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Family-Fun Activities in San Luis Obispo Area:

Pismo Beach:

Dinosaur Caves Park: This is a truly memorable park situated on one of Pismo’s ocean-front bluffs. If you are staying at The Cliffs Resort, this park is within walking distance, but the picturesque Cliffside walkway that wraps around the resort does not run continuously to this park. So, if you do walk, part of the walk will be on Shell Beach Road, adjacent to Highway 101, but this is a great opportunity to view some of the local shops and restaurants of Pismo and Shell Beach.

Dinosaur Caves Park is an 11-acre park overlooking the Pacific with dolphin, dinosaur, and dinosaur egg structures for the kids to climb on as you enjoy the view. The stunning cliff-top view of the ocean and the pathways that lead along the edge of the cliff make this an ideal spot for kids and adults. I would be there almost daily if I were a local!

Downtown San Luis Obispo:

SLO, the village: Although some of the big chain names have wedged their way into the shady streets of San Luis Obispo, I would still consider this one of the most charming California towns that still retains its small town feel . It is the stomping grounds to the students of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and many people (young and old) travel on bikes here. Both Oprah and USA Today consider San Luis Obispo one of the happiest towns in California. Within the town, shopping is a primary activity for most visitors. Within the last decade, new developments and chain stores and restaurants have been introduced here, whereas I remember visiting as a student in the 1980’s, and virtually all of the businesses in the town were unique mom and pop shops. So if you or your kids love Apple, Barnes and Noble, Starbuck’s, yes, you can now find them within the tree-lined streets of downtown SLO.

Bubblegum Alley:This interesting 15-foot alley, set between two businesses in downtown San Luis Obispo on Higuera Street, might seem like a germ horror for a mom, but if you tell the kiddos not to touch the gum and just look at the pretty colors, they will think that it—and you—are pretty cool! Many of the downtown shops sell gumballs so that kids can chew and then add to the collection on the wall.

San Luis Creek, downtown: This creek runs the length of San Luis Obispo, but most people interact and play along the creek between Chorro and Nopomo Street, near the distinctive Mission. When the Mission was first being built, it was found that the Chumash Indians relied on this creek for water and food. From the Mission Plaza, a pathway leads down to the creek and you will then see that there are several bridges that span the creek. There are still plenty of ducks and even some trout in the creek. This is a very fun place for kids to climb across the rocks, and if you bring some food (bread or cereal), to feed the ducks. There are some lovely restaurants that span the creek where you can eat and enjoy the peaceful view.

The Mission: San Luis Obispo de Tolosa: In 1772, Father Junipero Serra founded this Mission right near the banks of the San Luis Creek. Today the Mission still holds regular services and is situated in the heart of the downtown area called Mission Plaza. This Mission has a gift store, a garden, and a beautiful interior and exterior. The property comprises a two block area with outdoor seating areas and pathways between the Mission and the stores and restaurants on the opposite side of the street. This mission is, in my view, the centerpiece of the downtown area.


Cambria is a unique and artsy seaside village that was quite festive during the month of December, during our stay, lit up with holiday lights which are just one of the features of their “Holidays in the Pines” celebration. There are truly no Starbucks nor other big name stores in this delightful town—just unique boutiques, interesting stores, and art galleries. The west village is modeled in Tudor style Old English village style. This is a very pet-friendly village and my kids loved seeing the resident cat with its own little area with a blanket set out for it on Main Street.

Hearst Castle/San Simeon:

See my review of the amazing historical Hearst Castle


Heading south on the 101 towards Santa Barbara, you will find the little Danish town of Solvang. As a Santa Barbara college student, I had my share of visits to Solvang. Settled by Danish pioneers between 1850 and 1930, it is now a tourist destination with Danish styled architecture, namely windmills.