With sunny weather and chill vibes, winter in SLO CAL (San Luis Obispo County) is a bonafide blast. It’s no surprise: locals know the offseason offers all the incredible outdoor fun, wildlife encounters and food and wine adventures you’d come to expect from our dynamic slice of Central California coastline.
View hundreds of fluttering Monarch butterflies take to the skies, sample ripe winter produce at the farmer’s market or spare a moment to retrace the steps of historic residents. From whale watching to wine tasting, museums to missions, there’s not a dull moment to be had in SLO CAL this winter. Go on, enjoy the best winter SLO CAL events and activities. There’s truly something for everyone!
Meet the MonarchsBack to Top of List
Did you know that Pismo Beach is a renowned destination for Monarch butterfly viewing each winter? Well, now you do. From late October to February, thousands of magnificent orange-and-black Monarchs congregate in the eucalyptus groves at The Monarch Butterfly Grove in sunny Pismo Beach. Like their human counterparts, these butterfly visitors are attracted to the area's mild climate and comfortable digs. Head to the grove for a day of winged wonder on the coast, perfect for a family-friendly road-stop. Admission is free and all ages are encouraged to watch as butterflies hang from trees and flutter from branch to branch.
📍 Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove
Open 24 hours (best viewing late October - February)
400 S Dolliver St, Pismo Beach
Catch a WaveBack to Top of List
Ask any surfer worth their salt: winter is a great time to surf along the SLO CAL coast. While the water’s a bit cooler, the region's consistent winter swells provide ideal conditions for wave chasers on a mission. Top surf spots include the Pismo Beach Pier, Morro Rock and Cayucos Pier—so take your pick! Expect generous waves, uncrowded lineups and stunning coastal backdrops galore. Plus, easily rent a board and wetsuit at a slew of local surf shops all nearby the water. That said, beginners might prefer to opt for a Stand-up Paddle Board or kayak, a great way to explore the glassy, calm waters of Avila Beach, Morro Bay Estuary and Los Osos’ back bay. Want to watch surfers from shore? Head to any surf spot for an impromptu show or hit the anticipated SLO CAL Open, a World Surf League Event kicking off in Morro Bay this December.
📍 SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay
December 4 - 10, 2023
📍 SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach
January 22 - 38, 2024
Spot a WhaleBack to Top of List
Find your whale in SLO CAL this winter. December through April, our breathtaking coastline is graced by the presence of majestic gray and humpback whales. These gentle giants journey south from Alaska to the warmer waters of Baja California. Luckily for you, the Central Coast provides a great stop-over! Witness awe-inspiring breaches from several piers and lookout points from San Simeon to San Luis Bay (or even charter a seafaring vessel to get yourself closer to the action). Dozens of popular spots for whale watching dot the SLO CAL coast, so you’re never far from the chance to spy a spout. Be sure to look for handy Whale Trail signage along the way.
Sample Farm-Fresh FlavorsBack to Top of List
Winter brings bold flavors to SLO CAL farmers markets. Head to one of the region’s incredible markets for local citrus, kale, beets and avocados plus farm-fresh eggs, meats, olive oil and honey, too. At the world-famous Thursday Night Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market, enjoy hot barbecue, live entertainment and artisan goods offered alongside all the tasty treats you’d hope to find. That said, don’t discount the other markets kicking off all winter long: Hosted from 2 to 4 p.m. each Monday, the Los Osos & Baywood Park Farmers Market is a great place to rub elbows with local celebrity chefs. Meanwhile, the Paso Robles Farmers Market (held every Saturday morning in Templeton and Tuesday morning on the south side of the Downtown square) incorporates gourmet and wine country offerings into the mix.
📍 Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market
Winter hours: Thursday from 6 - 8:30 pm
Higuera St, San Luis Obispo
Birdwatch with the BestBack to Top of List
Birds flock together in SLO CAL each winter. Celebrate the region's astounding bird diversity at the Morro Bay Bird Festival, held each January in Morro Bay. This colorful event draws bird enthusiasts and conservationists from across the country—and for good reason. Check out exciting bird-watching tours, workshops and expert presentations covering bird species from SLO CAL’s coastal areas, wetlands and oak woodlands. All ages and bird watchers of all levels are welcome!
📍 Morro Bay Bird Festival
January 11 - 15, 2024
See SensorioBack to Top of List
Light up a cozy winter night with Sensorio in Paso Robles. Explore this fantastical art installation in Paso Robles Wine Country, a unique blend of creativity, technology, and nature. An easily-accessible footpath allows folks from all walks of life to take in this once-in-a-lifetime sight: a glowing, half-mile-long display beautifully integrated with the natural landscape. Plus, this unforgettable viewing experience includes food trucks, live music, and more (check the Sensorio website for more information). Don’t miss your opportunity to see Paso’s iconic undulating hillsides awash in rainbow glow.
📍 Light at Sensorio
Thursday - Sunday evenings
4380 Highway 46 East, Paso Robles
Try a WorkshopBack to Top of List
Roll up your sleeves in SLO CAL this winter. With a little elbow grease, you’re sure to come away with a nifty gift for a loved one (or yourself). Whether you attend a Mayan Collective Candle Making workshop or head to a hands-on art event at San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA), find plenty of reasons to indulge your creative side. At Camp CASS in Paso Robles, check out paint and wine sipping events, olive oil making workshops and more all in a gorgeous vineyard setting. At Art Central in San Luis Obispo, discover a smorgasbord of winter workshops for adults, kids and families alike, including drawing, watercolor, calligraphy and so much more. Whatever new skill you’d like to hone, there’s a workshop here to help.
📍 Mayan Collective
101 W. Branch St Suite A, Arroyo Grande
1010 Broad St, San Luis Obispo
📍 Camp CASS at CASS Winery
7350 Linne Rd, Paso Robles
📍 Art Central
1329 Monterey St, San Luis Obispo
Enjoy Happy HourBack to Top of List
There’s no better time to get dressed up and hit the bar. Plus, winter drinks—often imbued with seasonal herbs and citrus—are always extra festive in SLO CAL. With dozens of craft distilleries from Grover Beach to Atascadero offering everything from wine barrel aged whiskey to gin made with foraged local ingredients, you’ll find a lofty libation with your name on it. Yes, in SLO CAL, cocktail hour is taken seriously: At Eleven Twenty Two Speakeasy in Paso Robles, find a secret lounge where golden age cocktails and 20s jazz still reigns supreme. This place is totally swanky, but there’s no dress code to speak of. Muddled, shaken or stirred, a nightcap is always warranted in SLO CAL.
📍 Eleven Twenty-Two Speakeasy & Cocktail Lounge
1122 Pine St, Paso Robles
Go Axe ThrowingBack to Top of List
Axe throwing is all the buzz this winter in SLO CAL. Combining skill and fun, participants hurl small axes at wooden targets with riveting results. Sound like your kind of hobby? Head to Battle Axe in San Luis Obispo for food, drink and axe throwing or head to A-town Chop Shop in Atascadero, where families can learn the rugged skill together. Originating from traditional lumberjack sports, this trending pastime is not for the faint of heart. It’s good to note that both of these SLO CAL axe-throwing experiences are hosted at indoor facilities, great news on a chilly winter evening.
📍 A-Town Chop Shop
6250 El Camino Real Suite B, Atascadero
📍 Battle Axe
691 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo
Bonfire on the BeachBack to Top of List
Cozy up to a crackling beach bonfire in SLO CAL this winter. That’s right: folks can light up a warming campfire right on the dunes. Nothing’s quite like the combination of cool ocean air and smoky s’mores toasting, right? While campfires are prohibited at almost all SLO CAL beaches, you can still stoke a fire at Pismo State Beach, which stretches between the Oceano Dunes to the North Beach Campground above Grover Beach (check the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area website for up-to-date bonfire information). After a day of off-roading or horseback riding along sandy dunes, you’ll be ready for an easygoing night under the stars.
📍 Pismo State Beach
1 W Grande Ave, Grover Beach
Catch a ConcertBack to Top of List
Live music heats up each winter in SLO CAL. In fact, we’ve got some of the coolest venues around! In San Luis Obispo, check out SLO Brew Rock and the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center for national headlining acts (paired with Central Coast beer or wine). With its mesmerizing neon sign, the historic Fremont Theater in downtown is also a must-visit for both music and comedy. In Morro Bay, The Siren features an eclectic range of tunes, from country to rock (stop by this seaside hotspot for a cold cocktail and a hot meal, too). Plus, wineries from Edna Valley to Paso Robles feature live music throughout the winter months, usually free of charge. In SLO CAL, you just never know what amazing new artist you’ll discover by accident.
📍 SLO Brew Rock
855 Aerovista Ln, San Luis Obispo
📍 Cal Poly PAC
1 Grand Ave, San Luis Obispo
📍 Fremont Theater
1035 Monterey St, San Luis Obispo
📍 The Siren
900 Main St, Morro Bay
Explore the Zoo or AquariumBack to Top of List
Families can take a walk on the wild side this winter in SLO CAL. The popular Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero is a small yet charming zoo home to an impressive menagerie, including a Malayan Tiger, Red Pandas, Blood Python and playful Spider Monkeys. From ancient tortoises to hot pink Caribbean Flamingos, there’s a colorful cast of characters to visit all winter long. Meanwhile, undersea critters get their closeup at the Central Coast Aquarium in Avila Beach, where educational programs are offered to young sea adventurers from near and far. Whether you take to land or sea, you’re sure to walk away with a greater appreciation of wildlife conservation and our global web of life.
📍 Charles Paddock Zoo
9100 Morro Rd, Atascadero
📍 Central Coast Aquarium
50 San Juan St, Avila Beach
Taste Without a WaitBack to Top of List
Enjoy SLO CAL wine (and craft beer) without a line this winter. Tasting during the offseason means less crowds and more tasty experiences for you and your friends. Head to Edna Valley for cool climate chardonnay and pinot noir offerings that dazzle the palate. In Paso Robles Wine Country, more than 250 unique tasting rooms beckon with a range of sumptuous offerings, including rich cabernet sauvignon to bold blends. Dozens of craft beer breweries can be found across the entire region too, meaning whether you prefer a cold one or a cabernet, we got you covered. Wherever you decide to taste, know that you’ll skip the bustle and belly right up to the bar!
Relax with a Hot Springs SoakBack to Top of List
SLO CAL is blessed with natural hot springs sure to warm the spirit. You in? This winter, soak away your troubles at a range of soothing mineral spring hangouts fit for a dream. At Sycamore Springs Mineral Resort in Avila Beach, private and group tubs are situated on a forested hillside, the perfect way to end an action-packed day of adventuring. At the Paso Robles Inn, book a room with a private mineral spring tub or head to River Oaks Hot Springs, where you can combine your soak with luxurious wine country spa add-ons like facials, masks and massages.
📍 Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort
1215 Avila Beach Dr, Avila Beach
📍 River Oaks Hot Springs
800 Clubhouse Dr, Paso Robles
A Day at the MuseumBack to Top of List
Educational fun abounds in SLO CAL, where museums are open year round. SLOMA offers a range of contemporary art exhibits in vibrant mediums, while the Oceano Dunes Visitor Center sheds light into the lives of native tribes (such as the Chumash) as well as the coast’s most mysterious bohemian residents (the Dunites). Cross the iconic Swinging Footbridge in Arroyo Grande and wander through an antique schoolhouse, stop by the Oceano Train Depot or take a self-guided walking tour of Cambria’s historic streets. Plus, Mission San Miguel, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and the Nipomo’s DANA Adobe and Cultural Center await with captivating early California histories all their own.
📍 Oceano Dunes Visitor Center
555 Pier Ave, Oceano
📍 Heritage Square Park
201 Nelson St, Arroyo Grande
📍 Oceano Train Depot
1650 Front St, Oceano
📍 DANA Adobe and Cultural Center
671 S Oakglen Ave, Nipomo