Located near the northern end of California’s world-famous Napa Valley, St. Helena is part of the American Viticultural Area, which includes over 400 vineyards and 6,800 acres of grapes. Of course, that means it’s a popular destination for wine-loving travelers. But sipping cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay isn’t the only activity in this bucolic Northern California retreat. Here are five more unexpected experiences, all available right in St. Helena.
Savor the Spice Islands Marketplace at the Culinary Institute of America
A can’t-miss for foodies, the Spice Islands Marketplace is located on the Greystone campus of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). This incredible marketplace of culinary items offers everything from kitchen gadgets to hard-to-find spices, plus plenty of local Napa Valley specialties. The Marketplace stocks more than 1,700 cookbook titles, many autographed by their authors.Before or after your visit to the Spice Islands Marketplace, consider taking a tour of the CIA’s school. Depending on the tour you choose, you’ll enjoy wine, a dinner at the Gatehouse Restaurant (with dishes prepared by student-chefs) and behind-the-scenes access to the institute’s historic buildings.
Check out Crane Park and the St. Helena Farmers Market
Right in the heart of St. Helena and an easy walk from some of the town’s most popular wine tasting rooms is 12-acre Crane Park. A wonderful place to enjoy some fresh air and a picnic, the park has recreation areas for tennis, bocce ball, horseshoes and a playground. If you find yourself in St. Helena on a Friday morning between May and September, bring your shopping tote. The park plays host to the St. Helena Farmers Market, where you’ll find fresh local fruits and vegetables, flowers, olive oil, cheeses, crafts and more.
Stop by the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum
Literary fans will be delighted by the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. Located in a wing of the St. Helena Public Library, this free exhibit boasts the world’s largest collection of memorabilia from the author of “Treasure Island.” While you wouldn’t expect the Scottish author to have ties to Napa Valley, he and his wife spent their honeymoon in St. Helena and Napa Valley in the spring of 1880. Plus, he spent his later years in the nearby Bay Area.
Treat yourself at the Model Bakery
Since 1908, 1357 Main Street in downtown St. Helena has been the site of a delicious local bakery. It’s been the Model Bakery for almost 30 years, run by a mother-daughter duo who serve up delicious artisan treats like scones, croissants, breads, cookies, pies and more, still baked in the original brick ovens. Their famous English muffins made Oprah Winfrey’s annual list of favorite things in 2016. While breakfast is obviously a great time to stop in, the bakery offers a lunch menu with seasonal salads, soups, sandwiches and pizzas.
Sip wine in a cave
No Napa Valley visit would be complete without at least one wine tasting — and this one is definitely a standout. Make yourself a reservation at Del Dotto Winery for the Cave Experience & Barrel Tasting tour. The Del Dotto family has a long history in winemaking, spanning back to the 1440s in Italy. Their St. Helena outpost pays homage to the family’s Venetian roots, with a cathedral-like structure and an impressive traditional wine cave. On the 90-minute tour, you’ll learn how different wood barrels create different tastes and sample a few right from the barrel. And, since the cave stores more than 45 different wines for your guide to choose from, every visit offers something new.
With so much to explore in St. Helena and its surrounding wine country towns of Napa, Yountville, Rutherford and Calistoga, it’s no wonder that many visitors to this charming area decide to make it their second home. If you’re tempted to make California wine country your home away from home, consider Pacaso. When you co-own a second home through Pacaso, you enjoy all the benefits of owning a fully furnished luxury home without the headaches. Just arrive, unpack and say cheers to relaxation.
A visitor’s guide to Tigertail Beach on Marco Island