Here’s the Thing…
During my most recent trips to Paso Robles, I walked into one of my parent’s favorite wineries and said, “It smells like my childhood.”
Now as a 22-year-old who has only been of legal drinking age for about a year-and-a-half, this may seem like a strange statement. However, Paso Robles isn’t your average wine country.
While the act of tasting wine itself is for adults (obviously), wine tasting as a whole is something the whole family can do together, at least in Paso Robles. From my experience as a kid in Paso Robles, there was always so much to do and explore, the winery workers were always so nice, and a lot of wineries also had really friendly pets to hang out with!
So if you are trying to plan your next family trip, and you have already counted out wine tasting, read on to learn why I believe Paso Robles is the perfect, low-key family vacation.
Where to Stay
The Adelaide Inn was always our go-to hotel while in Paso Robles. Between the central location and the freshly baked goods they provide in the morning, the Adelaide Inn makes you feel right at home from the start.
The great aspect about the Adelaide Inn is that it’s more than just a place to stay; especially with kids, there are going to be some times when you want to take a break from wine tasting and relax. Instead of just sitting in the hotel room, the Adelaide Inn has an amazing pool area, perfect for a relaxing afternoon! They have a mini-golf course, a nice pool, a hot tub and lots of lounge areas to test out the new wine you bought!
Every time I stayed there, no matter how old I was, great memories were made. I even remember one night that I convinced my parents to stay an extra night! Truly, the Adelaide Inn is the perfect Paso Robles hotel to stay with the kids.
Growing up, we stayed at the Tobin James guest house quite a few times, but it wasn’t until recently that I questioned how we were able to stay in a beautiful house right on the winery grounds.
Apparently, you have to be a member of their James Gang Wine Club, which is out of the realm of my knowledge. (But feel free to ask my mom! I know she would looooooooove to talk about wine.)
I haven’t stayed in the guest house since I was a kid, so this will all be from that perspective.
Since Tobin James had already established itself as our favorite winery (for the kids too) it was an added bonus getting to stay there too! The house is literally next door to the tasting room, so I can only imagine how my parents felt. There was a large, wrap-around patio complete with a shuffleboard and fluffy cat.
There were only a few rooms, and each of the rooms had a different theme. The theme I remember the most was the “sunroom,” which was appropriate since Tobin is based around how all aspects of the sun work together to create amazing wines.
When we would stay in the guest house, we typically had other family-friends with us, so there was always lots of kids running around. As a kid, I was never ever bored at Tobin James and I’m looking forward to the day I can stay at the guest house myself!
From the moment we arrived at Sunset Ranch, we felt comfortable and right at home. Chris and Billie were such accommodating hosts and they made our stay truly unforgettable; from giving us recommendations on what to do during our stay, to just being overall friendly people, they went above and beyond.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with a full s’mores set-up, complete with jumbo marshmallows and all the fixings. They even set the fire up for us so all we had to do was light it and we were ready to go. The next morning they provided us with breakfast delivered straight to the trailer; which was appreciated on the cold morning. We sat on the patio and had a perfect view of the wine country and the property’s horses eating their breakfast.
Having horses so close to the trailer was an amazing touch, especially for the kids. The trailer itself was very comfortable. Although it was really cold outside, the trailer stayed warm and cozy. Despite the cold, we took advantage of the hot tub and it was great!
We can’t wait to come back in the summer and try out the pool!
Where to Drink
“Go here last!” my mom always says. One stop at Tobin James Cellars, and you will understand why.
First of all, the staff. I have had a lot of customer service jobs and I am always very observant of how customers are treated. At Tobin, I have only ever seen above and beyond customer service. And it is not just serving wine and being nice, but it is actually building genuine relationships with people and showing true hospitality. The “pourfessionals” are always incredibly personable and my parents actually know a lot of them by name.
Second, Tobin has always been so accommodating towards kids, and I know this because I was a kid at Tobin many times! Besides all the areas that are open for exploration, the actual tasting room has arcade games to keep kids occupied while their parents are happily sipping away! Not only that, but the “pourfessionals” are always very personable with kids which I appreciated and I know my parents did as well.
On a more practical note, Tobin offers free wine tasting. I mean, who doesn’t love free stuff? And, I don’t know about you, but my palette is not the most refined for wine (yet), but Tobin has such amazing wines!
Tobin James has always been a must-stop during all our Paso trips, and I can’t imagine ever not spending some time at Tobin!
Chronic Cellars has a super cool, edgy feel to it. With wines with names like “Spritz & Giggles” and “Love Insects,” it’s clear to see that Chronic is not your average winery.
Our wine steward, Kelly, was really sweet and personable. I felt like we were able to have a real conversation with her and I could tell she was a very genuine person, even during her role of educating us on wines. There was one point where she was trying to learn the description for a new wine and she was actually really struggling with it. But we were all able to get a good laugh out if it and I loved that she wasn’t trying to be perfect or act like she knew everything.
Chronic also has a great outdoor area, perfect for the kids to get all their energy out. There’s pool, corn hole, horseshoes and lots of space for exploring. The covered sitting areas are also a great touch for parents who want to lounge for a bit while their kids run around and play.
If you’re looking for a unique winery that the kids will also appreciate, Chronic Cellars is your place.
In the 10+ years I have been coming to Paso Robles, our wine tasting days have played out largely the same: we all pile in the car and drive from winery to winery (or the occasional brewery). The point is, the wineries are all spread out enough so that you can’t really walk to them.
Cue in Tin City.
This place is literally so cool. I’m really glad we discovered it. So it’s basically a tin city (crazy) and it’s a bunch of breweries and wineries all within walking distance from each other! We didn’t get to explore it too much, but I could immediately tell that this place had a younger vibe to it and definitely somewhere that my friends and I would hang out.
While we were there, we visited two breweries, Tin City Cider Co. and BarrelHouse Brewing Co. They both had a great atmosphere, but I preferred Tin City Cider because I like cider more than beer. (Actually, I don’t like beer. At all. AT ALL.)
A great aspect about both of these places was that they had tons of games for kids (and adults) to play. They had everything from Uno, to Cards Against Humanity, to Simon (which I had never heard of, but my mom was sooo good at it!) I’m not a kid anymore, but I love playing games! Especially things like Cards Against Humanity.
The next time I go to Paso Robles, I’m definitely going to plan at least a couple hours to explore Tin City even more.
What to Eat
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Another wonderful special coming from the kitchen of Buona Tavola Paso. Today we are featuring our Nasello Alla Salvia! Our skin on Halibut paired with haricots verts, roasted butternut squash, and a tomato relish topped with home grown sage and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. #italian #Buonatavola #seafood #halibut #pasorobles #centralcoast
If I had to choose one type of food to eat for the rest of my life, I would choose Italian. The pasta and bread and cheese and everything else just cannot be beaten. That’s why when I went to Buona Tavola last summer, I was obsessed.
First of all, the atmosphere actually reminds me of Italy; very small and intimate with an attentive waiter. For just grabbing lunch, we had an amazing setup and service.
But most importantly, the food. Ohhhh the food. For an appetizer, we had an amazing bruschetta and olive tapenade; two of my favorite dishes. For my main dish, I ordered the Tortellini Bufalina, but I chose to have alfredo instead of the tomato sauce it came with. Just thinking about that pasta is making me hungry! The homemade pasta combined with the fresh mozzarella and alfredo was such an excellent combination. I was so stuffed after!
This place didn’t have a kid’s menu, but they were more than happy to make my sister whatever type of pasta she wanted, so that was much appreciated.
If you’re looking for something a little bit classier than usual, you should definitely try Buona Tavola.
I just randomly found Rustic Fire on Yelp the last time I was in Paso, but it turned out to be so good!
I especially liked this place because of all the variety they offered. You could get anything from pizza to salad to sandwiches, and you could top it off with wine or beer and some gelato!
I decided to order their Caesar salad. That may seem a little basic if I’m at a pizza place but bear with me. This Caesar salad had, drum roll please, WHOLE ANCHOVIES. Guys, I don’t know if you understand how important anchovies are to me. I will literally eat them straight out of the can and they belong on Caesar salads! However, due to a general distaste of anchovies, they are usually left off the salad, leaving it sad and lonely. This salad was better than I could have ever imagined. It may seem like I am being dramatic, but when I love a food, I love it. And I love anchovies.
Anyway, bringing it back, Rustic Fire is a great place to go if you have a lot of people who may want different things and if you want to have a fun, laidback environment to enjoy some wine and gelato!
What to Do (Besides Drink Wine)
Sometimes we all need a break from tasting wine. Sometimes.
A great place to take a breather is at the Mt. Olive Organic Farm. I love it there because there are so many yummy things to try, and everything is organic and made fresh! There was tea, different butters, tapenade, olive oil and a bunch of other things you could sample. And I am a big fan of free food.
But the best part of Mt. Olive is their two petting zoos! I am obsessed with animals and not much really scares me. Even a ram with fully developed horns or a llama that bites. Hard. #WorthIt Also, we may or may not have accidentally let all the pigs and goats out of one of the pens…… whoops………
If you like free food, animals, and some entertainment, then the Mt. Olive Organic Farm would be a great place to stop, especially if you have kids! But, watch out for the animals. Seriously.
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For the first time in its history, the Paso Robles Event Center is set to host the National Junior Swine Association’s “Western Regional” November 3 through December 3, 2017. The event will feature a record number of entires – more than twice the number ever entered in the past. Over 150 families will travel to Paso Robles, some as far away as Oklahoma. The 4-day event will be packed with events, all of which are free to the public to attend. The lead judge for the “Western Regional” will be Adam Beck, Indiana. Also, on Saturday, December 2, the NJSA will host a dinner, silent auction, live desert auction and awards ceremony. If you’d like to donate, or volunteer your time, please contact Ellen at (765) 463-3594. The 2018 California Mid-State Fair runs July 18-29. This year’s theme is “Ole, It’s Fiesta Time!”
This one is definitely subjective to the time of year you’re going to Paso Robles, but if you’re in town while it is going on, I would highly recommend it!
I am a huge fan of the fair, and especially if you are visiting with kids, this would be a great activity for them. My personal favorite thing to do is look at all the animals. I could literally look at all the pigs all day (even though they are all identical).
Another must-do fair activity is to eat as much fried food as you can. Okay, maybe not that much, but be prepared to eat a lot of fried goodness. I mean, where else are you going to be able to eat fried Kool-Aid or a deep-fried pickle wrapped in bacon?
When I went to the Midstate fair awhile back, I saw a Justin Bieber concert with my friend Shayla at the fairgrounds area. It was a great day exploring the fair and then going to the concert at night. And my mom and her friend were able to let us do our own thing while they had their own fun day.
I’ve never had a bad day at the fair and especially going to the fair while on vacation; sounds like the perfect day!
I could probably go on for days about how much I love Paso Robles, but I think I have provided you with a pretty good overview of all Paso has to offer. In my mind, a trip to Paso is a win-win for everyone: the parents get their wine and the kids get to have the freedom to go exploring and learn how to appreciate the simpler things in life. Personally, I am so grateful my parents introduced me to the beauty and simplicity of wine country at such a young age!
What are some of your favorite activities while you’re in Paso Robles?