the restaurant’s pet-friendly patio.
From unique dishes like Octopus with sofrito, seaweed, and potato to Liberty Duck Breast with fiddlehead ferns, ramps, and charred scallion oil, their menu is undeniably outstanding. Even the Co-Owner of The Inn on First raved about their exquisitely-prepared dishes.
We highly recommend the Vegetable Risotto (prepared with squash, peppers, and corn) and the Akaushi Culotte Steak (with English peas, smoked onion, and fava beans). Plus their wine list is incredible – while there are so many great options to choose from, my personal favorite was the German Riesling.
It’s no wonder that Compline was ranked by Wine Enthusiast as “one of America’s 100 best wine restaurants”.
Where To Go Wine Tasting in Downtown Napa
Since we wanted to find dog-friendly wine tasting rooms in downtown Napa, our first stop was at the Napa Valley Welcome Center on Main Street in downtown Napa. The friendly volunteers gave us wonderful recommendations and a list of wine tasting rooms that were pet-friendly.
One of the top suggestions we heard was Cru Tasting Lounge at The Annex (pictured below).
This hip modern industrial-style wine tasting room offers both comfortable indoor and outdoor patio seating. Featuring furniture incorporating mixed materials (like metal and wood) to a lived-in leather sofa (that beckons you to just relax and lounge), the trendy yet laid-back vibe at CRU creates a cool and youthful space to unwind in.
In addition to serving outstanding local wines, they also offer live music and fun games to play. Their friendly and knowledgeable staff create a warm and hospitable atmosphere while making learning about wine enjoyable.
Even our puppy was treated to a bowl of water upon sitting down – which made him (and us) feel welcome.
Where To Book Doggy Daycare in Downtown Napa
While we mostly brought our dog everywhere, for a few hours one day, we decided to book a pet-sitter (so we could have a little respite from puppy parenting duties).
After struggling to find a reputable doggy daycare in the area, we were grateful to discover For Animals’ Sake Resort / K9Napa – a well-reputed and exclusive dog-sitting & training service in Napa.
Not only was the highly-recommended pet-sitter (Justin) a good communicator, he was also professional, well-organized, and had a handle on all the dogs. Throughout the day, he texted us videos of our puppy playing with the other (well-behaved) dogs. We were delighted to learn that some of them were “Napa winery dogs” and one dog was even related to the 2019 Westminster Kennel Club winner.
This reliable and trustworthy pet-sitter took great care of our dog, earning them a 5-paw rating from our clan.
If you plan to bring your pup along with you on your next trip to Napa, we recommend these dog-friendly places to stay and play in downtown Napa. To learn more about this wine country destination, visit DoNapa.com for travel tips, calendar updates, and must-see recommendations.
For more inspiring vacation ideas, visit the Travel section on Inspirations & Celebrations.