Napa Valley may be home to more than 400 wineries, but did you know wine tasting is available in more than 24 downtown Napa tasting rooms?

Locals know to avoid the crowds on Highway 29 and sip and shop downtown. Grab the Napa wine tasting card for $30 and discover hundreds of boutique wines for 10 cents!

What I liked about downtown Napa -- parking my car at Napa River Inn and leaving it there for the entire weekend. Bring your walking shoes and a good appetite for discovering downtown. The Art Walk, with public art installations sprinkled throughout downtown Napa, started with the cha-cha-cha dance steps embedded into the pavement on Main Street.

From there I walked to the Riverfront promenade and watched kayakers float the Napa River. An easy walk across the bridge brought me to Oxbow Public Market with a plethora of food and wine options in an indoor, open-air setting. If you like down home food -- think deviled eggs and earthy mushroom soup -- drop in Kitchen Door. Are Huevos Rancheros more your style? C Casa nails this Mexican dish.

What's new in Napa? City Winery, offering live music, upscale dining and 35 local wines on tap, recently opened in the Napa Valley Opera House. While not new to wine country, Getaway Adventures was a new discovery for me. The kayak and cycling tour company outfitted our group with bicycles to ride along Silverado Trail. We pedalled from Oxbow Market to Luna Winery for wine tasting at the family table overlooking the vineyards.


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Are you looking for night life in Napa? The Uptown Theatre, an art deco historic landmark located in Napa's West End district, is the ideal venue for music and comedy. Pat Benatar and Neil Geraldo recently rocked the 800-seat theater and put on a great show; they are among the many name acts that have been booked there.

Making waves in Cayucos, Morro Bay

I've been asked repeatedly not to write about Cayucos. This sleepy little central coast beach town next to Morro Bay is one of those ... pardon the overused phrase, "hidden gems" that some of my neighbors would prefer I keep to myself.

Lafayette's Sarah Sivesind says, "I love Cayucos -- the slower pace of life mixed with the beautiful scenery produces a relaxing, rejuvenating weekend. My favorite thing to do is walk on the beach with our dog Lucy and sit on the deck and watch the waves. Cayucos seems to encourage a slower pace."

Sarah's husband Jerome recommends The Pie Man for his chocolate cream pies. They also suggest a trip to Brown Butter Cookie Company on North Ocean Avenue for the lemon cookies. I peeked inside this upscale sugar shack before my incredible 14 course dinner, a few doors down, at The Cass House.

For lunch, Hoppe's Garden Bistro is not to be missed. Who knew that tiny Cayucos offered several high caliber, gourmet dining experiences?

My home base while visiting Morro Bay was the eight room Estero Inn. This boutique hotel is designed for couples, but there is one family-friendly suite. The town's existence is anchored around the water -- from sailing the bay to bountiful fishing and enjoying the morning catch that afternoon or evening in one of the many local, waterfront restaurants. So it comes as no surprise that Estero Inn is perched over Estero Bay.

I loved the fact that I could roll out of bed, walk a block to kayak rentals and be paddling on the water in mere minutes. After horseback riding on the beach the next day, I relaxed at Serenity by the Sea. The day spa is located in a nondescript building on Morro Bay's Main Street, but what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in brawn; one of the best deep tissue massages I've had in a long time.

Where have your travels taken you lately?

Read Lamorinda-based Nancy D. Brown's blog at www.Nancydbrown.com.

ONLINE RESOURCES
Do Napa: www.donapa.com
Estero Inn: www.esteroinn.com
Napa River Inn: www.napariverinn.com
Visit Napa Valley: http://www.visitnapavalley.com
Wine Coast Country: www.winecoastcountry.com