Known as Napa Valley’s Main Street, the buzzing city of St. Helena is one of the most popular hubs for wine country visitors, and for good reason: it has its own American Viticultural Area (AVA designation, which comprises over 400 wineries. Beyond the vines, the city’s Michelin-starred eateries and appealing shops add to its charm.
St. Helena has been a Napa Valley wine destination for generations. The city is home to many of the region’s oldest and most celebrated wineries, including Ballentine Vineyards (which has been in operation for over 100 years), Beringer Vineyards (a National Historic Landmark), and Charles Krug Winery (which, at over 150 years old, is the oldest winery in Napa Valley). St. Helena offers numerous top-ranked restaurants, as well as the Wine Country campus of the Culinary Institute of America. Beyond the gourmet options, bike trails, hot-air balloon rides, and even a local opera house number among St. Helena’s draws. Join a full-day winery tour, book a private photoshoot in a vineyard, or plan your own independent excursion in St. Helena.
Things to know before you go
- St. Helena has long been popular among culinary types: celebrated food writer M.F.K. Fisher and Fritz Maytag, founder of Anchor Brewing, both resided here.
- The St. Helena Farmers Market, held Friday mornings from March–October, is one of the best places to enjoy the region’s fresh produce and artisanal goods.
- The Culinary Institute of America’s Gatehouse Restaurant is helmed by CIA students, and is a fun and affordable fine-dining experience.
- Writer Robert Louis Stevenson spent time in St. Helena; visit the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum or State Park to learn more about his time in town.
How to get there
From San Francisco, St. Helena is a roughly 90-minute car journey away. Take US-101 and CA-37 to CA-121 in Sonoma before continuing to Napa. The area is also served by Sonoma and Napa County Airports, while the VINE Napa County bus service provides another way to get around.
When to get there
St. Helena is lovely throughout the year, though the summer months are particularly beautiful (and, unsurprisingly, the most crowded time to explore). The St. Helena Summer Concert Series is held throughout the season at Lyman Park, while the St. Helena Hometown Harvest Festival has been an October tradition for over three decades.
Must-Visit St. Helena Restaurants
St. Helena is as celebrated for its destination-worthy restaurants as it is for its tasting rooms. Highlights include The Restaurant at Meadowood (which has the maximum three Michelin stars) and the Auberge du Soleil (which has one star), while Chef Thomas Keller’s lauded French Laundry and Bouchon are both accessible in nearby Yountville.