Our Central Coast California Mission Trip

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My oldest is in 4th grade, the year kids do a California mission project, so I made it MY mission to research the best California missions to visit with kids so we could make it a family mission trip to see one. We ended up visiting La Purisima Mission in Lompoc and had the MOST fun on our little 3-night Central Coast California mission road trip so I wanted to share our experience for any families looking for great California mission trips for kids.

la purisima mission

Day One:  Orange County to La Purisima Mission

We left on Sunday morning and make it to La Purisima Mission in about 4 hours.

La Purisima Mission is open from 9am – 5pm every day with the exception of a few holidays and special history days. Free guided tours are conducted every day at 1:00pm.   Free self-guided tours are welcome during open hours.  Parking was $6.

Tip -> Check out library books on the mission before your trip!

It’s fun to be able to have a little history and back story on the mission before you arrive so you can fully appreciate getting to see some of the things you read about in person.

la purisima mission tour

Tip -> Take the La Purisima Free Guided Tour at 1:00pm!

The guided tour starts at the Visitors Center.  Online it says it is 60 – 90 minutes, but ours was a full two hours. Our tour guide was very thorough and let the kids (and adults) do cool things like ring the mission bell.  La Purisima is the only California mission that allows this!

The tour guide shared so much information that we would not have gotten on a self-guided tour.  Highly recommend.

La Purisima Mission Grounds

La Purisima is the most historically restored missions of all the California missions and its beauty took my breath away. It’s out in the middle of farm land, so visitors can get an authentic feel for what it would have been like to live there in the 1800’s.  For kids, I think this was such a great mission to visit for this reason.

When we walked into the original church and mission rooms, the old wood and architecture gave me the chills. I drool over farmhouse style home design and reclaimed wood so to see ceilings like this in its paint-chipped antique splendor was for me, one of the highlights.

la purisima architecture

la purisima mission church

Each year in the fall they also hold special Candlelight tours where visitors can go at night and experience the mission by candlelight and step back in time to experience the smells and sounds of mission life. I have to do this one year.

The tour was fabulous and the setting made it a perfect place to learn about La Purisma’s history by actually being able to walk through each and every space of the mission. It was the PERFECT California mission to visit with kids.

I was so excited about La Purisima I wanted to do my own Mom Mission Report, thus the need for this blog!

Solvang for Dinner 

That afternoon we backtracked into Solvang for dinner, about a 25 minute drive from Lompoc.  I hadn’t been to Solvang since I was about 20 years old, and it has changed a LOT. I remember being being a really kitschy town with lots of windmills.  The windmills are still there, but the town has turned incredibly charming with lots of twinkle lights strung at night and lots of dining options. Definitely a fun outing with the family.

We went casual and ate at the Solvang Brewing Company.

solvang

Where to Stay in Lompoc

Our final destination was Pismo Beach, but since it had been a long day driving up and then touring, we decided to stay the night in downtown Lompoc. What’s in Lompoc you might ask? Not much. But I did find the O’Cairns Inn & Suites which was highly reviewed on Trip Advisor and a very pleasant surprise! Rooms were clean and comfy and price couldn’t be beat (especially with the added AAA discount).  They also include free sodas, waters, snacks, movies, popcorn, two adult drinks per night per guest and a full made to order cooked breakfast.

Bonus – > The family-friendly bar also had foosball, pool, shuffle board and karaoke. Classic.

Day Two: Lompoc to Pismo Beach 

After our full free breakfast at O’Cairns we hit the road to make it to Pismo, about a 50 minute drive North.  We were too early to check in at the hotel, so we visited the Avila Valley Barn where we found lots of animals to feed and pet, a darling country store, fresh corn on the cob hot off the grill and hay rides for $1. Cute, and inexpensive outing.

avila valley barn

Where to Stay in Pismo Beach with Kids

After lots of internet searching and after getting a personal recommendation from a friend who visits Pismo a lot, we decided to stay at the SeaCrest Oceanfront hotel.  Smack dab on the ocean cliffs with a stunning view.

We decided to pay a little more and book a family suite which included one room with a King bed and a separate room with two twin beds, its own TV and a door that shuts.  For a family of four it was perfection. This was the view from our patio with the girls picnicking under the shade of the palm tree.

seacrest pismo beach

Even better we got a room on the ground floor and had a patio that opened up to a huge grassy area in front of the pool. Girls ran around on that grass and played for HOURS while we sat on the porch and watched them.  The SeaCrest has steps down to the beach right on the property, so we also enjoyed some afternoon beach time on an 85 degree February day.

That night we walked (a little over 1/2 mile) to have dinner at Giuseppe’s Pismo Beach. Good family-friendly Italian food with awesome service.

pismo beach

Day Three: Pismo Beach + San Luis Obispo 

The next morning after a yummy (included) continental breakfast at the hotel, we took a walk on the beach. The girls found ELEVEN whole sand dollars which to them was pretty awesome seeing that we have never been able to find a whole one in OC. Thrilling.

Next we visited the Pismo Beach Monach Butterfly Grove, where you can walk around and look at the Monarchs.  Girls were not super enthralled with this outing, but I thought it was cool! Then we walked from the butterflies down to the beach where you can get closer to see the sand dunes.  The beach is stunning. This is one of my favorite photos of the girls from the trip.

girlsintree2 San Luis Obispo is a short drive from Pismo so we decided to go into town and see Mission San Luis Obispo and grab some lunch.

Downtown San Luis Obispo is a really cute college town and the Mission is right in the middle of the action.  This mission was completely night and day different from Lompoc given its location in town and it felt more like a museum. It was cool to experience both since they were so different.

mission san luis obispo

In town, we had lunch at Splash Cafe. Hands down the BEST clam chowder I have ever had. There’s also one on the main strip in Pismo Beach.  The clam chowder is a must experience if visiting Pismo or San Luis.

It was such a fun trip. I hope you might get to experience this area of California with your family sometime too!

Please comment below if you have taken your family on a California mission trip and where you went.  I am slightly obsessed with them now. I might want to visit all 21.

family California mission trip

6 Comments

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6
  1. 1
    Jana says:

    As a fourth grade teacher, I thoroughly appreciate this! I can’t wait until my own kids are older so we can do this trip. You should definitely fit in more mission visits in the future! Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • 2
      jen says:

      I am so happy to hear you liked the post! We are definitely going to visit more in the future. The next one I have on my radar is the one in Carmel. Looks AMAZING!

  2. 3
    LaNi says:

    Love this. My younger son is in fourth grade and we are heading to Mission San Juan Capistrano next month with his school. We might have to take a family missions trip and follow your plan.

    • 4
      jen says:

      We have a field trip to San Juan too this spring! Definitely going to volunteer to chaperone that one too! Have fun!

  3. 5
    photojaq says:

    Come farther South next time, for the San Fernando Mission in Los Angeles, and San Juan Capistrano Mission in Orange County (lots of gorgeous beaches around Dana Point – plus the educational Marine Institue on the harbor, and an old 3-mast ship to tour.

    • 6
      jen says:

      Living in OC, both of those would be great day trips, thanks for the reminder!

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