12 Really Cool Things To Do In Hollister

Hollister isn’t at the top of the list of destinations to visit for most but this article will shock you with how many really cool things there are to do here.

While most visitors only make the effort to visit Hollister to visit family or pass through on their way to somewhere else, we’d like to point out why it could be a stand out destination alone.

We spent some time in Hollister because we were using it as a base to explore Pinnacles National Park (which I guess is another reason some people find themselves here). It didn’t take long to find out there were a number of great attractions to see and places to explore.

As soon as we got off the interstate onto State Route 152 we were pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the area. Think rolling golden hills, landscapes dotted with oaks, and California’s famous big blue skies that always evoke feel good vibes.

Whether you enjoy outdoor activities, visiting wineries, or sampling food, you are bound to have a pleasant experience in Hollister.

Hollister sits in the middle of an agricultural area in San Benito County. This city is most notable for its endless vineyards and for producing apricots, pomegranates, and olive oil.

The area is subject to intensely hot summers but come winter, temperatures are much more pleasant than central California’s coast which is why it’s the perfect destination for a weekend getaway for residents of Monterrey and Santa Cruz during this time of year. Even a day trip is possible since both of these cities are only about a one hour drive away.

Considering Hollister is an hour south of San Jose and two hours from San Francisco, it’s also a great place for bay area folks to escape the city.

And with so many campgrounds in the area and affordable hotels, it is also an inexpensive destination to visit.

Here are the best things to do in Hollister.

Best Things To Do In Hollister

Casa De Fruta Stand

Casa De Fruta is a wonderful oasis that is guaranteed to impress everyone. I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said this place was incredible for a fruit market.

Besides high quality fruit, they have a massive selection of scrumptious foods like fruit pies, dried fruits, nuts, jams, sauces, salsas, olive oils, vinaigrettes, specialty candies (think caramel candy apples, peanut brittle, and fudge), plus so much more! This is Central California so there is also a wide range of wine and champagne you can pick up too.

Kids will love the amusement area in the back which offers carousel rides and train rides. The kids are also bound to get a kick from the several ducks and peacocks that roam the grounds.

Casa De Fruta is located two miles east of the junction of Highway 152 and Highway 156. It’s a great pit stop if you’re on a road trip, even if it’s just to use their restroom and to quickly wander the grounds.

Visit The Garden Shoppe

The Garden Shoppe is a hidden gem in Hollister. Let me try to explain the place to you; it is a nursery, a boutique store, and a bar all in one! Yes, sounds a little strange right? But I think the owners are onto something great here!!

Plants fill the store and there are so many cute and unique products like candles, pottery, jewelry, wall art, organic snacks, and a variety of plants.

At the bar is a ridiculously huge selection of wine and craft beer. How big you ask? About fifty different options including international organic wines by the glass or bottle. I mean, that’s quite impressive coming from a small unassuming little gardening shop in my opinion.

You’re more than welcome to roam around the store with a drink in hand. In fact, I’m sure they would prefer it.

But if you want to relax for a few minutes, feel free to wander out onto the back patio where you are more than welcome to lounge on the outdoor furniture and watch bees and butterflies flitter from one plant to another.

If you’re lucky, your visit to Hollister many coincide with some of the stores fun monthly events. Check their calendar here.

Open hours are Monday to Thursday 11am – 7pm, Friday and Saturday 11am – 10pm, and Sunday 12pm – 6pm.

Mad Pursuit Brewing Company

If you enjoy visiting local breweries on your travels, Mad Pursuit Brewing is a must visit. Located in nice part of downtown Hollister, this brewery offers a selection of their own beers along with beer from other local brewers.

They have quite a large selection of about twenty beers on tap so you might have a hard time choosing. Our favorite here was the super delicious Paw Berry Punch, a sour ale which is made with raspberry, blackberry, and a squeeze of lemon. But if you don’t like sours there are blonde ales, IPAs, and stouts to choose from too.

Some of the guest breweries on tap here include Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, Brewery Twenty-Five, and Alvarado Street Brewing. You may even come across a hard cider or two on tap during your visit. See their tap list here.

What’s really nice about this brewery is that they also offer wine from local vineyards such as Calera Wine and Duckhorn which means you won’t miss out on wine tasting if you can’t make it out to all the wonderful wineries on Cienega Road.

There is a welcoming indoor seating area and a shaded outdoor section located on the street front. Check out their facebook page here for weekly events such as live music and trivia nights.

Pour Decisions Brewing

Best Things To Do In Hollister

Right across the road from Mad Pursuit is Pour Decisions Brewing, another brewery with a HUGE selection of beers. While their charming and creative business name is bound to get your attention, what will really impress you is the really cool vibe of their establishment.

The owners wanted to celebrate the culture of the 1980s and 1990s so everything inside their brewery is filled with memoribilia from this era including the music that is played. If you grew up during this era you are bound to love it here and the place will for sure bring back memories and give you all the nostalgia feels.

There is even an arcade for the kids, but sort of for the adults too.

As for the beverages, as mentioned already there is too many to choose. From IPAs, pale ales, sours, and ciders, you will more than likely not get to try everything you want.

Open Monday to Thursday from 5pm to 10pm, Friday 2pm to 10pm, Saturday 12pm to 10pm, and Sunday 12pm to 8pm.

San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area

15 Really Cool Things To Do In Hollister

San Luis Reservoir is a massive man-made lake located on State Route 152 just off Interstate-5. The lake is actually the fifth largest reservoir in California and is part of San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area which is managed by California State Parks.

We couldn’t help but notice the beautiful lake set among big rolling, yellow hills so we decided to stop and explore the park on our road trip to Pinnacles National Park.

The park offers a range of recreation opportunities that include hiking, fishing, boating, and camping. There are in fact four campgrounds here and the area is so pretty that we would have liked to stay overnight but we hadn’t brought our campervan for this road trip.

Start your visit at the Romero Visitor Center where you can learn about the California aqueduct, Sisk Dam, and water management techniques in the Golden State. There are several exhibits and short films, plus epic views!

Afterwards, you can picnic over at South Beach which sits on the shores of O’Neill Forebay or go for a walk along the shoreline.

Water activities are popular here in the summer and there is a rental company located near South Beach which offers kayak, paddleboard, boat, and jet ski rentals on weekends. There is also a designated swimming area at North Beach on the O’Neill Forebay.

The park was empty on our visit in December except for a few boaters and fishermen. Apparently fishing is great here and the three lakes located within the park are home to largemouth black bass, striped bass, crappie, shad, and perch.

Pacheo State Park

Pacheo State Park offers lots of outdoor recreation opportunities including hiking, mountain bike riding, and horseback riding.

The park is most notable for its scenic vistas of the Central Valley to the East and the Santa Clara Valley to the West.

There are twenty-eight miles of trails that travel through gentle rolling hills and oak studded woodlands to enjoy, and if you plan a visit in spring, you’ll be able to witness an impressive display of colorful wildflowers.

Although the total park area is 6,890 acres, only the western 2,600 acres are open for public use. This park preserves part of a large Mexican land grant that was given to the Pacheco family in 1843. Historic features in the park include the ruins of the original Pacheco adobe, and a well-preserved line shack used by a cattle company in the 1800s, which was part of the old Butterfield Stage route.

Wildlife in the park include tule elk, deer, bobcat, coyote, fox, golden eagles, and several varieties of hawks. Unfortunately, cattle are also permitted to graze on the land here.

Please note that dogs are not allowed on the trails here, and there is no drinking water available so be sure to bring plenty of water with you.

Pacheo State Park is located on State Route 152, a few miles west of San Luis Reservoir Recreation Area. The entrance is on Dinosaur Point Road. There is a $10 entrance fee per vehicle.

Visit Gilroy Ostrich Farm

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Hollister, it doesn’t get more unusual than a visit to an ostrich farm. Yes, you heard right, an ostrich farm.

It’s not your typical weekend activity but if it sounds interesting to you, there is an ostrich farm only fifteen minutes drive north of downtown Hollister.

Fun Things To Do In Hollister

Obviously your children are going to be more interested in going than you, but if you’re an animal person, more than likely you’ll have a good time too.

The ostrich farm is actually an animal farm, meaning there are a variety of different cute critters like rabbits, goats, and alpacas that can be petted and hand fed in addition to the ostriches.

There are also a few emus here. I know some folks aren’t familiar with the difference, but there is a BIG difference. For starters, one species is from Africa, and the other is from Australia. As an ex-zookeeper, it really bugs me when people get the two mixed up.

Admission to the farm comes with a bucket of alfalfa and pellets so that you can feed the critters. If you want to purchase extra food to feed the animals it’s about $5 for a bag of carrots (which unsurprisingly the animals seemed to much prefer).

If you’re the type of person who loves to eat super weird foods, then you might like to pick up an ostrich egg on the way out to try when you get home. Apparently they take about thirty minutes to boil. These ostrich eggs don’t come cheap though and will set you back $90 a pop! But hey, you only live once.

Explore Downtown San Juan Bautista

So this is not exactly in Hollister, but if you are visiting Hollister, you may as well take a quick trip over to San Juan Bautista while you are in the area because the town has a great little downtown area.

14 Best Things To Do In Hollister

San Juan Bautista is actually part of the California Missions Trail and the downtown area has been officially listed as a historic district. The main street is lined with buildings straight out of the Old West and there are several original adobes dating back two centuries.

The highlight and must see here is the landmark Old Mission San Juan Bautista which is known for being the largest of the California missions. Visitors are welcome to walk around the property or go inside to view the architecture and other historical artifacts for an admission fee of $10 for adults.

Fun Fact: The San Juan Bautista Mission was featured in the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo.

San Juan Bautista State Historic Park

While you’re in San Juan Bautista, make sure you stop by San Juan Bautista State Historic Park which is also located in the historic downtown area.

The park which is adjacent to the mission is home to the only Spanish plaza left in California. There are several structures that were built in the 1800s here dating back to a time when California was under Spanish and Mexican control.

Go On A Wine Tasting Road Trip

Wineries On Cienega Road

Most people are aware that Central California is wine country so naturally wine tasting is one of the top things to do in this part of the Golden State.

Destinations like Napa, Sonoma, and Paso Robles, usually get all the attention but San Benito County also has a number of great vineyards.

The majority of them can be found in Cienega Valley which is only a short drive from Hollister. If you like road trips and wine, you can combine both activities and take a scenic drive along Cienega Road where you’ll find four top wineries!

Your first stop will be De Rose Wine who own one hundred acres of vineyards including forty acres that were planted before 1900. This winery specializes in Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc.

The zinfandel vines were originally planted on their own roots in the late 1890s and are grown in an assortment of soil types including a rocky mixture created by the San Andreas Fault and a fine sandy-loam that contains fist-size chunks of dolomite. On the east side of the fault line is where the cabernet franc thrives in loosely packed loam.

De Rose also own some of the last remaining Negrette vines in the world which are over 120 years old. These vines are even rare in their native land of France where records show less than 100 acres planted in the Toulouse region.

Best Things To Do In Hollister

Eden Rift is among the oldest continually producing estate vineyards in California. This winery focuses on Pinots and Chardonnays with the favorite amongst most visitors being the terraced Pinot.

Visitors can choose from two different tastings, one that includes a tasting of five estate grown wines, and another that includes a selection of five pinot noirs.

They are open Thursday through Sunday 11am to 4pm. Set aside at least one and a half hours.

Calera Winery offer indoor and outdoor tastings hosted by knowledgeable staff that include a flight of six wines. On the flight menu are a choice of pinots, merlot, chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and rose.

Cheese plates are also offered and quite impressive consisting of marinated goat cheese, brie, salami, and grapes.

One of the best things about visiting this winery are the beautiful views of the Diablo Mountain Range and Cienega Valley.

Swank Farm Experience

Swank Farm is an organic farm located just north of Hollister. While you can’t buy any produce from the farm itself (you’ll have to find a local farmers market to purchase good from this farm) you can visit the farm during the annual Fall Experience festival.

Held every year from October 1st to the 30th, the farm puts on a month long festival to celebrate fall. The event is fun for all ages and features a you-pick pumpkin patch, sunflower field, and giant corn path.

There is also a petting farm, tractor rides, pig races, and lots of other fun things for kids to do. The adults can look forward to good food and beer.

When the sun sets, the farm switches gear and holds a spooky style festival of lights. Don’t worry, it’s family friendly.

Take A Trip To Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park

The very best thing to do while you’re visiting Hollister is to take a day trip to Pinnacles National Park!

If like us, the whole purpose of your visit to Hollister is due to a planned trip to Pinnacles National Park, then you obviously already have this on your itinerary.

But if you haven’t yet heard of this national park (after all it is one of the least visited national parks), and you happen to be passing through or exploring this part of Central California, then do yourself a favor and make time to visit!

While it doesn’t have the huge wow factor of other California national parks like Yosemite National Park, it does have a number of unique features you won’t find anywhere else like odd-shaped boulders created by an extinct volcano, rare talus caves, and endangered California Condors.

There are some really cool hiking trails here like the High Peaks Trail which involves climbing rock ladders and scrambling up boulders to a ridgeline that has spectacular views of the Salinas Valley and Central California landscape.

You can learn more about Pinnacles National Park here.

Where To Stay In Hollister

Fairfield Inn & Suites By Marriott – This hotel is the top-rated hotel in Hollister and is located north of downtown. It is also closest to Interstate-5 so if you’re coming off the I-5 it will be the first hotel you’ll encounter. For this reason, this hotel is the most popular and does fill up quickly.

SureStay By Best Western – The SureStay is also located on the north end of town. This motel has small but cozy rooms with a reasonable nightly rate.

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