Monday, July 23 , 2018, 4:54 am | Fair 66º


Donna Polizzi

Here & There

Donna Polizzi: Avila Valley Barn Has a Down-Home Welcome for All Ages

Eager farm animals, delicious sweets, scrumptious pies, fruit and flowers all part of the unique treats at a rustic retreat not far from Highway 101


It can be a challenge to find a place to visit that offers a variety of things to do and can be enjoyed by all ages. I’ve found it.

Avila Valley Barn, at 560 Avila Beach Drive south of San Luis Obispo, is that place. Whether visitors are 2 or 102, they will love the experience, laugh while they’re there, and leave with something fun, delicious and memorable.

There are so many interesting things to see, taste and do at the barn. As soon as you pull into the huge parking lot, you can’t miss gigantic bins in front of the barn that are filled with fresh flowers, pumpkins in a variety of shapes and sizes, colorful squash, trees and other interesting items that change with each passing season.

Hay bales are stacked to provide rustic family photo opportunities or to just sit and people-watch. A favorite thing to do is hang out and enjoy eating warm and buttery roasted corn on the cob while watching the farm’s animals play and jockey for attention.

Something magical happens at the farm that transforms the most stoic people into kids again. Could it be the way that tension and the problems of the world melt away when you stop in awe to look at an exotic chicken? Seriously, some of them have bodies that look like a well-groomed fluffy puppy.

Have you ever seen a chicken that is truly as colorful as a peacock? I couldn't believe my eyes when a really fast, jet-black chicken with a big, jewel-like turquoise circle on the side of its cheek, ran in front of me. Wait ... do chickens have cheeks? Many of them look hand-painted and strutted around like they were in a fashion show.

Taking a walk around the the barn is interesting and fun for everyone. There are goats, horses, lambs, llamas, emus, pigs and a cow with the biggest brown eyes and the longest eyelashes you’ve ever seen.

It’s a kick to buy food for the animals and watch them clamor for attention to get hand fed. For only 50 cents, you can buy a good-sized bag of lettuce if you want to feed and interact with the critters.

Meanwhile, there’s so much more inside the barn.

At first, you will see beautiful flowers. You can’t beat the prices, and I always take home a huge bouquet of gerbera daisies.

Avila Valley Barn also offers fresh produce and big jars of local organic honey in different flavors. A highlight of any visit are the freshly baked pies with flaky, delicious crust and juicy fruit that is sourced locally. Fresh pies, pastries and bread are all made on-site. The orchards are right there and the fruit doesn’t get any fresher.

Later in the year, when the weather warms up and the rain has stopped, you can take hay rides and pick your own fruit to take home.

If you can drag yourself away from the olallieberry, apple and peach pies, the back room has hundreds of goodies to take home or buy as gifts. If you like apple butter, jams and jellies, olives, bread and soup mixes, the selection is tremendous. It’s a great place to buy savory nuts and berries or stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables.

To sweeten the pot, there’s a newer building full of treats. The Deli and Sweets Shop has salt water taffy, a large selection of candies, homemade fudge that melts in your mouth and delicious, hand-scooped ice cream.

If you go, Avila Valley Barn is just five minutes from the beach, and just west of Highway 101. Give yourself at least an hour at the barn — or more if you have younger children.

Avila Valley Barn’s winter hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday, weather permitting. Click here for more information, or call 805.595.2816.

— Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys to the Coast, a free Central Coast travel resource providing honest recommendations on the best places that locals want to go. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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