Top Ten Things to Do With Kids in San Simeon

If you’re looking for things to do with kids in San Simeon, California, you’ve come to the right place!

Both Allan and I grew up on the Central Coast of California and consider San Simeon and the surrounding areas to be our big “backyard”!

San Simeon is a small coastal town located north of San Luis Obispo along scenic Highway 1. It’s the perfect place to visit if you love to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy outdoor adventures!

A weekend getaway to San Simeon is the perfect way to unwind and reset! We’ll help you make the most of your time by sharing with you the top ten things to do with kids in San Simeon.

mom and daughter standing under a tree tunnel on a hiking trail at san simeon bay
girl sitting in a large tree with sprawling branches

Chill at William Randolph Hearst State Beach

One of our all-time favorite beaches on the Central Coast is Hearst State Beach. You’ll quickly see why Hearst chose to build his castle overlooking the bay.

The beautiful turquoise water speaks to your soul. A long stretch of sandy beach provides plenty of room to run and play.  

The bay also has its own little micro-climate and is usually sunny, even when the surrounding areas are shrouded in fog.

Enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, boogie board, swimming, hunting for shells and sea glass, and–if the tide is low enough–exploring the small caves at the end of the cove along the bluff.

Bathrooms are available to visitors as well as an outdoor shower for rinsing off the sand at the end of the day. There is no entrance fee for parking.

Tour Hearst Castle

There’s just something about castles that brings out the kids in all of us! School-aged kids, in particular, will enjoy a tour of California’s well-known castle–Hearst Castle! Hearst Castle is the historic attraction that put San Simeon on the map!

The castle was built by William Randolph Hearst in the early 1900s with the help of architect Julia Morgan. This 165-room architectural wonder sits up on a hill on 123 acres of gardens, pools, terraces, and paths overlooking the beautiful San Simeon Bay.

In the 1950s Hearst donated the castle to the State of California, and the estate became a Historical State Park. Every year, more than 750,000 visitors come to explore the property and take in gorgeous views.

Schedule a Tour

Visit the park website to schedule a tour. If it’s your first visit, we recommend the Grand Rooms Tour. It gives a great overview of the castle and includes some of our favorite portions the kids will love—the swimming pools!

Watch a Movie on the IMAX Screen

Included in your ticket price is a view of Building the Dream. Shown on the Visitor’s Center IMAX screen, it’s a documentary that focuses on the construction of the castle.

Usually, during the slow season (January and February), the IMAX may play a National Geographic film that young viewers typically enjoy for a nominal fee!

girls smiling while sitting in the dark near a campfire

Camp at Hearst San Simeon State Park

Just south of Hearst State Castle is a state-run campground. If you love tent camping or have an RV, it’s a great little place to spend a few nights.  


The Hearst San Simeon State Park Campground is a developed campground with flushing toilets, showers, fire pits, picnic tables, and a dump station. There are hiking trails and easy access to the beach.

Remote Campground

If you’re looking for a quieter spot, we recommend reserving a space in the Washburn Campground. Amenities are more limited, but you’ll enjoy the solitude and the stargazing at night. If you need a shower, the main campground is a short walk, bike ride, or car ride away.

teen boy walking boardwalk on the bluff trail on the fiscalini ranch preserve in cambria in california with ocean in the distance

Take a Hike

One of our favorite things to do with kids in San Simeon is to go for a hike!

Not all kids love to hike, but we somehow ended up with three kiddos who do. Even if you have to bribe and convince your young explorers to go for a hike, we have three kid-friendly trail recommendations.

San Simeon Bay Trail at Williams Randolph Hearst State Beach

This trail is one of our favorites. It’s an out and back trail that All Trails rates as moderate, but I would say is easy. The only tricky part is a short walk through the sand and up a small hill. Once you’re at the top of the bluff, the trail is completely flat.

This trail has a beautiful, sprawling tree that every kid will want to climb. There are scenic overlooks of the bay and you’ll often see elephant seals in the water or laying on the beach. We’ve spotted several bald eagles while hiking this trail. There are also a couple of tree tunnels that speak to the kid in all of us. You can simply hike to the point and back, or you can walk a full four miles (out and back).

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

The Fiscalini Ranch Preserve Trail is located in Cambria, just a few miles south of San Simeon. The Preserve is located right along the bluffs and offers accessible trails. Kids will enjoy the boardwalks and fun benches made out of driftwood.

The Preserve offers 17 easy to moderate trails. We recommend the Bluff Trail which takes you right along the water’s edge on a well-maintained boardwalk. It’s a little less than a mile, but packs a lot of punch!

Harmony Headlands

The Harmony Headlands Trail is 20 minutes south of San Simeon. The trail is wide and flat, making it an easy hike for most young adventurers. Portable restrooms are located just west of the trailhead.

This trail winds through the hills where you’re bound to see some wildlife and ends with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. For added adventure, if the tide is low enough, hike down the bluffs to the water’s edge and explore.

If you’re willing to drive a little further, and want to hike more of the Central Coast, check out our list of family-friends hikes in our post titled 10 FREE things to do with kids near Paso Robles.

young blonde girl in a pink swearshirt looking at sea life in the tide pools top 10 things to do with kids near san simeon

Go Tidepooling

Tidepooling is a wonderful way to spend a few hours. If you’re not familiar with the term tide-pooling, I’ll explain. When the ocean tide recedes twice per day, water is left in rocky crags and “pools” along the beach.

These pools are teeming with sea life. Muscles, clams, hermit crabs, sea anemones, starfish, crabs, eels, and octopuses all make their home in the protected rocks.

When the water is low, it’s a great time to explore the tidepools. Check the tides before your trip and go during low tide. And remember, always face the waves–sometimes they sneak up on you!

Best Tidepooling Places Near San Simeon

  • Cayucos, north of the pier
  • Cambria, Moonstone Beach
  • Harmony Headlands, along the bluff

Bike Ride in Cambria

Paths and boardwalks wind through Cambria and riding these paths can be a fun way to experience this quaint town. While you’re in Cambria, we highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat at Main Street Grill. We especially love their salads (add tri-tip), tri-tip sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches, and ABC burgers. Biggest tip: Main Street Grill french fries are TASTY. Ask for ranch dressing and bbq sauce for dipping…but they don’t even need it. 

northern elephant seals on the beach near san simeon with yellow flowers blooming

Visit the Elephant Seals

No trip to San Simeon is complete without a stop by the Elephant Seal Viewing Area just a few miles north of Hearst Castle.

If you’ve never seen an elephant seal, you’re in for a treat. Northern Elephant Seals are large and loud (and occasionally smelly–especially when they’re molting).  

The seals congregate in large numbers on the beach at a location known as the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. These creatures are entertaining to watch from the viewing area, but keep your distance! Although they look deceptively slow, they can move as fast as most people can run, weigh thousands of pounds, and have sharp teeth that can snap bones in half. In other words, they can ruin your vacation. Don’t be that person.

Watch them from a distance and chuckle at their antics. And smile, because the experience is completely free!

Drive up to Salmon Creek Falls

If you’re up for a short hike and would like to splash in a freshwater stream, then a drive up to Salmon Creek Falls is in order. The trail is all of 0.3 miles and easy. There is poison oak, so keep that in mind and bring along some Fels-Naptha soap if you have sensitive skin.

You can fish in the stream, swim, or–if the water is low enough–hike above the waterfall and climb inside!

zebra grazing

Look for Zebras

Yes, there are zebras in San Siemon.  

Williams Randolph Hearst created a zoo on the property, shipping in animals from all over the world, including African zebras. To this day, the zebras graze the grassy hillsides surrounding the castle with cattle.

We typically spot them out in the field just south of the entrance to Hearst State Castle.

Get Ice Cream in One of the World’s Smallest Towns

If you hike Harmony Headlands, it only makes sense that you stop for ice cream in the small town of Harmony.

And when we say small, we mean SMALL. The population of Harmony is 18, and there are rumors that the number includes a few cows.

Harmony Valley Creamery is located on the main drag, and you really can’t miss it. Grab a cone and walk one block to explore the remainder of the town. Don’t forget to take a picture in front of their city sign!

Enjoy your family getaway to San Simeon

We know you’ll have a wonderful time exploring this little piece of paradise on the Central Coast!

If you have any questions about an upcoming trip, drop us a line below–we’d love to help!

Verde River Kayaking Adventure Near Sedona

If you’re looking for a kayaking adventure near Sedona, take a trip down the Verde River!

When we took our recent couple’s trip to Sedona, we knew we wanted to hike, eat delicious food, get a massage, and relax in our pool’s hot tub.

We also wanted to do something else that was fun, but not crazy expensive. A quick Google search returned the perfect afternoon adventure: a kayak trip!

With a little research, I decided that this was a safe option! (while we do have some kayak experience, we’re definitely not experts). Verde Adventures makes it easy to sign up online, so I snagged the last two spots available on a Friday afternoon.

About the Verde River

First, you should know that the Verde River is located 40 miles south of Sedona. While the creek that runs through Sedona, Oak Creek, is a lovely place to swim, it’s not ideal for floating and kayaking.

The Verde River is close enough to make a nice half-day trip! Depending on where you are in Sedona, you’ll need to allow at least 40-60 minutes to drive to the meetup point on the Verde River.

Primarily, the Verde River is a 192-mile river that is spring-fed, starting north of Prescott and south of Williams, AZ. It winds its way through the desert, dumping into the Salt River located near Mesa, AZ. Almost half of the water from the Verde River is used in the city of Phoenix.

Gypsum cliffs along the verde river near sedona

Is It Safe to Kayak the Verde River?

Yes, usually!  The Verde River is a small river and kayaking is only allowed when the water flow rate falls below 4,000 cubic feet per second. When we went in April, it was just a little over 1,000 cubic feet per second, making for a tame, but lovely, adventure.

At that rate, the water is relatively shallow and you can stand up in most parts of the river. At its widest point, the river is probably not more than 80-100 feet wide.

Life Jackets

Guests are also provided with life jackets at the boat launching area. You are not required to wear the kayak but you are required to have it in the kayak with you. Allan and I opted to sit on our life jackets for a little extra padding. Since the water wasn’t that deep or crazy, we felt comfortable without them.

man in blue inflatable kayak launching on the verde river near sedona

What Level of Experience Do I Need to Kayak the Verde River?

Very little. There were people in our group who were more experienced kayakers, some with just a little experience, and even a couple who had never kayaked.

The staff does a great job of identifying different land markers and explaining what to do if you find yourself in a difficult situation. Basically, it can be summed up in a single sentence: Call your guide using the cell phone number provided if you need assistance.

Using Inflatable Kayaks

Before launching, a guide will explain how to navigate the kayak. I have kayaked using both river and ocean kayaks. I have canoed. But, it was my first time using an inflatable kayak. Needless to say, it was a mildly entertaining experience getting started. Maybe the lady kayaking next to me would disagree, but it seemed funny to me. Haha!

If you have used an inflatable kayak before, you can probably imagine what happened the first time I dipped my paddle in the water. 

If you haven’t used an inflatable kayak before, I’ll explain.

Feeling confident and excited to be on the water, I dipped my paddle for a quick stroke. Much to my surprise, that “normal” stroke spun me 180 degrees, causing my kayak to hit the lady floating next to me in her kayak. “Oops! I’m so sorry. I guess this is more like bumper boats!”

I quickly learned that a little goes a long way when you’re in an inflatable kayak. And, unless you like spinning in circles or going down rapids backward (that’s fun on this river), PADDLE LIGHT. It took a little while, but I did end up figuring out a stroke that kept me semi-straight. 

For the most part, the current should carry you down the river with little paddling. However, we did end up getting a rather strong breeze that was blowing upstream. If we didn’t paddle we would float upstream against the current! 

You just have to think of inflatable kayaks more like inner tubes than actual kayaks.

What to Bring on Your Verde River Kayaking Adventure Near Sedona

Before boarding the shuttle, we slathered on some sunscreen. Even though it wasn’t terribly warm the day we floated, the water always reflects the sun and can be intense.

We wore our water shoes (flip-flops can float away) that we purchased before our trip at Walmart, but you can even purchase water shoes from the adventure company online when you reserve your trip!

Also, we purchased some waterproof cell phone pouches that we hung from lanyards around our necks. My pouch was big enough that I was able to put the car keys in my pouch as well.

Since the float takes 2-3 hours, you’ll want water, so be sure to bring along your water bottle!

Getting There

We met our guide at the Beasley Flats Day Use area in Camp Verde. Be forewarned. Beasley Flats feels like it’s located in the middle of nowhere. You’ll wind through the countryside, bump down a dirt road, and arrive at a sparsely populated day-use park.

If it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere and you might be lost, you’re probably in the right place. On Google Maps it’s marked as Beasley Flats RAP (River Access Point).

At the day-use area, you’ll have access to covered picnic tables. We arrived at the meeting point a little early, so we chose a picnic table and ate our turkey and brie sandwich that we purchased from Wildflower Bread Company. Delish!

If you drive to the end of the day-use area (it dead-ends at the river), you’ll find some vault toilets and ample parking.

From there, you’ll board the kayak company’s shuttle that will take you 4-5 miles upstream to the starting point for your kayaking adventure!

What You’ll See on the Verde River

On your kayaking adventure near Sedona, you’re bound to see a few things unique to that area.


Wildlife wasn’t as prevalent as we had hoped it might be along the river, but we saw a variety of birds, evidence of beavers, some ducklings, and a fish.

Cliff Dwellings

You’ll also kayak beside some ancient cliff dwellings. You can blaze a trail up to the dwellings and explore them if you have extra time. Just don’t forget to take plenty of water and watch out for snakes!


Also, along S. Salt Mine Road, the guide may point out a small boulder next to the road that has petroglyphs. On our way back home, we pulled off and took pictures. The history of this area is fascinating.

TIP: Visit the Nearby Montezuma Castle National Monument

If you want to dig a little deeper into the history of this area, visit Montezuma Castle National Monument on your way back to Sedona!  This ancient, 20-room, 5-story cliff dwelling was once home for the Sinagua people.

petroglyphs near camp verde

How Do I Sign Up for a Verde River Kayak Adventure?

Visit the Verde Adventures website and choose the adventure package that best suits you. You can do a traditional three-hour kayak float, tube during the summer, or even choose a kayak adventure that includes wine tasting!


Overall, while the thrill factor is low, floating down the Verde River is a great way to spend the afternoon if you’re looking for a kayaking adventure near Sedona! We loved the quiet serenity of this experience!

Are you planning a trip to Sedona? Check out my 3-day itinerary for a couple’s getaway if you want to learn about some great hikes, good places to eat, and insider tips!

Top 10 Things to Do in Avila Beach with Kids

Looking for things to do in Avila Beach with kids? We’ve got you covered!

We’ve lived on the Central Coast for over 30 years and Avila Beach is one of our favorite places to take the kids.

Avila Beach is a quaint little beach town located halfway between Los Angles and San Francisco. While it may be small, there are plenty of family-friendly activities to enjoy in this beautiful place.

When to Visit Avila Beach

In recent years, this oceanside village has gotten increasingly popular. Especially during the COVID shutdown, visitors swarmed to check out the magic of Avila Beach.

If you want to avoid crowds, the best time to visit Avila Beach is during the off-season. When is the off-season? Whenever kids are in school.  

We like visiting on weekdays, especially in the spring and fall. However, if we do decide to visit Avila on a weekend, we typically arrive on a Sunday afternoon when the weekend crowds are starting to thin out.

Why We Love Visiting Avila Beach with Kids

If you give our kids sand and water, they play happily for hours. Kids love playing at the beach; that’s a given!

What makes Avila Beach so special is that it’s more than just a beach. There are so many things to do in Avila Beach with kids that don’t involve playing in the sand. Hiking trails, biking trails, hot springs, playgrounds, wildlife, farm animals, fishing…Avila has it all!

overlook of shell beach bluff trail hike--things to do in avila beach with kids

Go for a Hike in Avila Beach

Hiking is a great family activity to enjoy in Avila Beach. It’s free, is doable for all levels of hikers, and allows you to see the ocean from a different perspective.

Shell Beach Bluff Trail

Perfect for young legs, this easy, .9 mile, out and back trail winds along the bluffs between Avila Beach and Shell Beach. Also, it offers stunning views of the ocean on an almost completely flat trail.

Ontario Ridge to Shell Beach Bluff Trail Loop

If you’re looking to add a little spice to your hike, combine the Ontario Ridge trail with the Shell Beach Bluff Trail! Be forewarned! The Ontario Ridge trail appears to have been designed with mountain goats in mind. There is one steep hill and another VERY steep, rocky hill. We would take our kids up this hill but likely would not take young kids or our parents.

Provided it’s a sunny, clear day, at the top of Ontario Ridge, you’ll have a jaw-dropping view of the pacific ocean that you can take in from a tree swing.

Bob Jones Trail

While you certainly can hike/walk this paved trail, we prefer to bike it. This dedicated trail is paved, making it easy to push a stroller or pull a child’s wagon. It’s a 5.2 mile, out-and-back trail with only one small hill.  

At the trailhead, you’ll find a vault toilet. You’ll want to bring a nose plug or practice your mouth breathing technique while visiting this necessary, albeit unsavory, facility.

Other Nearby Trail Options

There are many other trails within a 10-15 mile radius. Two favorites other trail options that are within the immediate vicinity are the Sycamore Crest Trail and the Johnson Ranch Loop Trail. Both of these hiking trails are rated as moderate and are more suitable for older children.

family biking on the bob jones trail -- things to do in avila beach with kids

Ride a Bike from the City to the Sea on the Bob Jones Trail

Riding the “City to the Sea Bob Jones Trail” is one of our favorite family outings. We park at the trailhead near Highway 101, pump up our bike tires, throw some water bottles in a backpack and head out!  

Because this is a dedicated bike path, and it’s paved, this trail is PERFECT for young riders. There are two street crossings: one at the start of the trail and one at the end. It’s a safe way to introduce young bike riders to sharing the road.

If your children are a little older, you can make the ride a little longer by riding north to Harmond Pier (AKA Port San Luis Pier). The road out to the pier can be busy, and there is no bike lane. It’s more suitable for older children who can be aware of the traffic and hug the side of the road.  

Combining a ride to the pier with the Bob Jones Trail will give you a relatively flat, 9-mile ride, roundtrip.

TIP: Don’t forget your helmets! Bike helmets are required by law in California for children under the age of 18 years.

sea lions laying in the sun in san luis bay--things to do in avila beach with kids

Search for Wildlife at Avila Beach

Seeing animals in their natural habit is always a treat! Seal and sea lions can regularly be seen sunbathing on floating docks, rocks, and around the pier. Sometimes, they will pop up in the water near swimmers. 

Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters

The best place to catch a glimpse of these creatures is from the Port San Luis Pier. They especially like to hang out near the restaurant Mersea’s, which happens to be located near the crab market–something they love.

If you find yourself swimming in the same area as a seal, it’s best to leave that area. Seals are usually friendly but can be territorial especially if they’re protecting young. There have been instances where swimmers have been bitten by seals. It’s best to observe these wild creatures from a safe distance.

In the bay, there are also sea otters. They’re a little more difficult to spot, but they frequent the area. These cute creatures are fun to watch as they roll playfully in the water or crack open a shell.



Just north of the main beach are some rocky bluffs. When the tide is low, this is a great place to search for sea creatures like sea stars, sea anemones, muscles, hermit crabs, and more. While this isn’t a prime place for tide pooling, you’re still sure to find a few interesting creatures!

Go Whale Watching

Avila Beach made national news in 2020 when a pair of kayakers got lifted out of the water by a whale. Moral of the story: don’t kayak near ocean mammals that can be 40-50 feet in length.

From July to October of each year, humpback whales pass through the area and often can be seen in the bay. Rather than paddleboarding or kayaking out to see them, we recommend a guided whale watching tour like San Luis Obispo Tours. Often, the whales can also be seen breaching from the shore or pier.

kaykers in san luis bay -- things to do in avila beach with kids

Kayak or Paddle Board

San Luis Obispo Bay is large and usually calm (except for breaching whales in the late summer, early fall), making it a great place to explore the ocean water. There is a rental company at Port San Luis if you can’t bring your kayaks or boards. There is also a launching area a Fisherman’s Beach.

At the south end of Avila Beach, you can explore the Avila Sea Caves. These caves are located along the bluffs, just north of Pirate’s Cove, a clothing-optional beach.

Play at a Pirate Themed Playground

If you prefer to stay on land and have young adventurers, you’ll want to check out the Avila Beach Community Park located right next to the main portion of the beach in the heart of Avila. There is a pirate ship, swings, slides, and more! It’s adjacent to the Central Coast Aquarium (this is a very small aquarium).

Older kids can enjoy a game of basketball on a court that butts up to the beach, or a game of sand volleyball!

Eat Good Food

Another one of our favorite things to do in Avila Beach with kids is…eating! No trip to the beach is complete without eating some tasty seafood. My personal favorite is having chilaquiles on the patio at Custom House for brunch after a morning hike.

Additionally, Mersea’s, located on Harmond Pier (AKA Port San Luis Pier) has unmatched ambiance! Dine on fish tacos, garlic fries, and piping hot clam chowder while sitting over the water and listening to the sounds of screeching gulls and barking seals.  

free things to do with kids near Paso Robles toddler feeding goat at Avila Barn in Avila Beach

Feed Barn Animals at Avila Barn

Avila Beach has its head in the city and its toes in the sand. The town is uniquely situated, providing unusual climate benefits. In the Avila Valley, just a couple miles inland from the beach is produce heaven. Berries, apples, corn, squash, and so much more can be found growing at this little farm called Avila Valley Barn.

For a few dollars, kids will love feeding fresh romaine leaves to goats, cows, and sheep. Also, there’s an emu, cow, chickens, and more! Take a hayride, pick a basket of berries, or enjoy a hot ear of corn on the cob! If ice cream or pie is more your style, they have that, too.

Entrance to the farm is free.

Soak in a Mineral Hot Springs Tub

While this may not be a little kid-friendly activity (we highly recommend pawning them off on grandparents for an hour or two), soaking in a mineral hot spring tub is always a great idea when you’re in Avila! Older kids, aged 14-17, can join you, but if you can get an hour to yourself, I would!

The tubs at Sycamore Mineral Spring can be reserved by the hour. The tubs are located outdoors on the side of a hill and have privacy fencing. Reserve your tub online and bring your towel if you don’t want to rent one. Leave feeling refreshed and ready to be the best parent you can be!

boy digging in the sand -- things to do in avila beach with kids

Enjoy the Beach

This should go without saying, but no trip to Avila Beach is complete without actually enjoying the beach! Whether you like boogie boarding, skimboarding, building sandcastles, or relaxing in a beach towel with a book, Avila has it all!

Avila Beach (Main Beach)

Located in the heart of Avila, this beach is often the busiest. Located within walking distance of restaurants and the park, the main beach is a great place to boogie board since the waves are bigger. Younger kids will enjoy frolicking in the calmer water of the creek that feeds into the sea. Flush toilets are easily accessible and outdoor, cold showers are available for washing off all that sand before getting in the car.

Olde Port Beach (Dog Beach)

Located just north of the main beach, this stretch of sand welcomes furry friends! The waves are smaller, but there’s plenty of room for Fido to run and meet new friends. There is a vault toilet located at the head of the stair leading down to the beach.

Pirate’s Cove (Nudist Beach)

While Pirate’s Cove is not at the top of the list when it comes to family-friendly activities in Avila Beach (it’s a clothing-optional beach), it’s always good to know these things. Pirate’s Cove is off the beaten path at the south end of Avila. It’s at the base of the Shell Beach Bluff Trail.

Fisherman’s Beach (Kayak Beach)

We don’t often see anyone fishing at the beach, but it is a great place to spend the afternoon! The water is very calm in this part of the bay. Located south of Port San Luis Pier and north of Olde Port Beach. It’s a great place to launch kayaks and paddleboards! This beach is the smallest of the four, but it’s also usually the least crowded. It’s also conveniently located near a restroom with flush toilets and hot showers.

There Are So Many Great Things to Do In Avila Beach with Kids

Avila Beach is a great place to explore and adventure with a family! If you need help planning an Avila Beach trip, let me know! Drop me a question below; I’d love to help answer it.

If you’re looking for other free activities for kids on the Central Coast, there are so many options.

Have you been to Avila Beach before? What activities did you enjoy the most?

11 Magical Campgrounds for Families in the USA

We’ve partnered with several travel bloggers to provide you with details about some of the most magical campgrounds for families in the United States!

From the east coast to the west coast, you’ll find something that fits your style. Whether it’s the redwood forests of California, the unique rock formations of Utah, or the Little Grand Canyon of Georgia, these sites are the perfect place to pitch your tent for a night, or two…or more!

magical campgrounds at providence canyon state park in georgia

Providence Canyon State Park

Lumpkin, Georgia

Recommended by Mike from FivePax

Providence Canyon State Park in Lumpkin, Georgia offers one of the most unique geological attractions in the Southeast United States. One of the seven natural wonders of Georgia, and known as Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” the park boasts excellent hiking around the rim and through towering chasms and canyon walls. Camping is available in either backcountry or pioneer sites, both options offering direct access to trails through the canyon. 

The canyon itself is an example of unintentional beauty caused by mankind’s interference with Mother Nature. Poor farming practices in the 1800s coupled with erosion cut through 150-foot canyon walls exposing stunning and vibrant sediment of salmon, scarlet, orange, yellow, and even purple. While about 1/30 the size of the actual Grand Canyon, Georgia’s version packs an accessible punch without the crowds.

The campsites are remote, primitive, exceptionally large, and magical. The clearings above the campsites are large enough to expose one of the few areas of excellent stargazing in the southeast. Families camping in pioneer sites enjoy a solid 200 yards from the neighbors with large open space, lean-to sheds, picnic tables, and dedicated outhouses.

Nearby attractions include the Coca Cola Space Science Center, which hosts the largest collection of NASA artifacts in Georgia, swimming and additional camping at Florence Marina State Park, and the National Infantry Museum


About Mike

Mike Baron is an outdoor enthusiast, husband, and father of three wild boys. When he’s not outside, he’s usually writing about it, either on his own Family Travel Blog, FivePax, or as a freelance travel writer.

magical campgrounds at watkins glen state park in new york with tents in a wooded forest

Watkins Glen State Park Campground

Watkins Glen, New York

Recommended by Neha from Travelmelodies 

Watkins Glen State Park is the most visited state park in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It is famed for its scenic vistas and numerous waterfalls, and it’s amazing to spend a night at the Watkins Glen campground. 

The campground in the State Park is spread over a large area with around 300 campsites and wooden cabins. The Watkins Glen campsites are spread out in six loops, with each loop identified with a village name that can be easily booked online at the Watkins State Park website. 

Each campsite is spacious and equipped with a fire pit, benches, and tables, with parking for cars. The best part is the campground is being surrounded by lush green trees, fresh air, and serenity.

The campground is best for families and includes facilities like restrooms, showers, a dumping station, and a firewood shop.  There are food concession shops, gift shops, and cabins. Near the campground are a kids’ playground and swimming pool, making it a hit amongst families.

During the day, explore the state park by hiking the scenic gorge trail that traverses the 19 waterfalls formed in the creek. The hike can be done with the kids! There are other trails to choose from as well! 

The fee for a campsite ranges from $18 – $30 with some additional booking charges. Non-residents of New York state pay an additional $5.

Summer is a popular time and hence it is advisable to book the campsite well in advance.

The Pines Campgrounds in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley, California

Recommended by Melanie from SuitChase

If you think that camping in one of the most beautiful valleys in the world surrounded by granite cliffs 3,000 feet tall sounds like the stuff dreams are made of, we would agree! Yosemite Valley boasts some of the most magical campgrounds, not just in the United States, but in the world.  

The campsites themselves aren’t the most magical part–it’s the setting. Everyone else seems to agree, as these campsites can be difficult to come by. They typically are booked within seconds of becoming available on the reservation system. And that’s not an exaggeration.

There are three “pines” campgrounds in Yosemite National Park: Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines. All three sit along the Merced River and can be used for both tent or RV camping. Be advised that while there are no hookups, there is a dump station available.

Yosemite Valley allows campers to enjoy the beautiful wilderness with the modern conveniences. Pay showers are available at the nearby Curry Village that includes body wash, shampoo, and a towel! If you need ice or almost anything else, it can be purchased at the General Store.

Visitors enjoy hiking to any of the stunning waterfalls, participating in the Junior Ranger Program, rock climbing, visiting the museum, or riding bikes around the valley. If you’re traveling with kids, check out four of our favorite family-friendly hikes in Yosemite!


ACT Campground

Moab, Utah

Recommended by Angela of Life by the Horns

Are you looking for a campground that is close to National Parks, has plenty of amenities, and is still accessible to civilization? Look no further than ACT Campground in Moab, Utah.

ACT is truly unique in its approach to sustainability, community, and exploration of the natural world. Located in downtown Moab, ACT is close to Arches, Canyonlands (Island in the Sky), the La Sal Mountains, and Dead Horse Point State Park.  Within reasonable driving distance is Natural Bridges, Canyonlands (Needles District), Goose Neck State Park, and Monument Valley.

ACT Campground is perfect for campers from all walks of life. In fact, it attracts travelers from all over the world! Whether you prefer tent camping, have an RV, or prefer one of its cabins, ACT delivers.

This campground views its visitors as a community! It offers both indoor and outdoor gourmet kitchens where people from all walks of life often come together to share their adventure stories and love of the outdoors. They also have a business center and lending library. 

Self-sustainability is also one of its core values. The property is solar operated, has a garden, and guests are encouraged to recycle and compost on-site

Our family has visited ACT each year for the past five years, and it is one of our favorite places. It’s like coming home.

entrance sign of magical campgrounds at fort wilderness in florida

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground

Orlando, Florida

Recommended by Margie with DQ Family Travel

Fort Wilderness is not your typical campground. It is located in the “most magical place on Earth”, Disney World.

While sites here can easily run over $100, the people who choose to camp here, know that location comes at a premium. Fort Wilderness is located on Disney property and has free transportation to all the four theme parks and the shopping/dining area of Disney Springs.

In addition to being so close to Mickey Mouse, Fort Wilderness offers guests a pool with a waterslide, food trucks, walking trails, a country-themed dining show, character appearances, and some of the largest and cleanest Comfort Stations (showers) I’ve ever seen. 

While most guests who stay here take advantage of the boat rides to Magic Kingdom and bus transportation to the theme parks, some just visit Fort Wilderness to get away from the hustle and bustle of Disney hotels. Some of the best things to do in Disney World besides the parks can be found at Fort Wilderness. Guests staying at the campsite or cabins have access to some great amenities and rentals. Some activities available are archery, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, and using the various sports courts found around the property. So, if you’d like to combine some Disney magic with a campground experience, then Fort Wilderness might be the place for you. 

Enjoy Fort Wilderness, one of the most magical campgrounds on the east coast!

view of river of magical campgrounds at longhorn ranch in wyoming

The Longhorn Ranch RV Resort

Dubois, Wyoming

Recommended by Brittany of Family on Standby

As if Wyoming weren’t stunning enough, the Longhorn Ranch keeps the magic coming. It offers plenty of grass and shade, which is not so common throughout Wyoming. The sites are spread out enough so you’ll have your own large, green space. And you can choose from a variety of sites: big rig friendly, riverfront, tent camping. Not only does this place have all the standard amenities like showers, laundry, playground, free wifi, and a general store, but you’ll get the views to go along with it. The campground is located on a gorgeous river with beautiful mountain views in the background.  It’s perfect for strolling around and admiring the scenery.

But the best part: its location. Longhorn Ranch is nestled in Dubois, Wyoming – a true cowboy town. You’ll feel like you stepped into an old western movie, but without the cheesy touristic side. Dubois is charming and authentic. While staying at the Longhorn Ranch, visit the famous Cowboy Café in downtown Dubois.

When you’re ready to start exploring, Grand Teton National Park is only an hour away.  Yellowstone is also within reach. Head to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton for one of the most gorgeous, and family-friendly, hikes, the Moose Ponds Trail. Admire the mountains from Schwabacher Landing. And snap your picture in front of the famous T.A. Moulton Barn in the historic Mormon Row.

The campground is the perfect distance for a relaxed stay, but close enough to enjoy all Grand Teton and Yellowstone have to offer.

magical campgrounds kids playing at Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara in California

Refugio State Beach Campground

Santa Barbara, California

Recommended by Melanie from SuitChase

Have you ever camped somewhere with the sound of crashing waves lulling you to sleep? If not, you’re in for a treat when you visit Refugio State Beach Campground just north of Santa Barbara in California.  Easily one of the most magical campgrounds on the California coast, you’ll want to add Refugio to your camping wishlist.

While the campsites themselves are on the small side, the palm-lined beach is the starring feature of this campground. Flush toilets and coin-operated showers are a nice bonus during your stay at Refugio State Park.

Kids will enjoy bodyboarding, playing in the sand, or going on a beach walk to hunt for seashells. Kayaking, paddleboarding, and surfing are other popular water activities. There’s also plenty of room on the beach to bump a volleyball or throw a frisbee.

For added adventure, drive 15-minutes south to visit Santa Barbara. Explore the marina, go for a bike or surrey ride, visit the zoo, or enjoy any of these adventurous family-friendly activities.

Refugio State Beach is popular, especially on the weekends, so make sure to secure your spot as soon as reservations are released (six months in advance). If you love sunshine, the best time to visit this enchanting campground is in the spring or fall.

magical campgrounds girls standing by water at sand hollow state park in Utah

Sand Hollow State Park

Washington County, Utah

Recommended by Kristina of Million Miller Mom

If you’re on the lookout for a camping experience that offers a gorgeous backdrop and plenty of amenities, be sure to check out one of Utah’s newest state parks, Sand Hollow State Park. With options for primitive camping, tents, and full hook-up, there is something for every visitor.

After you have settled into your campground, explore the Sand Mountain Dunes by ATV, go boating or simply enjoy the red sand beach and a dip in the reservoir. The mix of modern amenities, the number of options of things to do within the park, and the Mars-like red sand make this a truly unique place to camp.

Outside of the Park, Zion National Park is only 45 minutes away by car. Additionally, Utah has several state parks within the vicinity to check out including Quail Creek State Park (15 minutes), Snow Canyon State Park (30 minutes), and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park (1 hour). In nearby St. George, check out the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site, and Red Hills Desert Garden (free). For those traveling with younger children, be sure to add St. George Children’s Museum and Thunder Junction All Abilities Park to your travel itinerary.

Book your campsite here


About Kristina

Kristina Bullock is a family travel blogger based in San Jose, California. Follow her and her family on their adventures near and far on Million Miler Mom and Instagram.

kids playing on a redwood log in magical campgrounds in big basin state park near santa cruz

Big Basin Redwood State Park

Santa Cruz County, California

Recommended by Melanie from SuitChase

Camping in Big Basin near Santa Cruz is a fairytale experience. There are no words to describe these magical campgrounds! 

Sites are fairly private, especially in the Huckleberry Campground, with plenty of space behind the campsites for exploring and playing. The campsites are nestled amongst the tallest trees in the world, the Coastal Redwoods.

These redwoods are related to the Giant Sequoias that can be found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. These awe-inspiring trees can grow to heights over 350 feet and typically live 500-700 years. However, some of these trees live up to 2,000 years!

Campgrounds boast coin-operated showers, a dish-washing area, picnic tables, fire-pits with grills, and bear boxes for food storage.

Kids will love climbing giant fallen trees, crawling inside trees hollowed out by fire, hunting for banana slugs, and hiking along the creek to a small waterfall.  For added adventure, take the Roaring Camp Railroad through the redwoods to the beach and explore the Santa Cruz Boardwalk!

While California wildfires in 2020 destroyed much of these campgrounds, most of the big trees survived. They are in the process of rebuilding this beautiful park, and hopefully, they’ll be open to overnight guests once again in the near future.

dock at magical campgrounds at sugar pine at lake tahoe in california

Sugar Pine Point Campground

Lake Tahoe, California

Recommended by Sierra from Free to Travel Mama

Of all the places in the United States, Sugar Pine Point Campground in Lake Tahoe, California is one of the most magical campgrounds. Located on the west shore of the lake, this campground offers 175 campsites with plenty of space to explore and relax. The sugar pine trees are some of the tallest in the world and can be heard beautifully swaying in the breeze. Wildlife is also abundant, so don’t be surprised if you see a black bear, and make sure to utilize those food lockers! Miles of hiking trails meander through the park, many of them paved, as well as a two-mile-long swimming beach.

This popular area requires early reservations that open six months before your arrival date. Summer weekends fill up fast so prepare to start your trip mid-week, if you can, in order to grab a spot. Luckily, every campsite in this campground is beautiful, spacious, and well-located within the park.

Across the street from the campsites, and still within Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, is a day-use area complete with lake access, kayak rentals, the historic Hellman-Ehrman Estate that is open for touring, picnic areas, walking trails, Nature Center, and a beautiful pier. Evidence of the Washoe Native Americans that inhabited the area for many years can be seen around the park. This beautiful stretch of the Lake Tahoe area is arguably the most picturesque and peaceful, yet its water activities and hiking can also keep you busy all day!

magical campground near haviland lake called chris park group campground in colorado near durango

Chris Park Group Campground

Durango, Colorado

Recommended by Melanie from SuitChase

If you’re looking for a campground that will accommodate a large group (or even a small group), check out Chris Park Group Campground near Durango, Colorado.

Located in the San Juan Mountains, a range in southwestern Colorado that is part of the Rocky Mountains, these  magical campgrounds are perfect for a summer getaway!

The largest of the group sites has a large pavilion with picnic tables that will keep everyone dry during afternoon thunderstorms. There is a 15amp electrical hookup, volleyball court, and horseshoe pits. Bathroom facilities are primitive, offering vault toilets and no showers. If you don’t have an RV, and swimming in the lake isn’t your thing, you can pay for a shower at the Durango Rec Center.

If you’re searching for family-friendly activities, you’ll have plenty to choose from! At the entrance of the campground, there is a stable offering horseback riding. The nearby Haviland Lake is perfect for activities like fishing, swimming, and kayaking/canoeing. Hike around the lake or explore one of the many trails in the area. For an additional adventure, ride the train from Durango to the mountain town of Silverton, where you can step back in time to the mining days of the 1800s.

Chris Park Group Campground is a wonderful place for family reunions or just to meet up with a group of friends!


Are you ready to start planning a camping trip?  If you’re planning your first tent camping trip, check out A Beginner’s Guide to Tent Camping: 102 Things to Pack to get you started!

Which of these magical campgrounds do you want to add to your bucket list for your next family adventure? Do you know of any other campgrounds in the United States that are perfect for adventurous families? We’d love to hear about them! Drop your recommendation in the comments below!

Adventurous 2-Day Getaway to Santa Barbara with Kids

Santa Barbara is one of our favorite, close-to-home getaway destinations. Visiting Santa Barbara with kids, or without, is always a great idea.   

There’s plenty to do in this beautiful California beach town, yet it’s small enough that you don’t feel like you’re in a big city.

So, if your family is like ours and likes to find adventurers without breaking the bank, here is a collection of fun activities to help you enjoy your getaway to Santa Barbara with kids!

Take the Train (Amtrak)

If you live within a few hours of Santa Barabara, it’s easy enough to drive there.  BUT, if you want to make an extra memorable experience, take the train!

Growing up, our family took the train across the United States and even to Canada.  As children and teens, we loved the freedom of moving around on the train, relaxing in the lounge car, and playing card games on the tables in the snack car.

Although it’s a little more expensive than driving, taking the train is a fun option and can make for a unique adventure.  

Tip: Kid’s tickets are usually 50% off when riding with an adult on Amtrak.  Often, in October (in California), kids ride free!

family riding on an Amtrak train on vacation

Visit the Santa Barbara Zoo

The Santa Barbara Zoo is one of the most picturesque zoos I have visited.  It sits atop a hill at the south end of town and you can catch glimpses of the ocean within the park.

It’s a 30-acre park that houses approximately 146 different species including giraffes, elephants, capybaras, and penguins.

For an additional fee, guests can ride the small train around the park and get a behind the scenes tour that is sure to delight younger adventurers!

giraffes feeding on hay at the santa barbara zoo

Explore the Santa Barabara Harbor

Fish, crabs, birds, and boats make the harbor a fun place to visit.  You can dream about which houseboat or yacht you’d like to own, watch the fishermen off-load their daily catch, and walk out to the end of the bay on the boardwalk.

If you’re lucky you may spot some dolphins on the open ocean side of the walkway. 

The smell of hot clam chowder and fish and chips from the neighboring restaurants will waft past you as you walk along the docks.  We recommend that you enjoy at least one meal near the marina!  After all, you are on vacation!  

seagull sitting on a post on a boat dock with a boat in the santa barbara harbor

Bike Along the Waterfront in Santa Barbara

Did you know you can bring your bike on the train?  Depending on what train you take, it’s sometimes free to bring your bike as long as you make a bike reservation ahead of time.  Doublecheck requirements for bringing your bike on the Amtrak website.

If you’re not taking the train, you can bring your bikes on your bike rack, or you can rent bikes from several local companies.

If you want to get fancy, rent a surrey bike!  (Does anyone else start singing, “Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry / when I take you out in the surrey / when I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!” whenever they hear the word surrey?  No?  Honestly, I haven’t even seen Oklahoma! but apparently, I listened to the soundtrack far too many times as a child.

Bike and walking trails follow the waterfront and are a great way to see more of Santa Barabara safely.

Play on the Beach

Kids are perfectly content to play for the hours at the beach. Dig in the sand, build sandcastles, play ball, jump over waves, and search for sea creatures.  

The kids will be entertained while the adults lounge and read a book or hit the volleyball around.

Obviously, the water in Santa Barbara is cooler than tropical water but it’s warmer than most northern California beaches, and is great for swimming or body boarding!  It fluctuates throughout the year and is typically warmest in late summer or early fall.

child playing in the sand on the beach with a green bucket

Go Kayaking in the Harbor

If you want to explore in the water and not just from the shore, rent a kayak or paddleboard from one of the local rental shops.  

With kids, it’s often easiest to rent a double-kayak.  

If you want to play it safe, or if your paddling arms aren’t up to exploring the open ocean, you can kayak around the harbor.  Don’t forget to be mindful of harbor etiquette.  Avoid the main channel, yield to larger boats (don’t cross in front of them), and avoid fishing lines.

More experienced paddlers can explore outside the harbor area.

kayaks stacked on boat dock in the santa barbara harbor

Explore More of Santa Barbara with Kids

There’s plenty to see and do in Santa Barbara.  For nature lovers, visit The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.  History buffs will enjoy touring the Santa Barbara Mission or the Maritime Museum.  Aspiring scientists and innovators will want to visit MOXI, a contemporary museum geared toward children (and children at heart).  Avid hikers will enjoy a variety of trails to choose from.  There’s something for everyone in Santa Barbara!

Ready to go!  Pack your bags in 30 minutes and hit the road!

10 Free Things to Do with Kids Near Paso Robles

You’re planning an amazing getaway to one of your favorite wine country destinations in California: Paso Robles.  However, you’re bringing the whole family along and need some free things to do with kids near Paso Robles.

You’re in luck!

Paso Robles and the surrounding area have some unique opportunities that kids will enjoy.

Here’s a list of some of our favorite ways to make memories on the Central Coast of California…for free!

See the Elephant Seals (and Zebras)

If you have animal lovers in your family, drive up the coast to visit the elephant seals just north of Heart Castle in San Simeon.  

These hefty mammals can be up to 16 feet long and weigh up to 5,000 pounds. That’s a lot of blubber. But don’t be fooled by their large size…they can move fast. It’s best to observe these long-nosed creatures from a distance.

The elephant seals gather on small beaches year-round near Piedras Blancas. During mating and birthing season, December through February, male seals (bulls) engage in dominance fights. I’m not sure what’s more amazing: watching these creatures grunt and honking and vying for female attention or watching the baby seal (calves) flopping their way across the sand.

There is a parking lot with an accessible trail with signage where you can learn more about these ocean and beach-loving creatures.  

Look for Zebras on the Hearst Ranch

While you’re passing by Hearst Castle on Highway 1, the Hearst Ranch butts up to the road and you can frequently catch a glimpse of the herd of zebras grazing on the hillside. If you see people pulled off the side of the road with their cameras facing the hills, chances are there’s a zebra (or two or twenty) close by.

TIP: While you’re in the area, enjoy a picnic lunch and an afternoon at Hearst State Beach (one of my favorite beaches on the Central Coast).

Go Boogie or Body Boarding

No trip to Paso Robles is complete without spending time at the beach! Kids of all ages love playing in ocean water. If you have your own boogie board and wetsuit (or skimboard), this activity will provide hours of free fun.

If you don’t have a board or wetsuit you can rent one in most beach towns for a half or whole day (but it won’t be free).  Wetsuits are generally advised in this area, as the water can be chilly.  (If you want warmer water, you would need to travel an hour or two south to Santa Barbara–another great place to adventure with kids!)

For those who are exceptionally brave, they can body surf without a wetsuit. Just know that you should probably enjoy freezing your tushie off. The ocean water temperature typically ranges from the mid-50s to the mid-60s, year-round.

kids holding skimboards at the beach while watching waves in Morro Bay in California

Skimboarding in Morro Bay, California

View the Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach

Visiting the Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach is also high on the list of free things to do with kids near Paso Robles.  Unfortunately, in recent years the population of migrating butterflies has dwindled.  The numbers can fluctuate from year to year, so you never know when you might get lucky!

Every year, between November and February, thousands and thousands of monarch butterflies migrate south and make a temporary home in the warmer climate of the Central Coast.

Kids will enjoy walking through a grove of eucalyptus trees trying to spot large clusters of butterflies hanging from the branches.  

Park rangers can frequently be found in the grove, educating visitors about the delicate yet resilient Monarch butterflies. They often have small telescopes out for kids to use to view the butterflies better.

Of course, this is a seasonal occurrence, and the migration timing changes from year to year. You can learn more about the Monarch Butterfly Grove including current count numbers before you visit.

monarch butterflies hanging from trees in grove in Pismo Beach in California
child holding monarch butterfly

Explore Tide Pools at Montaña de Oro

One of our kids’ favorite free activities is tide pooling. If you’re not familiar with the phrase, it’s hunting for sea creatures in the rocks when the tide is low.

Children, and adults, love searching for sea stars (starfish), sea anemones, sea urchins, muscles, crabs, hermit crabs, and sometimes octopus.

Check the ocean tide table to determine the best time of day to visit the tide pools.

Montaña de Oro State Beach offers great tide pooling opportunities as well as shell and rock hunting.  

barnacles sea urchins sea anemones in a rocky tide pool

Take a Hike

Hiking is always a great way to get rid of some excess energy! The Central Coast has a variety of trails suited for younger (or older) children.

Centennial Park Walkway

This paved path in Paso Robles can be found at Centennial Park. Ride a scooter or walk on this accessible path. It’s about a mile long (two miles round trip), and young explorers will enjoy running along this path.

Jim Green Trail

Located in Atascadero, just 15 minutes from Paso Robles, this 1.6-mile loop trail winds its way through rolling hills and oaks…and has a resting bench overlooking a golf course. If you keep your eyes peeled as you walk, you’ll likely spot a deer.

Three Bridges Trail

Also located in Atascadero, this 3.5-mile trail passes over a small creek and winds its way through natural grasses and oak-tree covered hillsides. Kids especially enjoy taking an extra long break at the creek to explore.

Estero Trail to Cayucos Point

Located just north of Cayucos, this trail winds along the bluff and offers beach access at many points along the trail. It’s also another great place to tidepool or rock hunt.

Harmony Headlands Trail

The trailhead to Harmony Headlands can be found between Cayucos and Cambria, near a small town called Harmony. The trail is wide and flat enough for study, heavy-duty strollers. It starts near the highway and ends overlooking the beach. Wildlife is abundant. Keep an eye out for hawks, eagles, coyotes, and snakes.  

Reservoir Canyon Creek Bypass Trail

The trailhead to Reservoir Canyon can be found at the base of “the grade”, in San Luis Obispo. While hiking the entire canyon loop is 5+ miles and for more advanced hikers, there is a shorter trail (marked in blue) that wraps around the creek. Near the parking lot, you’ll also spot a small waterfall and cave.

family hiking on hillside in Reservoir Canyon in San Luis Obispo

Hiking Reservoir Canyon Trail, San Luis Obispo

Bike the Bob Jones Trail

If you want to do something that doesn’t involve hiking, try biking the Bob Jones Trail near Avila Beach. It’s 5.2 miles round trip with only one minor incline, making it perfect for young legs.

This popular, paved trail and meanders along a creek, through a golf course, ending at the beach.

kids with bike helmets on bikes at Bob Jones Trailhead in Avila Beach
kids and dad with bikes looking at the beach in Avila

Feed the Animals at Avila Barn

If you have young kids or toddlers, pair your bike ride with a stop by Avila Barn in Avila Beach. This country store offers a collection of farm-fresh produce and good, grilled corn ears, ice cream, and a collection of farm animals…that kids can feed themselves! Heads of lettuce are available for a nominal fee. Young guests will love interacting with goats, chickens, and cows.

toddler feeding goat at Avila Barn in Avila Beach

Slide Down a Hill at Shinsiemer Park

While there are a variety of great parks in Paso Robles and the surrounding areas, my kids’ favorite park is located in San Luis Obispo.

This park is home to the SLO Blues Baseball team and has a disc golf course, tennis courts, a pool, and a sand volleyball court.

But the star feature of this park is the playground. In addition to a normal play structure, this park has a small “zip line” and a large hill with artificial grass that kids slide down on cardboard.

There are generally enough cardboard pieces at the park for everyone, so there’s no need to bring your own.

Fish at Barney Schwartz Park

Fishing for kids under 16 is always free in California. If your child has a fishing pole, grab some worms from Walmart and head over to Barney Schwartz Park in Paso Robles.

There’s a small pond stocked with fish. My kids enjoying fishing here with friends, since it’s almost guaranteed you’ll catch a fish within minutes of throwing your line. Often, they’re bluegill measuring 3-4”, but the kids don’t care!

girls fishing at Barney Schwartz Park pond in Paso Robles

Watch the Sea Otters and Seals in Morro Bay Harbor

If the adults in the party need a fish and chips fix, head out to Morro Bay! After enjoying some clam chowder overlooking the water, walk along the boardwalk the lines the bay.

Young kids enjoy watching the boats, kayaks, and paddleboards in the harbor, and they’re sure to see some marine life! Seals like to hang out in the bay, as do sea otters. The otters are adorable, tied up in the kelp. 

Some of the otters in the bay have been rehabilitated by Monterey Bay Aquarium. If you walk near Morro Rock, near the kelp bed where the otters hang out, you may get lucky enough to meet up with a docent and a telescope so you can get a close-up view of these fun-loving, furry mammals.

otter floating in Morro Bay in California
mom and kids watching otter float in harbor in Morro Bay in California


You may have come to Paso Robles for the wine, but there are plenty of ways to make memories, for free, that the kids will enjoy, too!

If you have any questions about free things to do with kids near Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo, drop me a comment below! I would love to hear from you!