Top things to do

Top Choice Historic Building in San Simeon

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is a wondrous, historic, over-the-top homage to material excess, perched high on a hill. The estate sprawls across acres of lushly landscaped gardens, accentuated by shimmering pools and fountains, sta…
Top Choice Aquarium in Monterey

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey’s most mesmerizing experience is its enormous aquarium, built on the former site of the city’s largest sardine cannery. All kinds of aquatic creatures are featured, from kid-tolerant sea stars and slimy sea…
Top Choice Lighthouse in Big Sur

Point Sur State Historic Park

A little over 6 miles south of Bixby Bridge, Point Sur rises like a velvety green fortress out of the sea. It looks like an island, but is actually connected to land by a sandbar. Atop the volcanic rock sits an 1889…
Top Choice Park in Big Sur

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

If you're chasing waterfalls, swing into this state park named for a Big Sur pioneer. From the parking lot, the 1.3-mile round-trip Overlook Trail rushes downhill toward the ocean, passing through a tunnel underneat…
Top Choice Amusement Park in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The West Coast’s oldest beachfront amusement park, this 1907 boardwalk has a glorious old-school Americana vibe. The smell of cotton candy mixes with the salt air, punctuated by the squeals of kids hanging upside do…
Top Choice Museum in Salinas

National Steinbeck Center

This museum will interest almost anyone, even if you don't know anything about Salinas’ Nobel Prize–winning native son, John Steinbeck (1902–68), a Stanford University dropout. Tough, funny and brash, he portrayed t…
Top Choice Californian in Pismo Beach

Ember

Chef Brian Collins, who once cooked at Alice Waters' revered Chez Panisse, has returned to his roots in SLO County. Out of this heart-warming restaurant's wood-burning oven come savory flatbreads, artfully charred s…
Top Choice Bistro in San Luis Obispo

Thomas Hill Organics

More contemporary than their original namesake eatery in Paso Robles, Thomas Hill's San Luis Obispo opening presents seasonal menus amid a stylish combination of chandeliers and whitewashed walls. Secure a spot at t…
Top Choice Latin American in Paso Robles

La Cosecha Bar & Restaurant

The Honduran heritage of chef and owner Santos MacDonal shines through at this cosmopolitan bar and bistro translating from Spanish into 'the harvest.' That means a strong focus on local and seasonal produce crafted…
Top Choice Museum in Santa Cruz

Seymour Marine Discovery Center

By Natural Bridges State Beach, this kids' educational center is part of UCSC’s Long Marine Laboratory. Interactive natural-science exhibits include tidal touch pools and aquariums, while outside you can gawk at the…