Sunday, October 28th, 2007 at 12:32 am in Family Travel.
Traveling with children may be challenging, but the delights far outweigh the baggage. So last month, the Times travel section launched “Around the World,” a showcase of practical tips and great family travel finds from the real experts, Bay Area families. We began with the Big Apple and DC with the operatic Streshinskys of Kensington, then followed the Williams family to Cancun, Mexico. This week, the Casey family weighs in on California beach towns.
THE TREK IN A SEC: This Pleasanton family wanted to escape to the beach, but didnâ€™t relish the idea of driving all the way to Southern California. Their find: Avila Beach, a cozy beach town on the central coast near Hearst Castle.
BEST FAMILY-FRIENDLY HOTEL: Avila Lighthouse Inn and Suites ($249 and up). The hotel is right on the beach, thereâ€™s a small putting green, a life-sized chess set and ping pong, says Shelley, plus a pool and spa. And Nathan and Allison enjoyed making their own waffles at the complimentary breakfast buffet – a vastly better spread than the usual stale Danish and dixie cup of OJ.
** The Beach â€” Set into a sheltered cove, Avilaâ€™s beach is, of course, the top draw. The Caseys spent most of their time playing in the sand, building sand castles and boogie boarding, after buying boards at a local surf shop. â€śThe waves are definitely bigger at Pismo, so if you have older children who want to learn to surf â€” Pismo,â€ť says Shelley. â€śBut Avila Beachâ€™s smaller waves were perfect for our age kids.â€ť
** Hearst Castle â€” Nathan and Allison were awestruck by the sheer grandeur of the place, says Shelley, although the 90-minute tour is a little long for families with kids. But suffice it to say, William Randolph Hearstâ€™s 90,080-sq.ft. abode does not disappoint. Architect Julia Morganâ€™s design includes 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms and a 345,000 gallon pool. The Hearst Castle Experience tour is $20 for adults, $10 for children 6-17. Book tour reservations online or call 800-444-4445.
** Elephant Seals â€” Nathan and Allison also loved seeing the elephant seals at the rookery 7 miles north of town.
MOST MEMORABLE FOOD: Avila Beach doesnâ€™t have a lot of restaurants, but the Caseys enjoyed the Custom House, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner down near the beach (404 Front St., 805-595-7555). You can pick up a beach picnic or nosh on the patio. The dinner menu includes six types of steaks and fresh King Salmon, caught just offshore. Other Casey fave: Delâ€™s Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant â€” fabulous pizza and pasta, says Shelley â€” in nearby Shell Beach (401 Shell Beach Rd., 805-773-4438).
Have you gone somewhere wonderful with your family? Send a jpeg and your familyâ€™s list of faves – best family-friendly hotel, coolest sightseeing, great eats and family travel tips – to email@example.com.