The Lake Tahoe Antidote: Snow-Free Winter Getaways in Northern California
Have a massage at the spa and a glass of wine in the infinity hot tub at Bodega Bay Lodge.

The Lake Tahoe Antidote: Snow-Free Winter Getaways in Northern California

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Not about shredding that powder? These alternative winter getaways are free of Tahoe's traffic, crowds and most importantly, snow—and they're all within a four hour drive of San Francisco.

Central Coast

(Courtesy of Allegretto Vineyard Resort)

Venture just far enough out of the North Coast where two of California's greatest gifts—the sea and wine country—collide.


San Luis Obispo (SLO)

Stay: Checking all the boxes of location, comfort, and totally gram-worthy, five urban-chic loft apartments opened last year above SLO Brew in downtown San Luis Obispo. With trendy names like "Vagabond" and "Drifter," the brick-lined SLO Brew Lofts (738 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo) bring a big-city feel to the small, agricultural college town of SLO, and carry the rock n' roll theme of the brewery, restaurant, and music venue upstairs. The suites, ranging from a studio to three bedrooms, come with everything you could need for your stay and more, from Crosley record players to a full kitchen and bar, living room, and a washer/dryer.

Eat & Drink: It's a right of passage in SLO to get the locally-famous tri-tip sandwich at Firestone Grill (1001 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo), after which you'll probably proclaim it "the best ever." Vegetable Butcher (712 Marsh St, San Luis Obispo) is the new, farm-fresh eatery in town, serving up Latin American-inspired small plates for vegetarians, vegans, and meat lovers too. You'll want to try every single one of their ingenious tacos ($6 each), like the Ancho Chocolate Turkey Mole and the Modelo Braised Short Rib. Embark on a downtown brew tour of SLO's local craft breweries, like Central Coast Brewery (1422 Monterey St, San Luis Obispo), started by a hometown Cal Poly grad, and BarrelHouse Brewing (1033 Chorro Street, San Luis Obispo), a speakeasy that's expertly hidden beneath a barber shop.

Play: Explore the compact downtown area, full of quirky shops, restaurants, and the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (751 Palm St, San Luis Obispo). Snap a picture and gift a sticky offering to the totally disgusting Bubblegum Alley (no visit to SLO is complete without it) and discover a new favorite artist at a SLO Brew (736 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo) concert. Head a few miles from the center of town into SLO's emerging wine country, the Edna Valley, and stop in for laid back tastings of cool-climate chardonnay and pinot noir at picturesque wineries like Chamisal Vineyards (7525 Orcutt Rd, San Luis Obispo) and Edna Valley Vineyards (2585 Biddle Ranch Rd, San Luis Obispo). For some real R&R, spend an afternoon soaking in a private, hillside hot springs tub at Sycamore Resort & Spa (1215 Avila Beach Dr, San Luis Obispo). Also check out our Modern Guide to Downtown SLO.


Pismo Beach

Stay: The Inn at the Pier (601 Cypress St, Pismo Beach), a brand new, craftsman-style and oceanfront boutique hotel opened just last November with 104 luxury rooms complete with balconies and views of the Pacific. Whatever time you're not spending on the beach—you'll sleep only a few barefoot steps away from Pismo's boardwalk and pier—will be best used soaking in the inn's heated rooftop dipping pool. Hit up The Rooftop, Pismo's only rooftop bar, for Happy Hour, or get crafty at their Make Your Own Bellini Bar for brunch. The inn's restaurant and bar Blonde, a tribute to the time-honored surfer girl, adds creative twists to traditional beach fare. Case in point: a vegetarian-friendly sweet potato burger.

Eat & Drink: Whatever you do, don't leave without a bowl of the locally-famous, award-winning clam chowder (made from four types of clams) from Splash Cafe (197 Pomeroy Ave, Pismo Beach). There will be a line around the block, but trust us, you won't regret it. Located on the third floor of the SeaVenture Beach Hotel, SeaVenture Restaurant (100 Ocean View Ave, Pismo Beach) boasts panoramic ocean and sunset views from giant picture windows. Chef Casey Walcott uses unexpected ingredients to take simple and classic dishes to epicurean new heights—think, clam chowder with potato, bacon parsley, and paprika, or fried chicken served with caramelized apples and fennel, goat cheese, and sweet potato gratin.

Play: Chilling on the beach is a given, but you can rev things up at the Oceano Dunes, flying across a white wonderland of sand aboard an ATV or dune buggy. If you go now, you can catch the end of monarch season (October-February) at the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove (400 S Dolliver St, Pismo Beach). Just like in Pacific Grove, enchanting masses of monarchs gather here on the limbs of eucalyptus trees.


Paso Robles

Stay: Allegretto Vineyard Resort (2700 Buena Vista Dr, Paso Robles) will turn your casual wine country visit to Paso Robles into an indulgent retreat that transports you to Tuscany. The Mediterranean-styled piazza inspires total relaxation and mid-day siestas with a spa, swimming pool, hot tub, and cabanas, lush nooks for catching up on reading, like gardens, orchards, and sprawling vineyards, a bocce court, and wine tasting room. Dine at Allegretto's restaurant and bar Cello, where the sea meets Italy in dishes like BBQ Baby Spinach Octopus and Frutti Di Mare (white prawns, mussels, seasonal local fish, sweet basil, marinara, fettuccine, pecorino).

Eat & Drink: Fish Gaucho (1244 Park St, Paso Robles) combines the best of California and Mexican cuisine into out-of-the-box dishes like avocado toast with ahi and chilaquiles with braised short rib. Doubling as a tequila bar, their collection of more than 140 tequilas and mezcals is served in flights or cocktails, like The Breakfast of Champions, crafted with bacon fat washed mezcal, maple, cold brew coffee, hicory coffee bitters, and candied bacon. Thomas Hill Organics (1313 Park St, Paso Robles) sources organic and grass-fed bounty from local purveyors for its serious farm-to-table lineup. Carnivores will love the 14-hour beer braised short rib sandwich, while the black lentil tacos (carrot purée, candied jalapeños, cashews, pickled watermelon, cilantro, and coconut) are sure to delight meat-free diners.

Play: Paso Robles wine country is a charming, slower-paced, and uncramped alternative to Napa and Sonoma where roughly 40 varieties of grapes contribute to the region's exciting wines. Justin Winery (11680 Chimney Rock Rd, Paso Robles), named Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast in 2015, is a must stop in Paso. They even have a restaurant and three new Just Inn Suites (get it?), so you can hang there all day and night. At the historic Halter Ranch Winery (8910 Adelaida Rd, Paso Robles), you can sip wine and tour nearly 300 acres of vineyards aboard a restored 1984 Lake Rover Defender 110, but true adrenaline junkies can view the vineyards at Ancient Peaks Winery (22720 El Camino Real, Santa Margarita) from a series of sky-high ziplines. Need a break from the vino? Flying under the radar amongst the vines are nine local distilleries, like the cleverly-named Re:Find (2725 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles), which specializes in vodka and gin made from Paso Robles wine grapes. Staying longer? Take our ultimate tour of Paso Robles wineries.


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