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Affordable Family Outings on the Central Coast

Looking for a low key but high quality experience that your whole family will enjoy? Look no further than these 10 affordable family outings on the Central Coast. With a mix of fun outdoor activities, local museum and art stops, and tantalizing food, there’s sure to be something that everyone can look forward to during your next trip to the Central Coast.

1 Visit the elephant seals in San Simeon. Pay a visit to the beach in San Simeon, with an elephant-seal-viewing boardwalk, and the whole family is in for a treat. The large creatures spend hours upon end on the beach and are always doing something interesting, from braying loudly and cuddling with each other, to even fighting for dominance over the group! Visit Friends of the Elephant Seal for more information on the best time to visit and wildlife you might see.

Stroll Through Farmers Market in Downtown San Luis Obispo.  The farmers market is more than just a place to buy your fruits and veggies for the week. Downtown SLO’s Thursday night farmers market is more like a weekly event, with live music, unique street performances, and of course, plenty of tasty food. Try BBQ, pizza, chocolates, kettle corn, and more from local food artisans’ booths.  The farmers market is a fun night out for the whole family! For a daytime market experience, there are plenty of other farmers markets in the area, including a beachfront Pismo Beach market on Wednesday afternoons from 3-5.

Central Coast Aquarium. If you or your kids have any interest in marine life, the Central Coast Aquarium is the place to go. With a focus on education for their wildlife exhibits, the Aquarium will show you something new about local sea-life on the Central Coast. Additionally, the aquarium often hosts special educational events, including a “species of the month” talk, which can be very informative and fun. The Aquarium is also affordable, with $8 admission price, but free for children under two, and is conveniently located down the street from the Avila Lighthouse Suites.

SLO Museum of Art. This downtown San Luis Obispo museum emphasizes the value of art for all ages, and with a cheap admission and convenient location, it’s a must-see! We promise you’ll learn something new about the local art scene and central California culture. Current exhibitions include natural selections from the Central Coast Watercolor Society, and a mixed media and sculpture presentation encouraging looking at things from a new point of view, called “Alternate Viewpoints.”

Walk or Bike Down Bob Jones Trail. Bob Jones Trail, or the “City to the Sea” trail, is a wide path from the hills surrounding Avila Beach straight to the coast that’s popular with bikers and hikers. It’s a super family friendly trail due to its paved trail, easy to traverse hills, and beachfront end-point. Finish up with a pre-packed picnic to enjoy in the beach with the whole family!

Pet Farm Animals at Avila Valley Barn. Avila Valley Barn is a perfect stop before your trip on Bob Jones Trail or on your way back, because the Barn is in the same lush, hilly area that surrounds Avila Beach. It’s also a must-stop for kids, due to its petting zoo, and for you, due to the shop with includes fresh farm-to-table vegetables and unique kitchenware. It’s also free to use the Petting Zoo, and the homeware shop has affordable prices!

Visit the seashore in Morro Bay –  Spend a chill beach day in relaxed Morro Bay. You can start out by exploring a thrift shop or antique store, and follow up with a walk to the imposing Morro Rock. Kids can run alongside the seashore, fly kites, and look for seashells! There are also inexpensive outdoor options, like kayaking and boating, that the whole family an enjoy.

Traverse a Creek Path on a Hike to Big Falls. Here’s a trip for the adventurous family – a fun outdoor hike to Big Falls! Big Falls is located in Arroyo Grande, and is a 4.4 mile roundtrip hike that has a great waterfall display at the top. You’ll cross 13 creeks on the way up the trail, so bring clothes you don’t mind getting wet and maybe wear water shoes. You can also drive up the trail, provided you have a large 4 wheel drive car that will get you safely up!

Hunt for Moonstones on Moonstone beach in Cambria. Have you ever seen a moonstone? These shiny, gleaming, multi-colored rocks are often created into beautiful jewelry. Get hunting for the gems on Moonstone Beach in Cambria. The whole family will love getting in on the hunt, and you’ll have a fun souvenir to keep forever!Photo: (c) trover.com

See Plants at the San Luis Obispo Botanic Garden. At the SLO Botanic Garden, you can explore the flora and fauna of the central coast and beyond. Multiple natural exhibits line a hilly area in between SLO and Morro Bay along Highway 1, where you can explore with the family on your own time while still learning all about the beautiful plants that populate our atmosphere. And the admission price is fairly cheap, making the SLO Botanic Garden a perfect afternoon activity to enjoy with the whole family.



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