Paso's compact downtown provides ample ways to stretch your legs and while away an afternoon, perhaps after a leisurely brunch of crab Benedict at Thomas Hill Organics. Eclectic boutiques, ambitious galleries, and attractive tasting rooms surround the oak-lined main square, officially known as City Park. One standout is Studios on the Park, a nonprofit art collective housed in a former auto dealership. (Look for the shapely front end of a 1951 Hudson Hornet in the entryway.) Visitors can watch artists at work during its open studio hours. On the first Saturday of the month, the Art After Dark Paso party features live music, local wines, and, often, overflowing crowds.
If you've come to sample the area's acclaimed wines, you can easily do so on foot. More than a dozen cellars, including Asuncion Ridge and Pianetta, run tasting rooms within a few downtown blocks. For something a bit unusual, try Bodegas Paso Robles, which specializes in wines made from Spanish and Portuguese grapes such as albariño, garnacha, and tempranillo. Winery owner Dorothy Schuler focuses on uncommon varieties, such as the rare graciano grape, which grows on less than 40 acres countywide.
Before wine flowed here, the town's major attraction was its mineral hot springs, which were popular with Franciscan missionaries: The padres from nearby Mission San Miguel soaked in the fragrant, therapeutic waters. In the early 20th century, the thermal pools attracted affluent spa-goers. Today you can take a dip in the streams at Franklin Hot Springs, River Oaks Hot Springs Spa, or the Paso Robles Inn. The hotel—rebuilt and remodeled numerous times since stagecoach days—has ties to town cofounder Drury James. Local lore suggests his notorious nephews, the outlaw Jesse James and his brother Frank, plotted to use its subterranean tunnels as an escape route should the need arise. Make your own Old West–style departure at Harris Stage Lines, which offers a peek at various horse-drawn vehicles and short rides in an authentic stagecoach.