One of many family-friendly festivals along this stretch of Highway 1, the Strawberry Festival celebrated the delicious strawberries that grow in the area. Although the festival is no longer active, the Strawberry Stampede is still up and running. It’s a fun, fresh, and festive way to spend Memorial Day Weekend each year. The whole weekend takes place in the Arroyo Grande Village, a classic American downtown with historic shopfronts, mom-and-pop boutiques, cafes and restaurants. “The Village,” as locals call it, stands at the center of rich agricultural land that’s grown big, juicy strawberries since the 1920s. Taste strawberry treats from local restaurants, from strawberry shortcake and chocolate-dipped strawberries, to strawberry barbecue sauce and strawberry salads. Afterward, indulge in another top crop — wine grapes — with a wine tasting tucked in one of the nearby hillside vineyards. Or hit the beach between Oceano and Avila Beach, just a stone’s throw away. Plan to enjoy the very best of what this section of Highway 1 has to offer, and come hungry.
Explore The Village of Arroyo Grande
The Strawberry Festival
Over nearly four decades, the Strawberry Festival grew to become the largest free festival in San Luis Obispo County. The event featured 300 booths, 3 carnival areas, a shutdown of Branch Street, Bridge Street, and the Olohan Alley — and millions of strawberries. Entertainment ran on multiple stages throughout the Village, from clowns and dance troupes to bands and puppet shows. Sunset Magazine once named it “The Place to be on Memorial Weekend,” with over 100,000 people in attendance in recent years. In fact, the Strawberry Festival grew so large, the event organizers had to offer shuttle service to and from off-site parking venues. The Strawberry Festival began as a simple celebration of all things strawberry, with proceeds going to Village improvements. With its massive growth, the event brought people — both vendors and visitors — from all over the West. The strain on the little Arroyo Grande Village proved to be too much, and it was reimagined as the local-centric “Strawberry Celebration.”
Like strawberries? Like to run? For the active visitor who enjoys a good race, this Arroyo Grande Village event has coincided with the Strawberry Celebration since 1987. The Kiwanis of Greater Pismo Beach host the Strawberry Stampede each year, including a 5K run, 10K run, and 5K walk. The 5K run or walk takes you out and back on a 3.1-mile course that starts and ends in Heritage Square Park. The course is quite flat, leading out from the Arroyo Grande Village into agricultural land nearby. The 10K run travels a separate route into the countryside near Huasna, looping back to Branch Mill Road and returning to the start. This course includes quite a few gently rolling hills and a flat at the end, perfect for sprinting to the finish line. Every participant and volunteer gets refreshments, the highlight being large quantities of fresh, locally-grown strawberries.
Things to do over Memorial Weekend
Hiking AG Valley and Lopez Lake
When you can’t eat another strawberry (is there such a moment, really?) head out to one of Arroyo Grande and Lopez Lake’s many hiking trails. These travel around the lake and within 10 miles of the Village of Arroyo Grande. You can find a lot of variety in the trails available here, from a hike out into the Garcia Wilderness to short family walks by Lopez Lake. A locals’ favorite is the Little Falls Trail and Big Falls Trail, found off Hi Mountain Road behind the Lopez Lake Recreation Area. Though off the beaten path, they offer hidden waterfalls and swimming holes that are worth the effort. Bring a picnic from a Village eatery or one of the boutique wineries in Edna Valley or the Arroyo Grande Valley. And make sure to bring your phone for Instagram-worthy shots of the high mountain views, rolling hills, lake, waterfalls, wildlife and seasonal wildflowers.
Lopez Lake Water Activities
The area in and around the Lopez Lake State Recreation Area offers many fun ways to enjoy the water and the warm weather. Check out the Lopez Lake Marina where you can rent kayaks, canoes, power boats, jet skis, wave runners and even house boats. You can also find everything you need for fishing bass off the dock, shore, or boat. One of the favorite hot spots in the park is the Mustang Waterpark. Here you’ll find a set of long waterslides, jacuzzis, a play area for little ones, and a snack bar. Rent a cabana and spend the whole day here, with plenty of affordable fun for the whole family. Daredevils will want to hit the Vista Lago Adventure Park, with over 50 elements varying in difficulty for visitors. Test your agility on the ropes course, or get the adrenaline pumping on one of three zip lines that cruise over the lake.
The Central Coast of California is respected across the country as a premier wine tasting region — but no stuffiness allowed. Jeans, tee shirts, flip flops and cowboy boots are the preferred choices here. Check out the Arroyo Grande Valley for wineries that make serious wines without any of the pretense. Chardonnay, pinot noir and Champagne-style sparkling wine can be found here, as well as some pinot gris and tempranillo. Edna Valley to the north offers these as well as unusual whites and cool-climate Rhone varieties. Most wineries are family-owned, so the person pouring your wine might very well be the person tending the vines and driving the tractor. Some wineries supply picnic fixings, as well as boutiques with apparel, books and gifts. Even if wine isn’t your thing, the drive through the vines is well worth a spin. Put the top down and wind through the beautiful countryside, just down the road and around the corner from the Arroyo Grande Village.
Along Highway 1, you’re never far from a soft, white sand beach with jaw-dropping views. Visit one of the nearest beaches to Arroyo Grande like the Oceano Dunes, just five miles west of the Village. Enjoy one of the country’s largest dune complexes, complete with sweeping vistas of Pismo Beach, Shell Beach and beyond to Point San Luis. That’s not to mention seaside horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and biplane rides. Or drive just 11 miles north to Avila Beach, through a sycamore forest. The quaint Avila Beach community offers sun, sand, surf, and lots of fun for everyone from toddlers to grandparents. Spend a day on the sand, either at the long Avila Beach, Fisherman’s Beach, or Olde Port Beach. You’ll also want to grab a seafood lunch, ice cream or shaved ice, and definitely some saltwater taffy. Walk the Promenade for boutique shopping and wine tasting, and don’t miss a stroll down the historic Avila Beach Pier.