Skip the turkey leftovers and try this Thanksgiving road trip up the Central Coast

A car drives up the California coast with a turkey strapped on its roof.
(Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Let’s hit the road — while avoiding the worst of the holiday traffic over the weekend.

California holds a bounty of produce, wines, seafood and other regional specialties that easily rival the (often inaccurate) depictions of the original Thanksgiving. I recommend turning your holiday weekend into a last-minute road trip up the coast, hitting farm stands and vineyards along the way.

In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find a few ways to indulge in California’s finest foods and beverages on a Central Coast road trip this weekend.

Before you go, take a look at the best and worst times to travel this holiday weekend, according to AAA. In general, it’s a good idea to get an early start on your day, well before 11 a.m., when many travelers hit the road.

Where are you heading this winter? As always, my inbox is open for any travel recommendations you’d like to pass along.

Sample a cornucopia of treats and produce off U.S. 101

A store counter covered with flowers
Avila Valley Barn in San Luis Obispo.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

I first wandered through Avila Valley Barn’s inviting wooden doors in October 2015, shortly after relocating West. Born and raised in a small Pennsylvania town, I missed the crisp air and rolling corn harvests of an East Coast autumn.


I found all the fall vibes I could ask for at this San Luis Obispo County landmark, just off U.S. Route 101.

An easy stop on a road trip up the California coast, Avila Valley Barn is a popular apple-picking destination during autumn. Now, U-pick season has ended and the holiday celebrations are underway.

Christmas trees will be available for purchase here beginning Friday, and Santa Claus has visits scheduled throughout the holiday season, starting Saturday.

Feeling exhausted after Thanksgiving? For a sugar boost, pick up hot chocolate and other holiday treats from the barn’s Sweet Shoppe, open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except Thanksgiving).

The bounty of fall isn’t completely gone, though. Avila Valley Barn’s farm stand, corn roaster and chicken shack are open for hungry visitors hoping to sample California produce and more.

With all its offerings, it’s easy to see why this place made our list of the 43 best California experiences to add to your fall bucket list, compiled by my colleague Christopher Reynolds. Check out the rest of his list here.

Combine glamping and wine tasting

Upscale tents are shown in a row with the front flaps rolled open, revealing beds with linens inside.
Glamping in Buellton, Calif.
(Flying Flags )

Wine tasting and camping are two classic California experiences. So why not combine them?

Last week, Times contributor Melinda Fulmer rounded up a list of nine “ready-to-camp” experiences around L.A. The list includes lakeside yurts, vintage trailers near the beach and tent cabins along a bluff on Catalina Island.

Luxe camping in wine country may be the most quintessentially “California” option of them all.

Flying Flags, a 44-acre property in Santa Ynez wine country, has a glamping experience for everyone, she says. “It not only has Airstreams but also three levels of tent cabins — the least expensive jupes feature a double memory foam bed on a wood floor with solar-powered lights and a fan, while the luxe safari tents come equipped with actual furniture and an outdoor kitchen.”

It’s also a mere seven miles from Rideau Vineyard, whose founder is widely celebrated as the first Black woman to own a winery in the U.S. Last year, I spent the day with Iris Rideau, and she took me on a tour of her favorite spots in the Santa Ynez Valley. You can find her recommendations here.

An hour and a half up the coast is another wine-forward site: Tentrr Vineyard Glamping. “Located right above a working vineyard in Paso Robles, this modern rustic setup … features a safari-style canvas tent, a queen memory foam bed, a camp stove and Adirondack chairs, a fire pit with grill, tables, a camp toilet and sun shower,” Fulmer writes.

Especially appropriate given today’s holiday, Fulmer notes you may see wild turkeys wandering around the property.


Sample oysters in Morro Bay

More than a dozen otters float in the water next to a wooden dock where boats are moored.
Otters float in the marina at Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo County
(Marc Martin / Los Angeles Times)

This Thanksgiving weekend, skip the turkey or tofurkey leftovers in favor of some of California’s best oysters, sourced from the Morro Bay waters.

In this Central Coast city, known for its colossal seaside rock, travelers can go on a tasting tour of oysters by visiting restaurants such as Tognazzini’s Dockside, Giovanni’s Fish Market, Dutchman’s Seafood House and more.

You can also pick up fresh oysters directly from Morro Bay Oyster Co. and Grassy Bar Oyster Co. to enjoy at home. Morro Bay Oyster Co. recommends scheduling a pickup with one day of notice.

Grassy Bar’s store is open from noon to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday, while Morro Bay Oyster Co.’s store is open only on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the winter.

The next few months are an especially good time to indulge with California oysters.

“People usually just associate oysters and seafood with summertime,” Christopher Tompkins, founder of Broad Street Oyster Co. in Malibu, told Times contributor Esther Tseng in 2019. “But the winter is actually the best time for seafood. Water is colder, the oysters are just coming out of their spawning season. ” Learn more about California oysters here.

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A quick side trip to Tanzania

A man stands on a mountain summit with a series of wooden signs behind him.
Guide Andrew Mafie on the 19,341-foot summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
(Jack Dolan / Los Angeles Times)

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, one of the world’s seven famous summits, is high atop many travelers’ bucket lists. But there’s a lot to consider before deciding to try a trek up the 19,341-foot-high behemoth.

“Climbing to the roof of Africa has never been easy, but as climate change turns the storied snows of Kilimanjaro to dust, and concerns about ethical travel complicate the very idea of adventure in the developing world, it is arguably more fraught than ever,” writes investigative reporter Jack Dolan in a recent piece.

Dolan’s story will transport you from your home in California to the “unimaginably steep” trails up Kilimanjaro — no road trip required. Read it here.

One last thing

Paper products on shelves and a woman behind a counter.
The interior of Chinatown stationery store Paper Plant.
(Julie Wolfson)

Staying home this weekend and starting your holiday shopping?

You can visit Japanese and Japanese-inspired shops on this list, courtesy of Times contributor Julie Wolfson.

Stocking stuffers — think rubber stamps, pens, cards and more — abound at Paper Plant, a stationery store in Chinatown. Searching for a gift for the bookworm in your life? Stop by Kinokuniya Books in Little Tokyo.

“If you are dreaming of your first or next trip to Tokyo, browse these spaces,” Wolfson writes. “And pick up some delicious and beautifully designed items while you’re there.”

🎸Road song

Where I Go” by NxWorries feat. H.E.R.

Play it as you drive past 576-foot-tall Morro Rock on your way to sample some oysters.

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