It gets hot here in the summer. Really effing hot. To cool off, locals like to head to the coast. When I was single, I usually went to Pismo Beach, which seems to be the favorite destination. It's always hopping, with crowded streets and busy restaurants. But my husband's family always vacationed in the much more low-key Morro Bay, so that's become our go-to spot (although we still venture over to Pismo once in a while).
The main attraction of Morro Bay (besides the ocean and cooler weather) is 581-foot-tall Morro Rock:
Although it looks like it's sitting in the middle of the ocean, you can drive over there and walk around on the surrounding beach. It's also a reserve for peregrine falcons, and you know I can't resist the animals!
Morro Bay is dog-friendly, and people can bring their pets into stores. Dogs are welcome to join their humans for meal at restaurants with outdoor seating, and there's plenty of that. We've taken our little ones to Rose's Landing a number of times. They're always welcoming and friendly, and I love the fish n' chips. Plus it has a great view of the water and the rock. Dorn's is another good place for seafood and views. For coffee, we go to Top Dog Coffee (oddly, I don't think we've ever brought our dogs there!).
Shops line the Embarcadero. My favorite is Fiona Bleu gallery for well-priced jewelry and Jonathan Adler home goods. Of course, Erik likes to check out the guitars and amps at Central Coast Music.
We haven't gone whale watching in Morro Bay, but we did take a glass-bottom boat tour. You don't need to get on the water to see the sea lions, though—they come right up to the docks, honking and stinking and looking for food around the fishing boats.
Usually we go for the day, but sometimes we make a weekend of it and stay at the La Serena Inn, which we hope to do this summer. It's a couple of blocks from the beach, but rooms on the top floor have unobstructed views of the rock. (And apparently now it's pet-friendly, though I doubt we'll be taking three dogs to the coast anytime soon.)
Where do you go to cool off?