Lined up on the prestigious north Highway 29, St. Helena is probably one of the most sophisticated Napa Valley towns.
No matter how often we have already passed through St. Helena, we make sure to make a quick or slow pit-stop to stock on our favorite pastries and olive oil. Have a bite at one of the many restaurants. Stroll around and just enjoy St. Helena’s undeniable charm.
There is the Main Street, sprinkled with Western buildings housing established family-owned businesses and restaurants. There are delightful little hotels and bed & breakfast. There are myriad world-class wineries. There is even a bocce ball league.
St. Helena could be a town straight from the postcard. You can spend a whole weekend, even a week in St.Helena, tasting your way through renowned wines and delicious food. But if you happen to be short on time, here are our 5 top reasons to stop in St. Helena.
#1 – Model Bakery
Since almost 90 years the Model Bakery is kneading and baking bread and baked goods for Napa Valley. And if you, at some point, have smeared butter on bread at few Napa Valley restaurants, chances are good it was Model Bakery’s bread. But here is the real deal. The most famous Model Bakery item is their English muffin. Wait, don’t turn away, we understand your eyes rolling. What can possibly be so good about English muffin, you are wondering? Believe us this one is specials. First, it’s big; it’s not your average grocery store English muffin size. It’s a thick, fluffy, pillowy, English muffin dream. It’s a love affair between something like a brioche bun and a croissant. It’s a must-try. You can have it as a breakfast sandwich with egg & bacon or savor it with a good layer of cream cheese and jam.
★ 1357 Main St, St Helena, (707) 963-8192, website
#2 – Health Spa Napa
We were fighting if to share or not to share this one, but we want you to have fun, too. This is an (almost) insider tip. As it’s well known, spas are not on the cheap side in Napa Valley. What’s more, a day at many wellness spots is great for you, but will probably break the bank. So if it’s the end of the month and you need to budget, here is where you enter Health Spa Napa in St. Helena. It’s not Equinox, but for $45 on the weekend and $25 on a weekday you can get access to the fitness studio, get some exercise done, and then lounge at the pool. It’s a swim lane pool, but we have never seen many people challenging their inner Michael Phelps there. Actually each time we have been there, people were just dabbling in the water. Which makes Napa Health Spa the perfect place to cool-off on hot Napa days for a super reasonable price. Or to get a nice relaxing massage on a chilly fall day, because their spa treatments are reasonable, too. Starting at $80 for 25 min.
★1030 Main St, St Helena, (707) 967-8800, website
#3 – Woodhouse Chocolate
Get a sweet piece of European chocolate made in St. Helena. Entering the Woodhouse Chocolate shop feels like entering a posh jewelry store. High ceilings, crystal chandelier, tapestries on the walls and white display cases filled with elegant chocolate creations. From soft truffles to melting praline noisettes to caramels with sea salt and chocolate bars — the choice is yours. John and Tracy Wood Anderson, who have been running their chocolate business since 2004, is crafting the chocolates just behind the shop and keeping the recipes a family secret with their daughter, Christina Wood Anderson, as Head Chocolatier. So if you are looking to treat yourself to some edible jewels, make a stop here.
★1367 Main St, St Helena, (707) 963-8413, website
#4 – Archetype
Only in two short years after its opening in 2014, Archetype has become a Napa favorite. The menu, local Californian, dishes up comfy brunch and rustic-innovative dinner. We like to indulge in buttermilk Belgian waffle with banana pudding or go savory with Norwegian eggs, poached eggs with salmon and dill hollandaise on Model Bakery’s English muffin. Yes, the one we talked about in #1. If you get the chance, sit at the greenhouse-style patio for a brunch al fresco feeling. We recommend making a reservation if you know you will be stopping in St.Helena, but even if not, put your name on the list and have a nice stroll on the Main Street. Time will fly by.
★1429 Main St, St Helena, (707) 968-9200, website
#5 – Acres Home & Carden
There is no road tripping without some shopping. Our favorite place to get something nice for our home is Acres shop. From serveware to candles to linens and cutting boards, there is something for every room in the house. If you feel your bathrobe needs your monograms, just next door is Jan de Luz embroidery shop.
★1219 Main St, St Helena, (707) 967-1142, website
Extra reasons to stop:
Quick, easy, delicious, good old burger pit-stop. Set in a former drive-in diner, Gott’s Roadside might be our favorite North California burger joint. On any given time of day, you will find here people enjoying the juicy burgers in the spacious backyard. Our most ordered combo when we are here: California Burger with fried egg + sweet potato fries + chocolate shake. It doesn’t get better than this sometimes.
★933 Main St, St Helena, (707) 963-3486, website