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St. Helena

Shop, dine, and enjoy tastings in this picture-perfect wine-country town

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Nicknamed “Napa Valley’s Main Street,” the downtown area of the charming wine-country town of St. Helena brims with lovely little shops, art galleries, and precious cafés set in historic buildings. It’s all nicely walkable within its primary half-mile-long core, so you can browse gourmet shops, fashion boutiques, and candy stores (try the mendiants, tiny discs of chocolates studded with nuts and dried fruits, at Woodhouse Chocolate).

Downtown St. Helena is ringed with wineries, such as the iconic Merryvale Vineyards, which was the first winery in the valley to open after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. The Clif Family Winery—yes, the same owners of the energy bar company—offers tastings of small-production wines, as well as wine-and-food pairings and the more casual option of the Clif Family Bruschetteria Food Truck. Another good stop is Hall Wines, which showcases spectacular edgy art, sculptures, and a “glass house” tasting room. (Be sure to greet mascot Bunny Foo Foo, a 35-foot-tall stainless steel rabbit at the winery entry.)

The compact downtown includes the Harvest Inn, of which the renowned contemporary Harvest Table restaurant is a part. On the north end of town, at the magnificent Restaurant at Meadowood, you can indulge in a glamorous three-Michelin-star dinner, or check the student-run restaurant schedule of the Napa Valley Cooking School to enjoy a meal cooked by budding chefs at the small but illustrious institution.

One great stop between meals and wine tastings: the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, next to the local library. In 1880, the future author of Treasure Island was in the area on his honeymoon, and found an abandoned shack in Silverado, then a remote mining ghost town on Mount Saint Helena. Penniless, he lived there with his bride for many weeks. In 1883, he published a memoir of his stay, The Silverado Squatters. Today, many of his artifacts are on display at the museum. You can also work up a sweat while visiting of Robert Louis Stevenson State Park; a five-mile trail through rough terrain to the summit of Mt. St. Helena will lead you to a vantage point from which much of the San Francisco Bay Area is visible.