RAD Napa

RAD Napa, Right Now

RAD Napa tells a story about Napa without saying a word. What is RAD Napa? It is short for the Rail Arts District and is Napa Valley’s first dedicated art district. It’s transforming a semi-industrial stretch of the city into a contemporary cultural corridor.

This project started when citizens, business leaders, city officials and artists came together to make change. Knowing the positive effect street art can have on a community, this group wanted to celebrate this art form and create something totally unique and truly Napan.    

For years there has been rise in street art across the globe. And one of the most significant effects of this rise is the change in the public’s perception. Street art has not always been clearly defined but has become an accepted art form and increasingly embraced by the general public.

In addition to being an increasingly accepted art form, the rise in street art is also changing communities. More and more cities are adding graffiti to their plain stucco walls. This art pumps life and pride into a community. And by taking art to the streets, communities can tell their stories in a unique way.

Street art is most common in cities where it transforms far from scenic buildings into works of art. But it can also transform the country side with projects like the Remote Silo Art trail where painted silos offer a unique Australian road trip.

Whether in an urban area or country town, the positive effects street art can have on a community are huge. Knowing these positive effects, Napa has fully embraced this art form and is well on the way to creating a world-renowned cultural corridor.

RAD Napa’s Inspiration

The idea for RAD Napa started when 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.

What was the inspiration behind this idea? There are really three destinations that inspired RAD Napa. First is the Wynwood Walls Miami. The second is the SODO Track in Seattle. And finally, the High Line in New York City.

Wynwood Walls

Known as one of Miami’s most happening districts, Wynwood Walls in Miami is an outdoor museum showcasing large-scale works by some of the world’s best-known street artists. In addition, the surrounding streets have converted warehouses into craft breweries and funky art galleries. The once forgotten industrial area of Wynwood, has became one of the world’s largest outdoor street museum. It now attracts up to 15,000 people per day.

The SODO Track has transformed a two-mile transit corridor in Seattle into an imaginative raceway. This urban art gallery is the first to commission over 60 artists from 20 countries to explore one theme, and paint side-by-side. Over three summers, street artist from all over the world produced over 50 murals exploring motion, speed and progress. Their diverse backgrounds come together to connect the local to global in one creative experiment.

The High Line in New York City is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Saved from demolition by neighborhood residents, the High Line is a public space where you can view art, walk through gardens, experience a performance, and savor delicious food. The High Line is now one, continuous, 1.45-mile-long greenway featuring 500+ species of plants and trees and home to world-class artwork.

RAD Napa’s Vision

The vision is to see a far-from-scenic route in Napa pulse with new energy, awe-inspiring sights, thriving businesses and meaningful dialogue. With plenty of inspiration to draw from, RAD Napa plans to create a two-mile long outdoor art gallery where the Napa Valley Vine Trail and Napa Valley Wine Train meet.

RAD Napa will eventually include over 130 art installations. In addition, there will be urban greenscapes and parks to create outdoor spaces for people to gather, appreciate art and learn about local terroir. As seen in other cities, RAD Napa believes when art becomes part of the fabric of a community, every citizen has the opportunity to see new possibilities and create a better future for all.

RAD Napa Today

With the first installation created in 2017, there are currently 10 murals and 12 railroad utility box wraps. Working with an agency out of Los Angeles, ThinkSpace, RAD Napa has been able to curate world renowned street artists. The installations are part of a growing group of local and internationally recognized artists.

“Knocking on Heaven’s Door”

The first mural added to the district is called “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” by artists Natalia Rak and Bezt. This gorgeous mural is their first collaborative effort on the same wall. The piece is about finding beauty and never giving up hope, even when you may feel lost. The artists captured a unique glow that is sure to ignite the imagination of those who see it.


Shortly after the first mural, Felipe Pantone created the second installation. “Chromadynamica” is a vivid mural featuring a geometric wave pattern. This vibrant work of art is meant to change based on the observer’s point of view. It is a dynamic experience for those who were already in movement inside the Napa Valley Wine Train.

And these first two amazing murals were just the start. Since then, there have been eight additional murals added. These murals range from tributes to the fire fighters of the 2017 wildfires to depictions of red cabbage of the gardens at CIA Copia. Each tells a story of how the artist interprets Napa’s culture.

In addition to the murals, RAD Napa also created 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.

RAD Napa’s Future

As RAD Napa continues to grow, it will continue to bring in top talent to create a world-renowned cultural corridor. The next round of installations are planned for April 2019. At that point, there will be four additional murals added to the Napa Valley Vine Trail.

In addition, RAD Napa plans to develop urban greenscapes and parks. This includes edible gardens, pollinator habitats, greenbelt features with native plants and other verdant spaces for the community to gather.

RAD Napa Experience

Now that you know about RAD Napa, you probably want to know how to view the art. There are a few ways to experience this new cultural corridor.

First, you can experience the artwork while riding on the Napa Valley Wine Train. Here, customers can enjoy the view as they start their journey up valley on the train.

Paper Napan Walkabouts

Second, you can join Paper Napan Walkabouts to experience the art district. On this unique guided walking tour, guests will get insights about the artwork beyond what you can read about. As well as indulge in world class wine and craft beer at neighborhood gems.

You can also view the artwork at your own pace. Guests can walk, run, or bike along the Vine Trail to experience the cultural corridor on their own.

However you experience RAD Napa, you are sure to enjoy this emerging art district and learn a thing or two about Napa’s culture.

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.