Encinitas, California

New post on encinitias

San Diego, California

As a dweller of San Diego County, over the next few weeks I am going to do a series of posts that cover some of the great places to go, see, eat and more in San Diego. Look out for new posts coming soon.

Travel tips from a bed bug expert — how to keep bed bugs from coming home with you

This is admittedly a cringe-worthy topic and one that gives me the chills running down my spine. Bed bugs are one of the world’s grosser creatures and because they can survive for long periods of time without eating they are resilient (heat is really the only way to effectively eradicate them). We had a scare a few months ago where I kept waking up with “bites” and turned our bedroom over looking for bed bugs. I asked an expert to come check out our home. We were clear (It ended up being poison oak that was spreading by scratching it – see my post on Santa Cruz for avoiding poison oak). Anyway, the expert was a great resource and shared his tips for how to make sure that you don’t bring bed bugs home from a trip.

Tips from a Bed Bug pro:

  1. When checking into your room in a hotel or AirBnB – put your luggage in the shower or bathtub. I know that sounds weird, but this is what the expert says that he does whenever he travels.
  2. Check the bed – Pull back the bed sheets and check the mattress and box-spring seams for bugs. Also keep your eyes out for  exoskeletons (casings that the bugs leave behind when they molt) and dark, rust-colored spots.  If found LEAVE! If not, you can still take some precautions.
  3. Always keep your luggage off the carpeted floor and either in the bathroom or on the luggage rack that has been checked. According to expert bed bugs can’t climb slick surfaces well so that’s why bathrooms are a good choice.
  4. Hang up your clothes and personal effects to avoid hichhikers and be sure to wash your clothes in hot water when you return home. Also its recommended to keep your luggage in a garage or hot attic between trips.

Tip for booking a last minute hotel — Hotels Tonight

This post is not sponsored. We have just had really great success using the app Hotels Tonight to book last-minute cheap hotel rooms. Most major cities are included in the Hotels Tonight app. How it works: Hotels Tonight works with hotels who have extra last minute vacancies. We have found rooms up to half the price as normal! Additionally, sometimes they offer 25$ off your first booking. Score!! If you are a long term planner and can’t handle last minute booking, this isn’t the way to go. But if you are ok with being flexible and seeing what hotels pop up, this is a great option. One caveat, if you’re trying to book a location where there’s a big convention or conference going on, this might not be the best option. Hotels will be filled up and expensive regardless. So in that case, book early. So download the app and check it out!

We hope this tip makes traveling more fun!

Santa Cruz, California

This is a really fun destination for me to write about because I’ve been going to Santa Cruz with my family since I was just a few months old. We have a cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains settled deep under the tall canopy of the redwoods in a place called Mission Springs. As a child, I remember leaving Sacramento where we lived in the desperately hot summer and making our way west to the coast for a week or two of vacation. I have distinct memories of getting to highway 17 where the redwood forest begins. I would roll the car window down to feel the cooler sea air and smell that fresh wooded scent. Once we got to the cabin, Santa Cruz meant freedom as my brother and would take off running down trails, looking for banana slugs and playing imaginary games.  Today, my kids are the ones running around the trails through the redwoods and I love that they get to experience the wonder of this place.

Instead of a daily itinerary I am going to cover 20 of my favorite this to do, see and eat. But first lets’ talk about history and location…

Where is Santa Cruz?

Santa Cruz, California is about one hour South of San Francisco in Northern California. Getting there requires driving over highway 17 from Silicon Valley, or you can drive down the coast on the 1. If you have time, the coastal drive is lovely and if you have even more time, I encourage driving even further south through Big Sur, but that’s for another post. In this post I’ll list activities in places like Felton, Capitola and Soquel. Don’t be thrown off by the names, these are little towns within Santa Cruz county and mere minutes from each other in most cases.

What makes Santa Cruz special?

Santa Cruz has a rich history, and is the home of the 12th California Mission founded in 1791. When most people think of Santa Cruz though, they think about the beaches and rugged coastline, surfing and the Boardwalk amusement park. But beyond the usual tourist traps of a California beach town, Santa Cruz offers incredible hikes, gorgeous state parks with miles of trails, mountain biking and more. Plus, Santa Cruz has some of the most amazing redwoods in the world.


The hiking trails in Santa Cruz are some of my favorites. The redwood trees, some, hundreds of years old are unlike anything else. My kids love hiking in Santa Cruz because many of the old redwood are big enough that they can crawl into the roots and hide. Warning: Santa Cruz is also home to Poison Oak. Its advisable to know what Poison Oak looks like – don’t touch it or you will end up with an extremely itchy rash that can spread (I say this from recent experience when I was trail running and not careful). Also, just be mindful of ticks. There are ticks in this area that carry Lyme Disease – so either wear pants or make sure you do a quick body check after hiking.

***Parent tip: If you have never seen a Banana Slug, get prepared; they are a sight to behold. Banana slugs are about 2-7 inches long and are a mustard yellow color. They are an important part of this environment’s ecosystem (and the mascot for UC Santa Cruz!). We like to bring M&Ms or jelly beans on hikes for “Banana Slug finding contests” it makes the hikes more fun for the kids as they look for the slugs.

***Safety tip: Friends who live in the area advise that its better to hike or trail run with a friend. If you enjoy solitary hiking just be mindful.

Wilder Ranch State Park — 1401 Coast Rd, Santa Cruz, CA 

Wilder Ranch is great for both long and short hikes. You can either walk the West side of the highway along the coastline or you can hike East of the road where there are a number of hiking loops. On the East side there are a few horses housed that you can pet. This is a big highlight for kids – they seem gentle (but of course use caution). The wildflowers in the spring are amazing. The trails are fairly flat here and there isn’t a lot of tree cover so wear sunscreen.  The park also includes a 1897 Victorian home,  and a 1896 water-powered machine shop. Bring a picnic to enjoy on the front lawn, and visit the farm animals. The park offers more than 35 miles of trails so you could spend all day exploring. To visit the state park site click here.

horses at Wilder Ranch


Fall Creek Hike — Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, 1101 Felton Empire Rd, Felton, CA 

To Fall Creek: Follow Mount Hermon Road until it ends at Graham Hill Road. Turn right onto Graham Hill Road. Go straight through the Highway 9 intersection continuing onto Empire Grade Road. Follow this road for approximately 0.5 miles and the entrance will be on the right side of the road. Fall Creek is one of my absolute favorite hikes in the area. There is a dirt parking lot you can park in and a few loops that you can do. The trail follows a creek with many bridges lined with ferns with a heavy canopy of redwoods overhead. The hike also goes to the remains of an old lime-processing industry. If you’re a trail runner this is a great trail for a run. Of all the hikes in Santa Cruz I really enjoy this one because of the creek that you hike along for most of the trail.

Roaring Camp and the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park — 101 N Big Trees Park Rd, Felton, CA 

Some great hiking options for all levels here. Our kids are pretty small so we love the main mellow flat redwoods loop. Our kids love competing to find banana slugs. From the Henry Cowell Parking lot (there is a parking fee since its a State Park) you can also walk over to the Roaring Camp Railroad. At Roaring Camp there are a lot of fun things for kids to see and sometimes they have events like candle making, or they will have people dressed up from the 1800’s. You can also take a ride on the train either through the redwoods or down to the beach. If you are big on trains by all means check it out. We found it pretty pricey but enjoyed the ride up through the redwoods on the old steam train. Another fun thing to do is to go on a longer hike up through the trails up behind Roaring Camp you can usually see the train pass by and its fun to wave at the passengers. Also, if you are a fan of geocaching, there are lots of geocaches throughout Santa Cruz and the mountains. Again, be on guard for Poison Oak!


Marianne’s Ice Cream — 1020 Ocean St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

No visit to Santa Cruz is complete without a visit to Marianne’s. Open since 1947, this little shop is beloved for its vast array of ice cream flavors – 75 daily! One of the most popular is the “1020” named for its address on Ocean Street. When I first started coming here as a small child I would get the blue bubble gum flavor and my brother and I would compete for who could get the most bubble gum pieces. Today that blue bubble gum ice cream is still around but  these days, I stick to flavors like chocolate mint, and 1020. Is Marianne’s the best ice cream you have ever had? I would venture to guess no, but it is really good and such a fun time capsule. Also, with 75 flavors everyone can find something they enjoy.  Trust me, its so worth the visit. Tip: bring cash!

Photo source: http://www.montereybayfun.com/mariannes-ice-cream/

Discretion Brewing and Tap Room — 2703 41st Ave, Soquel, CA

My husband is a huge craft beer fan. As San Diego natives, one day we’re going to have to do a full post on San Diego beer which is amazing, but that’s for another post. During one trip not too long ago to Santa Cruz we were looking for a place with good beer AND good food. Until recently, this hasn’t been easy to find. Some friends recommended Discretion Tap Room and we went, our two small kids in tow. The big surprise was how GOOD the food was. I dare say it was my favorite meal I’ve had at a restaurant in Santa Cruz. The beer was good, not awesome (our bars are high, especially my husband), but the food/ solid beer combo makes this a great stop. According to their website, “Discretion serves beer-focused, farm-to-table comfort food made in-house.” Rather than standard pub food, Discretion’s menu is filled with items like roasted beets and asparagus salad, and pork meatballs with black rice and salsa verde. Plus its super low key, so for parents that’s a win! My son was totally ogling the Kylo Ren lightsaber of the five year old in full costume sitting at the next table. Its been a while since we’ve eaten here, but we have continued to hear about the popularity of this place and will definitely go back.

Photo source: Discretion Brewing

Bonny Doon Vineyard — Tasting Room 450 Highway 1 Davenport, CA 

I love stopping at the Bonny Doon tasting room. Its definitely off the beaten path up the 1, but its a gorgeous drive (and just a few miles from Wilder Ranch for a post hike sip of wine). I stop here pretty much every time I visit Santa Cruz. Bonny Doon’s tasting room is a really unique place. From the vast array of wine types, prices, and bottling artwork to the fun digital photo area complete with hats, and dress up gear for some hilarious photos to take home with you. But really, back to the wine,  known for its Le Cigare Volant, an homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Bonny Doon is also devoted to unique varietals, and innovative blends. I never leave without at least one bottle. Check it out, just the drive out to the tasting room is worth this trip.

Photo source: Bonny Doon

Storrs Winery & Vineyard —  303 Potrero Street no. 35, Santa Cruz, CA

Storrs is known for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from grapes grown on the mountainsides of Santa Cruz County. Conveniently their tasting room is right in town so if you are in the mood to try some great wine I encourage you to check them out.

photo credit: Storrs

Verve Coffee on 41st — 816 41st Ave, Santa Cruz, CA

Verve coffee is popular for a reason. The 41st street location is perfect for grabbing a coffee and then walking down to the “Hook” to check out the surfing. You can also continue to walk along the E Cliff Dr. toward Pleasure Point making for a great morning activity. (Kids can scooter or bike too!)

Photo source

West End Tap Room — 334D Ingalls Street Santa Cruz

West End Tap Room is a favorite restaurant of ours to visit when we’re in town. Formerly the space housed the Bonny Doon Tasting Room and restaurant, but a few years ago when Bonny Doon moved to Davenport, it was turned into the West End Tap Room. Calamari with herbs and peppers, and buttermilk sauce and fried jalapenos are a favorite. The portions are really large here, in fact the pizza on the kids meal is big enough for two kids to easily share. They also brew their own beer. As an added bonus, right next door to the restaurant is the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing company where you can do taste some organic brews, and also some wine tasting rooms including the Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard.

Santa Cruz County Farmer’s Markets — Multiple locations and days of the week

When we arrive at the cabin in the summer, one of my first destinations is to hit one of the nearby Farmers Markets. Some markets, like the Weds. market downtown are year round and some are seasonal so be sure to check out the Santa Cruz Farmers Market website for dates, times and details. The produce is out of this world, and I always leave with squash, tomatoes, herbs and other veggies. The stone fruits like local plums and peaches are also a particular summer favorite. Also, there are a few vendors who sell flavored almonds, honey and meats and eggs. I also love taking home a little bouquet of flowers to brighten up the cabin for our stay. Also, the markets have food vendors, so enjoy lunch or dinner while you browse. Farmers Market locations include Downtown, Felton, Scotts Valley and more.

photo source: Felton Farmers Market


The Santa Cruz Bookshop — 1520 Pacific Avenue Santa Cruz, CA

A downtown Santa Cruz staple for more than 50 years, this bookstore is special. The curated staff favorites and layout of the store make for hours of browsing entertainment. They also have a fantastic number of used books. I’ve been coming to this bookstore since I was a small child and now I bring my kids who love the children’s section where they can sit and read. Parking is fairly easy; there are a lot of parking lots downtown where you can park for a few dollars.

Image result for santa cruz bookshop logo

Run or Walk (or scooter!) from Natural Bridges to Santa Cruz Surfer’s Museum

Nearly every visit we do to Santa Cruz includes this walk. Our kids scooter and we enjoy the incredible ocean walk view. Start at or near Natural Bridges State Park (we park on the street for free) and walk along the sidewalk for 2 miles until you reach the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. We watch the surfers surfing Steamer’s Lane for a few minutes before turning around. This is truly an amazing walk and would make a great jog or run route as well.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Is the Boardwalk touristy? Yes! But how can I not mention California’s oldest surviving amusement park? Built in 1907, The Boardwalk its one of the few seaside parks on the West Coast. For that reason alone its worth a visit, just to see a piece of California’s history. I have a lot of memories of riding the Big Dipper Roller Coaster with my dad as a kid and remember days spent walking the wood planked Boardwalk with the smell of saltwater in the air stopping to get ice cream or overpriced candy at the many shops. There are a variety of rides for all ages. After riding the attractions, walk out to the beach to enjoy the beautiful waves.

Loch Lomond Recreational Area — 100 Loch Lomond Way
Felton, CA

A few years ago we came across this place through a recommendation and brought our kayaks to the lake. It’s a beautiful small reservoir with picnic sites and hiking trails. They have had some trouble with invasive species of mussels and now restrict outside boats from the lake but you can rent boats, paddle boats and canoes for a reasonable hourly rate. The Nucanoe:  $7.50/hr (2 hour minimum). Bring a picnic lunch and explore the lake. The only bummer is that swimming is prohibited. Still, Loch Lomond is a gorgeous place to explore just a few minutes from Santa Cruz.

Photo by Hilltromper

The Wharf — Beach Street, Santa Cruz, CA

The wharf is definitely what I would consider “touristy”. The restaurants all cater to the visiting crowd (yes you can definitely get a bowl of clam chowder here), its filled with shops of chachkies and mementos, T shirts and shot glasses. As much as I shy away from touristy places, there’s something about the Wharf that is charming to me. Maybe that its over 100 years old, (built in 1914), or maybe its those yelping seals that tend to gather under the wood wharf. Its fun to just walk out to the end, perhaps with a cup of coffee in hand and enjoy the view. From the Wharf you have a great view of the Boardwalk and the Santa Cruz coastline. And yes, you can get that shrimp cocktail or that satisfying cup of clam chowder. Go on, enjoy yourself!

Look for Sandollars at Waddell State Beach — 17 miles north of Santa Cruz on Hwy 1

If you really want to get off the beaten path, head out on Highway 1 from Santa Cruz and head north. Civilization drifts away as you continue to travel up the coast. About 20-30 min outside of town you will come up on Waddell State Beach – a 1.5 mile stretch of wild beach. Depending on the time of year you might be alone on this stretch of beach. The last time I was there, I discovered a number of sanddollar pieces including one that was almost intact. If your idea of a good time is getting away from it all, this is your spot!

Natural Bridges Beach —  2531 W Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA

I tend to avoid the crowds at the Boardwalk when I want to go to the beach and head to Natural Bridges instead. I have been coming here as a kid. We would typically come in June and I remember many visits when the marine layer would come in thick and it would be so cold and foggy at the beach. But my brother and I didn’t care. We braved the 56 degree weather and went in anyway as our parents covered themselves with blankets and sweatshirts and tried to read books. June Gloom aside, there are many beautiful days at Natural Bridges. The tidepools are a really fun option as well. My kids love looking for sea creatures.

Image result for natural bridges

Photo source

Capitola, California

Capitola is California’s oldest seaside resort town and continues to be a popular destination.  Capitola has a unique charm with its family-friendly beaches and historic and colorful architecture. Its fun to walk around a visit the boutiques, relax on the beach or have a glass of wine or a beer at one of the beach front restaurants. Capitola also boasts the Shadowbrook Restaurant at 1750 Wharf Rd, Capitola, CA. Open since 1947, this restaurant is truly one-of-a-kind. It has a cable car that takes you from the parking lot at the top to the bottom floor of the restaurant (the cable car is the best part). Sadly the food isn’t that spectacular and the interior is quite dated. But the view of the river, and the experience is worth a trip if you are interested in seeing a restaurant with a rich history.

Photo source

DeLaveaga Disc Golf — 1468 Upper Park Rd, Santa Cruz, CA 

If you haven’t played Disc Golf before, this would be a great opportunity. Disc Golf, as its name suggests includes throwing a small disc from hole to hole. Each hole has a metal cage that you must throw the disc into from various distances and terrains. Similar in scoring to golf, you try to get your disc into the cages in as few throws as possible. DeLaveaga Disc Golf resides in a gorgeous park, a pine and oak tree covered ridge line that overlooks Monterey Bay, with expansive ocean views on a dozen holes including the most famous: “Top of the World” (hole 27).

Photo source: DeLaveaga Disc Golf Club


Carmel Beach, Carmel, CA

So far I have stayed within the county, but I did want to list a recommendation for the day adventurer. If you are up for an hour drive south, make your way to Carmel, one of the loveliest seaside towns in the country. There is much to do in Carmel, just wanting around the shops is great fun, but going down to the beach is stunning. Its a white sand beach, fine sand, almost like you are in Hawaii and on a clear day the water is a turquoise color. Its worth the drive and is a great place to enjoy a picnic and a warm day on the sand. Also, the beach and the whole town is extremely dog friendly.

Well, there are so many more things to do in Santa Cruz but I hope this list gives you some ideas, and makes your experience more fun!

 Be advised that all of these ideas are just my opinion.

Paso Robles, California

Three days in paso robles

I personally think Paso Robles is one of the most underrated wine regions in California. It has it all, gorgeous wineries, impressive vistas, hiking and biking, restaurants and even the beach. Also, if you’re a craft beer lover there are also some great places to check out for a cold IPA.  Recently a good friend and I embarked on a girls’ getaway and had the most amazing weekend.

Where is Paso Robles?

Paso Robles is on the Central California Coast. Its about a 3 hour drive from Los Angeles and 3-4 hours from San Francisco. Though its been a wine region for many years, its popularity has been growing. in fact, according to the site Wine Folly, Paso Robles is California’s fastest growing AVA. “Since 2000, the number of bonded wineries has grown from 50 to over 200, driven by growth in ownership by small family-owned producers.” Those put off by the crowds and expense of the Napa Valley region, will particularly enjoy Paso Robles. When visiting Paso, its a breath of fresh air (literally) as crowds tend to be smaller than some of the more popular California regions such as Santa Barbara, Napa and Sonoma.

What kind of wine is grown in Paso Robles?

Paso Robles offers many different types of wines but you can expect to see a lot of Rhone blends including Syrah, Grenache and Viognier. Additionally the region is home to Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons. For more information check out this site on understanding Paso Robles Wines.

What makes Paso Robles great?

Absolutely stunning vistas, excellent wine and food options, great outdoor activities like hiking and the beach and Morro Bay is 30 minutes away.

Whats not to like?

Its hard to find fault with Paso, but we did find it somewhat difficult to find reasonably priced lodging – in particular hotels. We settled on an awesome Airbnb (Link to Airbnb cottage) and have no regrets about that decision. The house was perfect for us as we enjoy cooking and loved the patio and BBQ. I recommend looking into Airbnb if you are planning to travel to Paso.

The only other negative I can think of is perhaps the deep summer heat. In July and August temperatures can definitely hit the 90’s and above. If you want more mild weather definitely look to go in the Spring or Fall.

So let’s go! 

Day 1 Itinerary:

(For this trip I am going to assume that you will be arriving around mid-day.)

First stop – Check out the low key, and totally unpretentious Tobin James Winery (Yee haw!) – 8950 Union Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446 · (805) 239-2204

Our first stop was Tobin James and we were so glad it was. Tobin James has dare I say it, “fun” wine and approachable friendly staff in a cowboy/ western themed setting. Never been to a western themed winery before? Me either! It was unexpected and fun. No hoity toity attitudes or mock turtlenecks here. Tobin James would be a great option for a wine tasting newbie who is looking to learn and taste more wine without the attitude and snobbery of some places. Our friendly host even mixed some Champagne mixed drinks for us. While none of the wines we tasted blew us away, we both left with a very affordable and drinkable Chardonnay. But what we really loved was all the helpful local advice and the map we were given by the friendly employees.

Tip: This is a great place to ask for a wine map of the area. They have maps under the counters ready to give to visitors.

Image result for tobin james

Next Stop: Penman Springs Vineyards 1985 Penman Springs Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446

This was a recommendation from a local Paso wine lover. She said, “its kind of like going to your grandma’s house and tasting wine in her living room.” She was right! After a lovely drive out on some country roads we pulled up to a small cottage-looking building and found ourselves in the small tasting room of Penman Springs. Totally unpretentious, the wine was lovely and surprisingly affordable. The man serving us was kind, especially as it was close to closing time. He never rushed us and offered us some cheese and crackers as well, which was great for our grumbling stomachs. The Meritage and Petit Syrah were favorites. My friend and I both bought a bottle. After trying in a few weeks later at home, I realized how great it was and called and joined their wine club! There is a small tasting fee.

Next stop: Dinner in Downtown Paso Robles at Fish Gaucho http://www.fishgaucho.com/ 1244 Park St, Paso Robles, CA 93446

Fish Gaucho is a great option for eating downtown. The downtown is built around a small square park. There are a lot of great options but we really enjoyed the fresh guacamole and tacos. The prices were a tad on the high side but the ingredients were very fresh.

Photo credit: Fish Goucho website


Next up – Downtown Paso Robles

What trip would be complete without a stroll around the downtown. There are several cute boutiques and antique stores. To see a full list of merchants http://pasoroblesdowntown.org/paso-robles-shop/

Day 2 Itinerary:

Its most likely a beautiful day in Paso Robles so after eating breakfast, lace up your running or hiking shoes, slather on some sunscreen and let’s go for a hike. Don’t forget to bring a water bottle and some cash with you – where we’re going you will need to pay for a day pass at the State Park. Trust me its worth every penny when you get to to the top and take in the view. You’re going to need to hop in the car and drive about 30 minutes.

First stop: We’re going to hike the Cerro Alto Trail


The trail is about 5 miles round trip, so expect to hike for a good 2.5 hours. The 2,624-foot summit of Cerro Alto is one of the highest points in San Louis Obispo County and it culminates in a gorgeous panoramic view at the top. Getting there is fairly easy but be mindful of Internet access that we found was spotty as we got near the park – so make sure your map on your mobile is working.

Getting there – go into the Cerro Alto Campground which is tucked off Route 41 between Morro Bay and Atascadero. You’ll drive down a road for a while. When you get to the end you will see cars parked near the trailhead and campsites. You may need to put 10$ in a box for the day hike/use rate. From there the hike is a steady climb through several different environments – when you start out, it can be quite wet from a stream that runs through with some tall trees. As you climb further the trees dissipate and it becomes drier with more scrub-brush. You’ll encounter some beautiful views throughout the hike but keep going, the summit is worth it – 360 degree views from mountain to ocean. Grade A for the view.


Next stop: Lunch at Firestone Walker and a Brewery Tour Brewery http://www.firestonebeer.com/1400 Ramada Dr. Paso Robles, CA 93446

Firestone is just off the 101 you can’t miss it – not only does it have a tasting room and restaurant but its also one of the main production sites for its impressive roster of beer. Even if you’re not a “beer person” Firestone is a great place to try some different beers from IPAs to Stouts to Porters to sours. If you have never toured a brewery before, I recommend checking it out. Its a great way to see how the beer is made and the process that goes into each beer. If you want to do a tour at Firestone, call in advance to schedule. Tours last about 30-45 minutes, space is very limited and reservations are strongly recommended. Note, if you are traveling with kids know that only children 12 years old and over are allowed to go on the tour and for your safety, the brewery requires that you wear flat, closed toe shoes or you will NOT be allowed in the brewhouse.


Additionally the food is solid, I particularly like the Ahi tostada. It appears on the appetizer portion of the menu but its definitely enough food for a satisfying meal. My family stops at Firestone religiously every time we drive to northern California (both this location and the location near Solvang) they have a great kids menu including a giant hot dog (enough for small children to share) gooey Mac N Cheese and a chocolate sundae. Other great options for adults include the pizzas and salads, the DBA Mac N Cheese is delicious if you have a hankering for some comfort food after a long hike. If you are not familiar with Firestone’s beers I recommend doing a series of “tasters” where you get a few ounces of several beers to try.  Grade A for the beer B+ for the food.

Day 3 Itinerary:

Wine, Wine, Wine

Today is all about the wine. You are in for a treat because the wine and the scenery are amazing. I particularly adore the spring when everything is green and blooming but its beautiful year round. The three wineries I am going to recommend are just a small sampling of the great options. Pick up one of these maps, they are typically available for free at every winery.

First stop: Opolo 7110 Vineyard Dr, Paso Robles, CA 

Opolo opens at 10 am. This is a great spot to enjoy wine tasting, they do have some snacks for purchase as well. Take a stroll around the grounds. The tasting room is in a large barn looking structure. It has a very laid back atmosphere. We tried a lot of varietals, including some tasty blends. We both bought a bottle here for around the 25$ range. 

Next stop: Halter Ranch 

The road to Halter Ranch is one of the most beautiful I have ever driven; picture green fields with gorgeous oaks dripping with moss. When you get to the winery you will drive through a covered bridge to get to the winery building. The outdoor patio is beautiful and it has a outdoor fireplace. It was a warm day and so we brought our tastings outside to take in the view. This is truly a must-not-miss spot. Oh and the wine’s delicious too. I brought home a Cab and I’m letting it age a bit more before opening it.

Halter ranch

Last stop: Lunch and wine tasting at DAOU — 2777 Hidden Mountain Rd, Paso Robles, CA

Last but certainly not least — DAOU. This winery wins the award for best views. High up on Hidden Mountain Road the winery sits offering beautiful vistas as well as a restaurant. Expect big crowds, and to take a shuttle from the parking lot up to the winery. When we were there, there was a red carpet leading into the winery which was a bit strange, but perhaps it was for an event. Prices are higher but the views are worth it. The wine is solid, expect bottles to range from the high $30’s on up. Instead of a tasting my friend and I both purchased a glass and found some chairs overlooking the valley. Even if its crowded you should be able to find a place to sit, DAOU grounds are vast.

Well, that wraps up the trip. By all means, there are many other things to do, a day trip to Morro Bay and the rock, biking and other hiking, many, many other wineries. 

Enjoy and I hope this makes your travel to Paso Robles more fun!