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Andaz Napa: A hotel at the center of Napa’s downtown pleasures

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It used to be that Napa travelers tended to stay “up valley” in the posh digs of St. Helena or the spa resorts of Calistoga. That’s changing. Now many vacationers and weekend visitors are choosing downtown Napa as their base of operations.

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One reason for this is Andaz Napa, an urban-style, upscale hotel that is close to the various pleasures that are also bringing more people downtown: restaurants, bars, live music and cultural attractions. I spent a night there recently, and here are my impressions:

In a nice welcoming touch, considering this is wine country, guests receive a free glass of wine at check-in. That day the choice was either a John Anthony Vineyards white or a Louis Martini red—both Napa Valley wineries, naturally. A John Anthony tasting salon is next to the hotel entrance.

If you don’t drink or you’re not in the mood, another thoughtful touch is the station in the lobby with dispensers of ice-cold lemon- or cucumber-flavored water. A doorman in khaki shorts (this is Napa Valley casual, after all) or another Andaz staffer will serve you “the welcome beverage of your choice,” as they call it.

Formerly known as Avia Napa, this five-story, 141-room hotel is part of the Hyatt chain. It underwent a major renovation that gave the lobby more of a lounge feel, with hardwood and marble floors, rustic-looking wooden tables and artwork on the walls. There are couches and chairs in a central area with a fireplace and a cocktail bar to your right as you walk in. In back are a coffee bar and the Farmers Table restaurant with an outdoor terrace.

I found the rooms to be nice and well-appointed. A business travel magazine named Andaz “Best Lifestyle Hotel,” an assessment that’s hard to disagree with, especially if your lifestyle includes taking long, hot showers in a white marble bathroom with a spacious walk-in shower and waterfall-style shower heads. You and your partner—or you and a couple of partners, if that’s how you roll—can let the water cascade off your bodies as if you’re in a refreshing tropical afternoon downpour.

Outside Andaz, many downtown pleasures await—virtually all of them accessible by foot. See art and stroll along the Napa River, hear live music at the Uptown Theatre or City Winery, view historical sights and eat and drink with gusto.

You will find small delights too, ones that aren’t listed in the official tour guides. Across the street from Andaz—it has a lovely white exterior, by the way, with a stylish architectural centerpiece at its top that resembles a fan-like hat—is a statue of a figure in black on a pedestal. Its eyes are not eyes but slits and its body has legs but no arms. But there’s nothing deformed about the piece; it is a fully finished artistic whole. But can something or someone that’s missing such crucial parts still be considered intact and whole? These and other interesting questions I pondered as I went off in search of more delights.

Andaz Napa, 1410 First Street, Napa. Standard daily rate for a room is $249, depending on the season and day of week. 707-687-1234. Valet parking is $20 a day; free self-parking is in the Clay Street Garage behind the hotel.

This is the first in an occasional series on places to stay in Napa Valley.

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