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Winter Means Weekend Day Trips

Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
December Issue
November 14, 2006
 (840 words in text)

Winter Means Weekend Day Trips

As the seasons change and Tule Fog returns to the Valley, many of us embrace a local tradition: escaping to the Central Coast.

The consistent temperatures and afternoon sun from Pismo to Monterey are hard to resist in the heat of summer or the fog-shrouded winter. The days might begin foggy along the coast, but it just makes the afternoon sun all the more wonderful.

Pismo Beach markets itself as “Classic California,” and that’s exactly where you go on the Web to plan your escape. Direct your browser to http://www.classiccalifornia.com/ for the city’s tourism guide. If a beautiful picture of the pier at sunset doesn’t get your attention, the local weather report probably will. Sunny and 65 degrees has a way of enticing me to the beach in December.

To rub it in a bit, the Pismo site has been posting both the Valley weather forecast and the Pismo forecast. Nothing like a little friendly rivalry.

The Pismo site includes a link to a free e-mail newsletter from the Chamber of Commerce. One of the great things about Central Coast communities is they often have “Valley specials” just for those of us on the other side of Interstate 5. Plus, the newsletter is a great way to learn about upcoming events.

If you don’t want to receive an e-mail newsletter, then the site features an updated calendar. Follow the “Pismo Today” link for a list of events, including detailed descriptions. You can also watch a live “Pier Cam” from the same link, in case you want to know what you’re missing.

My wife and I usually begin our trips to the coast at Morro Bay. Starting with a visit to http://www.morro-bay.net/ lets us plan a trip around some of the great events the community hosts. If you want to get into the holiday spirit, look at the calendar for the Christmas Faire and the Holiday Boat Parade. Yes, Visalia has Candy Cane Lane, but there is something really amazing about watching decorated boats float past the embarcadero restaurants and shops.

Whether you start in Pismo or Morro Bay, I suggest you include San Luis Obispo in any trip to the coast. It always seems a little warmer in SLO, especially at night. The warm nights are probably why there are so many live events in the evenings. The challenge is deciding what to do. Once again, we start with a virtual visit.

The SLO tourism guide is at http://www.visitslo.com/ and it might be the best of the Central Coast pages. It is well designed and easy to navigate. One of the great features is a trip planner. It promotes local members of the Chamber of Commerce, but you can also locate some great deals.

You can use the SLO site to check on everything from winery tours to biking trails. If you want to find things for children to do, under the “Activities” menu is a page “For Kids” that should appeal to any parent. The “Nightlife” activities lists places to hear live music, go dancing, or even take in a comedy show.

There is a “Community Calendar” link on the SLO page, too. However, unlike the Pismo or Morro Bay calendars, you have to scroll down the list to locate the current month. (The other cities wisely list upcoming events at the top of their calendars.) Scrolling down the page will let you find events planned for early next year, too.

If you are willing to drive a bit further, Monterey offers a different experience. Definitely more developed and commercial, it’s hard to find more restaurants and coffee shops along the Central Coast than you’ll find in Monterey. Something about the city reminds you that this is the place Bay Area residents consider “more relaxed.”

One benefit to Monterey serving both the Central Valley and Bay Area is that there are a lot of big events all year. Visit http://www.monterey.org/ and select the “Events” link for a monthly calendar. Cannery Row has a Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, as does the downtown district. During the holidays the downtown farmers’ market shifts to a series of arts and crafts fairs, ideal for holiday browsing.

Personally, I prefer to ride my bike along the paved bikeways in around the Monterey Peninsula. Winter events include charity bike rides and 5K runs. Running or cycling in the sun is much better than in the fog, especially for a good cause. This winter, charities include the Children’s Miracle Network, supporting Children’s Hospitals throughout California. Why not combine a quick getaway with helping a good cause?

Thanks to the Web, it is easy to plan a great escape to the Central Coast during these gray days of winter. You can plan a trip to coincide with some fantastic events or you might want to plan around the events — avoiding the crowds. And if you can’t get away, at least you can check out the Pismo Beach “Pier Cam” and watch the sunset.

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