Discover Paso Robles, CA: Ultimate Guide to the Best Things to Do

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Justin Winery in Paso Robles. Photo credit: a200/a77Wells, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Paso Robles, in the Central Coast wine region of California, is known for producing some of the finest wines in the world. The wine country’s terrain is characterized by rolling hills, rocky soils, and a warm, dry climate, making it an ideal place for grape growing.

Paso Robles wine country is renowned for its picturesque vineyards, award-winning wineries, and vibrant downtown filled with art galleries, boutique shops, and Italian, French, and Mediterranean dining options.

Based on my experiences in Paso Robles, I’ll share wine and olive oil-tasting adventures, explore historic landmarks, and reveal spa outings.

Paso Robles is about 200 miles south of San Francisco and about 200 miles north of Los Angeles. It’s the perfect destination for a California road trip.

Why Paso Robles Is Good For Growing Grapes

One of the most important factors that make Paso Robles an excellent place for grape growing is its diverse soil types. The region’s soils comprise various rock formations, including granite, limestone, shale, and volcanic rock. This diversity of soil types gives the grapes grown in Paso Robles a unique and complex flavor profile.

Another key factor contributing to the success of grape growing in Paso Robles is its warm, dry climate. In the Northern Hemisphere, the best grape-growing regions are between 30- and 50 degrees latitude. The Central California region receives plenty of sunshine throughout the year, with daytime temperatures reaching the mid-90s during the summer months. This warm climate helps the grapes ripen fully and develop their rich flavors.

Some wineries in Paso Robles use dry farming for grape growing. They don’t irrigate their vineyards and rely on rain and overnight moisture to water their vines.

In addition to the terrain and climate, the region’s winemakers also play a crucial role in producing high-quality wines. They use various techniques to cultivate and harvest the grapes carefully, and many deeply understand the unique characteristics of the Paso Robles terroir.

Why Paso Robles Is Good For Growing Olive Trees

Olive oil production in Paso Robles has been growing steadily over the years, and the region is now recognized as one of the top olive oil-producing areas in the country.

The Mediterranean-like climate of Paso Robles, as mentioned above, characterized by hot summers and cool winters, is ideal for growing a variety of olive trees. The region’s olive oil producers cultivate olive varieties, including Arbequina, Frantoio, and Picual.

Many of the olive oil producers offer olive oil tastings. These tastings are a great way for visitors to sample different olive oils, learn about the varieties of olives used in production, and gain insight into the olive oil-making process. Many olive oil producers also offer tours of their groves and facilities, allowing visitors to see firsthand how olive oil is produced.

Fun techniques for tasting olive oil include slurping and swishing the silky substance in your mouth. While tiny pieces of bread are usually served with oil swallows in small plastic cups, slurping is much more effective in bringing out the oil flavors.

Things To Do In Paso Robles

Downtown Paso Robles

Downtown Paso Robles is a charming destination that offers a variety of activities for visitors. The area is known for its wineries, so wine tasting is essential. Numerous wine-tasting rooms are scattered throughout downtown, showcasing some of the region’s best wines.

You’re lucky if you’re a foodie, as the downtown area is home to many excellent restaurants, cafes, and bakeries. You can enjoy a snack or delicious meal while taking in the area’s beautiful scenery.

Farmer’s Market

At the Paso Robles Farmer’s Market, you can sample fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and homemade treats. The market is open on Tuesdays on Spring Street in Paso Robles from 9 am to noon.

Tin City

Tin City is a popular industrial park home to a collection of small-batch wine, beer, cider, spirits, and food producers. Visitors can enjoy tastings at various wineries, breweries, and distilleries, sample artisanal cheeses and chocolates, and even take a class in woodworking or ceramics.

Carnegie Library

The Classical Revival Style building that houses the Carnegie Library was constructed in 1908 with funds from Andrew Carnegie. It served as the Paso Robles’s main library until 1978. Today, it serves as a museum and community center for events.

The Carnegie Library is the official home of El Paso de Robles Area Historical Society.

Ravine Water Park

The Ravine Water Park is close to downtown, with family attractions including water slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, and a children’s area. The park also offers cabana rentals, a gift shop, and food concessions.

Paso Robles Pioneer Museum

If you’re interested in history, visit the Paso Robles Pioneer Museum to learn about the city’s rich history. The museum’s collection of artifacts and exhibits showcase the area’s past.

Estrella Warbirds Museum

Estrella Warbirds Museum is dedicated to preserving and displaying military aircraft, vehicles, and memorabilia from the 20th century. The museum has an extensive collection of warbirds, including planes from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War era.

Paso Robles City Park

Finally, if you’re looking for outdoor activities, visit the Paso Robles City Park. The park has a playground, picnic areas, and a public swimming pool. You can also stroll through the park’s beautiful gardens and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

Wine Tours In Paso Robles

With approximately 250 wineries in Paso Robles, knowing where to start exploring may be difficult. Therefore, start your wine adventure by visiting the downtown Paso Robles tasting rooms. Then, study the map and create a plan for cellar hopping.

She Buys Travel Tip: Ride-sharing services are plentiful in Paso Robles. You can reserve a dedicated van and driver for the entire day if you have a group of friends. Our driver was knowledgeable and made winery recommendations besides the ones I selected.

Adelaida Vineyards

The first winery on our itinerary was Adelaida Vineyards. The family-owned winery, founded in 1981, produce award-winning wines from its high elevation on the west side of Paso Robles. The Wine Club Membership, named 2320′, refers to its elevation above sea level.

We attended a Full Moon Hilltop Dinner on a splendid fall evening with a buffet, wine tastings, and music into the hours after dark.

Niner Wine Estates

Niner Wine Estates is a family-owned winery with a 46-acre vineyard. They host events throughout the year, including live music and farm-to-table dinners.

Rasmussen Winery

Rasmussen is a boutique winery and a family operation. We were fortunate to visit when the family was pressing grapes after harvest. All family members were involved, and it was a joy to see the teamwork performed by the youngsters to the oldsters.

Rasmussen Winery specializes in small-batch handcrafted wines that are classic to the area and are only available directly from the winery. We had the pleasure of tasting with the owners in their tasting room.

Rotta Winery

Rotta Winery is one of our favorite wineries on the west side of Paso Robles for its rosé and sweet after-dinner wine.

Sculpterra Winery

Sculpterra Winery is a family-owned, award-winning winery located on 260 acres that includes a sculpture garden, tasting room, and vineyards. The sculpture garden features over 250 sculptures by renowned artists.

Olive Oil Tours in Paso Robles

We Olive

We Olive in Paso Robles is a popular retail store and olive oil tasting room in downtown Paso Robles. The store specializes in high-quality artisan olive oils and gourmet foods like vinegar, dips, spreads, and sauces.

We Olive also offers culinary-related events and classes throughout the year, such as cooking demonstrations and pairing events.

Pasolivo

Well-known Pasolivo was founded in 2000 and has since produced high-quality, estate-grown olive oil.

Pasolivo’s olive groves span over 45 acres, and they grow several varieties of olives, including Arbequina, Koroneiki, and Ascolano.

The tasting room was jam-packed when I visited, although there’s plenty of parking on the grounds. In addition to the olive oil samples, we tasted spice blends and salts with dipping bread pieces. Seeing five deer eating the emerald green grass outside the window gave me particular joy.

Day Trips From Paso Robles

While wine may be the show’s star in the Paso Robles area, there’s much more to discover in this vibrant region.

San Luis Obispo

Halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo County’s county seat is in San Luis Obispo. The town, also known as SLO, is home to California Polytechnic State University, thus giving it a youthful energy. SLO is known for outdoor recreation like hiking, biking, and surfing, and the downtown area also has unique shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. SLO is a great place for fun things to do, making a perfect wine country getaway.

Big Sur

A road trip along Highway 1 in Big Sur will leave you breathless. The dramatic scenery includes towering cliffs that drop off into the Pacific Ocean. It’s a rugged stretch between Carmel and San Simeon, but worth it to visit Hearst Castle.

Hearst Castle

Take a day trip to the iconic Hearst Castle in San Simeon, a historic landmark perched high above the coastline, offering a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of media magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Cambria

Explore the charming coastal town of Cambria, known for its artistic community and stunning ocean views. The long stretch of sandy beach is home to several tide pools where you can see marine life up close.

Sensorio

For a unique sensory experience, visit Sensorio, an enchanting field of lights outdoor art installation featuring thousands of illuminated spheres that come alive at dusk. The Light Towers, made from over 17,000 wine bottles, are seven feet high and are lighted with gently changing colors.

The installation, created by renowned artist Bruce Munro, was inspired by the rolling hills of the Central Coast. Munro aimed to create a space allowing visitors to connect with nature and experience wonder and awe.

Sensorio is the only place in the United States where you can experience this incredible installation.

Mission San Miguel

If you’re a history buff, don’t miss the chance to visit Mission San Miguel, one of California’s oldest Spanish missions, where you can delve into the region’s rich heritage.

Outdoor Adventures And Natural Beauty On California’s Central Coast

Paso Robles is not just about wine and history; it’s also a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

Lake Nacimiento

Lake Nacimiento is a reservoir along the Nacimiento River, a popular destination for fishing, swimming, boating, and other water activities. The lake makes a great place to get away because the area has resorts and vacation rentals.

Santa Margarita

Oak trees, rolling hills, and vineyards surround the small town of Santa Margarita. Nature lovers can enjoy biking, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and boating.

The Spanish mission, Santa Margarita de Cortona Asistencia, has several historic buildings and landmarks. It was established in the late 1700s.

Central Coast Trailrides

Hop on a saddle and embark on a horseback riding adventure through the scenic Central Coast Trailrides, where you can explore the region’s breathtaking landscapes on horseback.

Central Coast Trailrides specialize in guided trail rides that take you through the stunning hills and valleys of the region. The company offers a variety of rides, including those suitable for beginners and more advanced riders. They cater to riders of all ages.

Franklin Hot Springs

For a rejuvenating experience, indulge in a relaxing soak at the Franklin Hot Springs, known for its healing mineral waters.

In addition to the hot springs, Franklin Hot Springs also offers camping and RV sites, making it an excellent destination for those looking to spend a few days in the area.

River Oaks Hot Springs Spa

I like to tell you why I got naked in Paso Robles because my visit to River Oaks Hot Springs Spa was a luxurious day to remember. Everything was top-notch, from the private hot tub to the outstanding massage and the bubbly beverage.

My massage therapist’s name was Jane. Her “Get rid of your pain with Jane” tagline was true. She was skilled and knew every pain point.

The resort sits on a natural mineral hot spring, believed to have healing properties. The mineral water is piped directly into the resort’s private hot tubs, where guests can soak and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the water.

Morro Bay

If you’re a nature lover, head to Morro Bay, a picturesque coastal town where you can spot wildlife, go boating, or unwind on the sandy beaches. Don’t miss the Elfin Forest, an area with small stunted trees and trails overlooking the back side of Morro Rock.

Hot Air Ballooning In Paso Robles

A hot air balloon ride will have you marveling at the rolling hills and vineyards from above for a thrilling aerial view of Paso Robles.

A hot air balloon experience is like no other. When I went up in a hot air balloon, it was a magical experience. The only sound I heard was the jets heating the air and the conversations of other passengers in hushed voices.

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach boasts beautiful weather, sandy beaches, excellent surfing, and a laid-back atmosphere.

The famous Pismo Beach Pier has vintage Airstream trailers, vendors, and playgrounds for kids and adults.

My favorite destination in Pismo Beach is Monarch Butterfly Grove. It’s home to migrating Monarch butterflies in the eucalyptus trees along the beach. During the season, docents serve visitors with telescopes to view the butterflies in the trees and give talks to educate the public.

Cayucos

Cayucos was founded as a shipping port for nearby farms and ranches and retains its historic charm. The beaches along this part of the unspoiled coast are some of the most beautiful. The pier is a popular fishing spot today.

Where To Eat In Paso Robles

Thomas Hill Organics

Thomas Hill Organics is a farm-to-table restaurant located in Paso Robles, California. The restaurant is dedicated to sourcing the finest local and organic ingredients to create a delicious and wholesome dining experience for its customers.

The menu includes salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and entrees made with fresh, seasonal produce and sustainably-raised meats.

Schoolhouse

Schoolhouse is a popular restaurant in an old schoolhouse building dating back to 1910. The restaurant’s interior still has much of the original charm and character of the building, including chalkboards and vintage school desks.

The restaurant offers a farm-to-table dining experience, using locally sourced ingredients to create innovative and creative dishes. The seasonality of the ingredients makes the menu change frequently, but some popular dishes include roasted beet salad, pork chop, and pan-seared salmon.

Studios In The Park

For a unique culinary experience, visit Studios on the Park, a collective of working artists’ studios where you can enjoy live music, art exhibitions, and wine tastings.

Where To Stay In Paso Robles

Many places to stay in Paso Robles meet all budgets. However, an interesting and historic place to stay is the Paso Robles Inn, in the downtown square. Established in 1891, the hotel offers guest rooms, suites, cottages, and dining options. They also have a full-service spa, a heated outdoor pool, and hot tubs.

Final Thoughts

Paso Robles is a destination that captivates the senses and leaves a lasting impression. From its world-class wineries and scenic landscapes to its rich history and vibrant culinary scene, this Central Coast gem offers a truly unforgettable experience.

Julie Diebolt Price is an award-winning professional photographer, educator, author, and travel writer. She writes about two things – photography and travel (along with a little food and beverage). Julie educates and mentors aspiring photographers. As a journalist who loves to travel, she creates memorable experiences and shares them with words and pictures.
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