Venturing out into the world once more is surreal to begin with. But at Sensorio, the Paso Robles performance space hosting Bruce Munro’s latest Field of Light installation, the light at the end of the tunnel is apparently filled with … ethereal fairy dust. Lights glimmer across the rolling fields, miles of optic fiber shimmer like blossoms in the gloaming.

Munro’s illuminated art installations at sites as far flung as Australia’s Uluru and Saratoga’s Montalvo Arts Center are always fantastical. But the 15-acre walk-through in the heart of Paso’s wine country is his largest installation ever. Some 58,800 stemmed, illuminated bulbs sway gently in the evening breeze, creating twinkling fields of color.

It felt like a fever dream before. Now, the already fantastical Field of Light, which reopened in April, has been joined by Munro’s new Light Towers installation: 69 huge, glowing structures created from 17,000 light-filled wine bottles.

At the end of this endless year, the magic is not only back, it’s been multiplied. Paso’s wineries have reopened, restaurants are bustling and two sleek new hotels — The Piccolo and Stables Inn — have joined the offerings for day trippers too smitten to leave.

Whether you spend a day or a weekend exploring the region’s winding country lanes or strolling downtown, you’ll find plenty to do — not only light-strewn meadows, but new dining options, too, from a sunny beer garden with lobster rolls to a Baja taco spot with Napa cred.

The Backyard on Thirteenth, a vibrant, beer garden-esque expanse, opened on Valentine’s Day 2020. Its repurposed shipping containers, sunny yellow awnings and alfresco seating would have been irresistible at any time, but they’re a perfect fit for the pandemic era. The tasty menu mixes local beer, beachy fare and global inspiration. The lobster roll ($19) is wonderful. The fried chicken sandwich ($13) addictive. And the French fry lineup includes Pad Thai inspired and Tinga topped versions ($13-$14), too.

Prefer to mix wine tasting and stories with your noshing? You’ll find a great new pairing out on Highway 46 West at Wines of the West, which opened in late 2019. The barn-inspired tasting room offers wines from four labels, including Alloy Wine Works — you’ve likely seen their varietals in picnic-ready cans — and Purple Cowboy, which pays homage to winemaking, rodeo-riding cowboys. (They’ve tasted so much red wine, their teeth are purple — or so the story goes.)

How Stetson and lasso-themed is all this? Very. Purple Cowboy is the official wine of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. And it’s home, too, to the Heirloom Kitchen & Eatery popup started by former Hatch exec chef Mateo Rogers and baker Brittney Yracheta. Order one of the wonderful sandwiches — the Decoco ($16), perhaps, with porchetta, Italian salsa verde, pickled red onions and arugula on housemade ciabatta — to enjoy outdoors with a glass of wine and a little sunshine.

Breathe deep. The light at the end of the tunnel may be pixie dust — or it might be rosé.

If You Go

Bruce Munro: Light at Sensoria runs from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday-Sunday (until 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday) through September at Sensoria, 4380 Highway 46 East in Paso Robles. Tickets start at $37.50;

The Backyard on Thirteenth: This casual, year-old beer garden and eatery is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and until 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday at 1300 Railroad St.;

Finca Paso Robles: This Paso Market Walk eatery opened in May. Grab a taco, salad or wood-grilled seafood between 11 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 1803 Spring St.;

Wines of the West: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 3750 Highway 46 West in Templeton. Book a tasting appointment at the barn or do a virtual tasting from home.

Heirloom: Open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday-Sunday at Wines of the West, 3750 Highway 46 West. Check out the menu and order ahead at

via The Mercury News

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