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California Classic

California Classic
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Perfect surf, lively wildlife, and a theme park for the little ones—here’s a hard-to-beat trip for all.
Trip length: 3-4 days
Total distance: 360mi/518km

Oxnard Stop by the California Welcome Center for maps and tips on what to eat and do. Splash in the surf at Hollywood Beach (Channel Islands Ave. and Harbor Blvd.). Check out classic cars at Murphy Auto Museum . INFO 805/988-0717

Ventura (6mi/11km; 12min). Rent a surrey-cycle to pedal along the waterfront. Climb aboard an Island Packers boat to see whales and dolphins on a trip to Channel Islands National Park . INFO 805/648-2075

Santa Barbara (30mi/49km; 39min). Twirl on the antique carousel at Chase Palm Park (Cabrillo Blvd. from Stearns Wharf to East Beach). Visit ultra-kid-friendly Santa Barbara Zoo . Head downtown for shopping and the mild-to-five-alarm salsa bar at local favorite Los Agaves (600 N. Milpas; 805/564-2626). INFO 805/966-9222

Solvang (36mi/57km; 45min). Let the kids get powdered-sugary aebleskiver treats at this Danish heritage town, while you scope out over a dozen wine-tasting rooms. Climb aboard the Honen , a 1915 replica streetcar pulled by Belgian draft horses. INFO 805/688-6144

Pismo Beach (54mi/87km; 56min). Visit the California Welcome Center . Try stand-up paddleboarding with Pismo Beach Surf Shop . Watch fishermen pull in the day’s catch from the 1,200-foot-long pier. INFO 805/773-7924

Morro Bay (26mi/41km; 32min). Stroll Harbor Walk (2999 Embarcadero) to Morro Rock, an enormous volcanic plug at the mouth of the bay. Paddle the estuary with Central Coast Outdoors , with time to scramble up giant coastal dunes. INFO 805/772-4467

San Simeon (29mi/47km; 39min). Tour über-opulent Hearst Castle ; kids especially like seeing the lavish swimming pools. Order forklift-worthy French dip sandwiches at Sebastian’s General Store (442 San Simeon Rd.; 805/927-3307). INFO 805/927-2005

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (64mi/102km; 1hr21min). Stop at this redwood-shaded park in the heart of Big Sur; take a short walk to see year-round McWay Falls, tumbling 80 feet into the cove below. INFO 831/667-2315

Monterey (33mi/53km; 50min). Watch sea otters romp and see a Day-Glo light show starring jellies at Monterey Bay Aquarium . Plan playtime at nearby MY Museum . INFO 831/657-6400

Gilroy (46mi/71km; 1hr3min). Visit Gilroy Gardens , a low-key theme park geared toward the small set, including a water play area and acres of lush gardens perfect for tag. INFO 408/840-7100

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