Need to Get Away? Try Justin Winery in Paso Robles, CA

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outside of the beautiful Justin Winery

Paso Robles vineyards are located in Central California offering the finest wines in the world. Everybody knows about the outstanding wines of Napa Valley in Northern California but forgotten is Paso Robles which offers equal quality wines and usually, for a lot less money. Justin Winery located in Paso Robles was recommended by a friend, so I decided to give it a try as a stop over from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

The Drive ….  A Little Scary but Worth It

Justin Winery and Vineyards is located 20 miles from downtown Paso Robles but it’s not easy to get to. After leaving downtown Paso Robles and driving 17 miles on a narrow and winding 2 lane road at 15 MPH, I was ready to turn back and head to San Francisco. My GPS was working so I knew we were almost there despite the slow drive around twisting hilltop roads and finally ……..Voila-WE ARRIVED! 

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The Vineyard and Facilities …… Absolutely Gorgeous

We parked and looked around …. Justin Winery is a winery with its own vineyard plus a luxury Inn. This gorgeous winery nestled in the hills of Paso Robles reminded me of Tuscany, another one of my favorite places to visit in Italy.  My suggestion for the drive is to just take your time and enjoy the beautiful countryside on the way.

The guest building that’s used for wine tasting was relaxing and the decor …. interesting !  We sat in comfortable chairs (see picture below), relaxed a few minutes and headed to the tasting room.

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sit down and relax before your wine experience

The Wine Tasting Experience …… Terrific but Wines Are Pricey

We walked around the beautiful outside first before going into the winery. The wine tasting experience was fabulous. The $10 tasting fee is waived with a $50 purchase. My friend Deb and I had a very nice hostess that poured and gave us details of each wine. The wines are pricy but the experience of being there was fantastic. In the end, I bought a bottle of their high-end Bordeaux blend for around $60 called Isosceles and named one of the top 10 wines in the world by Wine Spectator. Their more middle of the road wines go for about mid $20’s.

The Tour ….. Outstanding    “A Must Do”

After the wine tasting we headed out for the wine tour that’s offer to all visitors twice a day for $15 including tasting. This is where we learned about the art of making of wine and how it’s stored in their caves which we had a chance to explore.

The inside of the cave was unbelievable. Among the hundreds of barrels of wine, there was a private cave that featured a large dining room table as well as a private stash of Justin’s best wines.

 

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the Justin Winery famous wine cave  

The numerous barrels of wines were overwhelming and our tour guide took us through the entire process of wine making that concluded in a presentation of their best wine … ISOSCELES.

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private reserve of their best wine

 

The tour last about an hour and you taste wines straight from the barrels  …. WOW ! I’ve been on wine tours in Napa Valley and Tuscany Italy and this tour by far was the best !

 

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me standing with our tour guide 

Next Time I Plan to Stay at the Justin Inn

Paso Robles wineries produce some of the best wine in the world and Justin Winery in my opinion is one of the best. So with that said, if you are visiting several Paso Robles wineries per day, Justin should either be your first stop early in the day with a designated driver or the last stop with a designated driver.

Another option is to stay at their beautiful luxury Justin Inn.  It is a long drive out of those rolling hills on a narrow and winding 2 lane road that’s challenging enough in the day …Sober.  Don’t even think of driving out of there at night even with a designated driver.

We enjoyed the experience so much, Deb and I vowed to visit again and checkout the luxury Inn for a comfortable stay-over. Stay tune for an update on the Justin Inn.

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10 Ways to Squeeze More Out of Your Visit To Universal Studios Hollywood

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I live in LA which makes Universal Studios very accessible and it is one of my favorite places to visit.  I bought the annual pass to visit on a regular basis. Over the course of time, I observed a lot of Do’s and Don’ts to visiting Universal Studios.

Visiting Universal Studio in the summer can be an absolute nightmare.  The lines are long and it’s very hot. The worst time to visit is during summer weekends, especially July and August. Other bad times to visit are during holidays and the weekdays of major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter or during Spring Break. Weekend visits are always the busiest but if you’re prepared, you will have a lot of fun.

There are two lots to Universal Studios Hollywood connected by a series of escalators. The upper lot is the first place you will enter as you come through the gate. This lot has the Simpsons Ride, Shrek, WaterWorld Show, Studio Tour, Special Effect Stage, Universal Animal Actors and House of Horror.

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escalator that connects upper and lower lot

The lower lot is accessed by 3 series of steep escalators that takes about 5 minutes to get from the upper lot to the lower lot where Jurassic Park Ride, Revenge of the Mummy Ride, Transformer Ride, NBC Universal Experience are located.

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final splash of Jurassic Park Ride

In addition to the thrill rides, most people seem to really enjoy the Studio Tour where you take a tram through the back lot of Universal Studios for a “behind the scene” view of a working studio.

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Most of the thrill rides (Jurassic Park, Revenge of the Mummy, Transformer Ride ) are located in the lower lot and the best shows are located in upper lot. To make the most of your visit, I recommend the following:

1.   Start Early With a Big Breakfast –  It’s going to be very hectic at the park and a big breakfast will get you through a fast pace morning and early afternoon of thrill rides and shows.

2.   Go On Weekdays – If you have a choice, visit on the weekday rather than weekend.  The difference is tremendous in terms of crowds and subsequent lines or queue. You can enjoy all the rides and shows with a short wait or no wait in line during weekdays, especially mid-week. Exception is July and August, the height of vacation season.

3.   ARRIVE  EARLY ….. ARRIVE  EARLY ….. ARRIVE  EARLY ….. meaning 30 minutes before the park opens. This applies on weekends as well as weekdays but especially on weekends. If you get there early, you can go on as many rides as you like without waiting in line or at the most, a very short line, especially during weekdays.

4.   Buy Front of Line Pass During Peak Visit – If you visit during the WEEKEND Peak Summer Time (June, July, August), then buy the Front of Line Pass. You’ll get to bypass long lines and experience all that Universal has to offer without waiting in long lines where the temperature in the summer is between 90 and 100 degrees ! All other visiting times – Just show up early …. 30 minutes before the park opens and buy regular admission tickets.

5.   Go To Lower Lot First – ARRIVE EARLY and GO directly to the lower lot for the thrill rides first. You can go on your favorite ride as much as you want with less than a 10 minute wait in line IF YOU ARRIVE AS SOON AS THE PARK OPENS! Get all the thrill rides out of your system in the morning. It takes about 15 minutes to get to the lower lot from the entry gate. See Park Map. Look for Jurassic Park Ride on the map which is the first thrill ride you will see as you enter the lower lot.

6.   Go to Simpson Ride Immediately Upon Entering Upper Lot – After a morning of thrill rides, head to the upper lot for the Simpson Ride (a great simulation ride) that is also very popular with long lines. The Simpson Ride is the first attraction after exiting the escalator for the upper lot. Make sure you get there before 12 noon at the latest.

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The Simpson Ride

7.   Shows and Studio Tour for Small Children – If you have small kids who won’t enjoy thrill rides, stay in upper lot upon gate entry and take them to Shriek, Studio Tour and more of the stage shows like Special Effect Stage, Universal’s Animal Actor and WaterWorld. You may also consider taking them on The Simpsons Ride (it’s a simulated thrill ride) but it may be too much for small kids.

8.   Time for lunch! – The best  restaurants in my opinion are on the upper level.

9.    Wind Down with Shows and Studio Tour – For the thrill ride seekers – you had your fill of thrills by now so it’s time to slow down and take in the excellent stage shows. If you followed my advice – The Simpson Ride is out of the way – You’re on the upper lot – Time to take the Studio Tour. Take this tour next because the waiting time can get very long and the remainder of the day will be watching stage shows that have designated entry times.…. Just arrive at the appointed show time or a little early …. Look for electronic billboards with show times located throughout the park.

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studio tour bus

10.  Always Check Electronic Board for Show Times and Line Wait  – Next is the WaterWorld Show or other shows. Check the Studio Directory electronic boards for show times.

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Studio Directory electronic board

There You Have It ! You will use your time in the most efficient manner to squeeze every moment of fun  out of Universal Studios.

Be a smart traveler. I see so many families coming late (after 1 pm) during a summer weekend only to spend their time in long lines in 90 degree weather which only leads to  aggravation. They go away discourage, probably telling friends not to visit. However, Universal Studios Hollywood is one of the best attractions in LA and the staff is terrific.

You have to travel smart … which usually means not following crowd rules, otherwise you’ll just be another visitor who didn’t see or do much ….. with a family of 4 ……. it’s not a cheap visit. Make the most out of your visit to Universal Studios and Squeeze All the Gusto you Can for Your Money !