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Check out San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, and Los Osos, then get on US 101 for Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, and Santa Maria. Other scenic cities on this 10-day trip onclude Santa Barbara, Ventura, Fillmore, and Bakersfield – with a stop in Six Flags.
Day 1 & 2: San Luis Obispo / Morro Bay
Old Mission de Tolosa, 782 Monterey Street, (805) 543-6850, built in 1772 by Padre Serra as the fifth in the chain, is the core of the city that bears its name. Around the mission is an enjoyable “Path of History” self-guided walking tour of buildings and shops reflecting the cultures of the city’s past and present. Maps and a Visitors Guide are available at the Chamber, 1039 Chorro Street, (805) 781-2777, a block south of the mission and starting point of the tour.
Additional sites to visit downtown are the Art Center on Mission Plaza, the historic Victorian Jack House, 536 Main Street, (805) 781-7308, and the restored Railroad Depot, on south end of Santa Rosa Street. The Apple Farm Mill House, 2015 Monterey Street, is a chance to see an authentic working grist mill in a beautiful scenic garden setting, producing ground wheat, apple cider and ice cream.
The San Luis Obispo area offers plenty of outdoor recreation with bike, hiking and walking trails in more than 10 parks, and seven golf courses. The Chamber’s Visitors Guide lists them all. Sailing, windsurfing and kayaking in Morro Bay and on Lopez Lake, is very popular.
Day 3: Avila Beach / Santa Maria
Head south on US 101 and exit to Avila Beach for a drive through a 1950s town with a great beach. Back on US 101, exit to Pismo Beach and head to the pier for shops and a taste of great clam chowder and fish and chips. Pismo Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, (805) 473-7220, is set aside for off highway vehicles use.
On 101 again, near Grover Beach, the eucalyptus grove attracts thousands of Monarch butterflies in late fall. The historic village of Arroyo Grande has a neat walking tour. Continue south on 101 into Santa Maria, home of the “best barbecue in the state” and the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. This scenic country byway travels through vineyards and rolling hills. In nearby Guadalupe visit the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve and the Dunes Center, 1055 Guadalupe Street, (805) 343 2455. Buried beneath the dunes is the set from Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments,” left here after shooting the movie, and ‘middens’ left over from the Chumash Indians long ago.
Take Highway 1 south to Lompoc. From June to mid-July, you are treated to 19 miles of flowers fields in full bloom and unbelievable color. The La Purisima Concepcion Mission, 2295 Purisima Road, 11th of the California missions, was built here in 1787 and moved to its current location following the 1812 earthquakes. Restoration began in 1934 using original building methods. Proceed on 246 to Buellton and Solvang, gateways to Santa Ynez Valley.
Solvang, as “Danish Capitol of America” still maintains the charm, customs and character of its early founders. A walking-tour map of the village, identifying its marvelous bakeries, restaurants and shops, is available from your local Best Western host. You can also tour on “The Honen,” a replica of a Copenhagen street car pulled by two large Belgian horses. Santa Inés Mission, one block east of central Solvang, (805) 688-4815, was built in 1804 as the 19th mission. It connected the La Purisma and Santa Barbara missions. Damaged by the 1812 earthquakes, it remains an active parish today and significant site along Solvang's Heritage Trail.
Recent preservation efforts include the future "Mission Mills State Park" restoration of a fulling mill and grist mill within the historic district". A 20year restoration effort produced the existing buildings. Enjoy the famous pea soup at Buellton’s Pea Soup Andersen’s.
Also, check out the superb wineries in the area, part of the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association, P.O. Box 1558, Santa Ynez, 93460-1558, (800) 218-0881, (805) 688-0881. Winery maps are available at 3669 Sagunto Street, Unit 103, in Santa Ynez. For an inland perspective, take the scenic San Marcos Pass Road, 154, from Santa Ynez to Santa Barbara over the Santa Ynez Mountains.
Day 4 & 5: Goleta / Santa Barbara
At Goleta, visit the South Coast Railroad Museum, 300 N. Los Carneros Road, (805) 964-3540, with miniature train rides, handcar rides and rail tours. You can find useful maps in the annual “Santa Barbara: The Magazine for Visitors” available from Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau, 1601 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 (805) 966-9222. A map for the Red Tile Walking Tour of historic downtown is also in the magazine. A unique place for shopping downtown is Paseo Nuevo, between state and Chapala, (805) 963-2202.
Points of interest to see are: El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Site, 123 E. Canon Perdido, (805) 965-0093, Santa Barbara Historical Museum, 136 E. De la Guerra, (805) 966-1601, El Paseo’s “The Street In Spain” shopping arcade built around an 1827 adobe home, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State, (805) 963-4364, and the downtown La Arcada, a Spanish-style building and courtyard with galleries, restaurants and shops.
The Old Mission Santa Barbara, upper end of Laguna, (805) 682-4149, 10th in the chain and known as the “Queen of the Missions,” is still an active parish church. Other sites to visit are, the Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta del Sol, (805) 682-4711, with an excellent collection from the Chumash tribe, Santa Barbara Zoo, 500 Ninos Drive, (805) 962-5339, with over 700 animals in their natural habitat, and Stearns Wharf, State Street and beachfront, built in 1872. It has restaurants, shops and the Ty Warner Sea Center Visitor Centers, with information and exhibits on nearby Channel Islands.
The Yacht Harbor and Breakwater, with its scenic half-mile walking tour, provides outstanding views of beach and city and a great place to watch sunsets. Take a sunset harbor cruise with Santa Barbara Sailing Center / Double Dolphin Cruises, Santa Barbara Harbor directly right of the boat launch ramp, Santa Barbara, CA 93109, (800)-350-9090. In the evenings, you can choose between live theater, the symphony, light opera, dance or dinner musical theatre. Dining out here is an enjoyable challenge, given the choices of cuisines. Ask your Best Western host for ideas.
Days 6 & 7: Carpinteria / Ventura
Twelve miles south on 101 is Carpinteria State Beach Park with some of Carpinteria's best surf fishing, public beaches and the quaint seaside town of the same name. Visitors are welcomed at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club, 3375 Foothill Road, (805) 684-8667, for matches held each Sunday, April through October. Continue south on 101 for 25 miles to the historic beach town of Ventura. Originally incorporated as San Buenaventura after the local San Buenaventura Mission, 225 E. Main, (805) 648-4496. The mission was built in 1782 halfway between San Diego and Carmel as ninth in the chain.
Two other historical sites to see are: Ventura County Museum of History & Art, 100 E. Main, (805) 641-1876, with Native American, pioneer and Hispanic artifacts and Albinger Archaeological Museum, 113 E. Main, (805) 648-5823, with artifacts dating back 3,500 years. A drive up California Street takes you past City Hall which has appeared in many films shot in town.
Main Street has neat antique shops, boutiques and sidewalk cafes. The Olivas Adobe Historical Park, 4200 Olivas Park Dr, (805) 644-4346, includes an 1847 hacienda that once was part of the 4,692 acre land-grant Rancho San Miguel. With miles of trails in the city, biking is a favorite sport. The city has developed the Harbor Village & Marina, 1559 Spinnaker Drive, (805) 644-0169, into a fun place with a carousel and paddle and electric boats for tooling around the harbor. At Harbor Village, visit the Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center, (805) 658-5730, for the five offshore islands.
Island trips for picnicking or whale watching are through the official transportation concessionaire, Island Packers, 1867 Spinnaker, Dr., Ventura, 93001, (805) 642-1393. Advance reservations are recommended. From Ventura, take 33 northeast off 101 for an enjoyable scenic backroad drive through the coastal mountains and the quaint village of Ojai to Santa Paula.
Ojai was developed by Edward Libbey of Libbey Glass fame. This mountain community is home to artisans, writers and photographers of note. Its hot springs, along with the area’s natural beauty and climate, draw visitors to local spas. In Santa Paula, visit the Union Oil Museum, 1001 E. Main Street, (805) 933-0076 (you pass right by it on 33.) The building is an 1890 Queen Anne- Italianate style, built by the founders of Union Oil. The town is a favorite location for shooting movies with its turn-of-the-century Victorian houses and 1940s and ‘50s charm and character.
In Santa Paula, pick up 126 east through the rich agricultural Santa Clara valley to Fillmore. The little one room red school house on the right, outside of Santa Paula, was built in 1879 as the first school for children of growers. It’s still in use. The Fillmore & Western Railway Company, Central Park Depot, (805) 524-2546, runs every weekend between Fillmore and Santa Paula through the orange and avocado groves gracing this beautiful valley. The train, which has been used in movies and television commercials, offers fun and on-board entertainment. Continue east on 126 to Valencia.
Day 8: Valencia
Spend day at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor Water Park, (661) 255-4100, off of I-5. L.A. County’s Castaic Lake, just north of Valencia offers plenty boating, skiing and windsurfing.
The William S. Hart County Park & Museum, (661) 259-0855, takes you back to the silent film days with a tour of a ranch house and Spanish mansion. The Valencia Town Center, east of I-5 off of Magic Mountain Parkway, (661) 287-9050, is a good place to shop.
Day 9: Mojave / Tehachapi
Head northeast on I-5 and take 14 through Antelope Valley to Mojave. Nearby is Edwards Air Force Base, the home of NASA’s and USAF’s Flight Testing Center & Museum, (661) 277-1110. For years it was the only landing site of returning NASA spacecrafts.
Take 58 to Tehachapi and drive the self-guided tour through the world’s largest wind-generated energy farm. Maps are available from Kern Wind Energy Association, P.O. Box 277, Tehachapi, 93581, (805) 822-7956. North of town is the Tehachapi Loop, an 1876 engineering feat on the rail line from Bakersfield to Los Angeles. The loop makes it possible for trains to easily climb from the Central Valley, 500 foot sea-level, over the Tehachapi Mountains, 4,000 foot elevation, into the Los Angeles Basin. Continue on 58 into Bakersfield.
Day 10: Bakersfield / Hanford / Lemoore / Paso Robles / Atascadero
Bakersfield was founded in 1869 by Col. Thomas Baker, an engineer of the state militia who was exploring the idea of a navigable waterway from Kern Lake to the San Francisco Bay. He gave the land for the town site. Oil was discovered in the county in 1865. It is home to the largest Basque community in the U.S. Kern County Museum & Lori Brock Children’s Discovery Center, 3801 Chester Avenue, (661) 861-2132, includes 50 historic buildings and artifacts from 1860 to 1930 and interactive hands-on exhibits for children.
California Living Museum,14000 Alfred Harrel Highway, (661) 872-2256, includes botanical gardens, zoo, and a natural history museum. In Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, Sillect Avenue, (661) 328-7560, you can enjoy dinner, theater, live country entertainment and viewing memorabilia from Owens and other country music stars. Plenty of opportunities for water sports at Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area, (661) 861-2063, Lake Ming and Hart Park, (661) 872-3179, on the banks of the Kern River.
Take 43 north and visit Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, in Allensworth. Founded in 1908, it is the only town founded, financed and governed by Black Americans. It is currently being restored. Continue to Hanford and take 128 to Lemoore, then 41 to Paso Robles. In Paso Robles you will find Helen Moe’s Antique Doll Museum on 101 at Wellsona Road. Pick up a self-guided historical tour booklet from the Paso Robles Main Street Association, 835 D 12th Street, (805) 238-4103.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, check out the Farmers Markets in town. There are over 30 area wineries making up the Paso Robles Vintners & Growers Association, P. O. Box 324, Paso Robles, 93447, (800) 549-WINE (8463) or (805) 239-8463. Get their Wine Tasting Tour Guide and drive the scenic backroads to the vineyards. Return to 101, head south and exit on Vineyard Drive in Templeton for a trip through the beautiful Paso Robles wine country. Peachy Canyon Road or Adelaida Road brings you back to 101. Continue on US 101 south to Atascadero and Atascadero Lake Park and the Charles Paddock Zoo for a fun stop. Then continue south back to San Luis Obispo.