Monday, August 3, 2015

Weekend Getaway: Atascadero/San Luis Obispo (Part Two)

On our recent weekend getaway to Atascadero we were only gone for two nights, but we packed so much into our three days away that it felt much longer. Our drive down started with a stop in Pinnacles National Park for a hike through some caves, followed by an afternoon in Paso Robles and an evening at the San Luis Obispo Thursday Night Farmer's Market. Our second day was our only full day in the area and we planned to spend it primarily in San Luis Obispo and Avila Beach. Our original itinerary was a little aggressive with a morning hike, followed by a visit to a local U-pick farm, the beach and wine tasting. The reality was that we did not end up pealing ourselves away from the front porch of our rental home until after 10am and that pretty much eliminated any chances of a hike and wine tasting. I think it is important to keep a flexible plan (especially when traveling with kids) and we were all enjoying our leisurely morning so much that we just embraced it.

My husband and I have always lived in older homes, and we both have a strong appreciation for the character and sometimes quirky aspects of these types of properties. With that said, I pretty much immediately fell in love with our 1914 Colonial Cottage that we were renting. If you have ever fantasized about sipping your coffee while sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch, then you will understand my enthusiasm for this place. The girls woke up the first morning with so much energy and couldn't wait to run out the front door and play in the yard. We enjoyed our coffee on the front porch while the kids alternated between dancing in the grass, coloring on the steps and playing with the neighborhood kittens. Even if it was just for one morning, it was nice to slow things down and be able to appreciate something as simple as our morning cup of coffee and watching the kids play together.

A very serious lecture on how to be quiet in order to attract the kittens.
And now they eagerly await...

Our first stop of the day was the much anticipated Avila Valley Barn. This is one of those stops that is mostly for the kids, but the amount of pure joy that they get from the visit makes it one of my favorite places to go. For $1 you can buy a bag of animal food (left over lettuce and celery) and feed a wide range of farm animals. Both of our girls just went crazy for this. There are so many animals to choose from that they ran from one to the next, holding out their lettuce and celery and then squealing in delight when the animal chomped it out of their hand.

The farm also offers pony rides (check hours here) which was probably a highlight of the trip for the girls. They came home and told everyone about how they rode a pony. The rides vary in length depending on how long the wait is, but despite what was a pretty short jaunt around the corral on this past visit, the kids were extremely enthusiastic and thrilled with the experience. There are also free hay rides out to the fields where you can pick your own fruits (fruits vary by season) as well as a farm stand to purchase all sorts of gifts and produce as well as an ice cream parlor and sweet shop. You really can't go wrong with a visit, and although it can feel a little gimmicky, the kids love it and the entertainment is really reasonably priced.

Just a couple of miles further down the road is Avila Beach. The area has a couple of blocks of restaurants and shops as well as a nice beach area and playground. It can get a little crowded, so if possible, I would try and plan your visit on a weekday. We spent our time at the beach playing in the sand and chasing the waves.

We timed our trip to the beach so that the kids would sleep on the drive back to Atascadero, which worked out perfectly! We didn't have any big plans for the evening, but the weather was so nice that we decided to head back to San Luis Obispo for their concert in the plaza (every Friday during the summer). I am so glad we made this last minute decision to spend more time in SLO. The city has such a great energy and I was definitely left wanting more after our previous evening at the Thursday Night Farmer's Market. We sat in the grass and enjoyed a beer from the local Firestone Brewery, and listened to the live music while the kids chased each other on the lawn.

Someone has an ice cream sandwich in their hand!
Afterwards we split an ice cream sandwich from Batch and walked along the creek that runs through the center of the downtown.

Have you been to San Luis Obispo County? Any suggestions for future visits to the area?

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Details: Avila Beach is about a 25 minute drive from Atascadero (10 minutes from SLO). Pony rides: $5/kid, Beach was free, but parking in the lot is $5 if you can't find free parking on the street. The Concert in the plaza in SLO was free, and beers were $5, ice cream sandwiches were $4.

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