New Year, new adventures! It’s so last year to hit SB, SF, PS or SD again for a weekend family getaway. California’s Central Coast often gets overlooked and it’s a shame. With a rugged coastline, fertile farmland and untamed wilderness, the region offers unparalleled opportunities for family adventure, including farm stays, zip lining and a killer aerial challenge course. If you’ve been itching to get your crew outside of their comfort zone, we’ve got the perfect itinerary.
Rancho Dos Amantes
An epic adventure trip deserves an exciting home base, and this farm stay fits the bill perfectly. Not quite as rustic as camping, yet not as conventional as a family resort, staying at a working farm offers just enough diversions to keep kids engaged, while allowing Mom and Dad just enough time to chill out and share a bottle of locally produced wine. You have a couple of excellent options to choose from—Rinconada Dairy, which you can read all about here— or Rancho Dos Amantes, which is even further off the beaten path than Rinconada, but offers a few more lodging options. Dos Amantes proprietor Tamera Clifford and her husband work hard on their 49-acre farm outside of Paso Robles, but guests get to enjoy a cushy stay in one of the comfortably furnished private casitas on the property, where you’ll also have access to a fully equipped commercial kitchen for preparing meals. Tamera lays out a beautiful continental-style breakfast, including freshly baked breads, homemade granola and farm-fresh eggs, in that kitchen every morning, and afterward, is happy to take guests up to the property of the main house to meet Scarlet the llama, pet the friendly goats and gather eggs from the chickens. Eat up at this hearty breakfast. You’ll need it!
222 Wendy Way
Bradley, CA 93426
About an hour away from Rancho Dos Amantes in the tiny town of Santa Margarita is Margarita Adventures. Located on the sprawling historic property of Santa Margarita Ranch, the company offers several ziplining packages to get the blood pumping. The standard two-hour tour features five ziplines, culminating in an 1,800-foot-long ride high above rolling vineyards dubbed the Pinot Express. The length and speed varies from line to line, but every ride offers a thrill combined with beautiful scenery. And unlike most other ziplining parks in Southern California, Margarita allows kids to ride tandem with adults so that participants can be as small as 30 pounds. (Don’t worry—this outfit has been around for many years and places an uncompromising priority on safety for the whole family.)
22719 El Camino Real
Santa Margarita, CA 93453
Vista Lago Adventure Park
A different type of thrill awaits at Vista Lago Adventure Park, located about 40 minutes south of Santa Margarita inside the Lopez Lake Recreation Area. Opened in 2014, this aerial adventure course is one of the most challenging courses you’ll find in California, featuring a high-altitude ropes course varying in difficulty over four levels: from fairly manageable to intensely challenging, both physically and mentally. Tasks include traversing cargo nets, navigating tightropes and hopping between platforms, and even though participants are safely tethered at all times, the challenge of completing each obstacle is positively exhilarating. Eligibility to embark on each level is based on height; kids under the age of nine might be relegated to just the first two levels of the course, but rest assured that they’ll be sufficiently pushed to their limits (as will adults!). Meanwhile, a completely separate, lower-to-the-ground course is available for five- and six-year-olds to test their mettle under less harrowing circumstances.
Told you you’d need to eat a big breakfast.
6820 Lopez Drive
Arroyo Grande, CA 93420
Other tips for this family adventure:
Potty Stop #1: If you’ve got wiggly worms, carsick kids, or you just had too much coffee, you’re going to need to break up the drive. First stop, Santa Barbara’s Lucky Penny. Granola if you’re here for breakfast, wood fired pizza for lunch, the *best* cookies and more coffee if it’s truly a pit stop.
Leg Stretch: The Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. Gorgeous!
Potty/Lunch/Oogling Stop #2: The Madonna Inn. Even if you’re not spending the night, the Madonna Inn has loads of eye candy to enjoy. And you can eat at either the Copper Cafe or grab a snack at the bakery.
Relax Over Dinner: Firestone Walker Taproom in Paso Robles is a great place to recover from a day’s adventures. There are lots of kid friendly menu items and, of course, an extensive local craft beer list for whichever adult isn’t the DD.
—written and photos by Erin Harris
Have you taken them family for a Central Coast getaway? Share your favorite tips for what to do, where to play, stay and eat there in the comment section!