Explore SLO CAL This Summer
SLO CAL shines in every season, but in summer, it really sparkles. Around every corner, you’ll find something to eat, see, enjoy and do — not just for grownups but for the whole family. With uncrowded beaches, culture, history, flavor and entertainment, SLO CAL is a playground for the senses, and a place perfect for families that want to discover, explore, relax, and indulge together. Check our guide below for ideas of how to make the most of your family’s time in SLO CAL.
Live MusicBack to Top of List
Tap your toes at SLO CAL’s many family-friendly concerts and music festivals
For thrilling performances and big-name acts, head to the Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles, where headliners have included some of the biggest names in the music industry playing on SLO CAL's local grandstand arena stage. Head to Templeton Park on Wednesday evenings for Templeton Concerts in the Park featuring local artists. Paso Robles’s City Park Gazebo also hosts Paso Robles Concerts in the Park on Thursday evenings, and the Atascadero Summer Concert Series takes place every Saturday night at Atascadero Lake Park. BONUS: Willing to come back in September? Don’t miss the Whale Rock Music & Arts Festival, which features internationally-renowned acts, a kids’ wonderland of play, and family-friendly fun among the vines at Castoro Cellars Winery and Vineyards.
San Luis Obispo
For over 50 years, Festival Mozaic has brought an eclectic lineup of world-class performers to venues across SLO CAL. These include family-friendly events like free dress rehearsals, mini concerts in city parks, and family concerts. Another live music institution, the Live Oak Music Festival, boasts two stages for headlining bands, plus dances, arts and crafts booths, a fairie garden, and a talent show, all at El Chorro Park. And don’t forget Concerts in the Plaza, a summertime tradition featuring local high-energy bands, held every Friday evening in front of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
Take it easy on a Sunday afternoon by visiting the Arroyo Grande Rotary Bandstand, where the annual Summer Concert Series takes place in Historic Heritage Square Park. And to close the summer down, check out the San Luis Obispo Symphony’s yearly Pops-By-The-Sea concert held at the Avila Beach Golf Resort each Labor Day. Tickets are free for kids attending with a paying adult.
Good EatsBack to Top of List
Don’t take flavor for granted here: SLO CAL’s abundance of fresh foods can tickle even the ficklest of taste buds
Choose from a wealth of farmers’ markets like the Saturday Templeton Farmers’ Market in Templeton Park and the Atascadero Farmers’ Market on Wednesday afternoons in the Sunken Gardens. More than a market, these events offer fresh produce as well as prepared foods and entertainment the whole family can enjoy. Want to do a fun tasting together? Check out the variety of olive oil producers abundant in SLO CAL. At Pasolivo's tasting room downtown, kids and grownups can taste dozens of oils, vinegars and salts with bread, then choose which to take home.
Hang out in Cambria on Friday afternoons to enjoy the Cambria Farmers’ Market at the Vets’ Hall, or pick from a wide selection of flavors at the Morro Bay Farmers’ Market every Saturday afternoon on Main Street. One of the best-loved events, though, is the Baywood Farmers’ Market held on Monday afternoons, where families can wander the booths and then walk a few steps to Baywood Pier to play on the sand.
San Luis Obispo
The San Luis Obispo Thursday Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market is the stuff of legends, with entire sections devoted to farm-fresh produce, prepared foods and boutiques, plus multiple stages for family-friendly live entertainment. It all takes place Thursday evenings on Higuera Street between Osos and Nipomo Streets. Kids and grownups can also enjoy a Taste of SLO Food Walking Tour. These three-hour tasting tours include tasty delights at a number of downtown eateries, including luxury chocolates, savory Santa Maria-style BBQ, and warm bread with salted butter.
Enjoy the charm of the Arroyo Grande Village on Saturday afternoons at the weekly Arroyo Grande Farmers’ Market where food, fun, and entertainment meet. And on Friday evenings, the Avila Beach Farmers’ Market features toe-tapping live music, boutiques, and prepared foods right on the Promenade, overlooking the beach. Hit the Avila Valley Barn beforehand, where produce, baked goods, gifts, flowers, ice cream, a petting zoo and hayrides delight kids of all ages.
Wildlife and ExplorationBack to Top of List
People love SLO CAL — and critters do, too! Come get wild with them here.
SLO CAL’s tidepools provide one of the best ways to spend a day by the beach with kids. Scramble down to the beach at the south entrance to the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, or on the beach at Montana de Oro State Park’s Corallina Cove. To see one of the most majestic (and entertaining) creatures in California, pull off Highway 1 north of San Simeon for the Elephant Seal Rookery, where thousands of Elephant Seals migrate, mate, and molt each year. To catch glimpses of cute, cuddly California Sea Otters, travel to the Morro Bay State Park Marina, where otters can be seen playing, hunting, and caring for their young near the shoreline. (Better yet, see them by kayak, launching out from the marina.)
Another great way to see wildlife, albeit in a more contained venue, is by visiting the Central Coast Aquarium in Avila Beach. Here, you can feel sharks in the touch tank, watch tiny jellyfish dance, and learn from marine biologists who are experts on the animals and the local marine environment.
Water ParksBack to Top of List
Get soaked in SLO CAL’s splashiest water parks, with slides, pools, lazy rivers, and more
The warm weather and rolling hills of Paso Robles make The Ravine Water Park a hot spot during the summer. Enjoy six slides totaling thousands of feet in length, a wave pool, the “Kickback Kreek” and a spacious pool and wet playground for littles. And in Atascadero, Heilmann Regional Park offers a free splash pad as the perfect pit stop for a hot day.
At Avila Hot Springs in Avila Beach, a large heated freshwater pool stands ready to cool down the whole family, plus a double slide. And east of Arroyo Grande at Lopez Lake State Recreation Area, the Mustang Waterpark includes two 600-foot curved water slides, a 38-foot halfpipe, and two safe and spacious kiddie pools. Want to really chill out? Reserve a family cabana.
Ocean PlayBack to Top of List
The Pacific is our playground here in SLO CAL, and you’re invited to join the fun
Morro Bay Paddlesports has you covered for paddlesports, with kayak and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) rentals, tours and lessons. All ages and abilities are welcome — even small, well-behaved dogs wearing floaties! Great places to launch include Cambria’s Leffingwell Landing, the north side of the Cayucos Pier, and the Morro Bay National Estuary, where you can also rent kayaks at A Kayak Shack. For surfers, hot surf spots include Morro Strand State Beach (also nicknamed “Studios”) between Morro Bay and Cayucos; and San Carpoforo Creek between San Simeon and Ragged Point. For the really advanced surfer, check out Hazards at Montana de Oro State Park in Los Osos.
One of the coolest kayak trips starts in Avila Beach and travels around to a beach below Point San Luis, home of the historic Point San Luis Light Station. Do this on your own, or hire Central Coast Kayaks to take you on a tour. They can also hook you up with SUP rentals, which are an awesome way to take in the calm San Luis Bay off the Avila Beach coastline. Thanks to those gentle conditions, Avila Beach is also an ideal spot for new or young surfers. Rent surfboards, bodyboards and wetsuits at Avila Beach Surf Shop (under the pier), or take a class through the Van Curaza Surf School or Avila Beach Surf School. To the south, Pismo Beach has a strong surf culture that goes back decades. Try the most popular spot at Pismo Pier North Side, the less busy Pismo Pier South Side, or the Addie Street Sandbar, even further south.
Uncrowded, Secret BeachesBack to Top of List
Go off the beaten path to tucked-away beaches that feel like a world away
Up and down the SLO CAL coast, hidden beaches surprise and delight families who want to get away from it all. At Blackswift Falls in Ragged Point, families with older kids can walk the steep trail down to a black-sand beach with a waterfall (Wear your grippiest shoes!) Remote and ethereal San Carpoforo Creek Beach lies off Highway 1 north of San Simeon, a natural playground for all ages. Walk the miles of trail along Estero Bluffs State Park north of Cayucos and you’ll discover spacious beaches reachable only by trail. And the stunning cove at W.R. Hearst State Beach in San Simeon provides a calm bay in which to relax — sand, sun, and serenity included.
The untouched, unspoiled landscape of Oso Flaco State Park includes a trail that traverses a creek, a lagoon, and sand dunes. The payoff? A wide-open, sweeping beach at the end of the trail, which you may just have all to yourself.
History & DiscoveryBack to Top of List
There’s so much to see and learn here in SLO CAL, no textbook required
For a bit of California history, visit the newly-restored Mission San Miguel Arcángel, established 1797, which offers a museum and on-site gift shop and bookstore. For younger kids, make a stop at the Paso Robles Children’s Museum, located in the old Paso Robles Volunteer Fire Station. There, little ones can learn through playing with musical instruments, climbing, make believe, and exploring the many exhibits.
The 90,000 square-foot wonder that is Hearst Castle has enchanted youngsters and their grownups for decades. Built in San Simeon in 1919 as the home of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst, this sprawling hilltop estate features two epic swimming pools (just for looking, not for swimming), antiquities that pre-date the Egyptian pyramids, and a private movie theater.
San Luis Obispo
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa lies at the center of downtown SLO — a remarkably well-preserved mission from the earliest days of Spain’s occupation of California. The mission includes a small museum and gift shop and bookstore. Just down the street, pop into the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art on the second Saturday of the month to receive a Second Saturdays art kit that includes a lesson and materials for an art project related to the current exhibit at the museum. And even further down the street, visit the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum, where three stories of hands-on, interactive exhibits wait for young people, from toddlers to teens. For a discovery opportunity of a different sort, drive outside town to the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden to learn about Mediterranean plants that grow locally and across the globe. The property even offers a Children’s Garden, specifically planted and maintained to encourage discovery.
At Ramona Park in Grover Beach, the Exploration Discovery Center provides space for children ages 2 to 12 to play, learn, and interact. The museum includes facilities for preschool play, rotating cultural and historical exhibits, an outdoor water play area, a garden, and learning lab. And in Nipomo, come see the adobe home built by the town’s first European settler, Captain William Dana. The Dana Center at the Nipomo Adobe keeps this early history alive, welcoming visitors to enjoy art exhibits, docent-led tours, and a bookstore and gift shop.
EntertainmentBack to Top of List
The curtain never goes down on SLO CAL’s family-friendly fun, games and recreation
Located right downtown in Atascadero, Mr. Putters' Putt Putt is the only 18-hole mini-golf course in SLO CAL, and it’s ready for your hole-in-one! For cowpokes, a day in the saddle is just the ticket. Central Coast Trail Rides takes riders of all ages and levels of experience on horseback rides across wine country, from Santa Margarita to Creston.
San Luis Obispo
Take in an open-air movie at the Sunset Drive-In, one of the last 200 drive-in theaters in the U.S. For puzzle-heads and smarty-pants, The Puzzle Effect provides three escape rooms to unlock and master. Want to get some aggression out? Take the family to Battle Axe in downtown SLO for ax-throwing in a safe (yet still satisfying!) environment. And don’t miss the San Luis Obispo Skate Park at Santa Rosa Park, where skaters and scooterers can take on halfpipes, bowls, and a jump park.
Since 1939, Pismo Bowl in Pismo Beach has provided visitors with a rolling-good time on eight lanes. Come enjoy the retro vibes while you bowl your best set yet. Or travel down the coast to the Oceano Dunes for a hair-raising Hummer tour. Pacific Adventure Tours and Xtreme Hummer Tours offer hour-long excursions that zip, dive, and cascade over the dunes. And for a good belly laugh, hit the Great American Melodrama in Oceano, a professional theater where old-timey plays and vaudevilles will have the whole family rolling in the aisles.