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StayCations: Central Coast

Not all vacations require a passport and massive amounts of planning. Some of the members of our team are giving you their expert advice if you are anywhere near these areas. If you are living in a tourism area, it can be really fun to get to know your town through the eyes of a visitor.


photo by Jeremy Bishop

Jennifer Worsham - Central Coast


The Central Coast is only a five hour drive south from the Bay Area; far enough away to feel like a vacation but close enough to make it a short weekend. Boasting beautiful beaches, amazing food, and fascinating California history, the area is also home to one of our favorite annual festivals, Hospice du Rhône.

Here are some must-dos for your visit:


Avila Valley Barn. Fun for both kids and adults, this is more than just a farm stand to stop by on the way to the beach. Grab some fresh local produce and home-baked goods after feeding the friendly farm animals (goats, ponies, sheep, and chickens) that surround the barn. Visit during the right season to pick your own fruits and enjoy a family tractor ride. (avilavalleybarn.com)


Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip. If you grew up on the Central Coast, then you grew up with the mouthwatering aromas and flavors of Santa Maria Style barbeque. Traditionally served with fresh salsa and pinquito beans, beef tri-tip is seasoned and barbequed over red oak wood to achieve the signature flavor. Try out the local cuisine at these favorites: F.McLintock’s Saloon in Shell Beach (www.mclintocks.com), Jocko’s Steakhouse in Nipomo (jockossteakhouse.com), Far Western Tavern in Orcutt (farwesterntavern.com).


Morro Bay. A quaint coastal town, Morro Bay is the perfect place to spend a quiet day. Window shop along the waterfront; have lunch with a view of the bay while keeping a lookout for playful sea otters; walk along the beach and stand at the base of Morro Rock. Notable stops: The Shell Shop (www.theshellshop.net), The Garden Gallery (a succulent nursery, www.thegardengalleryinc.com), Morro Rock (www.morrobay.org).


Beaches. One thing the Central Coast has in abundance is plenty of beaches with perfect weather. Stop by Pismo Beach (www.pismobeach.org) to walk the pier and get some clam chowder at Brad’s Café (www.bradsofpismo.com). Lay out on the sand and enjoy the sun at Avila Beach (visitavilabeach.com). Camp on the beach and bring your 4-wheelers to the Oceano Dunes before taking in a family show at the Great American Melodrama (www.americanmelodrama.com).


Mission San Luis Obispo. An historical gem lives at the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo. Built in the 1770s, this was the fifth California mission to be founded by Father Junipero Serra (missionsanluisobispo.org). For history buffs, consider a bonus visit to: the Dana Adobe in Nipomo (www.danaadobe.org), Mission Santa Inés in Solvang (missionsantaines.org), or La Purisima Mission in Lompoc (lapurisimamission.org).


The Madonna Inn. How can you talk about the Central Coast without mentioning the Madonna Inn (www.madonnainn.com)? Known for its kitsch and uniquely themed rooms, the Inn is also worth a visit for its on-site shops, restaurants, and bakery. Be sure to leave with a signature water goblet or shaker of pink sugar in-hand as a souvenir; both are available for purchase.

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