Discover one of the best-kept secrets of California’s wine country, Paso Robles, which can be found halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Between bed & breakfast accommodations overlooking beautiful landscapes, thermal healing spas, and award-winning wines, Paso has romance written all over it.
Why Paso Robles For Your Next Romantic Adventure:
Whenever Leslie and I are visiting a place with lots of great wine, it is easy to quickly start receiving the benefits of romantic travel. Part of it is the literal intoxicating effects that the alcohol produces. But, there is more to it. In California, where wine is grown, beauty usually surrounds it. Paso Robles is no different and offers similar experiences to Napa and Sonoma, but with unique differences that make it a worthy substitute.
Located Halfway Between Los Angeles and San Francisco:
Originally settled by the native Salinan Indians who called the region “The Springs” because of underground thermal waters, Paso Robles began to see an influx of European settlers in the late 1700’s seeking the waters suspected health benefits. Included in the arrival of new settlers were Spain’s Franciscan Padres, which began the journey of transforming Paso into being more known for wine than water.
Paso Robles is nestled in the coastal mountain range of Central California, 15 miles to the east of the Pacific Ocean, and halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
If you live in either LA or SF, Paso is an easy long weekend trip. But for non-Californian’s you can fly into either city and experience Paso Robles on a road trip on the way to the other. Or fly from either city directly into the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. There is also the possibility of a train ride on Amtrak.
Los Angeles, CA
San Francisco, CA
Paso Robles, CA
- Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio spent the first night of their honeymoon in 1954 at Paso Robles. They were on route to Palm Springs after being married in San Francisco. Although the couple divorced later that year, there is still something very romantic about the thought these two icons spending their first night in marriage in Paso.
- Enjoy the wine and your significant other on a picnic throughout the rolling hills of a vineyard or at a fine dining restaurant. Choose your own type of romantic wine tasting and dining experience.
- Explore the outdoors through biking, hiking, or horseback riding. You can even take a hot air balloon ride nearby or scenic jeep tour. Or stay indoors at a bed and breakfast with views of vineyards vines for as far the eye can see.
- Rejuvenate together in hot springs that originally brought tourist before a wine grape was ever grown in the region.
- Be sure when touring wineries with a car to have a plan to prevent drinking and driving. A DUI is a quick way to ruin the romance of a trip.
- While there are many outstanding vineyard experiences, there are some that people have not enjoyed. Do some research to plan out your visits and make sure they match your expectations.
- While not yet as famous as Napa and Sonoma, its popularity is climbing every year. Make your hotel reservation in advance to make sure you aren’t stuck sleeping outdoors with the grapes.
Top Things to Do:
1. Historical and Cultural Treasures:
If you want to gain a greater appreciation of the area and its history, your first stop should be to the old Mission of San Miguel. The mission’s foundation was laid over 200 years ago in the 1790’s. Surviving a fire and several earthquakes, the church’s appearance is much the same as when it was built.
Today it is a State and National Historic Landmark where you can learn about the farming techniques, winemaking, cattle ranching, and religion introduced in 1790 by the Spanish conquistadors and Franciscan missionaries, as well as their interactions with the Salinan people.
2. California’s Third largest Wine Region:
Paso Robles has an ideal climate, of warm sunny days and cool evenings, for producing some of the best award-winning wines. In fact, Wine Spectator’s 2010 number one wine came from Saxum Vineyard in Paso.
There are more than 40 different varieties of grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Roussanne, and Zinfandel grown at over 200 wineries throughout 26,000 acres in Paso. It is not hard to find picturesque wineries that offer incredible wine tasting experiences for free or a small fee. Also, you will find many that offer romantic picnic lunches and sunset concerts.
Many people prefer the wine experience of Paso over Napa and Sonoma which they consider too crowded, over priced, and at times a bit stuffy. Paso offers an experience for every type of budget and luxury style. It is certainly the best wine you will find halfway Between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Here are some resources to help you plan this part of the trip:
Usually, where you find great wines, you can find great food. Because of the abundant farming community throughout the region, it has become popular for innovative farm to table cuisines. As a result, there has been an influx of creative and inspiring chefs looking to please every type of palate.
Paso Robles is may be well-known for grapes, but olives are also grown throughout the area. Olives share a common history with grapes in California. Spanish missionaries planted olive trees and grapevines at each of the 21 missions such as San Juan Capistrano and others established between Sonoma and San Diego.
3. Rejuvenation and Relaxation:
The Salinan Indians knew for thousands of years that Paso Robles contained the greatest natural thermal mineral aquifers in Central California. The Indians, and later settlers found relief from various ailments in the therapeutic waters and mud baths.
Today, you can still enjoy and rejuvenate in the springs while being halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Some springs have been diverted due to growth plans and natural disasters, but most springs remain in their original locations.
There are three public locations where visitors can easily indulge in the therapeutic mineral hot springs, the River Oaks Hot Springs Spa, Franklin Hot Springs, and Paso Robles Inn. You can find more details on visiting these three sites here.
4. Outdoor and Rustic Experiences:
With abundant hiking, biking, jeep tours, horseback riding, and golfing, Paso offers plenty to do for the outdoor enthusiast. You can also relive the Wild West and ride on a full-size Western Stage Coach or visit numerous working farms. Just remember it might be easier to do the many outdoor activities before indulging in wine!
5. Take a Side Trip to a Castle:
Although we have not personally visited, I do want to mention an amazing side trip that is also halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Not far from Paso Robles (40 minutes) is the famous Hearst Castle.
This national historic landmark offers an inside look at the life and mansion of legendary media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Designed and built by architect Julia Morgan, the property overlooks the Pacific Ocean and consists of an 115-room main house filled with historic artwork, guesthouses, pools and eight acres of breathtaking gardens.
There are several tours offered by the parks service, which gives you the option to tour several areas of the property. The ride up to the castle is picturesque as well, so have your cameras ready!
There is so much to do in Paso Robles; a weekend getaway may seem too short to experience all that the area has to offer.
For those living in Los Angeles, it is a closer and less crowded alternative to Napa Valley. For those residing in San Francisco, you may find enough uniqueness to make it a worthy substitute from time to time. It is certainly worth a stop for anyone making a road trip and looking for some fun or relaxation halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Paso offers the total package when it comes to a romantic adventure. Once you’ve experienced a blend of wine, hot springs, and outdoor adventure you’ll want to come back time and time again.
Have you visited Paso Robles? If so, what was your experience and how did you think it compared to Napa or Sonoma Valley? Does Paso make a good stop halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco?
*** Special thanks to Joyce Bobinski, co-author and photographer for this article.