This article originally appeared in the December 2019 edition of Colony Magazine.
It’s also published here.
It probably comes as no surprise that some of our favorite gifts for the kids aren’t “things” at all — they’re the gift of experience. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Because there are some seriously adorable kid stores in the North County. And if you’re really set on something to wrap, many of our favorite kiddo experiences also offer gift cards.
In no ranking order, here are our recommendations on local places to shop for gifts for the kids this holiday season (or anytime). I’ve also included their Instagram handles because if you know me at all, you know that’s my favorite way to scope out local businesses these days.
839 12th St., Paso Robles
“Local & whimsical creations: clothes, decor, gifts.”
I’ve written about Firefly before, and that’s because it’s a major fave. Every time I walk by this store (or run by, if I’m chasing Wyatt, which is usually) I think to myself how crazy cute the interior is. Seriously, all the products here are gift-worthy. I’ve oohed at the boho dangly earrings and ahhed at the pretty floral notebooks. That children’s section, though? Well, it’s just next-level. In the middle of the store under the chic setup of a little wooden house is a haven of delightful children’s gifts. Think lots of sweetly selected toys that would work as fancy stocking stuffers or multi-use pieces tucked into a wrapped package’s oversized bow. Plus beautifully crafted picture books, fluffy stuffed ostriches and sloths, and other unique finds.
Anna & Mom
5945 Entrada Ave., Atascadero
“Unique & affordable clothing and gifts for children & the people who love them.”
I’m pretty sure this place is the Firefly-like equivalent of Atascadero. I had never been there before, and it was such a treat to experience. I took Wyatt on a recent afternoon and he immediately started moving fire trucks in and out of a little wooden firehouse set up for kids to play with while their mamas… peruse the kid’s clothes of course! I got Clara some very nice thick leggings decorated with dainty little rhinestones on the hem and Wyatt selected glittery ice blue rain boots. Both items were fun and different and unlike generic things you’d find online. The displays also included charming board books about goats, dino-shaped eating utensils and unicorn everything. You guys, I barely made it out of the store without literally buying ALL THE THINGS.
Paso Robles Children’s Museum
623 13th St., Paso Robles
“To engage children in a joyful learn-through-play environment and inspire educational curiosity…”
Situated inside Paso Robles’ old firehouse, this nonprofit play place has two-stories of exhibits exploring all the things kids love. Throw on an apron and grab paintbrush and swipe strokes of neon shaving cream on the Paint Wall. Fill up a plastic pushcart with plastic fish and veggies at the pretend market and dress up as a magician at the theater dress-up stage. The kids’ museum has all this and more, plus a cool outdoor play area. Want to give the gift of play? The museum runs a special during the month of December. Purchase a $125 annual membership for a family of four and get an additional month free. That’s 13 months of play for the price of 12 months.
Mighty Munchkins Playzone
(Update — this company only does equipment rentals now)
715 6th St., Paso Robles
“Rentals & Indoor Play. Make any event baby & toddler-friendly & fun for everyone, including you!”
Another experience people can gift the littles in their lives is a gift card to Mighty Munchkins Playzone. This new business features soft structure indoor play equipment for babies and toddlers ages 6 and younger. I figured Clara and Wyatt would just run and jump and burn some energy there, but I also watched them make new friends as they worked together to build little structures with the giant play pieces. The ball pit was also a big draw. Gift cards and punch cards are available for purchase.
Hop’s Bounce House
5805 El Camino Real (Suite A), Atascadero
“Indoor Bounce House Play Center: Focusing on a clean, active environment!”
Hop’s offers indoor bounce houses for kids of all ages and a play area with toys for littles. Designed for babies to tweens, the facility features a bunch of different bounce houses to jump around in, climb on and slide down. The setup is well thought out with a cubby wall for shoes, toy area for babies and toddlers, TVs, and — my fave — multiple comfy couches for parents to actually sit down for once. Annual passes, daily admission tickets and punch passes would make wonderful gifts here.
Paso Robles General Store
841 12th St., Paso Robles
“Goods & provisions for pantry & home.”
This store might be your go-to for Paso almond brittle to nibble and munch (no, seriously, gift yourself a bag this Christmas — it’s to die for), but did you know this shop also has some charming Paso-inspired onesies and children’s T-shirts? I haven’t been there lately so I can’t attest to the exact slogans in stock. But usually, it’s catchy sayings such as “Paso Grown” under a blocky tractor/harvest/farm-life graphic, and all in great colors. If you have a baby, know a baby or are friends with anyone who is about to have a baby, these tops are your go-to gift.