since weekends are pretty work-filled around here -- can you say: real estate and vacation rental management and an events-driven industry like pr? -- we decided to take advantage of spring break and have a little mid-week fun!
there were a few criteria to planning the trip:
1) within 3-5 hour driving distance
2) warm and (hopefully) sunny in april
3) unstructured play opportunities for the kids
4) water of some kind, preferrably ocean
5) fun excursions & outings nearby
6) mellow and relaxing
7) no lines or waiting
after an abandoned attempt to pull off Venice Beach + Disneyland halfway through planning (see # 6 and 7 above) matt suggested the central coast near los osos where he lived one year after college.
so later that night, after the kids were in bed, we opened a bottle of wine and started researching our trip - me on my laptop and matt on his ipad. within the next hour, we had our whole trip planned and hotel reservations made! (and had fun planning too!)
it was, by far, the least thought-out and quickly-thrown-together vacation we've ever planned. and in the end, it was one of the best trips we've ever taken! i can't say enough about spontenaeity, flexibility, lowering expectations and just going with the flow.
we settled on avila beach as our homebase and got mid-week steals at an oceanfront property with pool & hot tub. we had a large porch facing the ocean with sunset views over the mountain. at night we slept with only the wooden shutters closed so we could enjoy the salty night air and the sound of fog horns. we were literally steps from the beach and protected by a pedestrian walkway along the boardwalk where the kids could run wild. the kids really loved the hotel breakfast where they could make their own mini waffles in a belgian waffle maker :) we'd make breakfast and then eat poolside each morning, taking a hot tub while the fog rolled out and the sunshine came in.
the beach was so nice we could have just stayed right there for four days and had a blast, but we did a bit of adventuring too and headed each day to see something new.
on our way south we visited the freakishly dilapidated winchester mystery house and we bookended the return leg of our trip with the extravagently retro hearst castle. in between we filled the days with sand dunes and picnics, volleyball and sand castles, fish shacks and pubs, waves and wind, hot springs and walks, sunshine and beach towns, salt water taffy and sea salt cookies, sunsets and dinners with views, plaus the very lively san luis obispo farmer's market where we watched jugglers on unicycles, ate kettle corn and listened to live music.
perhaps the highlight for the kids was 'bubblegum alley' in slo - a recommendation from my mom who found this through national geographic kids. this is an alleway near the mission in downtown slo filled with gum from back in the 1960s. it was both cool & gross...the perfect combo for kids.
on our drive back north, we decided to enjoy the whole day as part of the vacation (which we rarely do, rushing home to start the work week instead) so we stopped in a cute beach town called cayucos for sea salt cookies (yum) and then made our way up to san simeon where we visited hearst castle. (i'd never been and it was beautiful - especially the underground roman pool!) aftewards we drove up highway 1 and through big sur watching the waves and catching a setting sun.
we came home feeling rested, relaxed and - best of all - really connected as a family. four days never felt so rejuvinating.
relaxed (that doesn't happen often enough!)
boy wonder. (it's pretty much true. and for the record, when he realized what it said, he decided that this tshirt is embarrasing.)
the beach is the perfect place for this girl! she shines, wild & free.
road trippin...one of my favorite things to do.
a cardigan and a bathing suit counts as 'dressed' in pismo beach.
now that this boy loves to read, harry potter even comes to the beach.
fresh from a game of volleyball with satch
loving the sunshine (even got a little sunburned to prove it!)
what trip to the ocean is complete without some salt water taffy?
fighting seagulls for our lunch at morro bay (fish & chips...yum! and the birds knew it too)
$3 on souvenirs never went so far!
fascinated and horrified in bubble gum alley (but we left our mark!)
the backstreets are worth a walk in san luis obispo
behind the nightclub
crescent moon and new orleans jazz band at farmer's market
morning under the pier
the road home
morning cuddles, happy family style - back at home and trying to keep vacation alive.