Best known for pumpkins and Christmas Trees, this quaint coastal town is overlooked far too many months of the year. Half Moon Bay is home to miles of sandy coastline, paved pathways along the water for hikes and bikes, marine reserves full of sea creatures, and farms with petting zoos and tractor zones.  There are quality accommodations minutes from the beach at every price point and an eclectic mix of eateries. After just one off-season visit, you may find that October and December become the only times of year you don’t want to make the short trip to one the Bay Area’s best family-friendly road trip destinations.

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Photo: Lemos Farm by Jenn Wade

Explore

Lemos Farm
Lemos Farm, located in the heart of Half Moon Bay, has been a family favorite since opening in 1942. Home to pony rides, train rides, and a petting zoo, it’s the Dig Zone that really sets it a part. Unlike anything else we’ve come across, the Dig Zone invites kids to get close to the action of a hydraulic tractor, using the controls to dig and dump dirt themselves. Older kids will clamor for the chance to cowboy up for a Wild West Laser Tag shoot out and younger ones will love the OK Play Corral, complete with a play structure for climbing, bounce house for jumping, and a cool collection of toys. Special Easter, Halloween, and Christmas activities make Lemos Farm extra fun but extra busy around the holidays. Open weekends year-round, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Laser Tag operates January to August only.

Insider Tip: You can get a Farm Day pass (2 adults and 2 children) for only $25 on Groupon (save 40%).

12320 San Mateo Rd. (Hwy 92)
Half Moon Bay, Ca
650-726-2342
Online: lemosfarm.com

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
This place rocks—literally! Visiting the tide pools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is one of the most authentic family experiences in Half Moon Bay. Set on 30 acres of Moss Beach’s rocky shore about 15 minutes from the city center, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve beckons with its scenic bluff and abundance of sea creatures. Explorers of all ages will be rewarded with colorful starfish, hermit crabs, harbor seals, and so much more during low tide. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve’s dramatic beachfront makes it beautiful while clean bathrooms make it practical for families. Check the tide charts for the best times to visit; open daily from 8 a.m.

200 Nevada Ave
Moss Beach, Ca
650-728-3584
Online: fitzgeraldreserve.org

sam's

Photo: Sam’s Chowder House by Howard Thompson

Eat

Sam’s Chowder House
Located beachfront, Sam’s Chowder House is the best place to enjoy Half Moon Bay’s beauty and bounty. Ample outdoor seating and beach access directly from the restaurant make it a great spot for kids to run around while waiting and for the entire family to soak up the sunset. Live music adds to the ambiance and live lobsters provide entertainment for younger guests. The menu is extensive with tons of fresh seafood options, hearty portions, fresh sourdough bread to start, and kids options that range from basics like Chicken Tenders to more authentic dishes such as the Grilled Salmon with Butternut Squash and Barley. Bonus, Sam’s is a member of the “Well Kiddos” program, which advocates providing children healthy food options when dining in or out.

Insider tip: Try the award-winning Lobster Roll, voted one of the “Top Five Sandwiches in America” by NBC’s Today show.

4210 Cabrillo Hwy N
Half Moon Bay, Ca
650-712-0245
Online: samschowderhouse.com

Pasta Moon
Everything at Pasta Moon—a family-owned restaurant that’s been open for 29 years—is made fresh in house, and you can truly taste the difference. Located downtown, Pasta Moon is spacious with two dining rooms and a lounge that’s chic yet welcoming so kiddos can chill while parents sip on cocktails. Candles on the tables make you feel as though you could be on a date, fresh focaccia occupies littles ones before dinner arrives, and a menu full of Italian favorites like pizza and pasta is perfect for the entire family. Be sure to keep an eye out for the owners, who often stop by to greet diners and have an obvious soft spot for younger guests.

315 Main St.
Half Moon Bay, Ca
650-726-5125
Online: www.pastamoon.com

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Photo: The Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay credit Blake Marvin

 

Stay

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
In the mood for a seaside splurge? The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay offers a spectacular setting where families can soak up the beach scene. Ritz Kids are welcomed with an activity folder featuring stickers and a scavenger hunt that encourages exploration. For family fun, head to the nearby beach to build sandcastles and chase waves; take a walk along the paved coastal path; or spend an hour or two at The Ocean Terrace, where little ones can play in the oversized grassy area and roast s’mores at outdoor fire pits while their parents grab a glass of wine and take in the stunning ocean views. Blankets are available should the fog roll in. If you need a few hours solo, take advantage of full- and half-day Ritz Kids Day Programs.

Insider Tip: Book a ground floor Terrace Fire Pit Room. Kids will love to roast s’mores in their pajamas and parents will appreciate the direct access outside and outdoor patio for après stargazing after bedtime.

1 Miramontes Point Rd.
Half Moon Bay, Ca
650-712-7000
Online: ritzcarlton.com/halfmoonbay

Beach House Hotel
A perfect place for the family, Beach House Hotel overlooks the ocean and is adjacent to the Coastal Trail, making it only steps from Half Moon Bay’s best attraction – the beach!  Guest rooms are spacious and a mini fridge plus microwave make keeping snacks handy and warming up milk or other necessities a breeze.  Water babies of every age will love the heated pool (especially after getting their toes wet in the frigid ocean), which boasts views of the Pacific.  Bonuses include an add-on package for $25 per room that includes a special gift at check-in like beach toys, balls, games, and snacks catering to kids 3-8 years old.  Parents will be equally delighted with complimentary parking and daily continental breakfast included in their stays.

4100 N. Cabrillo Hwy.
Half Moon Bay, Ca
650-712-0220
Online: beach-house.com

Fog Town Toys

Photo: Fog Town Toys

Shop

Fog Town Toys
Fog Town Toys makes you feel good about buying local while having fun.  Situated downtown on Main Street, it’s a great (and easy) stop for big and little kids alike.  A vast selection of quality items that aren’t commonly found in big box stores allows for new discoveries and total excitement.  Fog Town Toys takes special care to carry local brands like Artifact Puzzles out of Menlo Park, manufacturers that use sustainable materials, and toys that are both fun and educational.  Local owner, Lissa Cressen, encourages visitors to play in the store so don’t feel bad about stopping by for a quick break even if you aren’t buying (though chances are you will have a hard time walking way empty handed!).

330 Main St, Ste 104
Half Moon Bay, Ca
650-726-4556
Online: fogtowntoys.com

P. Cottontail & Co.
Half Moon Bay is by no means a shopping destination, but if you’re looking for an adorable outfit or a memorable gift for little ones, check out P. Cottontail & Co. This upscale children’s boutique carries infant, toddler, and kids clothes and accessories, offering a plentiful selection of fanciful pieces. Girls (and their moms and grandmas) will love the selection of non-Disney princess attire, decorative aprons, and crochet jewelry while boys will feel rugged in pilot, motorcycle, truck, and football gear.

Insider tip: If nothing else, pick up a surfboard bib for your baby or your next baby shower. At only $15, it’s worth its weight in cuteness.

330 Main St.
Half Moon Bay, Ca
650-726-0200
Online: pcottontail.com

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Photo: Half Moon Bay by Tracy Avelar

Getting There

From anywhere in the Bay Area, take 92 W from 280 until you dead-end into Half Moon Bay. The last stretch on 92 W is a beautiful drive and will get you to your destination in less than 20 minutes provided there’s no traffic. After passing Half Moon Bay’s various farms and nurseries, turn left on Main Street to get downtown or go a block further to reach the beach in either direction. There isn’t much activity along 92 W but definitely consider a pit stop at Crystal Springs Reservoir’s Sawyer Camp Trail off of 280 for a spectacular lake view and clean bathrooms before continuing on your way.

Sawyer Camp Trail
Crystal Springs Rd & Skyline Blvd
San Mateo, Ca
650-589-4294
Online: parks.smcgov.org

Have you made a family trip to Half Moon Bay? What are some of your favorite sights and stops? Tell us in the comments below! 

And, don’t forget to book your tickets to Lemos Farm with this great deal from Groupon. Click here for the details. 

–Jenn Wade