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Sleeping Around California’s Central Coast

California produces some of the best wine in the world: Napa. Sonoma Country. Our cousin Shirley’s Fresno bathtub.

But until late last year, we’d never had the opportunity to explore California’s Central Coast in person or more specifically, the San Luis Obispo region. (However, we’ve explored many a bottle from there in the comfort of our own back yard.) Much like the other wine regions in the Golden State, Central Coast wineries dot the countryside far and wide, so we recommend renting a car and traveling between several towns and finding a home base in each. We flew into San Jose and drove to the furthest city on our itinerary then worked our way back north over the next several days to maximize our long weekend.

Here are some of our favorite hotels and what to eat, drink, and do nearby.

San Luis Obispo

Where to Stay: The Butler Hotel
We’ve never stayed at a hotel quite like The Butler, but we hope this is the start of a whole new trend in accommodations. With only six rooms, it’s run more like an Airbnb in a way. You have an access code to enter because there’s no check-in desk or on-site staff. But you won’t miss out on any of the amenities of a fine boutique hotel. Beautiful walk-in showers, high-speed internet, luxury linens, and curated artwork throughout make for a really chic-yet-casual experience. You can even enjoy a glass of local wine at the self-serve bar in the common area.

Where to Eat: The secret to tasting as many wines as possible is to make sure you have plenty of food in your system. Luckily, SLO (as it’s called by those in-the-know) has plenty of great food. For breakfast, vogue your way over to the ever-kitschy Madonna Inn and its old-school eatery, the Copper Café. We didn’t stay at the hotel here, but it’s definitely on our list thanks to the ultra-crazy interiors. Lunchtime means a trip to SLO Provisions, a hip restaurant and marketplace for killer sandwiches, soups, salads, and bakery items (plus food items to take as souvenirs). For an enchanting dinner experience, check out Novo Restaurant & Lounge and ask for a table outside. This creekside restaurant serves up global cuisine with refined presentation for fine-dining-quality food in a laid-back atmosphere. And if you happen to be in town over a Thursday night, you can snack your way through the streets at the Downtown SLO Farmer’s Market, a lively event featuring music, shopping, and plenty to devour.

Where to Cocktail: Even in Wine Country, sometimes all we need to get us through the night is a stiff shot of vodka. Or gin. Or bourbon. Or anything with the word “proof” on the bottle. The Granada Hotel & Bistro has the craft cocktails to cure any boozy craving you might have, including several flavor combinations you never knew you needed. The boutique hotel also looks like a fab place to spend a night, too.

Where to Wine: You’ll find more wineries than you can possibly visit at the San Luis Obispo Coast Wine Collective, but we recommend stopping in at Autry Cellars, Edna Valley Vineyard, and Tolosa if you only have time for three. (But hopefully, you can explore the entire trail!)

Nearby: For a relaxing (and possibly romantic) excursion, head to nearby Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa where you can reserve one of 23 open-air mineral spring hot tubs by the hour. Grab a bottle of wine or bubbly from the gift shop, snag some plastic cups, and head to your designated hot tub and watch the wildlife stare right back at you.

Cambria

Where to Stay: Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach
Cambria is a sleepy little town right on the water and it’s charming as all heck. The hotels in town might not be anything luxe, but the proximity of most to the ocean makes up for any lack of concierge, turndown service with chocolates, or an 87,000-square-foot spa. Fireside Inn has rooms that are as close to the water as we think you can physically get (see above), so that’s a huge perk. They’re also pet-friendly and have a decent daily breakfast with to-go coffee that we indulged in every morning to take along for a stroll on the beach and boardwalk.

Where to Eat: In the heart of Cambria you’ll find Robin’s Restaurant, a delightful spot with global cuisine and a casual vibe (gotta love that about Central Coast eateries!). Everything we had here was superb and we’d gladly return, especially if we can time our stay appropriately to be in town over a weekend for brunch. Closer to the Fireside Inn, Sea Chest Oyster Bar & Seafood Restaurant has a wildly loyal following of locals and visitors alike. Tables can be hard to come by during prime dinner hours, but later in the evening you can get seated pretty quickly for some kick-ass dinner from the depths.

Where to Wine: A trip to the boutique, family-owned Stolo Vineyards & Winery made for a perfect afternoon. The wine’s superb, the setting is charmingly bucolic, and the community gathers there often for live music and bottles of vino on the lawn.

Nearby: As much as we dislike touristy things on vacation, Hearst Castle is a must-visit, especially when it’s so close to Cambria. Although we would have rather been there when Lady Gaga filmed her music video for G.U.Y. at the famed pool, we still adored the incredible opulence of the estate. Even more so, we love what the Hearst family has done to preserve the natural beauty of the coastline and all land surrounding the castle.

Paso Robles

Where to Stay: Allegretto Vineyard Resort
From sprawling vineyards to olive and fruit trees, the surrounding landscape couldn’t be more picturesque and, well, perfect for feeling immersed in the heart of authentic wine country. Impeccable service, posh rooms, and glorious grounds make this an awesome place to close out a trip to the Central Coast. Seriously, try to time this at the end of your vacation because you can experience true indulgence without the pretentiousness. And before you get too deep into the bottles of vino, get on one of the resort’s tandem bikes for an Instagram photo for the ages.

Where to Eat: You won’t have to go far to enjoy some contemporary cuisine with a twist that’s equal parts Mediterranean and upscale (yet still wonderfully casual as is every restaurant on this list). Cello, the on-site restaurant at Allegretto wows from first course to last whether you’re there for a raw, vegan meal or a juicy, oak-grilled steak. Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, you’ll always find something remarkable on the menu. Meanwhile in town, Thomas Hill Organics thrills with farm-to-table California cuisine that showcases local ingredients in creative—and super-tasty—ways, no matter what time of day you’re visiting. Make sure to request the patio.

Where to Wine: Even though it has a massive production volume, Robert Hall Winery deserves its reputation as one of the best in Paso Robles. Pretty sure we left with half-a-case of drinkable souvenirs. And nearby at Eberle Winery, we left with even more bottles of vino for enjoying back home. One of the coolest parts of Eberle is that they’re one of the few wineries that still has a free tasting room. Sadly, that’s not that common any more, but it’s amazing when you stumble across a company that values that wine-country tradition.

Insider tip: Make sure your Uber app is up-to-date because Paso Robles and a couple other towns in the region are among a handful of California destinations with an Uber Wine option. This means you can order a driver for the entire time you winery-hop, paying a flat hourly rate and keeping the same person behind the wheel for your full day. Sure beats driving. And sure beats driving drunk and spending the night in one-star accommodations.

Cheers to California’s Central Coast!

For more information on California’s Central Coast, visit centralcoast-california.com.

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