Downtown Napa is like small town Mayberry.... with wine! It's got cool small town architecture, trendy restaurants and shops, and the Wine Train station. Sure, downtown doesn't have vineyard views but at the southern tip of the valley it's just minutes away from Yountville or the Silverado Trail, the "other" main winery artery.
It's also cheaper, a good thing in these dollar stretching days. How about taking the money you saved and splurging on a great dinner? - The French Laundry, anyone?
It seems like everyone is cutting back these days. Big bling is out, responsible spending is IN. Of course, no one told Napa where things can get painfully expensive. Thankfully, there's a solution.
If you love 5 star resorts but can only afford a 3, the River Terrace Inn should be first on your short list. From the flat screen TV's to the fancy linens and trendy furnishings, the opulent lobby to the crazy good breakfast package, you'd swear you're staying in a big buck Yountville resort. With the attentive staff and friendly service, this has to be Napa's best hotel value.
The rooms in the back face the Napa River and while it's not exactly the Mississippi, it's better than the highway view you get with some hotels. The spa-like bathrooms feature jacuzzi tubs and dual shower heads, the pool out back is perfect for a relaxing after a long day of wine tasting, the only thing you don't get is a fireplace in the room.
Out the front door is Cuvee Napa, a locals favorite restaurant for their $6 Happy Hour wine and appetizers M-F, 4 to 7. The setting is contemporary and relaxing, you might not even need dinner after a few hours there. Walk to the Wine Train station, or hop in the car to get to top rated downtown restaurants. Downtown Napa's Top Pick!
RIVER TERRACE INN: Check Rates and Availability / Expanded Review
1600 Soscal Ave, Napa, CA 94559 (map)
Local Wally Notes: Napa's best value, this is where I stay. I try to swing the Breakfast Package because I love the food at Cuvee restaurant, located across the parking lot. Great service and staff, big fireplace is the snuggle place to be during Fall.
Located next door to The River Terrace Inn is the brand new Westin Verasa Napa, a big name and big budget hotel. If you love big upscale hotels with all the amenities, the Westin doesn't disappoint.
Upon arriving you'll be greeted by the valet. No schlepping your suitcases through the parking lot, no sir, not at the Westin. The grounds are stunning, beautifully manicured and looking 5 star.
The lobby is gorgeous, the pool large, and the details continue once you get to your room, which feature kitchenettes (yes, an actual stove and dishwasher) and sofas and all the amenities you would expect from a high end hotel.
WESTIN VERASA NAPA: Check Rates and Availability
1314 McKinstry St, Napa, CA 94559 (map)
Local Wally Notes: Fancy resort style hotel, a true destination. Top rated La Toque restaurant on site, plus a more casual eatery for breakfast. Like all downtown Napa hotels, it is NOT near the vineyards but rather in the actual town of Napa - that's not bad, just be aware before you book.
I've stayed at plenty of Embassy Suites for my real job. I don't really mind them - I mean who can argue with cooked to order FREE breakfast with fresh omelettes and endless bacon and sausage? Mmm, bacon...
But I've always found Embassy Suites to be rather boring, bland, middle of the road, with old school oak cabinets and older school box TV's. But not this one.
From the second you pull up the grand entrance, you'll be, well, impressed! The hotel exterior will remind you of a great destination hotel with the tall palm trees and upscale touches. The lobby is first class, and the grounds with the large ponds filled with ducks and swans tells you that this is no ordinary Embassy Suites. Most of the rooms have been refurbished with almost trendy furniture (and yes, flat screen TV's). Nice pool, too. Overall, an excellent pick if you want a suite style hotel. Solid pick.
EMBASSY SUITES NAPA : Check Rates and Availability
1075 California Boulevard, Napa, CA 94559 (map)
Local Wally Notes: Rooms facing the road can get noisy so be selective when checking in. Free afternoon cocktails, free breakfast, resort setting, a terrific value.
I don't think I've ever used the word "charming" in the same sentence as "Best Western" before, but charming this place is.
I'm talking freshly baked cookies with lemonade in the afternoon, fireplaces in some of the rooms, fresh waffles, cold cereal, fresh fruit, coffee and juices in the morning. This is no "ho-tel", if you know what I mean.
In fact, this place looks more like a real boutique hotel than part of the Best Western chain. Nice private patio and garden area in back, very safe area of town. Yes, this is perhaps the coolest Best Western I've ever seen.
While not honeymoon or anniversary level, it's a solid pick for those looking for an above average hotel for a low budget price. Free parking with no irritating valets trying to get that 5 spot out of your wallet, some rooms with jacuzzi tubs. You want a budget place that doesn't cause your spouse to whack you upside the head when you pull up? Then check out the Best Western Elm House Inn.
BEST WESTERN ELM HOUSE INN : Check Rates and Availability
800 California Boulevard, Napa, CA 94559 (map)
Local Wally Notes: There are other Best Westerns in the area, but only the Best Western Elm House gets the Local Wally seal of approval.
You have to be careful when you stay at a B&B. A little doily goes a long ways and if you're not careful that quaint and cozy accommodation could turn out to be a lot like Grandma's house. That's fine if you're a kid, but if you're looking for romance it's a definite mood killer.
Thankfully, the Napa Inn manages to avoid most of the grandma touches and instead provides a great alternative to those tired of the corporate cookie cutter hotels.
Extremely well kept up on a quiet residential street, the Napa Inn is actually two buildings - the Victorian one, and a Colonial Buford House around the corner. Each room is different and was hand painted and decorated by the owner (so be nice). A big living room area is perfect for lounging after a long day of wine tasting, the patio outside is just begging for you to come outside and relax, and every room has its own bathroom. Great breakfast, all homemade, included.
The Napa Inn is the exact opposite of the dozen or so hotels you probably stayed at while on your business trips. It becomes more than a place to sleep and more of a part of your vacation experience. Super friendly staff and owner will cater to your every need. You'll find plenty of Bed and Breakfast inns in Napa, but the Napa Inn is my favorite.
NAPA INN: Check Rates and Availability
1137 Warren Street, Napa, CA 94559 (map)
Local Wally Notes: Great alternative if business travel has had you locked up in cookie cutter hotels. It's different and quite a cool experience. I usually don't like B&B's but I like the Napa Inn.
On top of a rolling hillside set amongst the vineyards and an orchard of apple trees is the wonderfully unusual Carneros Inn.
Simple cottages reminiscent of an old rancher's living quarters, barns and silos, at first you might think this is going to be rustic or Wal-Mart country, but it's anything but. The Carneros Inn is upscale, trendy, hip and luxurious. It's also one of the top pics for romantic getaways.
Located on a road heading towards Sonoma, it's not exactly near the action. But in this case, the resort is the main attraction. There are 86 cottages and 10 suites, all featuring contemporary design, the finest Italian bedding, huge romantic baths, fireplaces, and yes, even an outdoor private shower attached to your room. Come on, what other resort gives you an outdoor shower? Surrounded by rolling hills with grazing cows (steak tonight?), the setting is pastoral and serene. Top restaurant and spa on site, you'll never want to leave. Is this Napa, or is this Eden?
Now some of you out there might not "get it" - I mean, to be honest, the cottages do look a little like tiny habitat houses and you almost expect Jimmy Carter to come out with a bag of peanuts to greet you. But trust me, you will not find beer guzzling Billy Carter in the cottage next to you. Everything is brilliantly upscale and trendy contemporary. You want something different, you want something romantic, you want the best? Then you have to check out The Carneros Inn.
THE CARNEROS INN : Check Rates and Availability
4848 Sonoma Highway, Napa, CA 94559 (map)
Local Wally Notes: Totally unlike any hotel you have ever stayed at. The setting is beautiful and the resort first class. Further away from wineries and restaurants, but you won't care.
At first glance, Silverado looks like a solid 5 star resort. The mansion is beautiful, the grounds lovely, and the golf course is green and lush.
And the rates! Unless you are in high season the rates are downright reasonable. So how come everybody doesn't stay here?
Because the rooms are wildly inconsistent, ranging from 2 star motel to 4 star updated. The reason is because each unit is individually owned so if you get a cool owner you might get that hip contemporary room you see on their website. But if you're unlucky, like I was the last time I stayed, you might end up in 1980's Southwestern motif HELL with faded mauve carpeting and Indian paintings on the wall. Say, anyone know where a guy can get a perm around here?
But don't cross this one off your list just yet. There's the trick to getting a good room at Silverado. When you check in, make sure you tell them you want an updated room and ask to see a few of them. They know which rooms are good, trust me. Follow my advice and you just might get a great deal in Napa - a 4 star resort at a 3 star price. Of course, if your hair is cut in a mullet a la "Wing's" era Linda McCartney and you still have a Culture Club cassette in your car, then by all means take your chances and maybe you'll get that 80's room I got. Heck, you might even like it!
THE SILVERADO RESORT : Check Rates and Availability
1600 Atlas Peak Road, Napa, CA 94558 (map)
Local Wally Notes: Located off to itself off the Silverado Trail, it's not in downtown so you'll be back in the car when you want to go out to dinner. On the positive side, wineries right down the street means and a very picturesque setting makes up for the slight inconvenience.
The Napa Marriott is like Tori Spelling. Before the face lifts and plastic surgery, not too sexy. Afterwards, well, not exactly sexy but good enough that you wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers.
The old Marriott was definitely not sexy, not unless you like wearing a business suit in Napa and sitting in a darkened room watching a boring powerpoint presentation. But a recent remodel and refurbishing dresses up this Marriott to Cougar levels.
You're not going to mistake it for a romantic hotel in the vineyards but you're also not going to tense up the moment you walk in thinking you're back at the offic. Every room isbrought up to date with trendy linens and furnishings, a bar at the pool with food service, even the spa is updated. The location is on the highway between downtown and Yountville and while there's nothing of interest within walking distance, a few minutes in the car and you are at either of these two hotspots.
In the past I passed over the Marriott Napa Valley Resort and Spa, thinking it was just too businesslike for vacation. But like Tori Spelling, it's amazing what a few million dollars can do to your appearance.
THE NAPA VALLEY MARRIOTT RESORT AND SPA: Check Rates and Availability
3425 Solano Avenue Napa, CA, 94558 (map)
Local Wally Notes: As of 2010 the lobby is still scary businesslike but every room is upgraded. Even so, it won't compete with the full scale luxurious resort spas in the area but does hold its own as a full featured hotel at a good rate.
Located next to the Marriott, this Hilton is part of the "Garden Inn" line that bills themselves as having a "boutique" feel. Relatively new, it's clean, it's nice, it's predictable, it's 100% Hilton.
The complementary fruit and cookies in the afternoon is a nice touch, though I'd better not catch you in their bar on the weekend tasting their complimentary wine, not when there's top wineries minutes away. Nice lobby with fireplace, quality room decor, the only negative is the pool - the parking lot view is only good if you really like looking at bugs squashed on the bumpers of cars.
HILTON GARDEN INN NAPA : Check Rates and Availability
3585 Solano Avenue, Napa, CA 94558 (map)
Local Wally Notes: Like the Marriott next door, the Hilton Garden Inn Napa isn't exactly walking distance to anything noteworthy but the location is close to both downtown and Yountville, the two hotspots for dining. You want a clean room and a friendly staff at a good price, book the Hilton.
Looking for something a bit out of the ordinary? The Napa River Inn offers a vibrant downtown location in the historic Napa Napa Mill building. Quaint, romantic, this is not your cookie cutter corporate hotel.
The rooms keep with the historic theme without falling into grandma territory. Fresh and light, there are fireplaces, towel warmers, a CD player, even a flat screen TV.
Start your day with their complimentary breakfast, brought to your room from Sweetie Pies, the downstairs bakery. Step outside to explore the Napa General Store, a top notch merchandise gift store, then down the street to the best of downtown. When you return from a long day of wine tasting, know that you won't have to go far for a spectacular dinner with Celedon in the building and Angele next door. Live jazz at nearby Silo's to cap it off, it's so nice not to have to drive once you return for the day. Looking for a romantic getaway at a decent price? Book the Napa River Inn.
NAPA RIVER INN : Check Rates and Availability
500 Main Street, Napa, CA 94559 (map)
Local Wally Notes: Got a dog? Napa River Inn goes beyond dog friendly with their Very Important Pet program where they provide dog blankets, feeding and water bowls, and doggie treats.
Check Rates and Availability
1450 1st Street, Napa, CA 94559 (map)
Local Wally Notes: The Hotel AVIA Napa is a newcomer to downtown, bringing style and sophistication to this once downhome area. Cool and contemporary, the AVIA offers luxurious amenities such as hip rooms with modern furnishings, spa-like baths, a comfortable lounge patio with firepit for late night relaxing, and an on premise wine bar and restaurant. Located in the heart of downtown, you're steps away from some of the best eateries and entertainment. The rooms are indulgent luxury at price that doesn't break the bank. Newly opened in 2009 and getting rave reviews, check this one out.
Check Rates and Availability
875 Bordeaux Way, Napa, CA 94558 (map)
Local Wally Notes: The Meritage Resort and Spa has one of the best pool settings in a moderately priced Napa resort. Surrounded by vineyards and a spa door that leads into what looks like a wine cave, you will really believe you have arrived when you lounge around this upscale setting. But guess what? You haven't arrived as The Meritage is easily the furthest away from the wineries of any hotel on my guide. Those looking for a destination resort for a decent price will love Meritage but those wanting to be closer to the action will want to take a second look at the map before booking. Don't get me wrong, this is a nice place. It's just further out than you might expect.
Check Rates and Availability
500 Lincoln Avenue, Napa, CA 94558 (map)
Local Wally Notes: Depending on your perspective, the RiverPointe is either a charming village of cottages or a glorified trailer park. Say what? That's right, the RiverPointe is actually little streets of mobile homes set up to look like a little village amongst the lush grounds and mature trees. It's way better than it sounds, the setting best described as tranquil and peaceful. I spoke with those staying here and they all gave rave reviews. Pool, nicely landscaped grounds, BBQ's, large interiors, kitchens, it's like your home away from home - literally!
WHERE TO NEXT?
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN YOUNTVILLE
SPRING 2013: Thank you everyone for making this one of the most popular sites on Napa. Very cool.
The big Napa news is that we now have our own online store called Napa Valley Home & Garden. We're bringing the best of Napa Farmhouse living right to your home. Check it out - we're open for business!