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Dec 29, 2009 03:23 PM

New Year Eve in Pismo Beach with 2.5 y.o. toddler


We (my husband and I with 2.5 y.o. way too energeric toddler) will be travelling from San Francisco to Los Angeles around New Year holiday. We are going to start from San Francisco in the morning of Dec 31, have a tour to the Hearst Castle and then go to Pismo Beach to have a New Year Eve dinner and spend a night .

We read about Jocko's in Nipomo which seems to be a nice place but we hope to find a place with something more than just a steak and fries. Something simple but with interesting twist. Something like PassionFish in Pacific Grove but maybe a bit less quiet and more casual so they would tolerate our kid.

Another way would be to order take-away and have a dinner in our hotel room - less interesting but safer in case the kid will be tired and fussy. But again, we hoped for a "real" dinner, not a pizza or Chinese in carton boxes. It's a New Year eve and we have a couple of bottles of champaign with us!

Any ideas would help!
Thanks a lot in advance.

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  1. The first place that came to mind is Big Sky in San Luis Obispo. Fresh local food, great wine list, and totally kid friendly.

    1. In every respect, starting with the fact that you will be driving on the outside of Highway One with huge dropoffs right next to you, add that it could be rainy and or foggy, (in which case you won't see much of those dropoffs, I suppose, but you also won't see the view), the fact that the drive from San Francisco to Pismo Beach via San Simeon is almost six hours via Highway One (and I that is assuming you won't pick up One till you get to Monterey!), that the tour at Hearst will take you more than two hours (I believe the tour is 1.5 hours, but remember, you also need to take a bus up the mountain and back again), and finally the fact that it will be New Year's Eve when most restaurants, particularly those in tourist areas, have jacked up prices and fixed menus, and this day sounds like a true form of hell to me. and of course, on NYE you will most likely need a reservation for your Hearst Tour (I am assuming you have one already), which means you will have the stress of getting to the Castle check in area by a specific time (they recommend 20 minutes before tour start time). Oh yeah, and that is NOT taking into account the way too energetic toddler.

      Forget it. You won't have energy for anything but take out pizza. If that. You really probably should rethink this plan.

      It might be barely tolerable if, before or after your tour you go by the Sebastian Store across Highway One, get some 'picnic' food for dinner, and let your toddler run on the beach, weather permitting, then spend the night in San Simeon or perhaps Cambria (Pismo Beach is more than an hour further south) and picnic in your hotel room.

      7 Replies
      1. re: susancinsf

        tried to edit (but having issues with editing) to add that I think Sebastians General Store closes early (ie before dinner) so plan accordingly. Also, apparently they were just purchased by Hearst Corporation, so not sure if that will have an impact on food or not (it was good when we got sandwiches there this summer). Of course, there is a food court at the Hearst Castle check in location. No good place there for the kid to run around, however.

        1. re: susancinsf

          Thank you very much for your kind reply.

          After you pointed out, it does seem a bit crazy to me, too. But, the Hearst Castle tour is booked, as well as one night lodging in Pismo Beach, so there is no way out.

          We love to travel, and California seem to be the best place on earth (plus some places in Europe) to travel by car.

          The only thing I can do to make our trip a bit easier is to plan ahead as much as possible - book a table, research menus.

          We are going to have a hearty breakfast at home, then make a stop at Sebastians (thanks!) before our tour to the Hearst Castle (booked for 3:30 pm) for late lunch. By then time we get to our hotel, it will be 7-8pm. Plenty of time to have dinner! I wouldn't add miles that evening going to SLO though. That's why I thought about something in Pismo Beach or right nearby.

          You are right that we will be tired and "picnic" in our hotel room might become an attractive option. Are you aware of any places on Pismo Beach where we could order a nice take-away?

          1. re: catvek

            You are going to be close to Del's Pizzaria in Shell Beach and Alex's BBQ.
            Both are good food choices, very kid friendly and seldom too crowded.

            1. re: catvek

              My favorite reliable place in Pismo is Mo's BBQ on the main downtown street - great food, fast service, plenty to eat (you can share your order with your toddler) and casual, funky family friendly.

              Our favorite are the Philthy Phil pork ribs (out of their four choices) - fall off the bone, sweet and tender with delicious choice of sides. Or you can get this all as take-out and have it back in your room. Don't know the hours for New Years - but this is one of our absolute must stops when we are up that way.

              This is a legendary place so it is "special" for a holiday visit to this area.

              1. re: catvek

                well, at least the stop at Sebastian's will give the kid time to run around before the tour (hopefully). Get the sandwiches to go and head to the beach, and hope it isn't raining. Give yourself plenty of time; the place can get crowded and service isn't lightning fast. If your tour is at 3:30 you should check in around three, so I'd get to Sebastian's by two at the very latest, and one thirty would be much better. That means hitting the road in SF no later than eight, a.m., hoping there is no traffic on New Year's eve, and driving straight through. I would never do it; it is trips like that that can take the joy out of car travel forever. I mean, have you done a six plus hour car trip with your toddler yet?

                That said, per my maps you drive right through SLO to get to Pismo Beach from San Simeon: so unless you mean you want to check into the hotel first and don't want to backtrack, it might be an option, particularly for takeaway. Or just to get out of the car. I'd rely on the recommendations from the others below on where to eat in Pismo.

                1. re: susancinsf

                  I didn't realize a stop at Sebastian's will take so long. I hoped for a quick bite.
                  Yes, our guy has experience with long trips. Just last weekend we went all the way down to Palm Desert by car to spend a couple of days there. He was totally OK with it as long as we stopped every couple of hours to run in a park or playground. It was exhausting in overall but what we can do with such small amount of vacation days?

                  1. re: catvek

                    just to clarify, when I said give yourself at least an hour, preferably an hour and a half, I was counting time to find the place (it isn't hard, just set off from the main road a bit,) order, use the facilities, eat, let your guy run/play on the beach for twenty or thirty minutes to run off some steam, and the ten or so minutes it will take you to get from the beach by Sebastian's up to the Hearst Parking lot , find a parking place and then walk to the check-in area (its a huge lot and there are lots and lots of people), all without feeling stressed like you are in a huge hurry. Who needs that when you are on vacation?

                    When I was there on a weekday afternoon in summer it took about 15 minutes to get our order once we placed it (which took another five), mostly because of the number of people ahead of us in line. NYE might be less crowded, not sure. (San Simeon is one of those places that could be crowded with tourists anytime of year). When we there, btw, eating on the beach or in the car were the only options, every table was taken. The food is good, not mind-blowing, but good, and there aren't many options in San Simeon.

                    If you just want a quick bite and really don't have an hour to spare for lunch and a romp on the beach, there is decent (but uninteresting and overpriced) food at the check-in area, including sandwiches made with the same Hearst beef they use at Sebastian's. The advantage is that you one parent can check in while the other orders. Disadvantage, as I said, is that this is an indoor space with no place to run around. The good news is that there are plenty of tables if it is raining outside.

                    Remember, once you are on the tour your child will need to literally stay on a preset path the entire time (ie you will need to have him on your lap on the bus, in a stroller if they are permitted or holding his hand the entire time), so he really needs time to run around first.

                    Unfortunately, your schedule doesn't allow time for stops at parks every few hours. When I say it is almost a six hour drive, that is without stops. Count on seven if you stop, and that is assuming that traffic between San Francisco and Monterey is fairly light for the holiday (probably a safe assumption).

                    To keep it chow focused, and every vacation should be, if it were my limited vacation, I'd leave tonight and celebrate NYE early at Passionfish tonight (which is kid friendly, IMO, or at least I see plenty of kids there, and anyway it is not all that quiet on a busy night), spend the night in Monterey, and go from there. If that weren't possible, I'd skip the tour (the toddler won't appreciate it anyway and Hearst Castle will still be there in six to eight years when he will appreciate it) and explore and look for Chowish places and beautiful parks enroute...

          2. Sebastian's will be open tomorrow (thurs) from 11 to 4, closed NYD, but they sounded VERY busy when I just called at 3:30 p.m. Remember that it's ALWAYS tourist season on the Califonia Coast.

            Instead, you could stop at Whole Foods in Monterey (EZ off, EZ at the Del Monte exit southbound Hiway 1) on for picnic or snack supplies, and have a picnic at the San Simeon beach or even in the car at the Castle parking lot, if need be), then have an early dinner in nearby Cambria. Or stop for lunch at the Big Sur Bakery before heading south to San Simeon.

            And actually, WHY NOT opt for a casual early dinner in Cambria, a cute and walkable little town on Highway 1 just south of San Simeon?

            Robin's, Linn's, Sandy's Deli,--all in Cambria-- these would be family friendly and casual with good food. Beat the crowds out for a New Year's dinner celebration and get to your Pismo hotel before the bar patrons begin their early rounds. You can end the day early, comfortably ensconsed in your room and enjoy the bubbly while admiring the full moon over the water--don't miss it!

            If it's raining south of SF, check with CAL TRANS for road conditions in Big Sur, before you go south of Carmel. As of this afternoon, NOAA predicts partly cloudy with NW winds to 5 @ 60 degrees, no showers likely.

            Drive safely, and have a great time. Please report back!

            1. Well, we decided to follow your recommendations and cancel our tour to the Hearst Castle. This gives us flexibility to choose between 1 or 101, Monterey or Paso Robles, any city on our way for dinner and any time of arrival to Pismo Beach. Less stress, more fun.

              I have an hour or so for preparing a totally new plan and researching our options.

              BTW, about PassionFish - I agree that they are kid-friendly. But when we went there for my husband's birthday, our kid started running between tables. Nobody said a word but we were so embarrassed to ruin other people's quiet romantic dinners, so we took turns to play with our kid on the street while one of us ate inside. The food was delicious but it wasn't fun.

              3 Replies
              1. re: catvek

                hi, hope you see this before you leave. Anyway, we often visit Cambria (just south of San Simeon). Do NOT, unless you're specifically sight-seeing try to go to San Simeon from SF via 1. The fastest and easiest way to get there is to head down 101 and cross over on 46 near Paso Robles--takes around three hours from Palo Alto to Cambria, which is just south of San Simeon.

                Then head down 1 to Pismo--fairly short easy drive--you don't go through SLO though, but Morro Bay.

                Of the towns around there, I find the easiest place to find a variety of restaurants is Cambria. Paso Robles now has several restaurants as well--head towards the town square.

                Pismo is not a great restaurant town in my experience. Mo's is okay if you like a saucy rib. Surf Cafe always has a line out the door for its clam chowder--I've never tried it--but by and large, I love Pismo's beach, but not its food. SLO has a nice variety of restaurants--Big Sky is the one you hear about--not bad, not outstanding--but most of my meals in SLO have been pretty good. It's a college town and has a bit of a funky vibe to its downtown.

                Main thing is, don't bother with 1 unless that's the point of your trip. You'll make much better time on 101.

                1. re: urbavore

                  "... head down 1 to Pismo--fairly short easy drive--you don't go through SLO though, but Morro Bay"

                  Hwy 1 joins 101 in SLO @ 12 mi after Morro Bay, there's no other way of getting to Pismo unless you're in a boat.

                  Other dining options south of Cambria:

                  Hoppe's in Cayucos
                  Taco Temple, Chapalas, Bay Cafe, Tognazzini's, Gianni's in Morro Bay

                2. re: catvek

                  May be too late to see this, but my recommendation, whether you decide on 1 or 101, is to get picnic supplies as ToodieJane suggests, and have your picnic and a walk/romp on the beach at the Point Lobos Reserve just south of Carmel (it is easy enough to backtrack to 101 rather than taking 1). One of the most beautiful picnic spots anywhere.

                3. New Year's Day Bfast will be hard to find--not much open. Try Apple Farm in SLO--open at 7 am/365. Ample and traditional, plus decent pastries. Don't know of anything else open in SLO on NYD except fast food (there are a couple of FF Mexican places on Santa Rosa St near the freeway overcrossing) and chains. Bon Temps may be open on Olive St near 101/Santa Rosa St. Very good Cajun b'fasts. McKlintocks Saloon MAY be open in Arroyo Grande village on Bridge St, just south of Pismo (Grand Ave exit, turn east two blocks to Bridge St, just past the bridge on the left).

                  Ther should be cafes open in Solvang, and Highway 154 over San Marcos Pass to Santa Barbara is a beauty and a nice alternative to the coast route trough Gaviota Pass on Highway 1. I'm going to open a thread about NYD dining through Santa Barbara County you might check. Cold Springs Tavern on 154 is an old stage stop with good food, tucked back in the nook of a side canyon near Cold Springs Bridge.