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6 Places You Wouldn’t Think to Visit in 2014 (But You Should)

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Central California

Central California - San Luis Obispo farm (2)

Most people pass through the California coast on a road trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but they often overlook the Central Coast, and that’s a mistake. After exploring the coast’s known gems like the beaches of Cambria and Hearst Castle, you want to drive inland.

Take Highway 1 into the city of San Luis Obispo, and then hop on the 101 to see Paso Robles. This is the heartland of California—on one side you have the incredible coast, and further inland, it’s packed with vineyards and farms, charming little towns with early 20th century buildings and Victorian Revival neighborhoods, great restaurants and wine bars, early American missions, and tons of outdoor activities.

San Louis Obispo is located 200 miles north of Los Angeles and 220 miles south of San Francisco, part of California’s Central Coast.

Paso Robles, about 20 miles inland, is where Spanish missionaries planted the first wine grapes here in 1797—today it has more than 80 wineries (it’s known for its big, red wines). It’s also bike friendly, pet friendly, and a foodie mecca.

What’s great is that the wine scene is totally on par, if not better than Napa (a lot of the grapes are actually grown in Central California), and it’s incredibly laid back and affordable. A lot of the wineries are family-run and chances are you’ll talk to the winemakers yourself, and there are lots of free tasting rooms.