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A Kid-Friendly Central Coast Road Trip Part 2
Part 2 of our Central Coast road trip, this time during summer vacation. We headed northward up Highway 1. Stops along the way included Hearst Castle, Monterey, Roaring Camp in Felton CA, and Yosemite National Park.
Hearst Castle, San Simeon
The Hearst Castle in San Simeon wasn't particularly interesting to my kids, but we grown-ups got a kick out of seeing how the rich and famous lived. William Randolph Hearst was a media mogul involved in newspapers, magazines, films and television production. In 1919, he hired a woman architect, Julia Morgan, to design and build the main structure and adjacent guest housing on his huge ranch in San Simeon, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The Hearst Corporation deeded the castle to the state of California in 1957. It's an impressive site, worth a guided tour.
Tip: buying tickets online saved us time standing in line at the Visitors Center.
Pool at the Hearst Castle
Monterey's flagship attraction is the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, an extensive collection of marine life. Guide books advise booking tickets in advance, which we did online. The kids had fun watching the programs where they feed the fish and the otters.
The other big hit in Monterey was Dennis the Menace Playground. It's a fantastic playground complete with a retrofitted steam locomotive that the kids can climb on. There's also a rock-climbing wall, a bridge, several cool slides, and a maze. The only downside was that our kids didn't want to leave!
Other places of interest in Monterey include Cannery Row (immortalized in the John Steinbeck novel) and the historic waterfront district. The famed 17-Mile drive, a scenic coastline hugging route through the posh Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach resort area, is another attraction in the area.
Dennis The Menace Playground
Tucked away in Felton, CA is an old logging community called Roaring Camp, nestled away in the redwood forests near Santa Cruz. In the 1880's, narrow gauge steam trains were used to haul the giant logs to the saw mills. Other train lines carried freight and passengers to and from the nearby beaches. Roaring Camp has preserved these historic steam trains, so kids that are train buffs (think Thomas the Tank Engine) will love this place. They've reconstructed an old-fashioned "camp town" where we picked up our tickets and embarked on the train. We took the train tour into the forest, over trestles, up to Bear Mountain. The redwoods are magnificent here and we could see them close up. My daughter was awed by the "fairy ring" of redwoods, growing in a perfect circle up by the Bear Mountain stop. Truly an enchanted place.
Known for its beach and boardwalk areas, an amusement park atmosphere complete with roller coaster, rides, and arcade games. There are rides appropriate for little kids there too. We skipped the boardwalk and headed to the Santa Cruz Wharf, where we parked right up on the pier and had a seafood dinner while watching the pelicans and the sea lions hanging out in the water below us.
After visiting several coastal towns, we took a turn to the east and headed for Yosemite National Park. Mere words cannot describe the majesty of this place, you have to see it for yourself. It's basically a valley carved through huge granite mountains, spectacular. We picked up some lunch at the store there for a picnic, then took two of the easy hikes. We saw waterfalls, big trees, deer, and even a black bear prowling around near one the camping sites. It was our first taste of Yosemite, we'll have to come back for more.