SLO CAL Downtown

Tree lightings, parades, visits with Santa – there’s simply no shortage of activities here in SLO CAL to get you and the family in the holiday mood. The sheer number of options can be overwhelming, so we’ve rounded up a handful of ideas to put on your family’s holiday bucket list.


Santa arriving on train? Yes, please! Even kids who aren’t so much into Santa anymore will enjoy seeing him arrive on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner. After Santa arrives at the SLO Amtrak Station, he and his procession will make their way down the platform to the museum and children will get a chance to visit with him and Mrs. Claus in the La Cuesta (the museum’s historic observation car).

Saturday, Dec. 2 at 2:30 p.m., SLO Railroad Museum, just south of the SLO Amtrak Station. Free to greet Santa on the platform; admission to the museum is $3 for adults; $2 for children aged 4-15; children 3 and under are free.


You might need to find a sitter for the littlest ones, but older kids will enjoy watching Ralphie on his quest for a genuine Red Ryder BB gun. This popular stage production of the classic Christmas movie usually sells out.

Shows run Dec. 2 through Dec. 23; Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. San Luis Obispo Rep, 888 Morro Street, SLO. Ticket prices range from $20 to $38.


Most kids are up for outings that involves animals and watching animals open Christmas presents makes it even better. During the Holiday Magic event, Santa will visit the zoo animals to deliver special gifts. Visitors get to watch the animals tear open their packages and can later visit with Santa.

Saturday, Dec. 16, presents delivered between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Check the present schedule at the entrance so you don’t miss anything. Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 9305 Pismo Ave., Atascadero. Zoo admission is $7 for adults, $5 for kids aged 3 to 11; 2 and under are free.

Dine among the décor at COPPER CAFÉ at Madonna Inn

Why not make going out to eat an even bigger deal for the kids by dining in a restaurant full of holiday charm? Frosted windows, hanging lights and garland, Copper Café gets fully decked out for the holidays just like the rest of the Madonna Inn. Plus, the café is very family-friendly and has menu options to satisfy even picky eaters.

Copper Café is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Madonna Inn, 100 Madonna Road, SLO.

Take a walk at OSO FLACO LAKE

If all the rich food of the holidays has you longing for a good walk, pack up the family and head to Oso Flaco Lake near Nipomo. This 1.5-mile nearly-level walk is good for all skill levels and strollers. The boardwalk trail will take you over the lake, across the dunes and all the way to the beach, complete with lots of wildlife sightings and scenic views.

Open sunrise to sunset daily. $5 vehicle charge for parking. Located at the end of Oso Flaco Lake Road.

An afternoon at the APPLE FARM

This local landmark celebrates the holidays in grand style, with every part of the property dressed in its holiday finest. Throughout December, Apple Farm hosts its “25 Days of Christmas” with activities like visits and photos with Santa every Saturday, Christmas carolers on weekend evenings and a chance to find Dash, the missing elf.

Times vary for different activities. Apple Farm, 2015 Monterey Street, SLO.

Watch the butterflies at the MONARCH GROVE

Sure, it’s not directly holiday-related, but the Monarch Butterfly Grove makes for a great holiday outing. From late October to February, these vibrant orange and black butterflies cluster in the limbs of a grove of eucalyptus trees. Make sure to bring some binoculars and a bit of patience as you scan the upper branches for a sighting of these magnificent creatures.

Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Docent talks at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Free. Located half a mile south of Pismo Beach just off Highway 1.