The Napa Valley Welcome Center just opened up shop in the Riverfront Properties in downtown Napa. Someone did it right at the Legendary Napa Valley, the organization that sponsors this center. It truly is a welcoming center and once you take a peek inside you just want to explore. We stopped in last Sunday morning and the center was alive with visitors and a helpful staff.
The office staff, mostly senior citizens that morning, seemed to be very much enjoying themselves and having fun with the visitors. One of the staff members, wearing a beret, introduced himself to me as George De La Tour. I said to him, “I have read much about you including your death many years ago.” Then he replied trying to play me again, “I was just kidding, I am really Mike Grgich (owner/winemaker of Grgich Hills Estate winery).” A happy staff is a good staff.
The entire layout of the Welcome Center perks visitor’s interests. There is a set of new and sparkling wine barrels against the back wall. On the two sidewalls is a montage of wonderful photographs of the Napa Valley. Large screen TV’s are positioned here and there, showing scenes of the Napa Valley. At the concierge table, staff members dispense all types of services including making lodging reservations and advising on which wineries to visit.
Perhaps the most interesting station of the Welcome Office is the iPad table. Each iPad displays the application “Visit Napa Valley.” I played with this App for a few minutes and found it to be useful although not perfect. I plugged in different criteria by my wineries’ selection and it gave me a set of wineries to choose for visiting. No one else was using the iPads while we were there; most people still want that human interaction. Still, I think it is a great idea and a good alternative for visitors when the staff is busy. Curiously, when I got home, I tried to download that App onto my iPad but the only one available is for the iPhone. I am guessing that the iPad App at the visitor office is still under development or perhaps only to be used by the Welcome Center.
On the downside, the Visitor Center had been located for years in the nearby downtown area in Napa called the Town Center. What a blow to the tenants of Town Center to lose the draw of the tourists seeking information about visiting wineries. Foot traffic is much less now. Rumor has it that the owner of the Town Center is miffed and wants to establish his own Napa visitor office. Much of that area looks shabby and in much need of a facelift. The Riverfront area is chic, inviting, and much more exciting for tourists.
The new Napa Valley Welcome Center is located at 600 Main Street, Napa.