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In Napa, Calif.

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

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Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCANS have long ducked off Highway 29 to wait out the traffic with a stroll through one of downtown Napa's neighborhoods of wide streets, airy parks and gingerbread-style houses. But lately, there's been reason to linger a bit longer in this once sleepy town at the stem of the Napa Valley wine country. With hip eateries, a contemporary art museum on the revitalized riverfront and a 19th-century opera house now featuring a series of world music performances, downtown Napa has become a destination in its own right. Behind some of the oldest stone storefronts in California you can discover the newest flavor combinations, with-it clothing stores, and a sense that you've found something hidden, something on the verge of a boom.
4 p.m.
1) Park and Sip
There are two ways to reach Napa by car from San Francisco. One is traffic choked, the other so scenic you'll swear you've driven hours, not just 30 or 40 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. So head up Highway 101 and take your first wine-tasting break on the inviting terrace of the new Nicholson Ranch Winery (4200 Napa Road, 707-938-8822), where the view includes vine-covered hills, llamas and a dairy farm. Once in town, look for the sandstone facade of the Pfeiffer Building, Napa's oldest commercial building, which started life as a brewery in 1875. Inside is the Vintner's Collective (1245 Main Street, 707-255-7150), where a handful of small vineyards — from D-Cubed to Mi Sueno — offer tastings. The twist: The room feels like an urban cocktail lounge, with upbeat music and swank club chairs; $10 for four tastes. Open until 6 p.m.
7 p.m.
2) Riverfront Dining
By day, the Napa General Store (540 Main Street, 707-259-0762), is a takeout shop, but Wednesday through Saturday, as the sun goes down, the tablecloths come out and it is transformed into the General Café restaurant, where you can dine on the patio overlooking the Napa River. Fans of San Francisco's most celebrated Vietnamese restaurant, the Slanted Door, will appreciate rediscovering Nam Phan, a former chef at the Slanted Door, and Judy Takasaki, a former pastry chef there. Try Vietnamese crepes ($7.75) with pork, shrimp and bean sprouts and finish with Scharffen Berger chocolate cake ($6.50), decadently topped with fresh berries and cream.

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