Being from Los Angeles, I’d like to say that I am pretty well-versed in regards to travel destinations within the beautiful state. I’ve been to every popular region multiple times, and always find great new things to fall in love with in those places, whether it be the desert, Orange County, down south in San Diego, or up north around San Francisco. Although there was one part of California that I had yet to really dig into, and that is the Central Coast.
Now that overseas travel is temporarily out of the question due to the current global pandemic, it is the perfect time to explore more of California. My European summer travel plans may be canceled, but I decided to spin it positively and make the most of the summer by planning new trips that do not require red-eyes and passports. First up on the road trip travel docket? Paso Robles.
Paso Robles is a hidden gem off the Central Coast of California. It is an ideal spot for a long, three-day weekend from southern or northern California, being about a 4-hour drive from both Los Angeles and San Francisco.
I would describe Paso Robles as a smaller, more laid-back Cowboy version of Napa Valley with great wine, good food, and a quaint little town to walk around in.
Where to Stay
Paso Robles is a small town with few luxury hotel options. There are definitely a couple that came recommended. We decided to stay at the Hotel Cheval, which was located in “downtown Paso” so we could be walking distance to the shops and restaurants. Hotel Cheval ended up being very cute, a small boutique hotel with friendly staff, nice rooms, a S’mores butler in the evenings (yum) and a great location.
The two other hotels that came recommended were Allegretto, which is a bigger spa and resort property, and Just Inn, which is a part of the Justin Winery and offers luxury apartment-like suites off the vineyard.
Where to Eat
A few restaurants caught our attention in Paso Robles, all of which were quaint, locally-owned places with small menus and great service.
Breakfast: Spearhead Coffee, Back Porch Bakery
Lunch: Restaurant at Justin Winery, Fish Gaucho
Dinner: Bistro Laurent, Thomas Hill Organics
Where to Drink
While Paso Robles was once home to ranches raising cattle and farms producing almonds and grain (hence the Cowboy vibes), today the main industry is wine, thanks to the region’s diverse microclimates and soils and cutting edge winemaking.
The Paso Robles wine region has 32,000+ acres of vineyards located within its 11 different sub-appellations, which span across 614,000 acres of varied topography and elevations, which makes for a wide range of varietals. Due to its close proximity to the ocean, vines see consistently hot, dry days with plenty of sunshine, followed by fog and coastal influences that cool things down at night, making for ideal growing conditions for many different types of grapes!
Below you’ll find a list of some of my personal favorite wineries that I recommend visiting for a tasting and/or tour.
Justin Vineyards: Famous for its “Isosceles” blend, Justin is not to be missed for a tasting and lunch on their beautiful patio amongst the vines.
Tablas Creek: Recognized as one of the leaders in the California Rhône movement, if you visit Tablas Creek definitely take advantage of the twice-daily tours to see the organic, estate vineyards and production facility before sampling some of their much-loved Rhône wines.
DAOU: If breathtakingly stunning views is what you’re after, don’t miss DAOU Vineyards & Winery, a lavish, hill-top winery offering panoramic views as you taste. Walk-ins are welcome, but the culinary experiences, such as the private Estate Picnic tasting, require a reservation.
Eberle Winery: 16,000 square feet of caves and a sweeping view at Eberle.
Peachy Canyon Winery: Zinfandel is the signature wine at Peachy. The building that houses the tasting room called Old Bethel School House―dates back to the 1880s.
Niner Wine Estates: The beautiful, family-owned and operated Niner estate has scenic views and estate-grown fruit from two estate vineyards.
What to Do
Paso Robles is wine country, so most of the city’s activities do revolve around wine. There are, however, a few other fun activities you can explore if you are into art, culture, and/or history.
If you are lucky enough to visit Paso Robles from June 2020 – January 2021, you will be able to catch Sensorio, the incredible art installation also known as Field of Light by artist Bruce Munro. The exhibition opens at sunset, right outside of downtown Paso Robles, by ticket only. Sensorio is best described as 15 acres of 58,800-plus technicolor fiber-optic solar-powered lights in a remote field. Sensorio offers a great experience alongside the light show, with live music, a taco truck, and cocktails.
Another fun activity is hot air ballooning, something I have done in Napa, but did not get a chance to do in Paso Robles as it was sadly closed. I was told that the best hot balloon operator is Balloons Over Paso.
I hope you enjoyed this travel guide to Paso Robles, and can take some helpful tips up with you when you visit. If you happen to use this guide, and try any of my recommendations, please tag me on Instagram so I can see (and have a case of FOMO!) Cheers, and drink responsibly!