By Elisa Huot

Former educator, toddler parent, and Paso Robles resident

Walkable, affordable, and kid-friendly — that’s how I describe downtown Paso Robles to my friends and family. And although some didn’t believe me at first, it’s true — our bustling little downtown has many hidden gems, hiding in plain sight, that make Paso Robles a very kid-friendly place. 

Whether you are visiting Paso Robles or are lucky enough to call it home, there are many no-cost/low-cost activities for littles. With the cost of just about everything going up — a recent trip to the dollar store revealed that it is now the $1.25 store — parents and children alike are in need of some fun activities that will not break the bank. Look no further than downtown Paso Robles. 


Start out by parking in the public lot behind City Hall and the library. Recent changes have made this entire lot free for anyone coming downtown. It’s an easy and convenient location to start our adventure. From there, head across Spring Street to visit the historic Paso Robles Inn. While taking in the history of the first major attraction in our city, stop by the front desk to ask for a paper cone filled to the brim with fish food. From there, head out to the lush courtyard to feed the beautiful koi in the three ponds on the grounds. A quick walk back to the library leads to another fish adventure. Ms. Melissa, the children’s librarian, doubles as the library aquarium docent. Ask her about the three generations of fish that call the library home. While there, make sure to sign your child up for a free library card and check out the free weekly activities for newborns to fifth-graders. 

Just across the street, within the historic Carnegie Library, is the Historical Society Museum. For the suggested donation of $5, you can take a walk through the history of Paso Robles. Make sure to ask one of the friendly docents about the blue bunny. Somewhere in the Museum hides a little light-up toy for children to find. If you’re lucky enough to find the bunny, a coloring book and a sweet treat is the prize. Most exciting of all, the child that finds the bunny picks the new hiding spot for the next young visitor to find. Next, stroll over to the Brown Butter Cookie company for a perfect toddler-size sample of their classic cookies. Pop into the Paso Robles General Store for hand-selected local items and free stickers for the kiddos. 

Complete your kid-friendly walking tour with a stop at the Downtown City Park, a popular gathering spot post story time at the library, to search for another hidden treasure: acorns. Nestled in the dirt and fallen twigs, below an impressive Oak tree, there is a bounty of these oak nuts that are as synonymous with our city’s name as they are with a nostalgic scavenger hunt. As your little ones hunt and play you will ultimately strike up conversations with other parents. 

These chats usually begin with the proverbial “How old are your kids?” and turn into the exchanging of potty-training struggles or sharing of information about yoga classes or swim lessons through the city’s aquatics program. Now you have stumbled upon the true gem of our community: the people. These encounters in our public places have been instrumental in growing meaningful friendships for my child and me. 

Friendships increase your sense of belonging, boost your happiness, and help with coping during times of difficulty. In the day and age of using apps to meet other parents and arrange playdates, we have a treasure trove of places to do just that while having fun along the way. 

As A.A. Milne said, “We didn’t know we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun.”


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