36 Hours In Paso Robles


Located just a few hours north of Los Angeles on California’s Central Coast, Paso Robles is an ideal weekend — or midweek — escape. With a visit to Sensorio, a solar-powered art installation, as the focal point, local wines and fresh seafood bookend a jam-packed getaway.


Set out in the morning from Los Angeles. Driving north on the 101, heading against traffic, you’ll arrive in Pismo Beach by lunchtime. Oysters and steamers, Salad Louie, a lobster roll and crab cakes at Ada’s Fish House set you up for an afternoon of wine tasting in South Country.

Opening photo and throughout by Christine Joo unless otherwise noted

Start your wine tour in Edna Valley at Biddle Ranch. Spring for a flight for a great taste of their offerings. Plus, few experiences are as pleasant as enjoying a nuanced glass of grape on their terrace, shaded by enormous oak trees. Just up the road, pop into Chamisal. The first winery to plant vines in the Edna Valley, they paved the way for the area’s current renown for Chardonnay. Malene, Chamisal’s sister winery, features their signature blended rose served out of a sleek Airstream trailer.

After an afternoon of wine tasting, head to downtown San Luis Obispo, nicknamed SLO by the locals and Mestiza to ease the slide into evening. Try the pasado de moda, the mestiza margarita or agua ahumada, which all star smoky mezcal. A side of fresh chips and a medley of fresh salsas add an additional note of piquancy.

Time your arrival at Sensorio to coincide with sunset. Conceived by Australian artist Bruce Munro, it’s a 15 acre walk over rolling hills dotted with 58,800 stemmed spheres lit by solar-powered fiber-optics, gently illuminating the landscape in subtle blooms of morphing, mesmerizing.  The installation is on view through the end of June. 

If you want to have dinner beforehand,Hatch in downtown Paso Robles is wood-fired heaven. Make sure to have the waitress save one of their juicy rotisserie chickens for the table and don’t be shy about dousing it in buttermilk dip or the housemade fermented hot sauce (available to take home).

Alternatively, during the colder months, secure a late night dinner reservation at Thomas Hill Organics. Open until 9 pm during the week and 10 pm on the weekends, this farm-to-table restaurant is considered one of the best spots in Paso Robles. If you need a nightcap, head to 1122 Speakeasy. Fresh herbs and fruit garnishes, the gentle maracas of shaking drinks and music from the golden age of spirits wind down the evening.

Photo courtesy of Paso Robles Inn
Photo courtesy of Paso Robles Inn

For a classic old skool experience, rest your weary head at the Paso Robles Inn. Over a hundred years old, this quaint spot features local winery-themed rooms with private spa tubs. Back in the day, the water came from the local hot springs; today, sparkling clean municipal water offers the soak without the sulfuric after-effects. 

Photo courtesy of The Piccolo

Next door, The Piccolo, owned by the same company, offers a modern experience framed by Juliet balconies with furnishings and lighting courtesy of local makers. A hand-painted mural by LC Studio Tutto celebrates the local flora and fauna and provides a vibrant backdrop for the communal courtyard.

To top it off, the hotel features the area’s only rooftop bar, aptly christened Tetto (Italian for “roof”) with 360-degree views of the city and the surrounding valley.

Ten years ago, there were fewer than fifteen wineries in the Valley.  Today, Paso Robles boasts over 300 wineries cementing its status as a destination for oenophiles.  To accommodate the robust farm-to-table local culture as well as the influx of regional and national tourism, Paso Robles welcomes Paso Market Walk in February 2020. The first major mixed use development in Paso Robles, designed by Project M Plus and owned by Deborah Baldwin, the co-founder of Justin Winery, it boasts a marketplace highlighting local purveyors as well as two restaurants, and an outdoor space for music and community gatherings. 


For breakfast the next morning, head to Kitchenette in Templeton for breakfast. It’s all hearty here, from the corned beef hash, with chunks of meat and tender cabbage in a creamy mustard sauce, to the overstuffed breakfast tacos lush with succulent beer-braised pork bits. Hunger sated, you’re well-fueled to center your day on wine tastings in Paso Robles Valley proper. 

Start at Cass Winery, one of the more established wineries in the region with an expansive outdoor area and a grove perfect for private events.  Everything is scratch created at their farm-to-table restaurant, from the honey to the smoked chicken. In 2020, watch for the opening of Geneseo Inn, their exclusive micro-boutique hotel featuring shipping container units perched atop the vines, the brainchild of sustainable architecture expert Walter Scott Perry.

Neaby Opolo is well known for its Mountain Zin. With a lush outdoor restaurant, an indoor tasting room, and a micro-distillery producing artisanal brandy, it’s a one-stop sip and shop. Niner Wine Estates is also worth a stop.  With a focus on sustainability, it was the first in the region to attain SIP certification. This solar powered estate also features a restaurant recognized as one of the top winery restaurants in America.

Detour to Tin City, an evolving industrial makers market, on your way back south, for a refreshing glass of Tin City Cider, pressed from California apples. If you still need a gift, the same teams offers wine under the Fableist moniker, their labels channel the spirit of Aesop’s tales. Negranti Creamery’s ice creams, many of which are made from sheep’s and goat’s milk, are manna for the lactose-intolerant.

Photo courtesy of The Oyster Loft

Reality calls and the weekend is over, but squeeze another drop out of your gastronomic adventures with dinner at Oyster Loft on the strand at Pismo Beach. Snag a table near the window and enjoy cold crustaceans as you watch the sun sink into the ocean. Happy valley indeed!