Paso Robles is a city known for its wineries, lying to the South of the SF Bay Area. We spent a couple of days there, to see the Sensorio exhibit and the local aviation museum.
- The drive to and from Paso Robles was one of the easiest I have ever done. It is straight on 101 from the Bay Area. And unlike going North on 101, going South was free of traffic and was pleasant.
- The drive to and from took about 2.5-3 hours on Saturday and Sunday.
- We stopped at Salinas as lunch stop going either way. It is about 1 hour drive from the Bay Area. There is a National Steinbeck Center here (yes, the author) that we wanted to, but could not see. This is something to visit, if you are passing through here.
We stayed at the La Quinta Inn & Suites which turned out to be comfy and conveniently close to the places we wanted to visit. It is just a few minutes from Sensorio, Estrella Warbirds Museum and the downtown.
The rooms were nice, the place was clean, and the breakfast was decent. They had a pool and jacuzzi, which we did not get to experience.
- The Sensorio is a Field of Light permanent art installation by the artist Bruce Munro at Paso Robles. This uses lights of various colors passing through transparent fiber optic cables to light up the hillsides.
- We had bought the tickets a month earlier online. $45 for adults and $25 for kids. The tickets were for 4:30 PM and we could stay as long as we wanted.
- The sunset was at 5 PM and we arrived at 4:30 PM there in a bid to catch some of the lights in our phone cameras before it would go all dark. However, there were already a lot of people lined up and there was a slow security check to get in. (The bag check at security check is mainly to ensure you do not sneak in food – since they sell food inside.) By the time we got in, it was dark.
- The installation itself is mesmerizing. Entire hillsides throb slowly in different colors silently and your path takes you through them. The kids were fascinated. There are seats and benches all along to sit down and take in the entire spectacle as long as you wish. The cold weather made this a bit difficult for us though.
- There is also a Tower of Light exhibit, where the artist has created towers of glass bottles with the colored fiber optic cables snaking through them. Again, this is also beautiful and a magnet for folks who take photos.
- Food options are limited inside Sensorio - there is a taco truck (food was tad pricey, but yummy), a spirits stand and a basic burger/snacks place.
Estrella Warbirds Museum
- We chose to see the Estrella Warbirds Museum the second day since it was close by, literally a few minutes drive from our hotel.
- The main building is filled with military artifacts, mostly from WW2. Outside are a huge number of real warplanes from all eras of aviation warfare. It was quite an experience to be able to walk amongst so many real aircraft and touch them.
- Another building houses the Woodland Auto Display which was the icing on the cake. It had over a hundred pristinely maintained cars from all eras, owned by Richard Woodland. I had not seen such a good collection before in my life, every artifact here was impeccably maintained.
- The kids loved this museum. The friendly lady at the front put them on a scavenger hunt to spot various planes and artifacts around the museum. This kept them engaged and happy for an hour or so.
- Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for kids. This was easily one of the best low-key museums I have been to and is highly recommended!