Visiting the town of Saint Helena in the Napa Valley

Strolling down Main Street in Saint Helena

Saint Helena is in the center of the traditional winegrowing areas in the Napa Valley so it is a good base to discover wine country. Saint Helena is also an attractive place to stay because it is relatively compact, with most shops and restaurants within a four-block area on and around Main Street. It is a small, family-oriented town of about 5,000 residents where one gets the sense that the community spirit has never really changed over the years.

Dining options abound in Saint Helena, from small, local cafes such as Cook on Main Street to Michelin star restaurants such as Terra on Railroad. Burger options range from outdoor Gott’s Roadside (fkaTaylor’s Refresher, same ownership) which is crowded virtually all day to the lux Kobe version at Press Restaurant south of town which specializes in grilled dishes. Tra Vigne serves classic and hearty Italian dishes in a spacious stone building and outdoor patio. One can’t go wrong with successful restauranteur Cindy Pawclyn’s restaurants including local hang-out Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen on Railroad or seafood-oriented Go Fish on Highway 29. Wine country cuisine featuring the best of local ingredients include Martini House, the new Farmhouse Restaurant and the Greystone Restaurant at the CIA.

If you are in search of gourmet foods or prepared foods to take on a picnic, options include Dean & Deluca on Highway 29 south of town and the locals’ Sunshine Market on Main Street. There are specialty olive oil shops in town including the Napa Valley Olive Oil Mfg. Company on Charter Oak, a modest, family-owned grocer that also sells a range of imported Italian foods. The best bakery which also serves a good choice of sandwiches and salads to stay or go is Model Bakery on Main Street.

Things to do in Saint Helena include window shopping and visiting the must-see wineries.  For lovers of history or architecture, one could spend a whole day walking around town to appreciate the Victorian homes and buildings, many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places, including much of Main Street itself.  For the epicurists, visit the nearby Culinary Institute of America for basic one-hour cooking demos to hands-on cooking and wine courses at the National Register Landmarked Greystone facility.

From May to October, visit the town’s farmers’ market on Friday mornings starting at 7:30 am at Crane Park or Long Meadow Ranch on Saturdays starting at 11:00 am for the freshest heirloom produce, eggs and grass-fed beef.  For wine tasting and perusing through the shops and art galleries on Main Street on our warm summer evenings, attend the “Cheers Saint Helena” street fair on the first Friday of every month between 6:00-9:00 pm where about 50 wineries pour in as many locations.

Full service accommodations in the vicinity include the Inn at Southbridge or Harvest Inn on Highway 29, and Meadowood Resort with its golf course and Michelin two-star restaurant (one of only four restaurants in the Bay Area with such rating).  There are quite a few bed & breakfasts and inns ranging from Sunny Acres in its winery setting to Adagio Inn which is set in a quiet and charming residential area of town yet just a couple of short blocks from busy Main Street.

Cheers Saint Helena takes place on the first Friday of each month May through October 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Main Street.  $5 per taste, $35 pp for an evening pass, or $125 pp for a season pass.  

Culinary Institute of America.  2555 Main Street, St. Helena, CA 94574.