The town of Napa owes much of its existence to the Napa River, as settlers developed the area in the early 1800s due to the natural geography. Because the river narrows north of downtown Napa, steamships providing transportation from San Francisco had to stop to offload cargo. Napa developed as a transportation hub, where people and commercial goods were transferred to stagecoaches and railroad cars.
But similar to many American cities, the once-bustling riverfront area was neglected in the 1970s as residents migrated to suburbs and frequented shopping centers. The revitalization of the downtown area and the construction of the Napa River Promenade began in the early 2000s, when the beautiful historic waterfront mill buildings attracted developers. Today, after its completion in 2008, a walking path, dubbed the River Promenade, meanders along the river, the view of the green space augmented with plaques detailing the history of the area. The path takes walkers around the newly renovated Riverfront complex, which is home to many shops; restaurants, including famed Iron Chef Morimoto’s eponymous sushi restaurant; and even an entertainment venue.
While the River Promenade is only a few blocks long, the northern end connects to the Napa Valley Vine Trail via the 3rd Street Bridge. The Vine Trail is an ongoing project that aims to create 47 miles of a walking and biking trail from Vallejo to Calistoga. Napa’s section follows the Wine Train tracks for several miles and ends in city-owned Kennedy Park. From the Vine Trail, you can see up close the work that the city and volunteer organizations are doing to mediate the Napa River’s tendency to flood, from native grass plantings to larger infrastructure projects. You may even spot beavers, which have recently returned to the area.
The southern end of the River Promenade begins at Brown and Division Streets, making it a short 5-minute walk from our Napa boutique hotel. Take the scenic route to dinner downtown or work up an appetite by spending the afternoon exploring the banks of the scenic Napa River.