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Paso Robles

Paso Robles
Explore this Central Coast magnet for wine-tasting, which also caters to lovers of craft brews and spirits

With its red-brick Carnegie Library anchoring a grassy town square, Paso Robles lies just off U.S. Highway 101 at the southernmost tip of the Salinas Valley. This San Luis Obispo County town first became a tourist magnet in the 19th century, thanks to its mineral hot springs—which you can still experience at the Paso Robles Inn—but Paso Robles (pronounced “ROH-buhlz,” or “ROH-blays” to some locals) really found its magical elixir as the local vineyards multiplied.

Here in the heart of Central California’s wine country, more than 250 wineries spread across seven different growing regions, each with its own microclimate and terroir. More than 14 wineries have tasting rooms in Paso Robles’ tidy downtown, but sippers with a taste to explore can roam vineyard-dotted Highway 46, winding west to the Cambria coast.

Expect to find a lot more than Pinot Noir. Take a walk around the beautiful gardens and massive sculptures at Sculpterra Winery or catch a concert at Vina Robles’ outdoor amphitheater. At Tin City, check out more than 20 emerging boutique wineries—among them Aaron Wines, ONX, and Field Recordings—packed together in an industrial-chic warehouse district. Savor the Old West ambience at Tobin James Cellars, where a restored stagecoach stop now serves as a guest house, or tour the wine cave at Eberle Winery. If you want to stay overnight among the vines you can do that too—in a vintage Tinker Tin trailer on Alta Colina Wine's property.

Leftover grape juice from the region’s wine production isn’t wasted. It makes up the base alcohol for distilled spirits, which you can sample at various stops along Paso Robles Distillery Trail. Sip Wine Shine’s mango mule, Krobar’s gin and rye whiskey, Manucci Spirits’ grappa and limoncello, and Re:Find Distillery’s vodka. Most distillery tasting rooms are located on vineyard grounds, “just around the back” from the wine-tasting rooms.

Beer drinkers aren’t left out of the fun. Firestone Walker Brewery is the biggest and oldest brewery in Paso Robles, but for atmosphere, it’s hard to beat the al fresco beer garden at Barrelhouse Brewing Company (and if you like sour barrel-aged beers, this is your spot). Microbrew fans will find their happy place at Toro Creek, Silva Brewing, or Earth and Fire Brewing Co.

With so many beverage options, don’t forget to eat. Savor upscale Italian cuisine—truffle risotto and osso bucco—at downtown’s Il Cortile, or score an authentic Mexican meal at Oralé Taqueria or Habaneros. Perennial favorite Hatch serves up craft cocktails and wood-fired rotisserie chicken, while Thomas Hill Organics specializes in local and sustainably grown ingredients.

Nourish your artsy side at Studios on the Park, an open-studio center where working artists ply their creative trades. Chat with a sculptor, take a drawing class, or buy a painting for your living room. Soak until your fingers pucker at River Oaks Hot Springs spa, where 10 private tubs are fed from springs bubbling up at 117 degrees Fahrenheit. Massages, facials, and body wraps are available too. And for those who love steel and chrome, the Woodland Auto Display and Estrella Warbirds Museum share one location, and it’s packed with World War II planes, antique motorcycles, military Jeeps, beautifully restored Indy race cars, and vintage roadsters.

When you’re ready to call it a day, rest your head in luxury in one of 16 tasteful rooms at the equestrian-themed Hotel Cheval, a stroll away from downtown’s restaurants and shops (don’t miss the nightly s’mores service), or the dog-friendly Allegretto Vineyard Resort, with its rambling courtyards and Tuscan-inspired terrazzo patios and fountains.

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Mimi Ditchie/Getty Images

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From the epic grandeur of Big Sur to the Mediterranean-style stretch of Santa Barbara coastline nicknamed “the American Riviera,” this region of picturesque hamlets, jagged sea cliffs, and rolling wine country has long attracted—not surprisingly—writers and artists mesmerized by its dreamlike beauty.

Monterey served as California’s first capital when the state’s first constitution was signed in in the coastal city in 1849.

Take the epic Highway One drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles to discover secret beaches and soaring cliffs along Big Sur, stroll a redwood trail, spy a sea otter at the incomparable Monterey Bay Aquarium, and sip Pinot Noir at sunset in the romantic Santa Ynez Valley.

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