When my first boy was about 3 months old, we decided to take a road trip down to LA to see the giant Rubber Duck by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman at the Festival of Tall Ships LA 2014. (You might also remember this post about how I packed for the road trip.)
But of course driving 6 hours (which ended up becoming 8 hours) to see a giant rubber duck with a 3-month old in toll seemed like a crazy idea, so we made it a road trip with multiple destinations. Plus, we really wanted to break the long drive into two separate shorter drives so we decided to pick a stop mid-way to rest and explore.
There are a lot of places to stop and see between SF and LA. We picked Solvang and San Luis Obispo because (1) we’ve heard good things about these places; and (2) they seem to be great places to chill.
Day 1 – Drive to SLO and stay overnight. If you appreciate quirky attractions, stay at the Madonna Inn. Walk around downtown and visit the Thursday night farmers market. While you’re there, take a look at the Bubblegum Alley.
Day 2 – Visit the Mission. Drive to Solvang and explore the Dutch architecture while enjoying some Dutch pastries. Drive to LA.
Day 3 – Visit LA and eat a lot of good foods.
Day 4 – Get up early, have breakfast, and drive home.
It’s definitely a very tiring trip, but the key is not to cramp too many activities into each day, take it easy and allow for a lot of time to explore each location.
San Luis Obispo
Be sure to check out the Thursday Night Farmers’ Market if you are there on a Thursday night. It’s open from 6pm to 9pm.
And while you’re strolling through the farmers’ market, be sure to swing by the Bubblegum Alley if you don’t find that too gross.
For those of you who enjoy staying in a themed hotel, definitely go check out the Madonna Inn. Unfortunately I didn’t get to stay there this time, but I would like to check out the place next time I’m in SLO.
We enjoyed a quiet morning walk around the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa before continuing our trip onto Solvang.
Solvang is a small Danish town tucked away in the Santa Ynez Valley. Many of the buildings reflect the Danish architecture style, and there are a few bakeries selling Danish foods. It’s like you’ve suddenly been transported to Denmark once you entered this little city!
How can a trip to Solvang be completed without trying the famous Danish Aebleskiver? We went to the Solvang Restaurant for the treat, and it did not disappoint!
We concluded our trip to Solvang with a quick lunch at the Birkholm’s Bakery & Cafe.
More information on the places we visited and the surrounding attractions:
Rubber Duck by Florentijn Hofman
The Rubber Duck was an art piece designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. The Rubber Duck had been on tour around the world since 2007, and made its appearance in LA during our visit in 2014. I believe the world tour is over for the Rubber Duck but you can read more about it here.
Ah Louis Store
The Ah Louis Store building is on the National Register of Historic Places. On Wong, known as Ah Louis, is a Chinese-American pioneer in the California Central Coast. He founded the Ah Louis Store in 1874 to serve the Chinese population of San Luis Obispo. You can learn more about On Wong and the Ah Louis Store here & here.
Thursday Night Farmers’ Market
Held every Thursday night along the Higuera Street from 6pm to 9pm. In addition to the typical farm stands, you will find food vendors, art booths, and live bands. For more info, visit here.
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is the fifth mission founded by Junipero Serra in 1772. You can visit the museum seven days a week from 9am-4pm (winter hours) or 9am-5pm (summer hours). To learn more about the mission, visit here.
It’s nasty and I didn’t really seek it out, but we stumbled upon it while we were exploring the farmers’ market. More info here.
I’ve heard and read and seen pictures about this place and wish I could stay there. If you like staying at some place special while visiting SLO, this is going to be an awesome place to stay in. Check here for more info.
Get the Aebleskiver. Enough said. Find the address here.
There are a lot of bakeries in Solvang but we went with this one. It has a lot of pastry and lunch choices and plenty of seatings. For more info, click here.
We considered stopping by Morro Bay on our way back home, but then went out of time and were just a bit tired. If you have extra time to spare, stop by for lunch/dinner and enjoy the view. For more info, visit here.
Central Coast Lavender
I wish the farm was open for visit during our trip but it wasn’t. If you love lavender and you’re around the area when they are open for public, consider stopping by. For more info, visit here.
If you like wines, why not take a detour to Paso Robles? Check out this road trip guide.
Located about an hour away from Paso Robles near the coast, Hearst Castle was designed by Julia Morgan for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The castle opens daily at 9am and a tour ticket must be purchased. For more info, please visit here.
My suggested itinerary for a longer trip is as follow:
Day 1 – Drive to Paso Robles, wine tasting and visit the lavender farm. Stay 1-2 nights.
Day 2 or 3 – Drive to Hearst Castle and take a morning tour. Head to Morro Bay and stay overnight.
Days 3/4 or 4/5 – Drive to SLO. Stay for 2 nights..
Day 5 or 6 – Drive to Solvang and enjoy breakfast / lunch. Continue driving to LA in the afternoon or whatever destination.
Photos taken by Vean Chen