Picture Sources: Golf California, Trip Advisor
Oh goodness I have to tell you about a lovely little city in Northern California called Half Moon Bay. It is a perfect fun and relaxing weekend spot for the family. There are so many things for adults to do and quite a bit for the kiddos.
Half Moon Bay is located about 30 minutes South of San Francisco, 45 miles North of Santa Cruz and 2 hours Southwest of Sacramento.
Half Moon Bay is located right on the Pacific Coast so you can expect all the standard things to do like crabbing, beaches, hiking, renting kayaks etc…
The one note about the Bay Area in general is that it tends to be breezy and cool so you may want to pack sweaters and a few warmer items to wear. The climate is pretty mild year round so it is a great way to escape the heat in summer and they grow the most beautiful flowers so it is very charming to just wander around. On your way in and out of town you will find U Pick flower stands that are really cheap and fields and fields of flowers to choose from. (Something like $3 a bunch for gorgeous flowers.)
There are a number of outdoor adventures as mentioned above- lovely hiking trails and beaches- but the actual town of Half Moon Bay is not to be missed.
Originally we arrived at Princeton By the Sea which has a few charming hotels with lovely views of the coastline, a few (very few) shops, rental places for kayaks and such, and some restaurants. We found a cute little coffee house and a small store featuring a zillion flavors of Salt Water Taffy plus a fun little antique store. There is also the Half Moon Bay Brewery and Sam’s Chowder House with lovely ocean views. You can walk out on the pier here and we found it very quiet and welcoming. Stop by Maverick’s Surf Shop and you can arrange for whale watching tours or fishing trips. This is a great spot if you’d like surfing lessons and there are some pretty beaches you can check out.
*NOTE: Click the Sam’s Chowder House link above and you can see a real time camera view of the beach. Great to check if you are iffy on the weather.
We left and went to the historic business district on Main Street which is about 10 minutes away. Once you get to the downtown area you will probably want to wander up and down both sides of the street so just find a parking spot (many are 2 hour parking) and grab a spot when you see it. I kept looking around for Wally and the Beav to pass right by because it really is that charming of a little street.
There are several lovely restaurants on Main Street with everything from Sushi to Italian food. There is also a small grocery store if you prefer to buy things to grill or picnic items for the beach. (The store is adorable and has very fun/gourmet type items.)
If you have children, one of the highlights was Oddyssea. It is a little shop about halfway down the street and filled with all sorts of nature/craft/science items for kiddos. We found some very cool things like marbles with bugs inside, interesting magnets and other things that would be both cool and educational for children. The store is active on Twitter so you can click the link above and see pictures of what they are up to before your trip.
Next door to the shop is an outdoor area with picnic tables and crafts. Each day the crafts change and as the Mother of two little girls, I appreciated that you would make things that were attractive and useful. (Not just more paintings to cover the fridge.) We saw Sand Art for $5- there were pretty bottles and buckets of colored sand. Pour the sand into your bottle and make something pretty for a dresser or book shelf. They also had a station to build Kaleidoscopes for $15- everything was ready to go and you simply decorate the outside and add the items of your choice to the inside of the lens. They also had a build your own Terrarium for $20 and there were lovely jars and a buffet of all sorts of dried flowers, grass and other natural elements to customize. (These are really nice crafts so perfect to make as gifts for the Grandparents!)
When we were visiting they were also in the process of building the World’s Largest Marble run inside the courtyard and there was a small station with fun old fashioned candy, kites to purchase and a few other things to interest the kids. You could easily spend an hour in this section and the kids would be delighted- we found it to be very peaceful and relaxing. Oh and directly across the street is a little coffeehouse with drinks and pastries so you can always use this as a break for Mom and Dad in the afternoon.
We did not visit the public library but it is right at the end of the street and is in a very charming neighborhood. If you have smaller children this would be a great place to stop in the afternoon and regroup and relax- you might check the library calendar and see if you get lucky with some activities.
We found some charming little shops like the Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel shop– this is literally a feed store but fun to pop in. I grabbed some biscuits to take home to our dog but there are also bunnies and chics inside for the kids to see. Main Street also offers gourmet cooking shops, the mini grocery store, children’s clothing boutiques and more to investigate.
Several of the restaurants have live music so you will hear different types of music as you stroll in and out of the shops and some really lovely patios to savor your meal.
We ate at Pasta Moon restaurant which came highly recommended from different friends in the area. It is an Italian restaurant and I had a delicious lunch of homemade butternut squash ravioli. I treated myself to a glass of Prosecco as well and my meal was $28. So not inexpensive but I thought it was delicious. They do lay down white paper on each table so if you have little ones there is coloring on the table to keep them entertained. It is a popular restaurant though so we found it to be very busy in the late afternoon and the wait was perhaps a little long. For my friend and I it was fine but I could see a small boy next to us getting very restless. This is one of the higher end places to eat and you will find many other options that are a little more budget friendly.
After a few hours in the historic district, we headed over to the Ritz Carlton hotel. A friend had mentioned they have a lovely outdoor area and she mentioned a homemade S’Mores kit that was to die for. We were thrilled with the Ritz. You do want to prepare for this stop as they allow public parking on site but the garage is very small and the valet gets incredibly backed up with all the people. There is free public beach access so we found it to be absolutely packed around 3-ish in the afternoon. The casual dining doesn’t open until 1pm so if you plan to go earlier you might pack your own food.
We parked on the street- which is all clearly labeled as No Parking Zones- but it was the weekend and there were probably 30 cars parked all along the road. We were told by some locals that it says No Parking and no one actually pays attention to the signs on the weekends but you take your chances on that one. We got lucky and were ticket free 🙂
Once you are inside you can get access to the beach or you can visit the outdoor and casual dining area of the Ritz. This was the highlight of our entire trip. We found a lovely patio dining section with stunning views of the golf course and ocean. There are also big grassy patches where the children can run around, play frisbee, roll down the side of a soft, grassy hill, ride scooters on a path and basically have a great time. There are comfortable seating areas, fire pits and Adirondack chairs that you can hunker down on (complete with fleece blankets) and either order food and drinks from the restaurant or just sit peacefully and watch the waves.
We actually wound up staying for 2 hours and enjoyed the view and had coffees and then splurged and ordered the homemade S’Mores kit. It came with homemade graham crackers, marshmallows, long skewers and a delicious gourmet chocolate bar. The kit will set you back a whopping $35 but it really is incredibly good and we figured it was worth it since we plunked down on their patio for 2 hours. I probably wouldn’t buy the S’mores kit for my children just because I don’t think they would have appreciated how delicious it was but there were many other options that are more affordable like a gigantic ice cream sundae for $8 or the most beautiful little Hot Chocolate Cart. (Again not cheap at $8 but you get a huge cup of gourmet hot chocolate and they had numerous toppings to choose from which would absolutely thrill my kids. Oh and freshly baked cookies for $3.) A photo of the hot chocolate bar is in the collage at the top of the page.
I can’t recommend this stop enough- if you are with your spouse it is a very calming and romantic spot for a cocktail or delicious snacks (like Lobster Corn Dogs) and if you have the kids you don’t need to worry about pinching them every second to behave 😉 . The kids can have a great time running around and it won’t be uncomfortable or disruptive. Oh! And the most important detail- you can go through the doors into the hotel and up to the lobby and then there is a restroom right around the corner. Yeah!
Places we didn’t get to see but that might be worth checking out:
Farmer’s Market- May through December
*We lost track of time and missed this one which was a bummer.
Ok so on this particular trip I went with a friend for the day but the entire time I kept thinking of how I can’t wait to go back with my children. One stop not to miss if you visit is Lemos Farm. It is on Highway 92 on the way into town and looks like a blast. There is laser tag, pony rides, hay rides, petting zoo and more. It was a giant attraction on the side of the road and smaller children would be in heaven.
Apparently the fall is the best time to go because they have a big Pumpkin Patch and the city of Half Moon Bay does a big festival. We are planning to go back early in the season to check it out. I am sure the place gets really packed closer to Halloween.
Make sure to check the calendar before you head out.
So that is a little bit about Half Moon Bay and the things to do with your family. A few other little notes- there are some nice looking grocery stores called New Leaf Markets if you want to do some shopping or pick up snacks. And you might want to consider the traffic. The traffic will be worse on the weekends and in the later afternoon so you may plan your trip accordingly. We saw bumper to bumper traffic on parts of Highway 92 but honestly it really felt like a very quick and easy drive (I was coming from San Jose) and the traffic did clear up after a few miles.
If you have favorite places to see in Half Moon Bay please share below so I can add them to the list!
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