From its beginnings, Paso Robles (residents call it simply PASS-oh) and its oak-tree-studded hill country have been a destination for visitors. In the early days, they came to dip in the area's natural hot springs and they still do, but today they often come to sip in the area's winery tasting rooms. Today's visitors find a charming, lively downtown surrounded by a wine region that sports a growing cadre of wineries.
Using the resources below, you can plan a fun, relaxing getaway to Paso Robles in just a few minutes.
Why Should You Go? Will You Like Paso Robles?
Paso Robles is popular with wine lovers seeking a more laid back experience than busy Napa. It's a great place for couples and food-lovers, but if you're looking for a family getaway in the region, you might be better off in nearby Pismo Beach.
Best Time to Go to Paso Robles
The most popular time to visit is early or late summer, when the weather is best and during the fall grape harvest. Things get busy and hotels fill up during the wine festivals, but you can have a good time here almost any time of year.
A good reason to go in summer: a chance to catch a concert at Vina Robles Amphitheatre, one of the most intimate in the state.
Wine tasting is the most popular thing to do in Paso. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot dominate Paso Robles wine production, but you can find almost anything at the hundreds of area wineries, including some varietals little-known elsewhere in California. Many tasting rooms are simple, basic places, fun if you go wine-tasting primarily to find new bottles for your cellar. Tasting is free at many places, with others charging a small fee.
For a more fun wine-tasting experience that goes beyond the pour-sip-pour routine, you have a few options. For the most enjoyable tasting experiences, use the guide to the best Paso Robles wineries.
You can also go wine-tasting on foot in downtown Paso. A number of wineries have tasting rooms on the streets surrounding the park, and you could easily make an afternoon out of visiting them, with no worries about driving.
5 More Great Things to Do in Paso Robles
- Visit Mr. Hearst's Castle: Five miles inland on CA Hwy 46 and Hwy 1, through the Templeton Gap and north along the coast is the Mediterranean Revival mansion built by media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Designed by architect Julia Morgan, the over-sized main house and guest cottages larger than many people's main residences give a rare peek into the lifestyle of the rich and famous in the early twentieth century.
- Olive Oil: Paso Robles is also quickly becoming a center for olive oil production. Our favorite stop for olive oil tasting is Kiler Ridge, a young producer with a lovely tasting room, beautiful views and a plus: they serve a light lunch made with their products (reservations required), to give you a sense of how they taste with food. After just one visit, it's our favorite California olive oil producer. You can also try local olive oils at We Olive downtown and on weekends at Alta Cresta Olive Orchard and Pasolivo.
- Soak Up Some History: Just a few miles north of town off US 101, you'll find Mission San Miguel Arcangel, California's 16th Spanish mission. Nearby is Rios-Caledonia Adobe, a 19th-century inn and stage stop.
- Take a Brewery Tour If you've had enough of wine tasting and want to learn about how beer is made, the award-winning Firestone Walker Brewing Company offers tours of their facility (and beer tasting) at 1400 Ramada Drive.
- Tour the San Luis Lighthouse: This pretty lighthouse is open by reservation only and they offer a shuttle bus to get you there. Or add some exercise to your day and take their guided hike instead. Details are in the San Luis Lighthouse Guide
- Relax: River Oaks Hot Springs and Spa offers massages and open-air hot tubs overlooking the hills. Some of the local hotels including Hotel Cheval and Villa Toscana also offer in-room spa treatments (book ahead).
- Shop: Besides the tasting rooms and restaurants downtown, you'll find some interesting local shops and Studios on the Park is worth a stop to see the works of local artists.
Annual Events You Should Know About
The California Mid-State Fair runs from late July through early August, with performers such as Aerosmith and Leann Rimes, livestock competitions and a variety of entertainment. The rest of the year, the Paso Robles Event Center sees a steady stream of activities.
Individual wineries also host some fun and interesting events, so you may want to see what's happening while you're there.
SAVOR the Central Coast, held in early October features regional wines and foods.
Tips for Visiting Paso Robles
- The difference between day and night temperatures in Paso Robles is greater than in a lot of other places and even a hot day can develop into a cool evening, with as much as 40°F difference between the day's high and low.
- You can pick up a map of the local wineries at most any local hotel or winery tasting room, or just drive east or west along CA Hwy 46 and you'll find plenty of them.
- Our simple rule for casual wine tasting is never more than three wineries in a day. Stop at more, and not only are you likely to get a little tipsy (dangerous for driving), but even if you don't, all the wines start to taste alike, and you may buy something you'll later regret.
- Paso Robles gets very busy during the wine harvest in October, during local festivals and during holiday weekends. Demand is outstripping supply for Paso hotel rooms these days and reserving as far ahead as you can will give you more options.
Judging from the number of people who recommended it to us and from our own experience, Artisan has been the hottest place in town for quite a few years, with a menu specializing in fresh, local ingredients and expertly run by brothers Chris and Michael Kobayashi.
Local residents say the Saturday farmers market in nearby Templeton is the area's best. To get there, exit US Hwy 101 south of Paso at Las Tablas, go west to Old County Road, turn right to the park at 6th Street.
Where to Stay
If you stay downtown, it's an easy walk to restaurants and the local cinema. The Paso Robles Inn is one of the town's oldest lodgings, but it gets somewhat mixed reviews. Hotel Cheval (also downtown) is a nice choice among Paso's high end lodgings. Read Tripadvisor reviews to find out what it's like.
The Handsome Honey and I would go back to the Summerwood Winery Inn anytime. It's beautiful, well situated, clean - and the staff is superb.
For other ideas, try TripAdvisor, where you can read reviews and get rate comparisons all in one place. For more ideas about how to get the best possible deal, read about how to find a good place to stay, cheap.
Quite a few of the local bed and breakfast inns are located at wineries, making for a doubly-fun experience. See what's available at BedandBreakfast.com
Getting To Paso Robles
Paso Robles is located just off US Hwy 101, 158 miles south of San Jose, 204 miles from San Francisco, 207 miles north of Los Angeles and 110 miles from Bakersfield.