Plan a Day or a Weekend in Paso Robles, California

Vineyard Near Paso Robles
••• Vineyard Near Paso Robles. William Helse/Getty Images

From its beginning, 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 fun 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 venues in the state.

Don't Miss the Wine

Paso Robles wine country is up-and-coming and changing at a head-spinning rate. Just a few years ago, the best you could expect was a standard, stand-up tasting of a few wines, but new players are raising the bar and creating the region's own particular style of wine culture.

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, try these favorite Paso Robles wineries

Vina Robles: Vina Robles impressed me on my first-ever visit to Paso more than a decade ago, and they have never failed to reinforce that impression when I visit. They stand out with top-notch wines using lesser-known varietals that perform well in the location, a nice gift shop and a tasting room filled with innovative artwork. They host periodic, fun wine dinners and this place is also the home of the new and beautiful Vina Robles Amphitheatre. Judging from the looks of the wine cabinet at home, they make some great, well-priced wines, too.

Justin Vineyards and Winery: One of Paso's oldest and most respected wineries, Justin produces mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and red wine blends, along with a few whites and a very nice, dry Rose. The tasting room looks out over the vineyards and on a pretty day, you can sit on their outdoor patio. It's all so pleasant that you may end up lingering longer than you planned. In fact, it's a good idea to plan a longer stay, making reservations for a meal in their top-notch restaurant.

To get a full immersion in all things Justin, go for the full "Justin experience:" wine tasting, dinner and an overnight stay at JUST Inn, their on-site lodging. To find out more, read about my Justin Experience.

Daou Vineyards: Daou's hilltop location gives you expansive views, and their facility is very pretty. They offer wine-and-food pairing options. Unfortunately, it can be overly busy at times, making it hard to enjoy the view - but if you can snag a nice place to sit outside, you won't regret the time you spend enjoying them.

You can also go wine-tasting on foot in downtown Paso. M 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.

If you'd like some transportation for your wine-tasting adventure, try The Wine Line or Grapeline Wine Tours.

7 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.

Taste 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. After just one visit, it became 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, and you'll find Mission San Miguel Arcangel, California's 16th Spanish mission. Nearby is Rios-Caledonia Adobe, a 19th-century inn and stage stop.

Tour a Brewery: 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 lovely 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 outdoor 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.

As you might expect, wine dominates the festivals, with a Zinfandel Festival in March and the Wine Festival in May.

Individual wineries also host some fun and exciting events, so you may want to see what's happening while you're there.

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 local hotels or winery tasting rooms, 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 holiday weekends. Demand outstrips supply for Paso hotel rooms these days. Reserve as far ahead as you can for more options.

Best Bites

The Restaurant at Justin is a winner if you like a fine meal, served at a leisurely pace.

My perfect Paso Robles weekend lunches: Cello restaurant at Allegretto Resort or food and wine on the patio at the Restaurant at Justin.

Residents say the Templeton Saturday farmers market 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 compare prices and find out what it's like.

Allegretto Vineyard Resort opened in late 2015, an excellent addition to your options in Paso. It's a larger property, with a pool, spa, and onsite restaurant Cello. The staff is super-friendly, and the layout seems to provoke play and relaxation. The restaurant caters to vegetarians and vegans as well as omnivores. Their chef does his best work when he's being innovative. You can read reviews and compare prices for Allegretto at Tripadvisor.

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. But wait! Should we go back to Just INN instead?

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

Paso Robles' tourism industry is growing so fast that it's sometimes hard to find a place to stay during busy times, but we have a couple of secrets we'll let you in on. About 5 miles north of Paso Robles, the Vines RV Resort has cottages for rent at rates comparable to hotels in Paso Robles. With room for 6 and a full kitchen, they’re ideal for family stays. They require a 2-night minimum stay from Sunday through Thursday and 3 nights on weekends, holidays and during special events.

If you own an RV, that sounds like a good idea, but what if you don’t? The answer is easier than you think. Just check out Luv 2 Camp. They rent you the RV, then deliver and set it up at any of quite a few area campgrounds and RV parks.

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.