By Zachary Rosen
It’s not business as usual, but businesses are still finding ways to offer a wide (and awesome!) variety of activities on the Central Coast
How do you stay entertained in a pandemic? While many venues and activities remain closed, there are several new and reimagined experiences to be had along the Central Coast. Thanks to the creative communities along the 101, there’s still a ton of fun to be had in this region. Read on and discover some of our favorites that’ll have you walking through a field of lights, catching a movie or a concert from your car, tuning into a live-streamed concert, doing hands-on projects with the kids, or taking to the sea via kayak or parasail.
A different world at Sensorio
Since opening in May 2019, Bruce Munro: Field of Light at Sensorio has drawn crowds and praise both locally and afar. And even during the pandemic, Sensorio remains a wildly popular spot for families, couples, and those just looking to get outdoors for an evening at its Paso Robles location. Nearly 60,000 solar powered, fiber optic lights are spread throughout a 15-acre landscape, making Sensorio an otherworldly experience — especially after dark. The exhibit colorfully undulates across the gently rolling hills, merging the bucolic with the technologic.
Paths move above and through the installation, giving visitors a different perspective with each step. At times it looks as if you are watching the neural pathways of a brain. At other moments, it feels like you are gazing down into a galaxy, or strolling through an alien field of flowers. Designed by the internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro, this dazzling display of lights makes for an enchanting date night or inspiring family activity.
Naturally, Sensorio has made some safety adjustments since reopening during the pandemic — think hand sanitizer stations, regular bathroom and picnic table cleanings, social distancing, and masks and Covid-19 screenings for all. The paths also follow a single direction, making it easier to socially distance while moving through the mesmerizing array of lights.
Despite the changes, Sensorio remains one of the best places on the Central Coast to spend an evening in a different world. Order from one of the food trucks on site and sample local beer and wine (this is Paso Robles, after all!), and enjoy it all at one of the scenic dining areas overlooking the exhibit.
But be prepared and plan ahead — tickets must be purchased online ahead of time. Sensorio is now open four days a week, Thursday through Sunday, with Thursday being family night (half-price tickets for children 12 and younger). After multiple extensions, Sensorio has now been extended through the rest of 2020 — but rest easy, it’s not going anywhere after that. There are big plans for the future of the property, including a hotel, conference center, and more, details for which are coming later this fall.
Bruce Munro: Field of Light at Sensorio is at 4380 Highway 46 East, Paso Robles
For tickets and more: sensoriopaso.com
Innovation at home
Keeping the kids busy without the use of screens has become increasingly difficult in recent months. Recognizing that, a Santa Barbara museum has created at-home experiences to keep young minds engaged in fun hands-on learning.
MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, has become one of the greatest additions to the Santa Barbara downtown scene. MOXI celebrated its third anniversary in February, just before having to close for the statewide shutdown, and remains temporarily closed (as of late September). However, the staff wanted to stay engaged with the community, so they’ve created a number of take-home kits and remote interactive programs.
Typically, the Innovation Workshop on the first floor of the museum is one of MOXI’s most popular areas, offering hands-on play that both educates and entertains. Families can now take home that experience with Innovation Workshop Maker Kits. The first one available is the Innovator Essentials Kit, which provides a range of base materials and tools like a cardboard saw and glue gun. The kits will come in both a junior edition (ages 3 to 5) and a more mature one for kids age 7 and older. Once a month, MOXI will release new add-on kits to expand upon the essentials and introduce new materials, tools, and creative projects for families to keep exploring in the comfort of their own home. Pick-up dates and delivery options can be found at moxi.org/makerkits.
In July, MOXI began to offer a range of community collaborative projects, such as cardboard engineering challenges. In one project, CurioCity, they challenged the community to craft a building out of cardboard for an imaginary city. They received dozens of entries, which will be assembled into a cardboard city display once the museum reopens.
MOXI also recently hosted a take-home Backyard Summer BBQ kit for families that included lemonade from Kyle’s Kitchen and grill-it-yourself burgers, as well as a kit containing a series of hands-on projects, like ice cream in a bag and DIY rockets. Halloween is one of MOXI’s more prominent seasonal events and they are currently planning another fun kit experience to spice up what will be an unusual Halloween. Visit their website and follow their social media pages for more details
MOXI is at 125 State St, Santa Barbara
For more: moxi.org
A Zoom playhouse
Musicians, artists, and gig performers have been hit particularly hard during this time, with live shows and events being canceled worldwide. When the pandemic struck, event planner Ellyette “Elly” Iverson of EJI Experiences wanted to do something that helped support local creatives while also feeding the hunger for entertainment that the community was feeling. She began crafting interactive, multimedia events on Zoom that gave local businesses and creatives an outlet. With Zoom events, there is not the normal overhead of rentals and other costs, so the artists are given more financial support through ticket sales. And, of course, there is a gratuity button for guests who want to give an artist a little something extra. While Elly has hosted several interactive Zoom events, her Pangea’s Playhouse has become the most popular series.
Each Pangea’s Playhouse is a two-hour performance featuring eight artists that combines live art, dance, and music, among a few other creative treats. Attendees get to enjoy an evening that moves between performance, visual, and literary arts, bringing an enjoyable range of entertainment that has a little of everything for everyone. Many of the featured artists are local, though Elly usually adds a couple out-of-state or international guests to the lineup.
The feedback from both the artists and attendees has been astounding. But as we are all aware by now, Zoom has its moments of technical difficulties with video quality and choppy streaming. Elly wanted to find a way to help smooth over some of the technological limitations on Zoom. She recently expanded the concept to Pangea’s Lobby. The performances are now being recorded beforehand on better equipment and then premiered on YouTube, which allows for smoother video playback. A Zoom room during the event acts as a lobby, where guests can interact with the artists and each other. Each Pangea’s Playhouse takes place about once a month.
For tickets and more: ejiexperiences.com
For those missing the movie theaters, the West Wind Drive-In theater in Goleta is once again offering the theater experience from your car. After closing down last year, the quarantine gave new practicality to the drive-in format — and, thanks to widespread community support, West Wind Santa Barbara was reborn. New releases, beloved classics, and even double features can be enjoyed from the comfort and safety of your car. West Wind brings all the fun of a throwback experience (complete with snack bar!), while also providing state-of-the-art screen and sound technology. Tuesday family discounts are available for those wanting a midweek escape. Tickets are available first-come, first-served, and gates open 90 minutes before showtime.
Further south, at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, Concerts in Your Car is going beyond just the traditional drive-in experience. In the parking lot at Seaside Park, you’ll find live concerts and movies with 360 degrees of screens that provide an immersive event from the convenience of your car. Hosted by California Beer Festival (CBF) Productions, the lineups are eclectic, with a wide range of live and pre-recorded concerts (Cypress Hill, Chris Janson), movies (Despicable Me, The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and even a little theater (comedy from David Spade, and acrobatics by Zoppe).
With most events taking place between Friday through Sunday, Concerts in Your Car is the perfect way to add some excitement to your weekend. The event has been met with such astounding response that the CBF crew is working on expanding the series at multiple locations around the West Coast. Of course, they will continue to expand the offerings in Ventura and are even working on a one-of-a-kind drive-thru holiday experience this winter. No concessions are available on-site, so plan to order from one of the nearby restaurants or bring your own snacks. Tickets are sold by the vehicle, and can only be purchased in advance.
Both locations adhere to CDC health guidelines, so be prepared with masks and plans to socially distance.
West Wind Drive-In is at 907 S. Kellogg Ave, Goleta
For more information: westwinddi.com or (805) 837-0380
Concerts in Your Car are at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd, Ventura
For tickets and more: concertsinyourcar.com
Social distancing on the sea
Most of us have been moving around a little less during these long days stuck at home. If you’re looking for physical activities more exciting than the normal home routines, a day of kayaking or paddleboarding is the perfect way to get some fresh air and enjoy the pristine Pacific Ocean. Channel Islands Kayak Center offers both kayaks and stand up paddleboards for day rentals. There are single kayaks or doubles if you’re looking to explore the harbor with your quarantine partner. CIKC also offers guided tours.
Regularly sanitized equipment and the open waters make it safe and easy to keep your distance from others while getting to witness the range of marine life surrounding the harbor. With two locations — in Channel Islands Harbor and Ventura Harbor — it is easy to grab a kayak and paddle around for a few hours.
If you’re looking for a different perspective, take to the sky with Santa Barbara Parasail. This experience promises picturesque views from exhilarating heights. Take a dip in the water or just stay in the sky and take in the scenery. When parasailing, you take off and land from a boat, and no experience is required as you’re guided by the expert staff. Go up by yourself or with a friend! While social distancing is being enforced, the whole boat can be rented if you’d like a more private flight.
Channel Islands Kayak Center is at
3600 S. Harbor Blvd. Ste 2-108, in Oxnard’s Channel Islands Harbor; and 1691 Spinnaker Dr, in the Ventura Harbor
To book and for more information: cikayak.com or (805) 984-5995
Santa Barbara Parasail is at 237 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara
To book and for more information: santabarbaraparasail.co or (805) 940-5036