The off-season is a great time to travel and enjoy some weather that’s different than what you’re used to. We often head to warmer climates in February and March, when our North Idaho area is frosty with snow. This year we headed to the California coast. We took our young kids on several amazing coastal hikes and scenic walks on the beach. We also explored the local Pismo Beach downtown area and took a memorable tour of Hearst Castle. These great places to take kids near Pismo Beach, CA provided plenty of activities and adventures for our family!
Walk Down to the Local Beach
On our first day near the coast, we walked down to the ocean and Pismo Beach pier. Although the weather was a bit blustery, we enjoyed a relaxing walk on the sand with our kids in tow (or running ahead). I imagine that this beach is very busy during warmer weather, but we had it all to ourselves. We found a few shells and enjoyed the scenic ocean horizon. Although the off-season may not be the best time for a swim in the Pacific Ocean, the beach experience is memorable all the same.
Enjoy Some Local Seafood
When we travel to the coast, we often enjoy selections of local seafood. I typically order fresh shrimp, crab or scallops. Fresh seafood can be a bit spendy, so it’s helpful to plan for a seafood dinner that fits within your vacation budget. We ordered a serving of crab legs alongside sides of pasta, grilled cheese and salad. Our family sampled a bit of everything, which ended up being a delicious and diverse meal!
Go on Lots of Coastal Hikes
Another afternoon our family went to Montana de Oro State Park for an adventurous family hike. We had no trouble parking in the nearby parking lot. The trails were easy to navigate even for our young kids. We especially enjoyed going down the paths that led to the ocean. Additionally, there was plenty of room to see the epic views without coming too close to the cliff edges. The layered rock and coastal cliffs provided lots of climbing spots for rock scrambling. We spent quite a bit of time watching the waves crash onto the rocks and looking for creatures in the tide pools.
Our kids who are ages 4, 5 and 7 had no trouble climbing down the rocky trails. However, our kids are very responsive to direction and staying on narrow trails. Younger kids may need some guidance along these trails. Family hikes like these can be great opportunities for kids to test their limits without getting into any real trouble. We keep an eye on our kids at all times and stay close if they needed any help. I’d also recommend wearing good climbing shoes (some of my kids wore flip-flops which occasionally fell off). Also don’t forget to bring hats and jackets if you visit Montana de Oro State Park during colder weather.
The cliffside beauty along many of the family hiking trails at Montana de Oro State Park is just spectacular!
We also found a “hidden” cavern which we all squeezed through. The tunnel let out beside this picturesque arch. Layers of rock presumably eroded by the ocean created quite a striking natural land formation. My kids really enjoyed scrambling around this place and splashing in the shallow waves.
Our February visit to California was definitely a bit chilly and windy. However, that didn’t stop us from fully enjoying the beach! We just had to bundle up in jackets, hats and gloves. It was fun to see my kids so eager to explore the natural beauty we discovered at Montana de Oro State Park near Pismo Beach!
Explore Dinosaur Caves Park
When we visit a new area on vacation, we usually look for playgrounds and walking paths. Dinosaur Caves Park has both of these, plus more epic ocean views! We really enjoyed an afternoon outing to this family-friendly park for several reasons.
First, this park has a great playground with a climbing structure, swings and things like these dinosaur eggs for kids to crawl around in. Parents can sit on one of the many benches located around the playground and easily keep an eye on their kids. There’s also a convenient bathroom close by. A playground is always a hit for our kids and an easy way to burn some energy after lunch.
Next, Dinosaur Caves Park has alot of great paved walking trails that are perfect for a family walk or a bike ride. We could have also enjoyed a picnic on the spacious grass next to the trails. Since we didn’t have bikes or a picnic lunch, we opted for a walk along the trail which led us past a look-out view of Dinosaur Caves.
Finally, you can blaze your own trail and explore the nearby sea caves up close. We viewed Dinosaur Caves from afar and took the staircase down to Margo Dodd Park Beach. This experience was an awesome adventure for our kids.
This staircase at Margo Dodd Park Beach provides easy access down to lots of sea caves and tide pools.
I love these pretty natural colors and amazing textures. I was so proud of my kids as they carefully climbed over rocks and around the small pools. We saw several sea anemones. Finding tide pool creatures in nature is so cool! I love showing my kids that the world is so big, and adventure can be found around every corner. Even simple activities like a short coastal family hike can be so awesome!
We tried walking along a bit of this stretch of rocks (below), but the rocks were very slippery with moss. It’s important to know what your family’s limits are. The tide pools were only about a foot deep, but even a small slip can impact a child’s confidence to go on. When my son wanted to be held and I had a hard time finding my own footing, we knew it was time to turn back. Not getting over our heads is the best way to keep our adventures fun!
Visit the Pismo Beach Outlet Mall
If you feel like a bit of shopping, Pismo Beach has a nice outlet mall with plenty of stores. I picked out a few t-shirts and a hoodie at Aeropostale. I also found three pairs of shoes for a total of $60 at Bass, and purchased a great dress at 70% off from Kate Spade. My girls found treasures at Claire’s which included necklaces and scarf headbands. I found my son new shoes at Famous Footwear and we all enjoyed a treat from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Although we weren’t looking for anything in particular, we all found things we needed for good prices, which I call a win!
Get a Treat at the Ice Cream Lab
A visit to Pismo Beach isn’t complete without an ice cream stop! Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab offers a yummy selection of ice cream flavors and a comfortable spot to hang out with your family. You can also upgrade your ice cream with fancy cones or toppings! We each enjoyed a single scoop of ice cream. The ice cream is delicious and you may have a hard time choosing a favorite from Doc Bernstein’s many ice cream flavors!
Take a Hearst Castle Tour
We also visited Hearst Castle, located about an hour away from our vacation rental in Pismo Beach, California. This historical landmark was built by William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan between 1919 and 1947. The castle tour gave us an up-close look at part of this beautiful castle and its surrounding gardens. The Grand Rooms tour was about an hour long and took us through the main building called Casa Grande. We saw the grand social assembly room, refectory, morning room, billiard room and theater. Our favorite part of the tour included wandering through the castle’s amazing gardens and expansive grounds.
The Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle was incredible to see up close! It’s hard to imagine having a pool like this just outside your front door! William Randolph Hearst was known for taking artifacts from all over the world and incorporating them into his architecture. He designed the Neptune Pool after the ancient Greek style, complete with statues, authentic Grecian columns and more.
The Hearst Castle interior tours are definitely amazing because each room inside Casa Grande is so different. We learned about how each living space was designed and embellished in truly remarkable styles. My kids especially enjoyed walking around the estate’s grounds, complete with terraces, fountains, pathways and patios. There’s so much to see at Hearst Castle, you’d have to visit several times to take it all in!
We definitely packed in a lot of fun family activities during our week in Pismo Beach, California. The outdoor hikes were the most memorable for me. I also enjoyed our beach walks and simple afternoons we spent together as a family.
Have you visited Pismo Beach, California? What is your favorite family destination there?
Hi, I’m Katie! I live with my husband and 3 kids in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I love Jesus, coffee, creative projects, taking photos and traveling. I’ve previously worked as a web designer, journalist and barista. I hope you enjoy our creative projects and family adventures!