Napa Walking Tours

What’s a Walkabout Anyway?

Many people have asked, and we have listened. What does a walkabout mean? The answer is simple…kind of.

First, we wanted a name that truly represented our unique experiences. While we conduct guided walking tours, we aim to make it more than just a tour of facts and tastings. Our experiences are about exploring and discovering things that makes a destination unique. It is about truly getting to know a community and what it is like to be apart of it.

Aussies enjoying wine

Second, we wanted to recognize the diversity in Napa. As you will learn in this article, the word walkabout originated in Australia. And one thing you should know about California wine country, there are plenty of Australians. Apparently, where there’s wine there will be Aussies.

And finally, our walkabouts don’t follow a route you will find on a map. Our walking paths are something only a local would know. And while our tours are carefully organized, simply walking about is what we want it to feel like for our guests.

Original Walkabout

So where did the term walkabout originally start? As mentioned above, the term originated in Australia. The term walkabout evolved to describe the “temporary mobility” of a nomadic indigenous Australian. “Temporary mobility” is a nomadic lifestyle that does not establish a permanent residence and includes a significant amount of movement for religious observance.

Aboriginal Walkabout

Young Indigenous adults have the highest mobility rate of all age groups in Australia. A walkabout is their rite of passage during which indigenous males undergo a journey during adolescence. This journey meant a person would live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months to make the spiritual and traditional transition into manhood.

Although this is the origin of the term walkabout, as with many things, the term has taken on to mean a variety of things.

Royal Walkabout

One of the most popular uses of the term “walkabout” is by British Royals. Their version is when members of the royal family meet well-wishers gathered on the street. In earlier tours, viewers would only be able to catch a glimpse of the royals when they drove by in cars. But that changed during the Queen’s tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1970.

Royal Walkabout

It was during this trip that the Queen decided to personally greet royal watchers. She wanted to say hello to the crowds, and the walkabout was born. The new activity allowed royals to meet a greater number of people, not just officials and dignitaries.

Now, well-wishers can actually get handshakes and have short conversations with members of the royal family. And at this point, almost every public royal engagement involves a “walkabout”.

Urban Legend Walkabout

Since the term first originated, it has taking on a variety of meanings. And according to Urban dictionary here are just a few of the most popular.

A walkabout can be a spontaneous journey through the wilderness of one’s choosing in an effort to satisfy one’s itchy feet. Or it can be a trek that has no goal other than admiring nature, and the personal satisfaction of walking around the middle of nowhere and making it home alive.

And one definition that is gaining more popularity is the highly selective alternative program for college bound high school seniors. The program consists of several challenge areas to teach students to love learning and help them to make it in the real world.

Paper Napan Walkabout

So what do we mean by Paper Napan Walkabouts? First, let’s breakdown Paper Napan. This term is used to describe a non-native local. Why that? Well first, people from Napa are called Napans. And second, residents up valley have been known to call Napans “Napkins”. And rather than taking offence, locals have taken this and embraced the term. In addition, urban legend has it that natives refer to themselves as linens and non natives as paper. Since our mission is to create a local experience for our guests, you will be an honorary Paper Napan for the day.

Paper Napan Walkabouts

What do we mean by walkabout? As mentioned above, we wanted something that represents our unique experience. This is more than a tour about facts of a destination. It’s more than tasting wine and beer and seeing unique art. Our goal is to immerse our guests in the local culture and make you feel closer to the community. And there is no better way to do this than walking around with a local with great relationships around town.

Overall, Paper Napan Walkabouts believes that the character of a community is what truly makes each destination unique. And we have created an experience that highlights the soul of Napa through art, wine, beer, walking, and really cool locals at each stop.

Napa Art: It’s for all of us

When you hear Napa Art, what image comes to mind? Maybe you are looking at a rare Picasso in a large chateau high above the valley? While that does exist and is amazing (we hear), there is also another side of Napa. One that is perhaps a little more accessible and relatable to the rest of us.

Napa’s diversity is one of the of the great things about the city. Sitting at the base of the valley, Napa draws a community ranging in backgrounds and interests. And the dedication to public art is one of the things that ties the community together.

Napa has a long history of citizens and community leaders coming together to support the arts. And this continues today with a large public arts program led by Arts Council Napa Valley. The projects they have created tell a great story about the community and what it’s about.

Nothing paints a better picture of what a city is like than the public art around it….literally.

Who started all this

As much as Robert Mondavi deserves credit for revolutionizing Napa’s wine industry, Margrit Mondavi deserves credit for transforming the valley into a cultural destination. As the Vice President of Cultural Affairs at Robert Mondavi Winery, she created an artistic hub in the valley. Considered Napa Valley’s Grande Dame, her support for the arts lives on. 

Margrit Mondavi

Renowned for amazing wine, Robert Mondavi Winery is also famous for it’s robust art collection and their “Artist in Residences” exhibit. In addition to the artwork, it also has a Summer Music Festival that has included artist like Ben Harper and Brandi Carlile. As a fan of the culinary arts, Margrit also opened the Great Chefs Cooking School that hosted Alice Waters, Daniel Boulud and — most notably — Julia Child….a Mondavi lifelong friend.

In addition to the winery, she also had a strong commitment to the community. As a lifelong philanthropist, she was a strong supporter of arts in the schools. And one of her legacies is the Oxbow School in Napa. This art institute is a single semester arts school for high school juniors and seniors. The school trains students in painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography and digital media while also satisfying high school graduation requirements.

As you can imagine, this level of support for art in the schools has a large effect on the community as a whole. From simple appreciation, to transforming students into professional artist, the support Margrit Mondavi gave to students had a lasting impact on the city.

What Can Napa Show Me Now

The answer is lots! As community leaders, citizens, and businesses continue to support the arts, there will continue to be plenty to see around the city. From permanent exhibits to annual events, Napa continuously has interesting things to see and experience.

How robust is the Napa public art scene? Here are a few projects around the city that you will  definitively want to put in your 2019 calendar.  

RAD Napa

RAD Napa, short for Rail Arts District, is an art movement transforming a semi-industrial stretch in the city. The city was inspired to create a world renowned cultural corridor after seeing the power of public art in places like the Wynwood Walls in Miami or the SODO Track in Seattle.

RAD Napa

This project started when the members of the Napa Vine Trail Arts, Culture and Education committee wanted to improve the Vine Trail’s user experience. After partnering with the Napa Valley Wine Train, the Rail Arts District was formally launched in January 2017.

The vision for RAD Napa is to bring to life a far from scenic area by creating a dedicated art district. This art district will be a 2-mile outdoor gallery with over 130 art installations.

From murals to sculptures and more, RAD Napa’s installations are part of a growing group of local and internationally recognized artists. With the first installation created in 2017, there are already 10 murals and 12 railroad utility box wraps in this emerging district.

RAD Napa

The murals are converting cinder block buildings into works of art. Working with ThinkSpace, RAD Napa has already curated world renowned street artists like Fintan McGee and Felipe Panton. The district now has 10 murals with 4 more planned for April 2019.

In addition to the murals, RAD also has a Utility Box Project. Local and regional artists submitted their ideas for art “wraps” for the railroad signal boxes. 12 artists were selected, and their work is currently displayed on boxes along the Vine Trail between California Blvd. and the Wine Train Depot.

As RAD Napa continues to grow, it will continue to bring in top talent to create a world-renowned cultural corridor.

Napa Artwalk

In addition to the amazing street art of RAD Napa, there is also Napa’s Artwalk. This project launched in 2010 and is still going strong today. The Artwalk is a rotating, temporary, outdoor sculpture exhibition throughout downtown Napa. 

Napa Art Walk

The Napa Artwalk is designed to enhance the public environment and promote the enjoyment of public art. This project is a collaborative effort by the city of Napa and the Arts Council Napa Valley. Together, they select regional artists to exhibit their art in downtown Napa on a temporary basis.

The current theme for the fifth Napa Artwalk exhibition is “Shifting Perspective”. This exhibit runs from 2017-2019 and features ten sculptures from artists from 4 western states. Each piece demonstrates the power of perspective and how art can change depending upon how, when, and where it is viewed. 

You can stroll around downtown to check out the exhibits and also listen to the Napa Artwalk audio tour. This audio can be found on the free smartphone app, Otocast. Using your smartphone, download Otocast through the Apple Store or Google Play and look up “Napa Artwalk “. Once downloaded, you can select which sculpture you’d like to hear about…most were recorded by the artists themselves.

Napa Lighted Art Festival: Art After Dark

The Napa Lighted Art Festival is a celebration of creative arts and technology where light becomes art. The festival supports innovative techniques using light and light technologies as a growing art medium. The 2019 festival will run from January 12th-20th and will include several events.

Napa Lighted Art Festival

First, ten to fifteen original art works will be installed throughout downtown Napa and the Oxbow District. Artwork will include Light art, Video art, 3D video mapping projections and projects that use technology or interactivity.  The artwork is created around the core concepts of: Innovative, Contemporary, Uplifting, Inspiring and Imaginative.

In addition, everyone can participate in the Lantern Parade. On January 18th, the parade will start (6:30PM) and finish at Veteran’s Park. It will weave through the various art installations in downtown Napa while walking to live drumbeat by the amazing Cosmos Percussion Ensemble. All ages are encouraged to participated and create a lantern. This is a perfect event be a part of this community’s art celebration. 

Not able to walk in the parade, but still want to be apart of the art celebration? Napa Valley’s majestic hot air balloons will be uniquely displayed as part of the Art After Dark experience. Several tethered hot air balloons will light up the sky at the Oxbow Commons on both weekends of the festival. You won’t want to miss this stunning and uniquely Napan light show! 

Finally, you can also head down to The Villages at Vista Collina Resort. Here you can checkout Christopher Schardt’s Constellation Light sculpture. This exhibit transforms a space beyond something ordinary into something that sparkles with life. This stunning installation is enhanced by wine and beer tastings at the Village’s 9 tasting rooms. Conveniently, there is a free shuttle service from downtown. 

Art in April

Can’t make it in January, but really want to be a part of a Napa Art event? Don’t worry, Napa has you covered right when the weather turns truly amazing. 

Each year Arts Council Napa Valley has a month-long campaign to promote local talent. The goal is to bring the community together through live music, art fairs and exhibitions, storytelling, theatre performance, culinary arts, and hands on activities. From Napa to Calistoga, each city celebrates with different events throughout the month of April.

In 2019, downtown Napa will celebrate on April 21st from 2-5PM. First Street Napa, will host eight large-scale mural and art installations from artists across the Bay Area. The goal is to create a European Street Fair-feel with live performances throughout the day.   

Chalk R!ot

First, these artist are truly amazing and unique. And second, you never know when they may throw down. Chalk R!ot creates custom pavement art and chalkboard murals. What started out as a hobby between two friends has grown into a global public arts company.

Chalk R!ot

The best part is that they have a studio in Napa. As they say, chalk pairs well with cabernet and what is better than California sun and colorful public chalk art? 

This public arts company is awesome because you never know when you may see their work pop up around town. The medium of chalk is unique, the images are jaw dropping, and the timing always spot on. You will certainly be amazed when you stubble across one of their works whiles casually walking through town. 

What does all this mean for me

So, if you’re not an artist but you can appreciate looking at great art. Or you’re an art enthusiast and want to see pieces from world renowned artist. Napa’s got you covered. The city is crawling with public art that can be appreciated by everyone, no matter how you interpret it.

 

Rail Arts District

Walk Napa, Walk it Now

Napa was once considered the sleepy city you passed through to get to the “good part” of Napa Valley, but that has quickly changed. It is now considered a great home base for any California wine country adventure. What made this transition happen? There are really several reasons, but most importantly, it was citizens coming together to make change.

As the engine of Napa Valley, the city is full of dreamers and doers doing great things to create a unique destination. From 3rd generation wine makers, to first time brewers, to citizens coming together to attract unique art, Napans are in a class of their own.

Also, located just 60 miles from San Francisco and siting at the entrance of the legendary Napa Valley, Napa is perfectly situated for visitors. It is arguably one of the most strategically located destinations in the U.S.

Between the citizens and visitors it attracts and the geographical location, Napa is in prime position to be a world renowned destination. And the city is quickly becoming an absolute must do on any Napa Valley visit.

So, what exactly has the city been doing to create a world class destination? First they needed to fix the foundation and then the they needed to make things happen. And that is exactly what they have been doing….  

Got Floods, Will Fix

The recent surge in development started when several diverse interest groups came together to fix Napa’s flooding issues. Why was this needed? The Napa River floods have inundated the Valley on a regular basis for thousands of years. Since record keeping started, 21 serious floods have been recorded. More notably, Napa County residents have suffered $542 million in property damage since the 1970s.

This flooding drove businesses out of the area and discouraged development. In order to address this issue, in March 1998, a proposal to add a half-cent to the Napa County sales tax to fund a flood project was voted on by the citizens. More than 27,000 ballots were cast, and the measure passed with just 308 votes to spare (voting matters!).

Napa Flood GatesSince this measure passed, the multi-objective flood plan was implemented. This project restored more than 650 acres of high-value tidal wetlands of the San Francisco Bay Estuary. What does that really mean? It means, the flood project has protected 2,700 homes, 350 businesses, and over 50 public properties from 100-year flood levels. It also created a savings of $26 million annually in flood damage costs.

The end result is a “Living River” design that protects all county residents from damages caused by regular flooding. Now that the foundation has been fixed, the city is prime for development.   

So Now What

Now there are endless opportunities for citizens and businesses to create a world-renowned destination without fear of flooding. And this development has already started.

So far, there has already been more than $1 billion invested in downtown alone. This investment is creating a distinct destination that includes unique art, a variety of lodging, stylish urban tasting rooms, exceptional restaurants, and a growing craft beer scene.

So, what does Napa look like now and where will it be soon? Keep reading and next thing you know your bags will be packed to visit one of the most strategically positioned destinations in the U.S.  

I want you to walk this way 

Walking NapaWhile there are benefits to being strategically located, there are also downfalls.  If you have ever driven up Highway 29 on a Thursday afternoon you know what I mean. The traffic in the valley is terrible. In order to relieve some of this congestion, Napa has been transforming areas of the city to make it more pedestrian friendly. This makes a lot of sense for more reasons than just traffic.

First, let’s face it, a lot of people around here are drunk or well on their way. That’s great, but drinking and driving is a no no.  Also, who doesn’t love to live in or visit a walkable city? Studies continue to show a walkable city is a happy city, and who doesn’t like to be around happy people? Which leads to my final point, we’re in California….go outside!

One of the largest projects in the valley to encourage walking is the Napa Valley Vine Trial. This grassroots labor of love will be a 47-mile walking & biking trail system from the Vallejo Ferry Station all the way up to Calistoga. Eventually, people will be able to get from the city all the way to Calistoga without getting in a car.

At this point, there are 12.5 miles complete. Which means you can now use the Vine Trail to go from South Napa all the way up to Yountville. A beautiful easy ride with several sites and stops to see and do along the way.

You can check out the artwork of RAD Napa, hit up cool wineries like Ashes and Diamonds or makes your way to Yountville and eat your way down Washington St. There is a little something for everyone and a great time to be had by all.

Look how the blue matches the blue

Rail Arts DistrictYou’re not an artist but you can appreciate looking at great art? Or you’re an art enthusiast and want to see pieces from world renowned artist? Napa’s got you covered. The city is crawling with public art that can be appreciated by everyone, no matter how you interpret it.

The Art Council Napa Valley is the leading advocate for art in the community. This was another grassroots effort by passionate community leaders to organize and support the arts. Two of their most popular programs are the Napa Artwalk and Arts in April.

The Napa Artwalk is an outdoor sculpture exhibition with a variety of three-dimensional artwork throughout downtown Napa. Arts in April celebrates the connection between art and wine by showcasing art in the valley’s wineries, galleries, museums, and performance venues each spring.

More recently, the council partnered with other community and business leaders to create RAD Napa. RAD Napa, short for Rail Arts District, is an art movement transforming a semi-industrial stretch in the city.

After seeing the power of public art in places like the Wynwood Walls in Miami or the SODO Track in Seattle, the city was inspired to create a new cultural corridor along the railroad. Already home to pieces by world renowned street artist like Felipe Pantone and Fintan McGee, RAD Napa will be a 2 mile outdoor gallery with over 130 art installations.

Enjoy where California Wine meets California Cool

While going up valley to experience some of the most amazing wineries in the world is a must, the tasting rooms in the city take on a whole Napa casual wine tastingnew personality. With nearly 40 tasting rooms in downtown Napa alone, there is endless opportunity to satisfy even the most ambitious wine enthusiast.

And while you can’t go wrong with Napa Valley wine, you can find an atmosphere that may not be the right fit for you….and that’s ok. Fortunately for everyone, Napa has a diverse community with a variety of influence. There is a little something for everyone…just like California herself!

You want more upscale, you got it! You want more laid back, you got that too! Or, you don’t care and just want friendly service and a really good time, you bet Napa has you covered there! Overall, the tasting rooms in the city are a destination themselves not to be overlooked.

Come for the wine, stay for the Beer

If your anything like me, a nice craft beer after a long day of wine tasting is just what the doctor order. Well, maybe not the doctor but at least my taste buds. And lucky for us, the Napa craft beer scene is continuously growing. The city of Napa is now home to nearly ten breweries all with a distinct style and atmosphere.

Napa BeerYou can visit urban nano-breweries to try amazing rotational beers from the only female wine maker/master brewer in the country at St. Clair Brown. Or head over to the larger Stone Brewery in the beautifully restored historic building by the river. You can also take your craft beer experience up valley on the Napa Valley Wine Train. They have jumped on board the growing craft beer scene and partnered with local brewer Palisades to create the Hop Train.

Sip, Savor, Shop, and Stay at First Street Napa

Napa’s First Street underwent a remarkable $200 million transformation to become the anchor for downtown. This includes upscale lodging, dining and retail. With openings that began in fall 2017, First Street Napa is a 325,000 square foot mixed-use development. 

This development will add over 45 shops and restaurants to create a landmark destination in the heart of downtown Napa. The project has brought leading architects, designers and artists together to create a unique Napa look that is warm, inviting and authentic.

Covering three city blocks, the development is an eclectic blend of new, renovated and historic buildings. It also includes a growing vibrant public art program to promote pedestrian traffic through the area.

Hey you two, get a room!

There are just over 5,000 rooms/units in Napa Valley, with over 3,000 located in the close vicinity of downtown Napa. While that is significant, there are an additional 1,800 rooms either pending construction or in the design phase. The options are endless when it comes to lodging around the city.

From boutique hotels like the recently opened Archer Hotel, to historic B&Bs like the Hennessy House, to resorts like the Westin, the city is Napa Hotelbustling with a variety of accommodations. While staying in the heart of the city, Napa hotels are conveniently located close to the action while also providing a beautiful view. Guests can enjoy world renowned restaurants, boutique wine tasting rooms, stylish shopping and art galleries all within reach to the walkable downtown.

Indulge in Napa Now

If you are a Napa Valley regular or hoping to cross it off your bucket list someday, the city of Napa should be a stop on your itinerary. Come for the day, or make it your home base for the trip, you are sure to have a memorable time. The city of Napa is definitely a “must do” on anyone’s next Napa Valley adventure.

 

Cheers!