The central coast holds a special place in my heart. My husband and I both went to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and while we didn’t meet while there, we were there at the same time and both have a fondness for it. My husband’s parents lived in Pismo and then Paso Robles for the last 15-plus years, and we have made a habit of visiting the central coast every year with our kids. However, this was the first year that my in-laws haven’t lived there and we didn’t have a place to stay.
Not wanting to give up on our yearly visits we decided to stay at Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa in Pismo Beach. We’d heard a lot of great things about it and decided to check it out. I’m so happy we did. It was a fabulous place to stay with kids. They loved swimming in the fabulous pool and our daily walks down to the beach to look for rocks and shells. Our room had an amazing view of the ocean. The staff left the kiddos fun beach baskets in our room, which made the kids so excited. We also ended up seeing a lot of families we knew at the pool, which was an unexpected delight.
Since we love visiting the area every year with our family, I thought I would share all of our favorite spots in case you’re planning a fun trip.
Quite the view from the lobby of the Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa lobby
Slow mornings in our pajamas on vacation
Morning walks to the beach to look for cool shells and rocks
Snuggles while waiting to eat at Jocko’s Steakhouse
Taking in the sunset view from bed
Since my husband and I went to college in San Luis Obispo a lot has changed. There are a lot more places to shop and eat. However, some of our staples from way back when are still top of our list.
Firestone Grill: This place is iconic to SLO. If you want a good tri-tip sandwich and fries, this is where to go. Oh man, those seasoned fries are so good. If you’re into something healthier, there are yummy salads and vegetarian options.
Big Sky Cafe: This is a great place for vegans and vegetarians.
Giuseppe’s: Yummy Italian food! It’s family-friendly, but a bit more formal.
Woodstock’s Pizza: You can’t go wrong with a fun pizza joint with kids.
Batch: A cool new ice cream place.
Scout: Also a newer joint, but has good coffee and a hip vibe.
Jocko’s Steakhouse: This steakhouse in Nipomo is a local favorite. It’s got great history. It’s not somewhere I make an effort to go to, but my husband loves it. The drive into town is scenic and my son loved pointing out all the cows along our drive.
There aren’t a lot of kid attractions in the area, but there are plenty of things to do and see while visiting.
Beaches: I love all the beaches in the area. Head to any of them and you and your kids will be happy! Avila is one of my personal favorites. Sometimes you can see dolphins.
Madonna Inn: Oh, how I love this quirky place. It’s also a fun option as a place to stay. The rooms are all themed. The pool is pretty awesome, too. It’s worth stopping by to see.
Avila Valley Barn: This is a great place for kids. It has amazing food, produce, ice cream, etc. You also can see all the farm animals. Kids love feeding them, too!
Gum Alley: OK, this isn’t something I think you need to make a trip out of. It’s literally an alley with a ton of gum on the walls. It’s iconic to SLO and if you’re already downtown take your kids there to add to the wall. It’s fun!
Explore Solvang: Take a trip into Solvang for its charm. It has a free Hans Christian Andersen museum to learn about his life and his fairy tales. Plus, horse-drawn carriage rides and lots of delicious baked goods!
Ride the sand dunes: I’ve never done this, but I know a ton of families that do this and love it!
Hearst Castle: This is a fabulous old mansion. I loved checking it out and taking photos. I think it would be best with slightly older kids.
*Thank you to Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa for a complimentary stay. All opinions are our own!