Sign Up
Newsletter Signup
Free Fodor's Newsletter

Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.

Passport: Your weekly travel wrap-up
Today's Departure: Your daily dose of travel inspiration

Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide


46 miles northeast of San Francisco.

Visitors who glimpse Napa's malls and big-box stores from Highway 29 often speed past the town on the way to the more seductive Yountville or St. Helena. But Napa, population 79,000, has changed. After many years as a blue-collar burg detached from the Wine Country scene, Napa has spent the past decade reshaping its image. A walkway that follows the Napa River has

made downtown more pedestrian-friendly, and each year more high-profile restaurants and hotels and inns pop up. The nightlife options are arguably the valley’s best, shopping has become more chic and varied, and the Oxbow Public Market, a complex of high-end food purveyors, is popular with locals and tourists. If you establish your base in Napa, you'll undoubtedly want to explore the wineries amid the surrounding countryside, but plan on spending at least a half a day strolling the downtown district.

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, some as beautiful bed-and-breakfast inns, and in the original business district a few older buildings have been preserved. Some of these structures, along with newer ones, were heavily damaged on August 24, 2014, during an early-morning magnitude 6.0 earthquake centered less than 10 miles south of town. The earthquake, the largest in the San Francisco Bay Area in a quarter century, caused an estimated $362 million in damage to private property and public infrastructure, most of it in and around Napa. The wine industry experienced an additional $80 million in losses. Bottles, tanks, and barrels of wine were destroyed, and some historic buildings, including the 1886 Eschol Winery structure at Trefethen Vineyards, suffered damage that will take years to repair. Much of Napa was back to normal within two months, but as you stroll downtown or visit the affected wineries you may detect lingering evidence of the quake’s destruction.

Read More



News & Features
Trip Finder

Fodor's Chile

View Details

No Thanks

Love To Travel?

Get FREE e-mail communications from Fodor's Travel, covering must-see travel destinations, expert trip planning advice, and travel inspiration to fuel your passion.

How we use your email

Thank You

Now sit back, relax, and check your inbox to start planning your next travel adventure.

Please tell us more about the type of travel you're interested in. Check all that apply.