Jason and I have always loved the Central Coast and Central California, but for some reason, we’ve never made it to Paso Robles, a town well known for its wineries. After a friend’s recent visit I decided to plan a road trip to this destination.
To really do Paso Robles justice, you should set aside two or three full days, but sometimes, that just isn’t possible. So if like us, you don’t have that much time, here’s what to do in Paso Robles in one day.
About Paso Robles
Founded in 1889, Paso Robles has long been known for its wine, olive oil, and almond orchards. At one time, this region was home to the largest concentration of almond trees in the world. Commercial wine making began here in 1882 and has grown continuously for over a century. Today there are over 200 wineries in the area growing 40 different varieties of grapes. Wineries range from tiny, family operations to major producers with international distribution. Paso is best known for is it’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Chardonnay (my personal favorite!).
Explore Downtown Paso Robles
If you’re arriving in the morning--and it’s too early to drink wine--I recommend heading to downtown Paso Robles for some snacking and shopping. We began at the Paso Market Walk, an indoor food hall and shopping destination that was opened in 2020. If the weather’s good, there’s a lovely outdoor seating area for enjoying your snack or meal. It wasn’t meal time for us, but we did enjoy a brown butter sea salt cookie from Just Baked Bakery. There’s also a coffee shop, wine bar, brewery, ramen shop and much more.
The heart of downtown is just a half mile from the Market Walk, so we chose to walk it since the weather was warm and sunny. This was also a great way to explore all the small shops along the way. We headed to Downtown City Park, a large grassy park dotted with large trees. Around the perimeter are boutiques, restaurants, and wine tasting rooms. If you want to go wine-tasting, but don’t want to drive all over the region, consider staying downtown instead. With 20 wine-tasting rooms, you could keep busy for days.
Visit Wineries In Paso Robles
Did I mention there are over 200 wineries in this area? Needless to say, it might take a few years to explore them all. And since most wineries are now requiring reservations for tasting, some pre-planning is needed. I’ll also mention that the price of tastings has really increased over the years, and in the Paso area range from $25-$40 per person. Spend time before your visit researching which wineries are interesting to you so that your time and money is well spent.
First, we started with a tasting and lunch at Justin Vineyards. I had the pleasure of participating in a couple of virtual wine tastings last year and one of them featured Justin’s Cabernet Sauvignon. It was so memorable that this was the first place I made reservations. We opted for their classic tasting which included one Rosé and three reds. I ordered the Templeton Valley Greens with trout and Jason had the chili. The whole experience--food, wine, service, and setting--was awesome. We managed to come home with three bottles of their wine; two Rosés and one 2017 Isosceles. If you aren’t able to make it to the restaurant for a tasting, there is a tasting room in downtown Paso.
Our next stop was Booker Wines where we enjoyed their super stylish tasting room. If you enjoy great design, I highly recommend a stop here. The indoor and outdoor spaces blend seamlessly while the decor features large, comfortable seating areas in muted colors. Booker is all about the reds, and I’ll be honest, I did not enjoy them as much as Justin’s wines. I think they would be great if allowed more time to breathe.
Enjoy An Evening At Sensorio Field Of Lights
For the past two years I’ve seen pictures of the Sensorio Field of Lights on social media, so I knew that we had to check it out. This large art installation features 58,000 fiber optic, solar-powered lights. Guests can walk on paths around the lights to experience them from different vantage points. They’ve recently added Light Towers, 6-foot tall towers composed of 17,000 wine bottles.
Tickets for this experience are not cheap and start at $30 a person, plus a service fee. Two levels of VIP tickets are also available and include a VIP seating area and food or beverages, depending on the package. We opted for the first VIP package which included one drink per person. If I were to do it again, I’d skip the VIP section and just buy my own drink in the general admission area. But I am glad we visited this attraction. We arrived before sunset, so we had the chance to see the lights come on, and then fully illuminate as it became really dark. This really is a romantic experience for couples.
Sensorio is currently selling tickets through September, so if this is something you’re interested in, go soon!
Stay At Allegretto Vineyard Resort
A friend recommended the Allegretto Vineyard Resort and I will be forever grateful. Part of the Ayres Hotels, this resort is unlike any I’ve ever experienced before. Doug Ayres is responsible for this unique hotel which includes art from around the world, a labyrinth, and an Abbey.
The resort is built around a large courtyard that is landscaped with rosemary, roses, and a variety of other trees and shrubs. Patio lights are strung from the building providing the perfect amount of illumination at night. A few fire pits are surrounded by adirondack chairs built from oak wine barrels. My only regret is that we had just one night here--it wasn’t enough.
I don’t however recommend breakfast in their restaurant--it was bland and overpriced. Next time I’d head to downtown for something tastier. But I would like to come back and try the wines in their tasting room. There are vineyards on the grounds which I walked through early in the morning.
What To Do In Paso Robles
So I need to be honest, Paso Robles is expensive. We had the opportunity to visit mid-week, which meant the accommodations were more affordable, but everything else--the food, tastings, entertainment--all added up to a pretty pricey one day experience. This is the perfect place for wine lovers like myself willing for the occasional splurge, but if you’re hoping for something more reasonably priced, you may want to consider other destinations. Or, consider making this a day trip from Los Angeles. However, if you’re looking for a really romantic trip that includes excellent accommodations, food, and wine, Paso Robles is it!