Cruising Down the Coast – 5 Stops to Make on the Way to Santa Barbara

(This post is in partnership with GMC.)

gmc terrainMy family recently took our first road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway. It held up to all the hype and was gorgeous beyond what we could have imagined. Our kids are not great road trip companions. They bore easily, my son often gets carsick, and the younger one wants to stop to pee every hour. So with that in mind, I planned ahead to make sure we had lots of stops, both to make the drive easier and so we could really enjoy and soak up the coast. We were lucky enough to try out a GMC Terrain to make our trip safely and in style, so I’ll be including our favorite features of this SUV, as well.

Here are some of our new favorite spots along the California coast.

Santa Cruz

If you’ve never checked out their boardwalk, it’s worth the stop. There is a ton of action, including a whole section of rides for kids five and under, as well as fun snack shacks, an arcade, and, of course, a beautiful beach. If crowds aren’t your thing, then check out some of the quieter beach spots a little farther south.

As we continued our drive, we quickly discovered that this car comes equipped with 4G LTE Wifi and Apple Carplay! We loved being able to sync our texts, favorite music channels, and the GPS without having to take our eyes off the road. Furthermore, there are plenty of USB ports throughout the car so our kids could keep their tablets charged. And speaking of tablets, check out this awesome extra storage spot in the center console- it was the perfect hiding spot for our “out of sight, out of mind” moments!


There are oodles of kid-friendly activities here, so take your pick!

  1. Our favorite stop is, of course, the Monterey Aquarium, which our kids love and we visit several times a year (definitely worth the annual membership if you think you might be back). GMC terrain
  2. There’s also Dennis the Menace Park, (also known as El Estero Park) which has lots of fun rides and climbing structures for kids of all ages. A great place to stop if your kids need to burn a little energy.
  3. Cannery Row is a group of shops stretching up to the coastline, with fun restaurants, dessert places and, of course, souvenir shops. Almost everything is kid-friendly, and I highly recommend you pick a place right on the water to enjoy the views.
  4. If you just want to take a break and let the kids stretch their legs, then take a stroll along Pacific Grove, a mile long paved walk from the Monterey Aquarium to Lover’s Point. It has beautiful views of the ocean and you are almost guaranteed to see lots of sea lions! This trail is stroller friendly.

After this stop, we grabbed some beverages, and I made use of one of my personal favorite parts of the GMC Terrain – the fun little compartment on the passenger side. I kept all of my sparkling waters there for easy access, but you could also stash snacks, games, or your wallet to keep it in a safe place.


This beautiful stretch of scenery is just 20 minutes south of Monterey and has plenty of fun activities to do. Look here for a list of places to stay, hikes to take, and restaurants to enjoy.

We were grateful for the added safety features of the GMC Terrain, including the lane departure alerts, blind spot warnings and the multiple angled views of the backup camera.

Paso Robles

Our kids actually fell asleep on the way to Paso Robles, so we kept on cruising. I know from a friend, however, that there are lots of fun family-friendly wine tasting options as well as live shows, good restaurants and nice places to stay. Look here for more information.

Once our kids woke up from their (too short!) naps, they were anxious to get out and play. Luckily our last designated stop was just around the corner, snuggled right between San Louis Obispo and Pismo Beach.

Avila Beach

This is a cozy little beach town our friends told us about. To say we loved it is an understatement. Parking was easy, the beach views were stunning, and they had a really cute and walkable downtown. Our kids also enjoyed the beach-themed playground and kid-friendly restaurants. I highly recommend this as a great place to stop and stretch or even spend the night, as we noticed lots of cute hotels along the beachfront.

When we finally arrived at our destination, I felt like we knew this car inside and out. I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering a mid-sized SUV with luxury features. Oh, and my husband’s favorite features? The air-conditioned front seats, easy acceleration, and plenty of trunk space. Be sure to consider one for your next road trip!

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Meredith is a transplant to the Bay Area and has fallen in love with the weather, gorgeous scenery, and plethora of local wineries. A wife and mother of two, she works part-time as a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. She hails from Texas, where she attended the University of Texas and will always bleed orange. She then moved to Washington DC to attend Georgetown's School of Medicine, where she fell in love with her future husband, a fellow student, and has been happily married for almost a decade. She and her husband lived in Cincinnati, Ohio for several years for their medical training and found it the perfect place to start a family. She relocated to the Bay Area a few years ago and has quickly adapted to West Coast living. Meredith enjoys the balance of part-time working and full-time parenting and loves to write about this ongoing struggle. In her persistent drive to find more "me time", she actively pursues her interests in reading, running, soccer, baking, and wine tasting.


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