ARROYO GRANDE — If you don't have grandma's house to go to this holiday season, consider the Rose Victorian Inn, a 103-year-old home that glows with Christmas decorations and good cheer. Its affable owners, Diana and Ross Cox, will welcome you just like kin.
In fact, a December trip to this friendly farm town is sure to put visitors in a festive mood. Wreaths encircle the old-fashioned street lamps in the tiny downtown district known as "the village," and Christmas lights twinkle in shop windows.
Santa and Mrs. Claus stroll the sidewalks, handing out candy canes and posing for pictures. On weekends, carolers in Victorian costume fill the main street with song. The folks in Arroyo Grande also host holiday open houses and teas.
You'll find this Christmas spirit off U.S. 101 in southern San Luis Obispo County.
To get to the Rose Victorian Inn after driving north from Los Angeles, exit onto Los Berros Road, about 10 miles beyond Santa Maria.
Go under the freeway and drive three miles northwest to Valley Road, then turn right and look for the four-story Victorian mansion that's painted in four shades of rose. A big Christmas tree fills the front parlor windows.
This country inn is not only a homey B&B, but also Arroyo Grande's best restaurant. The lower floor features a full bar and dining room, with gourmet dinners at bargain prices.
Entrees include \o7 coq au vin, \f7 baked Alaskan cod, sauteed \o7 scalone \f7 and grilled lamb chops, from $8.50 to $14, with soup or salad, vegetables from the inn's garden, and rice or potatoes. Daily specials for children (under 12) are $4.95.
The inn operates on the Modified American Plan, so dinner is included for overnight guests who are treated to appetizers, dessert and coffee along with a choice of entrees. In the morning, in the upstairs dining room, is a full breakfast of eggs Benedict, fresh fruit, muffins and champagne.
The Rose Victorian Inn has five guest rooms in the main house and two in a rear cottage. Those two have private baths, as does a room on the main floor that was the former library. The four upstairs rooms share a pair of bathrooms.
You'll sleep in comfortable beds amid antique furnishings that are in keeping with the inn's 19th-Century heritage. This month each room also has its own Christmas tree. In the restaurant you can operate a model railroad that circles a larger tree decorated for the holidays.
The inn is open Thursday through Sunday; on other days it can be reserved for groups or special events. Rates are $125 to $145 for two persons, including dinner and breakfast. Youths over 16 are welcome. No pets, but you can arrange for the house cat, Scruffy, to sleep in your room.
Call (805) 481-5566 for reservations, or write to Rose Victorian Inn, 789 Valley Road, Arroyo Grande, Calif. 93420. Call the same number for dinner reservations; meal hours are 5 to 9 p.m.
Today and the next two Saturdays, Dec. 10 and 17, Diana Cox will host a holiday tea and tour of the 1885 Rose Victorian from 1 to 4 p.m. for $10. The tea includes smoked salmon, Scottish eggs, scones, other treats and a pot of tea. Call for reservations.
For more Christmas festivities, go north from the inn on Valley Road, turn right on Fair Oaks Avenue and go under the freeway, then turn left on Traffic Way to Branch Street.
Drive right and you'll be in the heart of the village. Park on the street or in lots behind the stores and stroll around.
On Fridays and weekend afternoons until Christmas, look for Santa greeting shoppers along Branch Street. Sundays, between 1 and 3 p.m., he'll pose for pictures at Santa's House next to Rutherford's jewelry store.
Saturday and Dec. 17, children and their parents can breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Burnardo's, 114 W. Branch St. It's $3 per person; call (805) 481-2041 for reservations.
Burnardo's is Arroyo Grande's best-known refreshment spot, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that features the Burns family's homemade ice cream and hand-dipped chocolates. This time of year it's also selling Christmas gifts.
Stop by Interiors by Amanda, a converted 1887 church that's filled with the fragrance and sight of seven Christmas trees decorated with handmade ornaments. Visitors are welcome to Amanda's annual Christmas tea next weekend from 1 to 5:30 p.m.
Behind the church is the Parsonage, a gift shop that has a collection of Santa Clauses and other decorations. Coffee and tea are served with scones and muffins on the porch; closed Sundays.
Near the Parsonage is the Guest House at 120 Hart Lane, a cozy two-room B&B. Rates, including a full breakfast, are $60 per couple, $45 single. Call host Mark Miller or Jim Cunningham for reservations at (805) 481-9304.
Arroyo Grande's other B&B is the new Village Inn, which has seven spacious rooms with country charm (and private baths). A home-style breakfast cooked by owners Jude and Don Stalker is included in the $65/$85 room rate. The inn is near the freeway at 407 El Camino Real. For information, call (805) 489-5926.
Just off Branch Street, Short Street leads behind the village stores to an unusual landmark, a century-old swinging footbridge that crosses Arroyo Grande Creek.
Within sight is the parking lot behind city hall that turns into a farmer's market every Saturday from noon to 3 or 4 p.m. Growers bring their fresh vegetables and fruits to town, and sometimes food is cooked on an outdoor grill.
Hungry visitors praise Finch's on Branch Street, and also like the informality of F. McLintocks Saloon around the corner on Bridge Street. The Village Cafe is a breakfast favorite.
For a list of restaurants and lodgings or more details about holiday events, contact the Arroyo Grande Chamber of Commerce, 150 W. Branch St., Arroyo Grande 93420, phone (805) 489-1488.
Return to Los Angeles by rejoining U.S. 101 south. Round trip from Los Angeles to Arroyo Grande is 370 miles.