Central Coast, California Family Vacation
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- At a Glance
You know what to expect from southern California, with its endless sun, wide beaches, and Beach Boys soundtrack. And San Francisco and northern California are synonymous with sophistication and culture. But the central coast in between, while less well known, is a satisfying hybrid of both worlds, with an extra dose of family-friendliness thrown in. Originally settled by the Spanish and a long-time a center of pioneer-style ranching, the central coast is rugged, laid back, and sparsely settled. Big Sur is all rugged cliffs and pounding surf, Cambria and San Simeon are quaintly commercial, and the beach towns from San Luis Obispo south to Santa Barbara are throwbacks to an era when a summer's day meant eating salt water taffy on the pier. Whether your family's in search of the peace of a wide open beach, or the glamour and excitement of William Randolph Hearst's fantasy castle, you'll find exactly what you're looking for on this stretch of coast.
The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, just south of Pismo Beach, is one of only a few in the state that allow ATVs, and the only place you can ride on the beach itself....
This old-fashioned hot springs and family water park is loads of affordable fun. When we stumbled on Avila a few years ago, we felt like we'd gone back to the old lakeside amusement park that's long gone from our area....
A sort of "roadside attraction," Dinosaur Caves is a private park where, in fact, there have never been any dinosaurs, other than a gigantic man-made statue that was torn down some years ago. However, there are some great caves and cliffside views....
This classic collection of paneled riverside cabins harkens back to family fishing trips of yesteryear. Kids go crazy when they see the resort's private river beach....
Hotel / Motel
How could kids not love a hotel that greets your arrival with a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie? Especially if the next thing they see is a colorful playground right next door....
From the moment we pulled into the FogCatcher parking lot the discoveries were nonstop. This small, family-run hotel is right on Moonstone Beach, one of the best walking — or running and jumping — beaches on the Central Coast....
Hotel / Motel
Originally founded as a bakery, this Big Sur staple is now much more. Yes, they have wonderful coffee cake, morning buns, and other baked goods, but they also serve savory soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch....
Under new ownership, this cheerful, relaxed roadside diner is the perfect blend of old and new. The food is hearty Latin-inspired "comfort food" with a healthy California twist....
Tucked into a small shopping mall, Fresco's doesn't look like much from the outside, but there's a reason locals line up and former UCSB students make a stop here every time they're in town. From lighter fare like salads and soups to heartier dishes....
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A Coastline-to-Castles Roadtrip to RememberA Family Vacation in Central Coast, CALIFORNIA with Babies
1.Hearst CastleHearst Castle
750 Hearst Castle Road
San Simeon, CA 93452
2.Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal RookeryPiedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
San Simeon, CA 93452
3.Avila Hot Springs ResortAvila Hot Springs Resort
250 Avila Beach Drive
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
4.Pfeiffer BeachPfeiffer Beach
Highway 1, 26 miles south of Carmel
Big Sur, CA 93920
5.Linn's Restaurant and Pie ShopLinn's Restaurant and Pie Shop
2277 Main Street
Cambria, CA 93428