A mere 30 miles south of San Francisco lies a secret worth sharing. The seaside haven of Half Moon Bay manages to charm the kids, the parents, the adventurous and the foodies. It’s a secret worth sharing.
The adventure begins in Pillar Point Harbor, meanders down the Main Street filled with eclectic shops and restaurants and culminates at the dinner table where farm fresh ingredients find their way into seasonal dishes. After the first visit, you’ll have your own long list of reasons to return.
1. Small-town Friendliness: The relaxed ocean side locale and small town feel creates a respite from city life. Half Moon Bay is a place where you can do everything with the kids -- even shop. Toddlers to grandparents find their creative side crafting mini terrariums, sand jars and jewelry at the outdoor activity and adventure garden at Oddyssea Outside on Main Street.
2. A Harbor That Holds Surprises: On weekends, Pillar Point Harbor is alive with activity as locals and tourists browse and buy the day’s fresh catch directly from the fisherman. The beginning of Dungeness crab season in November brings crowds that carry bagfuls of crustaceans home and dine at the surrounding restaurants. For a harbor view, try the second story of Flavor restaurant, next to the docks. Want to know what the catch of the day is? Check Fishline for up-to-date information.
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3. Active Adventure for All Ages: Surfing the famed Mavericks with kids is out but hiking, biking and kayaking around town is in. The California Coastal Trail provides easy access to cliff top, paved walking at the newly opened Devil’s Slide Coast trail and biking through town or along the cliffs at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay which has public access. Prefer the view from the water? Rent kayaks from Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. next to the docks and paddle the protected waters of the inner and outer harbor. Be on the lookout for seals and sea lions, sea birds and a stingray or two if you’re lucky.
4. It’s the Pumpkin Capital of the World: It doesn’t take long to figure out that Half Moon Bay is the Pumpkin Capital of the World. If you miss the great pumpkin weigh-off in October, the 2014 winner weighed in at a whopping 2,058 pounds, you can buy your own take-home sized version at seasonal pumpkin patches. During the rest of the year, local restaurants feature a variety of pumpkin dishes and desserts.
5. Fido is Welcome: Need a spot to rest and grab a bite with your four-legged friend? Dogs are welcome on the patio at Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. where spent grain leftover from the brewing process is made into “Mavericks Bones” dog biscuits. The pesto whole Dungeness crab and crab nachos are a must-try. Looking for an elegant night out with your pooch? Dogs dine on homemade dog biscuits and bacon flavored water with their well-heeled owners at seasonal Yappy Hours at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay.
6. The Local Food Options Are Endless: From farm markets to picnic tables and Dungeness crab in the harbor to casual family restaurants, like Its Italia, on Main Street, to artisan crafted dishes at Navio at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, there are locally sourced food options for all budgets. Tip: If the chicken fingers on the kids’ menu is your nemesis, Half Moon Bay is the place to try something different as even the kids’ menus have healthier options.
7. A Taste of Scotland in California: The sound of bagpipes playing is the first clue that there’s something Scottish about The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. One look at the seaside cliffs and guests are transported to the coast of Scotland though the sunset is pure California. The resort has enough on-site activities to keep the entire family busy though the view is so stunning it’s tempting to curl up in the adirondack chairs and never leave.
8. A Side Trip For Goat Cheese and Artichoke Bread in Pescadero: Blink and you’ll miss Pescadero. A 30-minute drive from Half Moon Bay, Pescadero has three must-dos with kids: Harley Goat Farms for goat cheese sampling and a tour if you time it right, a stop at Arcangeli Grocery Co. for a loaf of artichoke bread, and lunch or dinner at Duarte’s Tavern where cream of artichoke and cream of chili soup is a highlight. Tip: There are picnic tables near the grocery and goat cheese pairs very well with artichoke bread.