There is something pretty cool about the California Central Coast that you may not have thought of. The San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach area is one of the more beautiful and easily accessible places in the state. It is home to the Hearst Castle, Cal Poly, Neverland Ranch and some of the best wineries and hiking California has to offer. If you live in Los Angeles or the Bay Area, you can’t deny, it’s just a beautiful and relaxing place.

The central coast is a place of rolling hills and the only major freeway in the area is highway 101. It cuts right through the middle of the region on its way down to Southern California. Because of all the wineries and restaurants without kids’ menus, you might think this is not a great place to bring kids. But actually, it just might be a better place to take them than Disneyland.

The sprawling hillsides of San Luis, Pismo Beach, and the Santa Ynez Valley are a great out-of-the-way place to bring young kids. There are plenty of places for them to hike, explore, picnic, pick apples and hang out on the beach. Initially, they might say they have no interest, but if you decide to put their desires aside, you might see them have an experience they will take home with them.

One of my favorite places on the Central Coast is Avila Beach. This small beach town used to be dotted with oil drums, but now is an escape for families in the area. Many Bay Area people do not know about this town. It is a small town hidden in a beach cove that has recently been developed with a few hotels, restaurants, wine bars, and ice cream shops. It is not turning into a packed resort town just yet. The town is small enough that it cannot possibly accommodate large resorts and thousands of tourists all at once. But it can get crowded on the weekends, so if you have a few weekdays at your disposal this summer, pack the kids, and check it out. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Another part of the central coast that is worth your time is Solvang and the Santa Ynez Valley. Solvang, the picturesque town with Dutch-style architecture and famously known for several scenes in the movie “Sideways,” has some cool restaurants and bakeries. You will notice how charming and calming it can be, and your kids might awe at how it looks like a backlot at Universal Studios. But this place is real, authentic and is worth your time.

Continue through Solvang on Highway 246, and into the Santa Ynez Valley. This valley is sprawling with steep hillsides and wineries dotted all over. The place has plenty of hidden areas where you can briefly park, have a picnic, let the kids make fun of each other, while you remind yourself to be carefree.

If you want to see smiles on your kids’ faces this summer, you probably assume that you need to spend a lot of cash and shower them with Disneyland-like experiences. This place, however, can be an excellent family getaway spot that will not cost nearly as much. The hotels are not cheap, as with any hotel in California, but the food is great, the experiences are breathtaking and your kids might just, have something to brag about when they tell their friends what they did this summer.