I feel like I’m sharing a bit of a hidden gem today in this Things to Do in Paso Robles Guide! And by “things to do in Paso Robles,” I mean all the best places to go wine tasting and eat delicious food.
The reason I feel like Paso Robles is a bit of a hidden gem is I received a lot of DMs from people during our trip asking where Paso Robles is. Some people even asked where in Texas I was. Y’all, I was in California’s central coast. In Paso Robles, not to be confused with El Paso.
And I totally get it! I don’t know a lot of people who have traveled to Paso Robles, even though I’m based in San Francisco, just a four-hour drive away from Paso. And to be honest, the main thing that piqued my curiosity about Paso Robles was hearing about the pop-up light show Sensorio from a friend. The more I researched Paso, the more I realized there were tons of incredible wineries there, and I couldn’t wait to visit.
We spent three days in Paso and it’s really an ideal spot for a long, three-day weekend from southern or northern California. Honestly, we could have absolutely spent a fourth day there as there were several other wineries and restaurants we didn’t get to try during our trip (and I’m including a fourth day in this “things to do in Paso Robles” itinerary based on those). But it’s ok, we’re already planning our next trip back to Paso, this time bringing family and friends because they saw my Insta Stories and want to experience some of that Paso Robles magic too!
Btw, this custom Google Map I created of Paso gives you a feel for its location, layout, and where the wineries are. Everything in this travel guide plus more is pinned on this map.
Paso Robles felt like a laid-back, less expensive version of Napa to me, with far more variety in the types of grapes/wines they produce. I love our wine country up in northern California, but sometimes in Sonoma, I’m like oh, another pinot. I don’t even like pinots that much! And while Napa is beautiful, some of the tasting rooms can feel a bit pretentious (and very expensive).
In Paso, we tried varietals I had never even heard of before. Marsanne, Mourvèdre, Counoise, oh my! Basically, this was me trying all these new (to me) varietals:
Where to stay in Paso Robles:
We stayed at Allegretto Vineyard Resort, and it was the perfect spot in Paso Robles for our trip. It’s very centrally located and close to downtown Paso Robles, where you’ll be headed for all the great restaurants. It’s also a great jumping-off point for all of the incredible wineries you’ll be visiting. The rooms are spacious and lovely, and I loved exploring different parts of the hotel like the sonic labyrinth, beautiful courtyard, spa, pool and hot tub, and more. There’s even a tasting room right at the hotel where you can try Allegretto’s wines. And the resort’s restaurant, Cello, is delicious and one of Paso’s top restaurants.
As far as hotels go, Allegretto is a fantastic option. But if you’re perhaps traveling with a group or looking for larger vacation rentals, as usual, I’ll be writing up a post about the best Airbnbs available for booking for this destination too!
What to pack/wear:
Paso Robles’ weather has some dramatic elements to it (that diurnal shift tho), which is why it’s so great for growing grapes. It can be really hot during the day, but the weather can also drop 30 degrees at night. And even if the weather says it’ll be a nice 70 degrees, there can be some serious wind chill, so bring a jacket or a coat!
So let’s get into it! Here are all the best things to do in Paso Robles, broken into a four-day itinerary for you.
Things to Do in Paso Robles
THINGS TO DO IN PASO ROBLES: DAY 1
Halter Ranch: Start by heading west to some of the wineries in the Adelaida District. Halter Ranch is a historic vineyard and winery in the heart of the Adelaida AVA, producing Bordeaux and Rhône-style wines. They offer several different incredible tasting experiences and excursions, including a tour of their ranch in a restored 1984 Land Rover Defender, a reserve tasting in their wine caves, and a vineyard horseback tour (I’m dying to do this one!).
Lunch and Wine Tasting at JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery: Have lunch at the restaurant at JUSTIN Winery—the food is fabulous. You really can’t go wrong with their pizza paired with a glass of Justification. When we were there they were experimenting with a mac & cheese special that involved candied bacon and jalapeño jam, and it was legit one of the most delicious mac & cheese dishes I’d ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. Their burger also looked to die for. Definitely a must to have lunch here!
Next up, enjoy a tasting of JUSTIN wines. We did the chocolate pairing and it was fantastic. The truffles are all hand-made by their in-house pastry chef and perfectly paired with each of the wines by their som team. The flavor combinations were beautiful and it was the perfect way to enjoy their wines—with a sweet pairing after a delicious lunch.
The setting at JUSTIN is serene, both for lunch and a wine tasting, so definitely take advantage of the beautiful outdoor seating areas.
Tablas Creek: Head not far down the road for a tasting at Tablas Creek. Tablas Creek is a very special and renowned vineyard in Paso because of its founder Robert Haas, who was a pioneer in United States winemaking, particularly when it came to the import of fine estate wines from France. We were lucky enough to get an incredible tour from Jason Haas, Robert’s son and Tablas Creek’s GM, during which we learned so much about the history of both Tablas Creek and Paso Robles.
When Tablas Creek was originally founded, Robert Haas imported several clones (like Mourvédre, Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc) from France. Tablas Creek then multiplied the imported vines in their nursery, and also made the strategic decision to allow other winegrowers in Paso Robles to buy vine cuttings from them, helping to put Paso Robles wine on the map. I loved learning about their rising tide raises all ships philosophy, and you can read all about the fascinating history here.
Tablas Creek offers a few different experiences in their tasting room. They also do free vineyard tours twice daily at 10:30am and 2pm, which I highly recommend. The vineyard is beautiful and it was so fun to see and learn about their organic estate vineyard, grapevine nursery, and winery. Plus, they have llamas.
Field of Light at Sensorio: The thing that started it all for me! I had heard about Sensorio from a family friend, and when she showed me pictures and video of this incredible light art installation I knew I had to see it in person. Sensorio covers 15 acres of Paso Roble’s rolling hills, with over 58,800 light-up spheres illuminating the landscape. The colors subtly change and sway with the wind, and honestly, the photos just do not do it justice. It’s something you have to see in person to enjoy the ethereal experience. I’d recommend timing your visit for sunset so you can see the colors of the sky change and the lights become brighter as the sky gets dark.
Sensorio was actually supposed to end after its 2019 run, but due to popular demand, they’ve extended through June 2020!
Dinner at Cello: Wrap up your first evening with a lovely dinner at Allegretto’s restaurant, Cello. The restaurant is upscale yet has a warm and casual vibe, and the cuisine is Mediterranean-inspired. Omied and I loved our dishes—I had the rack of lamb and he got the filet mignon, paired with wines from Allegretto’s own vineyards.
Things to Do in Paso Robles: Day 2
Robert Hall: Visiting Robert Hall is a fabulous way to kick off your second day in Paso. It’s very close to Allegretto, and has a beautiful tasting room as well as gorgeous outdoor seating areas. There are also plenty of lawn games (giant Jenga, chess, and bocce ball) to keep you entertained. Plus they do guided tours every day of the winery. We really enjoyed their reds and getting a tour here. A lot of people from San Luis Obispo county or who went to school at Cal Poly DMed me on Insta mentioning that this was one of their favorite places to spend an afternoon. During the summer they have live music Friday evenings.
Lunch at Thomas Hill Organics: Head to downtown Paso for lunch at Thomas Hill Organics, a farm-to-table restaurant serving up organic cuisine. The covered back patio is a lovely spot to enjoy lunch paired with local wines. We enjoyed the roasted chestnut soup and the chicken and biscuits. Save room for the chocolate flourless cake!
DAOU: DAOU is another winery that I received multiple DMs about. Everyone said we had to go there, and I can see why—it’s stunning. The tasting room is gorgeous and the outdoor space and views are totally epic. You could easily spend an entire afternoon here just enjoying the property and wine tasting. DAOU offers several different wine tasting experiences, as well as food and wine pairings. We found the service to be impeccable, and while you should be prepared for it to potentially be cold and windy up there, they wrapped us up in the softest blankets I’ve ever felt and we were perfectly content.
Adelaida: Adelaida was one of our absolute favorite Paso Robles wineries that we visited! This family-owned winery makes some killer zins (my favorite!) and is nestled in the beautiful Santa Lucia mountain range. Adelaida has a rich history and is home to the oldest pinot noir in the central coast.
They offer daily tastings in their lovely tasting room, surrounded by walnut orchards and you can also bring your own picnic to enjoy in their outdoor seating areas. However, I cannot recommend enough their hilltop tasting! You’ll take a ride up to their hilltop venue, which is at the highest point in Paso Robles. The views are spectacular, and you’ll taste wines under oak trees while looking out over the Adelaida District. Definitely plan this visit to be about an hour or so before sunset so you can watch the sun go down over the hilltops. The hilltop tasting is $45 per person, which is frankly amazing especially when I compare that to some of the basic-ass tastings I’ve done in Napa for that price or more. Seriously, don’t miss this experience in Paso!
Everything we had here was delicious, but if I had to recommend one thing it would be the pork chop. I usually steer clear of pork chop at restaurants because I find it can be a bit hit or miss and oftentimes dry. But several locals had raved to us about Fish Gaucho’s pork chop, so we knew we had to try it. And you guys, it was amazing. Like definitely the best pork chop I’ve ever had at a restaurant (and maybe the best pork chop I’ve ever had, period) amazing. Other highlights included their salsa trio + guac, wagyu tartare, and ceviche.
Things to Do in Paso Robles: Day 3
We’re making Day 3 a little choose your own adventure day. If you’re up for a day trip, Hearst Castle is a 50-minute drive west of Paso and would be fun to check out. Or if you’re up for more drinking with some other activities sprinkled in, I’ve got you covered. Either way, start your day with some R&R at…
Spa Day at Hot Springs: I didn’t know this before our trip, but Paso Robles has several hot springs! There are a few different spa/hot spring options, but two recommendations from locals include River Oaks Hot Springs and the historic Paso Robles Inn (this one does require an overnight stay). Treat yourself to a spa day and relaxation at one of Paso’s hot springs.
The Estrella Warbirds Museum is dedicated to restoring and preserving military aircraft and vehicles, and you’ll find lots of other old automobiles and war memorabilia there.
The Pioneer Museum shares personal stories and history from Paso’s pioneer days, showing an interesting look at pioneers’ lives.
Lunch at BL Brasserie: Grab lunch in downtown at BL Brasserie (note they’re not open for lunch Sunday/Monday). The French-inspired menu served at the brasserie is expertly crafted with local, seasonal ingredients. Don’t miss the French onion soup.
L’Aventure: Ready for more wine? Great. L’Aventure Winery is known for producing some of the best Bordeaux and Rhône red blends. Not to mention, the estate and tasting room are stunning. We sadly didn’t get a chance to visit during our last trip, as our itinerary just got too packed, but we’ll absolutely be heading there during our next Paso visit. L’Aventure offers tastings by appointment, as well as private tours of the winery and estate.
Tin City: Time to get a bit off the beaten path! Tin City is a hipster area in an industrial market, where lots of wineries, breweries, and other artisans have set up shop. There’s an eclectic mix here, and it’s fun to explore this community of independent makers while discovering wine, craft beer, cider, ice cream (don’t miss Negranti Creamery!) and eats (Tin Canteen).
You could easily spend the rest of your day/evening at Tin City exploring its different offerings, but if you’re itching to head somewhere after Tin City try…
Firestone Walker Brewing Company: Ok, I don’t like beer. There, I said it. But I’m married to a craft beer aficionado, so I felt like I needed to add Firestone Walker Brewing Co. to this list to get on your radar in case you’re into beer too, because he was pretty excited about it. Firestone Walker is California’s fourth-largest craft brewery and it’s known for producing hoppy ales. Which means nothing to me because I don’t like beer, but it might mean something to you! 😂
Dinner at The Hatch: Time for dinner and some comfort food and craft cocktails! The Hatch is another very popular restaurant in Downtown Paso. Their food is centered around their rotisserie, and daily specials like fried chicken, prime rib, and baby back ribs add to the classic menu. Wait times can be long, especially on weekends, so definitely make reservations.
Things to Do in Paso Robles: Day 4
Chateau Margene: On our last day in Paso we made our way out to a different part of Paso Robles wine country, to the Creston District. Chateau Margene is about a half-hour drive from downtown, and it is absolutely worth heading to a different area to do a tasting here. Chateau Margene is a family-owned and operated winery, where it’s more than likely that the owner Michael or his son will be pouring your tasting, so you’ll get to hear the winery’s story and their vision firsthand from them.
I love meeting people who are completely immersed in perfecting their craft and doing it purely for the passion and joy of it. I find that to be a really attractive and inspiring quality in a person and I just want to sit them down and be like, tell me your story. Michael totally obliged and shared how Chateau Margene is intentionally focused on small-batch production so that they can create only the highest quality wines, which they sell direct to consumers either through their wine club or to those visiting the winery in person. He has zero desire to distribute, which can boggle some people’s minds because to them, bigger is better. But I get it—you have to define your own version of success and focus on that, rather than base your life on other people’s definition of success. And by doing just that, Michael and Margene have created some pretty special wines.
Lunch and Wine Tasting at Niner Wine Estates: Next up, we made our way over to the Willow Creek District for lunch and a tasting at Niner Wine Estates. Niner has an absolutely beautiful tasting room, as well as a fantastic open kitchen that’s open for lunch Thursday – Sunday. We had a delicious lunch here and sat on their lovely patio, soaking up their gorgeous vineyard views. Btw, their burger is totally decadent, and if you’re there for Sunday brunch you should probably (definitely) get the French toast (which Omied and I got for “dessert”).
After our lunch, we enjoyed a lovely tasting at Niner (they accept walk-ins but of course encourage and appreciate reservations). They also offer wine tours where you can explore their vineyard and winery on a guided tour. Their Heart Hill Tasting Experience where you go off-road to the highest point in their vineyard and out into the vines also sounds like such a fun way to spend an afternoon!
Epoch Estate Wines: Omied was especially excited to visit Epoch’s tasting room because he’d heard a lot about the architecture and how it’s won awards for its design. Epoch did not disappoint and its tasting room, situated on the historic York Mountain, was just gorgeous. We were visiting on a chilly day, but on a nice day, there’s a lot of lovely outdoor seating on their beautiful patio as well, overlooking horses and the estate. We enjoyed their estate-grown Rhone and Zinfandel wines, and their team was wonderful at sharing Epoch’s history and story with us.
For a special experience, I definitely recommend booking their History Tour & Tasting, where you’ll get to hear the history of the tasting room and how it was once the home of York Mountain Winery while enjoying your Epoch wines.
Turley: At this point in our trip, daylight was burnin’ and we wanted to squeeze in one more winery before heading back to San Francisco. We’re Turley wine club members, but we’d only ever been to their winery in Amador County since it’s not too far from where we grew up. Turley makes some of my all-time favorite zins, so if you’re into zinfandels I highly recommend visiting their casual tasting room and sitting out on the patio.
Looking for other things to do in Paso Robles that aren’t drinking wine and eating? Why?? Jk, I get it. Three to four wineries a day for days on end can be a lot. Here are a few other options for you to mix into your Paso Robles itinerary:
Check out Vina Robles Amphitheatre to see if there are any concerts going on while you’re in town!
Visit Studios in the Park in downtown for a fun art walk.
Do an olive oil tasting at Pasolivo Olive Oil.
Check out pasowine.com/events for a list of upcoming events like live music and comedy nights.
We absolutely loved Paso Robles and are already planning another trip back there this year. A few things on my shortlist for next time include:
Wineries that we didn’t get a chance to visit, but I’ve heard great things about (like L’Aventure, Tobin James Cellars, and Opolo).
Staying at one of the wineries like Just-INN or Turley’s new guest house.
Vineyard horseback ride tour at Halter Ranch.
Visiting Sensorio again because it was just that cool.
Anything else we should add to our list of things to do in Paso Robles for next time?
As always, if you end up using any parts of this itinerary, I’d absolutely love it if you tagged me in a Story or pic on Instagram (@wtfab) so I can see!