Home to some of California’s best wineries, the small rural town of Atascadero in San Luis Obispo Count’s is a hidden gem you don’t want to miss. With its combination of rolling hillsides studded with oaks and wide vistas, Atascadero is the perfect blend of tranquil retreat and lively attractions.
An Italian Renaissance-style building that has been home to Atascadero City Hall, the museum is one of California’s Historical Landmarks, Number 958.
During its restoration, many of the museum’s artifacts have been moved to the Historical Society Colony House, located in the downtown district’s heart across the street from the City Administration Building.
Over the years, the downtown district has transformed. Today, it is commonly referred to as the Colony District, which comprises business owners and volunteers dedicated to shaping the area into the historical and economic center.
Among the Atascadero downtown district projects is the Carlton Hotel, refurbished into one of the most noteworthy structures in the area. Originally named The Annex, this luxury hotel has attracted visitors traveling between Los Angeles and San Francisco since the 1930s.
Personalities such as Bette Davis, Jack Benny, and Ralph Bellamy regularly stayed here while visiting the Central Coast. The hotel now is the pinnacle of lavishness with 52 guest rooms with all the amenities.
Charles Paddock Zoo
Just outside the colony district, visitors can explore various open spaces and attractions. A popular destination is the Lake Park Complex, which includes the Charles Paddock Zoo and the Veterans Memorial Tribute.
Located on Highway 41, the park is open to the public from dawn to dusk and provides many outdoor activities. There are paddle boats and kayaks for rent during the summer, and recreational fishing is available around the lake during certain times of the year.
Right next door is the zoo, founded in 1955 by Charles Paddock, a park ranger who came to the aid of injured wildlife. The zoo is open during the summer from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, and costs are modest, and the zoo makes a great side trip while visiting Atascadero.
Atascadero Wine Trail
Perhaps the biggest draw to Atascadero is the area’s fine wineries and unique antique shopping opportunities.
With the exploding numbers of wineries on the Central Coast, Atascadero is certainly not left out, with over a dozen wineries dotting its countryside.
And the best way to visit all of them is by following the “Atascadero Wine Trail.”
Designed to take wine-tasting visitors directly to each winery’s doorsteps, the trail allows oenophiles the opportunity to discover the “secret” wine destinations in Northern San Luis Obispo County.
Santa Margarita Ranch
Finally located only three miles from Atascadero is the historic Santa Margarita Ranch with a huge rustic barn used for weddings and events. The ranch also features a narrow-gauge steam train that pulls original Disneyland passenger cars on a two-mile loop track.
The Pacific Coast Railroad is a privately-owned narrow gauge railroad and not open to the public. The train is operated during weddings, film shoots, and special events. The ranch and railroad were featured on ABC’s Bachelor Pad show.
Situated halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on Highway 101, only 20 miles from the ocean, Atascadero is full of history with its numerous colony homes, many of which have been restored to their original splendor.