Paso Robles, California

Paso Robles, California

Paso Robles is the soul of one of America's biggest and best celebrations of the grape. More than fifty wineries and lush vineyards are sequestered among oak-and-grass-covered hills that surround the town's prime scenic location by a gentle river. The Pacific Ocean is only about twenty miles away. The tranquil setting is also favored by a relatively mild climate.

Grape growing and wine making began in 1797 at nearby Mission San Miguel. The padres were also aware of the many natural springs in the area. But, the hot water didn't became a tourist attraction for nearly a century. In 1891, one of the West's most grandiose hotels and its related mineral pool and spa complex opened in the heart of town. World-renowned travelers came, like famed pianist Ignace Paderewski who settled here for the curative power of the hot springs and brought zinfandel vines for his ranch. Sadly, Prohibition, a disastrous hotel fire in 1940, and capping the hot springs soon after, reduced the village to a bucolic backwater for several decades.

Today, Paso Robles is being delightfully reinvigorated. Very recently, wineries have proliferated, the landmark hotel was reborn, and the legendary hot springs were reactivated. The two-square-block plaza in the center of town is one of the most appealing in California. It is surrounded by the hotel, a handsome civic complex, library, theaters, a museum, and several fine restaurants. Nearby is one of the state's biggest fairgrounds, a popular venue for major events year-round. Beyond, two large scenic lakes and the ocean offer all kinds of water recreation.