About 30 miles north of San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles is at the heart of an agricultural region where grapes now constitute the biggest crop. Several dozen wineries along Hwy 46 produce a good number of increasingly respectable bottles. In addition, the Mediterranean climate is yielding other bounty: there’s a fledging high-end olive-oil industry. Where you don’t see grapes being planted look for young olive trees.
But everything going on in the ground is not good, on December 22, 2003, a 6.5-magnitude earthquake hit Paso Robles and hit hard. Several historic buildings were destroyed and dozens more were damaged. Even now, you’ll see cracks and temporary braces on buildings throughout town. The town’s historic core centers on Park and 12th Sts, where a few buildings are now missing. However, there are still numerous shops and cafés open and it makes a good place for a stroll.
The chamber of commerce (805-238-0506, 800-406-4040; www.pasorobleschamber.com; 1225 Park St; 9am-4pm Mon-Fri) has maps and information.
Sample local history - of the non-earthshaking variety - at the El Paso Robles Area Pioneer Museum(805-238-0506; 1225 Riverside Dr; admission free; 1-4pm Thu-Sun). Lots of stuff that would have been carted away as junk just a few years ago has now found a home in this interesting compound, which puts the area’s history into context.
About 25 miles east of Hwy 101, on Hwy 46 in Cholame, a monument is near the spot where James Dean fatally crashed his Porsche on September 30, 1955 at the age of 24. He’d only made three films.