The Californian city’s postcard-perfect palette invites foodies and oenophiles.
Midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles lies a smaller unassuming town that has steadily made its claim as a mandatory spot all its own on the west coast. From just a convenient rest stop for weary travelers back in the day, Paso Robles has grown into a famed winemaking region with its heritage varietals of zinfadel, cab sauvignon and Rhone-style wines.
You can find a lovely spot in a cabana outdoors viewing rolling hills and green expanses as you imbibe your chosen glass of vino any day or time. But let that not be the only reason to visit. Beyond wines, Paso Robles is also known for its breweries and distilleries. The bounty of its central coast location is expressed in the myriad cuisines and artistically plated meals at restaurants you find simply walking around the downtown area.
Known for its agricultural offerings, Paso Robles also offers proximity to the ocean, and presents avenues galore to indulge in long walks, hiking, biking and horse-riding. The small-town charm it exudes includes a variety of options when it comes to hotels, inns, vacation rentals and RV resorts.
To stay close to downtown but not right amidst the action, check-in at Stables Inn Paso, where the communal areas – the Tack Room for breakfast and the outdoor fire pit after hours – ring up the cozy factor. The new Bunk House here is great for families or larger groups and a private entrance adds to the allure. Sister property Hotel Cheval is right down the street and Paso Robles Inn, Allegretto Vineyard and The Piccolo are other area hotels to consider. Boutiques and art galleries will entice the shopper in you, but the local history is equally an attraction.
Head to the Pioneer Museum, Estrella Warbird Museum or Children’s Museum for an afternoon of local highlights. The Historical Society and History Museum, located in the downtown park, offers docent-led tours that share how the city became the tourism magnet over the last few years.
Just a short drive out is Bruce Munro: Field of Light at Sensorio, an outdoor visual installation that was originally a limited engagement but has now been extended multiple times given the demand. The 15-acre walk-through experience is the largest by the internationally acclaimed artist and entirely solar-powered.
The sound and light show is a breathtaking experience by night and a recommended attraction in the area by locals and visitors. Reserve ahead as it tends to get busy given the limited hours it is open daily.
To enjoy the agricultural bounty of the region, head straight to the heart of all the action. The Downtown City Park is where you can dine at a number of restaurants or grab a bite and enjoy a picnic. La Cosecha’s chef and owner Santos MacDonal serves up dishes inspired by his Honduran roots, including some gourmet comfort food seasoned with Latin and Spanish flare.
For Mexican fare, Fish Gaucho is the spot and along with the food, watch out for the potent tequila menu – we see you mezcal flights. Craving pub fare? Pappy McGregor’s has you covered on a wide range of beers, pot pies, meatloaf, the works. Miss Oddette’s Creole Kitchen is a pop-up serving southern-style cuisine and barbecue. Check online for where she is serving next and join the queue for the famed ribs, beans and rice, BBQ sauce and more.
Grab a salad and sandwich from Hush Harbor Artisan Bakery or artisan doughnuts and hearty acai bowls from Twisted and Glazed. Vina Robles, though a winery and away from downtown, has some great lunch fare in an ambience that will make you feel you’ve magically transported to southern Italy.
Did you know Paso Robles also had its own Craft Distillery Trail? Venues such as Re:Find, KroBar and Cal-Wise Spirits are part of the program and well worth your visit when in these parts. While there are wineries aplenty to keep you busy here, a few BIPOC-owned businesses warrant addition to your itinerary. Indigene Cellars produces award-winning Bordeaux and Tuscan-style blends as well as cabernet sauvignon. Owner Raymond Smith has a cozy tasting room (by appointment only) where you can enjoy weekend pours.
LXV Wine, owned by Neeta and Kunal Mittal, throws in a little twist with spice pairings accompanying your tasting flights – expect to be bowled over by both the varietals and the herbs. Meanwhile, at Bodega de Edgar, owner Edgar Torres shares his Hispanic heritage and passion for Spanish wines with stellar albarinos, tempranillos and chardonnays, among other equally delightful options to imbibe.
Other noteworthy candidates to your wine tasting plans include Villicana Winery and Hoyt Family Vineyards and Tablas Creek – a pioneering organic and biodynamic winery that is the very first vineyard in the world to be Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC), implementing the highest international standard for their soils, animals, and welfare of employees.
San Luis Obispo sits just about half an hour from Paso Robles and is a great day or weekend trip heading closer to the coast. It is said to be one of California’s oldest European-founded communities and you can learn all about the Spanish influences at the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. A self-guided tour around the historic downtown sheds light on the many structures that lend to this city’s timeline, including the Dallidet Adobe, History Museum, Mission Plaza and Museum of Art.
For a night’s rest, Garden Street Inn nestled in the vibrant core of SLO is a lovely bed and breakfast where every room is decorated in a different theme and the homemade breakfasts are a reason to be up early every morning. The quaint Italianate/Queen Ann Victorian Mansion was originally the home of immigrants to the town in the 1800s.
From here, drive on out to Avila or Pismo Beach and Morro Bay for your dose of vitamin sea or head back toward Paso Robles and enjoy the outdoor gardens and sculptures at Sculpterra Winery and Sculpture Gardens.
Whether you’d like to stroll the city or sample some syrah, this central coast California destination is one to add to your travel list.