St. Helena (locals say it like Elena with an H, not like the capital of Montana) is the literal and figurative center of Napa Valley, with a picturesque downtown full of great restaurants and cute boutiques, famous wineries and luxurious hotels. If you choose one place to base out of in the valley, St. Helena should be it.
See & Do
St. Helena is home to an almost impossible collection of Napa Valley's best wineries and vineyards. From smaller producers like Neyers Vineyards and Heitz Wine Cellars to medium-sized ones like V. Sattui and Rombauer, to large operations including Mondavi and Beringer, visiting this area can mean a wide variety of wine-tasting experiences. Other things to do? The Culinary Institute of America is well worth a visit, especially on a day when they have cooking demonstrations.
St. Helena's restaurant scene is diverse both in terms of flavors and seriousness of dining experience. On the low end, Gott's Roadside (formerly Taylor's Refresher) is an institution, with unbeatable burgers, fries and shakes. On the other side of the spectrum, the Restaurant at Meadowood is joined only by the French Laundry in earning three Michelin stars. Other delicious options include Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, Farmstead and La Condesa.
St. Helena's nightlife manages to have a little bit of everything. Restaurant industry locals gather late night at Ana's Cantina to unwind and imbibe, while Goose & Gander is a new spot that attracts crowds of all ages with their exquisite cocktails. Many of the town's restaurants, like Farmstead, also mix up perfectly sourced potables.
Meadowood is the standout option within the borders of St. Helena. Just a few miles from downtown, the large resort is luxurious and houses its eponymous restaurant. Another great option, and the only new hotel on historic Main Street, is the 12-room Wydown, an exceedingly stylish boutique hotel which opened in the summer of 2011.
St. Helena has the best shopping in Napa Valley. From the Spice Islands Marketplace at the Culinary Institute of America to the many boutiques lining Main Street, it's a great place to pick up everything from olive oil to shoes to jewel-like chocolates from Woodhouse. Be sure to check out Martin Gallery for cheeky art and Vino Velo for the newest Clif Bar Snacks.