Napa Valley may not technically be very big despite having a reputation as one of the premier wine regions of the world, but at 27 miles long with no freeway, getting from point A to point B, especially during the busy tourist season can take quite a bit of time and hassle with frequent bumper-to-bumper traffic.
While you could stay wherever you want and still see the whole valley, you're more likely to have an enjoyable experience by basing you stay according to your must-see destinations and attractions – or planning planning your trip in one of the cities that lie in between. The town of Napa is located at the southern end of the valley while Calistoga is set on its northern end. Yountville is eight miles north of Napa while St. Helena is 17 miles north on highway 29.
Here is a look at what the four towns have to offer to help make your decision a little easier.
The town of Napa is fairly large with a population of 80,000. There are a wide variety of nice bed and breakfasts to be found here compared to the other smaller towns, and although it was often overlooked in the past it's been on the upturn in recent years. If you want to be within walking distance to fantastic restaurants, wine-tasting bars and live entertainment, and plan on spending more of your time in the south end of the valley, Napa may be a good choice.
Yountville is the home of the exclusive crown jewel of the restaurant world, French Laundry, where your seats for a table may be about as good as winning a lottery, but there are a number of other fine eateries and nice hotels.
It's the ideal wine country village with many top notch resorts, shops and bakeries – all within walking distance and frequented byamed TV chefs like Michael Chiarello. If you like champagne, Domaine Chandon is located here providing expert tours of the process of bubbly making.
Heading north of Yountville you'll be in the heart of Napa Valley wine country with rolling vineyards, country markets and the smell of grapes permeating though the air. St. Helena has its own fine restaurant, the three Michelin star Meadowood Resort with Chef Christopher Kostow culling fresh vegetables right from his kitchen garden.
There are not as many choices for accommodations here, but you will find a storybook setting at The Harvest Inn, set off the highway among pine trees and especially lush gardens.
Calistoga on the northern tip of the valley has an old west town feel, famous for its mud baths that were once the main reason that visitors headed to Napa Valley. It was discovered by the Wapoo Indians centuries ago but was developed into a spa town in the 1860s. It's also the most affordable town to stay of the four with a walkable downtown, plenty of shops and restaurants. If you'd rather spend most of your time enjoy spa treatments and soothing mineral waters, Indian Springs Resort and Spa is located on 16 acres filled with olive and palm trees as well as rose and lavender gardens along with four thermal geysers known for healing properties .