For many years, the bustling city of Napa was perhaps the most un-Napa place in the Valley. While Napa's economy has long centered around wine making and tourism, the actual town of Napa had less to offer in terms of upscale dining and lodging. That's changing fast, thanks to a dramatic revitalization of the riverfront area, with hotels, restaurants, bars and meeting spaces occupying revamped historic warehouses that also house galleries, bars, and chic shops. Napa's historic downtown also has a timeless, all-American feeling to it, with lush tree-lined streets and many boutique hotels and B&Bs located in flamboyant old Victorian mansions.

The pleasure of staying in Napa proper is access to what feels like a real downtown, with shops,  antique stores, casual dining options, and a growing number of more well-regarded restaurants; Zuzu and Bistro Giovanni are among the favorites. Unlike the rest of the area, authentic no-frills Mexican food has a strong presence; feast at Don Perico, or stop by one of the innumerable Soscol taco trucks. Napa is also the point of depature for the famed Napa Valley Wine Train.

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