Cool Things to Do in Napa California

Visiting wineries, eating amazingly fresh and creative food, and savoring the vibrant public art are among the cool things to do in Napa California. With rolling hills, a river through downtown Napa, over 700 vineyards, and an artistic mindset among the citizens, there are many fun, happy, and cool free things to see in Napa California.

Downtown Napa recently hosted me (and other travel writers) in order to discover and explore things to do in Napa and share my findings with the McCool Travel network.

things to do in Napa California. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
shopping for cool, clever wine pun gifts is a fun thing to do in Napa California

Cool Things To Do in Napa California

Getting to Napa California

Downtown Napa is about 90 minutes drive from San Francisco airport (SFO) and a little closer to Sacramento. Tideline operates water shuttles between downtown Napa and San Francisco. Because everything is so close, a car is not needed in downtown Napa. To visit Napa Valley wineries, you will need a car, or even better, join a tour with a designated driver.

Napa Activities

Public Art in Downtown Napa

Whenever a Napa downtown commercial building project exceeds $250,000, 1% of the total cost goes toward public art. This cool initiative results in many clever and attractive public art pieces around Napa.

Napa Art Walk supports and promotes public art in downtown Napa. Their main initiative is temporary art displays, changing every two years, with the favorites (voted by public) becoming permanent. More downtown Napa public art appears later in this article.

Gordon Huether Art

For more art, head a little outside of Napa to Gordon Huether Studio + Gallery. My group rode bicycles from Oxbow Public Market to the studio, guided by Justin from Enjoy Napa Valley. Along the way to the studio, we rode along the Napa River and a few vineyards along Monticello Road.

things to do in Napa California. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
things to do in Napa California: bike tour

As for the art studio, learn how Gordon Huether creates large scale art installations. His creations adorn airports, courthouses, hospitals, universities, and many buildings around the world.

Touring a master artist’s studio in Napa. He does large scale installations all over the world. You have probably seen…

Posted by Charles McCool on Wednesday, October 25, 2017

 

Anette’s Chocolate

Visit Anette’s in downtown Napa for a sweet treat or several. At Anette’s Chocolate, Anette and Brent (her brother) combine exquisite chocolate creations with Napa’s amazing wines. During a chocolate tasting (YES!), Anette showed our group the proper way to taste chocolate. Check out the scrumptious homemade ice cream if you make it past the dizzying array of chocolate products.

 

Wine Hall of Fame

Also in the CIA building is the Wine Hall of Fame.

Crush Lounge

For a really fun time head to the Crush Lounge in Meritage Resort and Spa for some indoor bowling.

Dinner and bowling. Too much fun in Napa.Crush LoungeThe Meritage Resort and SpaDo NapaWrite On RubeeTraverse Blog & ShopCalifornia Through My LensVisit California

Posted by Charles McCool on Tuesday, October 24, 2017

 

Where to Eat in Napa California

Napa General Store

Experience super fresh local fare in an pleasant outdoor riverfront setting at Napa General Store. Located in historic Napa Mill, Napa General Store also supports local artisans by displaying and selling their products.

Lunch time with the Napa mayor and wine tasting ???? at lovely Napa General Store in Do Napa.California Through My…

Posted by Charles McCool on Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Eight Noodle Shop

Magnificent in-house made noodles and super fresh local ingredients rule the tasty Asian fare at Eight Noodle Shop. Owner David Lu, an area restaurant veteran, patiently answered questions from our group while offering suggestions. I selected the daily special, a luscious salmon ramen.

Salmon ramen with super fresh local sweet corn is happening right now. Amazing. Al fresco dining rocks.Eight Noodle…

Posted by Charles McCool on Wednesday, October 25, 2017

 

Celadon

Consider Celadon for a special anniversary or romantic meal in downtown Napa. Choose from their lovely courtyard setting or the elegant dining room. In either spot, select from the freshest seafood and highest quality natural ingredients influenced by Mediterranean, Asian, and American flavors. Check TripAdvisor for reviews of Celadon.

Bounty Hunter

Local favorite Bounty Hunter offers amazing BBQ (named one of USA’s best), a dizzying selection of wines from around the world, and dozens of whiskeys and spirits. They receive high praise for their beer can chicken but I encourage you to try their ribs.

things to do in Napa California. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
Bounty Hunter is a fun place to eat in downtown Napa California

C Casa (Oxbow Public Market)

Located in the vibrant Oxbow Public Market, C CASA results from Catherine Bergen’s (founder of Made in Napa Valley brand) vision and passion to serve good, clean food served in a fast-paced and fun environment.

things to do in Napa California. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
C Casa at Owbox Public Market in Napa

CIA – Culinary Institute of America

Distinctive dining at The Restaurant at CIA Copia pairs simple, seasonally-inspired dishes with curated beverages (wines, handcrafted cocktails, and beers). Interact with chefs in the beautiful open kitchen and experience true hospitality from the staff.

OK, several things here.Remember yesterday I visited Gordon Huether Studio? He also made this fork, composed of 7,000…

Posted by Charles McCool on Thursday, October 26, 2017

 

Where to Drink in Napa California

Capp Heritage Tasting Room

Plan to visit one or more of the many wine tasting salons in downtown Napa. Capp Heritage has deep roots (back to Napa’s first vineyard), a lot of Victorian charm, and art deco magnificence.

things to do in Napa California. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
places to drink in Napa: Capp Heritage

Fieldwork Brewing

Also in Oxbow Public Market, Fieldwork Brewing focuses on exceptional, honest beer making.

things to do in Napa California. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
Fieldwork Brewing at Oxbow Public Market is one of the fun places to drink in downtown Napa CA

Where to Stay in Napa California

River Terrace Inn is a luxury hotel located along the Napa River and vibrant downtown Napa is within a 15 minute walk. McCool Travel tip: the Huevos Rancheros here are fantastic. Check for rates and reviews here: River Terrace Inn

Good morning from River Terrace Inn in lovely downtown Napa. I do love al fresco dining and chilling in California. Napa is open for business and the weather is absolutely magnificent.Do NapaVisit California

Posted by Charles McCool on Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Like other Embassy Suites properties, Embassy Suites Napa Valley offers more space (two separate rooms), a cooked to order breakfast, and complimentary evening reception. Unlike other Embassy Suites properties, Embassy Suites Napa Valley feels like a resort, complete with their own residents swans. In fact, one of the best free things to do in Napa CA might be watching the swans for a bit. Check for rates and reviews here: Embassy Suites Napa Valley

I love a hotel with their own swans. So much better than bringing your own. ????Embassy Suites by Hilton Napa ValleyDo NapaVisit California

Posted by Charles McCool on Tuesday, October 24, 2017

 

The Archer Hotel Napa provides an elegant boutique hotel option in the heart of downtown Napa. Check for current rates and visitor reviews here: Archer Hotel Napa

things to do in Napa California. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
where to stay in Napa California: Archer Hotel Napa

Another lodging option to consider is vacation rentals—including condos, apartments, and houses. >>> To receive $40 off your first Airbnb rental, use this Airbnb discount code.

More Free Things to Do in Napa CA

Downtown Napa Public Art

Public art appears all over downtown Napa California; I will highlight some pieces and encourage you to visit, explore, and pick your own favorites.

In the Napa River Inn courtyard, Riverbend Plaza, behind Napa General Store, appears Alan Shepp’s masterpiece called Ars Longa Vita Brevis (Life is Brief But Art Endures). Napa’s history is outlined in intricate glass mosaic and the tiles “flow” from the fountain onto the plaza floor, depicting the Napa River. Magnificent start to a day of exploring Napa public art.

cool things to see in Napa California: glass mosaic fountain
this glass mosaic fountain is a cool thing to see in Napa California
cool things to see in Napa California: glass mosaic fountain
see the glass mosaic fountain in Downtown Napa Riverside Plaza

Walk north along the Riverfront Promenade and you will see the popular piece called Fish On by Terrence Martin and then one of my favorite Instagrammable Spots in Napa, the Rock Paper Scissors statue.

cool things to see in Napa California: Fish On by Terrence Martin
Downtown Napa California public art: Fish On sculpture

Napa Art Walk

The below two pieces are part of the current Napa Art Walk collection but there are 10 others for you to discover!

cool things to see in Napa California: Treasures From the Sea
Napa CA art: Treasures From the Sea by LT Mustardseed
cool things to see in Napa California: Solar Flare sculpture
Napa California attractions: Solar Flare by Patricia Vader

Here are a couple of permanent public art pieces to see in downtown Napa.

cool things to see in Napa California: Birthplace of the Loudspeaker
downtown Napa CA public art: Birthplace of the Loudspeaker by Franco Vianello

The plaque reads, “Napa—birthplace of the loudspeaker and Magnavox Corp. Peter Jensen and Edwin Pridham’s invention occurred at 1606 F St in May of 1915.”

things to see in Napa California: 9/11 Memorial
9/11 Memorial in downtown Napa California

The poignant 9/11 Memorial sculpture garden uses actual steel beams from the fallen buildings.

Downtown Napa Storefronts

Certainly you can shop until you drop but among my cool free things to do in Napa California is looking at the coolness in front of and in stores.

 

things to see in Napa California: dinosaur hedge
dinosaur hedge welcomes you to one downtown Napa store

I do not know if T-rex once roamed Napa Valley but I love the quirky little tree at this storefront.

things to see in Napa California: cork basket
find this cork bucket in a downtown Napa CA wine store

Put a cork in it! Napa residents and visitors drink a lot of local wine.

things to see in Napa California: elegant benches
things to see in Napa California: elegant benches

Even the sitting benches in downtown Napa are cool. Bay Area artist Eric Powell recycled pieces from the historic library.

Fun Architecture in Napa CA

My next trip to Napa, I want to spend more time exploring the architecture. On brief walks and bike rides, I saw many cool buildings.

things to see in Napa California: cool houses
there are many cool houses to see in Napa California
things to see in Napa California: cool houses
the Wine Spectator building is a cool thing to see in Napa CA

What are some of your favorite things to do in Napa California?

For more information about things to do in Napa, visit:

Downtown Napa: website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Napa Downtown Art Walk

Bucket List Destination: Napa, California #DoNapa

Napa California is known for its wine but the area is also home to amazing public art, incredible and eclectic dining options, fun outdoor activities. Cool things to do in Napa California. Where to eat in Napa. Places to stay in Napa.

Cool Things To Do in Napa California was first  published on McCool Travel on 28 October 2017.

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14 thoughts on “Cool Things to Do in Napa California”

  1. We haven’t been to Napa in quite awhile. You post inspires me to go. We do have family that lives in the area and works in the wine industry. I thinks it is time for another visit! I love the idea of a ferry from SF. Your dinner at Celadon is my kind of food.

    Reply
  2. It looks like there’s lots more to do in Napa Valley than just tour vineyards. The sculptures are amazing, and I would love to do that bike tour — the countryside is so pretty.

    Reply

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