San Luis Obispo (also known as SLO) is a small gem of a town located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is one of the earliest communities in California and is centered on its beautifully restored 18th century mission. Along with its historical significance and preserved 19th century downtown, it offers visitors and locals alike a wealth of activities, recreation and entertainment. If you are considering a weekend getaway, you cannot pick a better place, and it could become your go-to spot for every getaway.
Something for Everyone
Whether you are a history buff, a wine aficionado or an outdoor enthusiast, you will not be disappointed. The Pacific Ocean is just 15 minutes away and Montana de Oro State Park with beautiful hiking and biking trails, equestrian trails, sandy beaches and tidal pools is 10 minutes from downtown. If children are included in your getaway, they will be able to visit one of the top children’s museums in the state, the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum, the Skate Park and much more. With a perfect Mediterranean climate and located near one of the world’s agricultural centers, the San Joaquin Valley, you will find small, high-quality wineries as well as larger establishments open for tasting.
The Best Restaurants Have Gathered in SLO
If fresh seafood is your passion, you have come to the right place. There is no end to the excellent restaurants in SLO, whether it is fine dining or street food, you will find an abundance of delicious fresh seafood. Cinopinot is just one among several high-end restaurants that have a seafood grille and oyster bar, as well as an attractive atmosphere and al fresco dining. If you are looking for a budget meal, try Splash Café or Sidecar. In SLO, there is excellent fresh seafood for everyone.
If seafood is not your thing, it is no problem. You will find great options for vegetarians and vegans as well. San Luis Obispo is a forerunner of farm fresh to table menus for any style of cuisine, including Italian, Japanese, Thai, traditional barbecue or street food at the famous Farmers Market. These are just a few suggestions to whet your appetite. After you check in to your getaway bungalow, you can explore the town and find your own favorites.
Luxury or Budget as You Wish
Do you dream about a large, luxury suite will all the five-star bells and whistles, or is a cozy Bed & Breakfast with old-world, European charm more your style. Whether you plan to splurge or stay strictly within your budget, SLO has you covered. The Petit Soleil Bed & Breakfast is in the heart of downtown and offers a gourmet breakfast as well as complimentary hors d’oeuvres and wine tasting in the evening. If you are looking for budget accommodation, you will find the Peach Tree Inn and Motel 6 San Luis Obispo North and South. If you really want to save, try camping. The local state parks offer beautiful sites in the mountains and at the beach. For an over-the-top getaway, try the Madonna Inn. Considered a landmark destination, it offers all the features and amenities you would expect from a top hotel and much more.
What to See and Do
If you are planning a getaway, you may want to pick and choose how you spend your precious time. San Luis Obispo offers a wide variety of attractions that will require more than one visit to experience it all. Here are just a few:
• Many people start with the historically significant Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Located in the center of downtown, it was founded in 1772, as was the town, by Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan. The mission was named after the 13th century Saint Louis of Toulouse. It is still an active parish.
• Hearst Castle is the most famous building in the region and a National Historic Landmark as well as a California State Park. Built as a residence for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, it has an impressive main building, the Casa Grande, as well as an impressive collection of art and artifacts. You will see the famous zebras grazing on the grass that are descendants of Hearst’s private zoo. A long list of the rich and famous from the last century enjoyed being guests at the castle even if only for a short time.
• With a small but thriving arts center, the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art offers exhibits, events and education in all mediums of fine art. In addition, in the spirit of artistic expression you will see local artists on Thursday evenings downtown, with live music, street performers, artisans, fresh produce and much more at one of the most famous Farmers Markets in California.
• As mentioned above, the Madonna Inn is the epitome of extravagance, and even if you do not stay there, you can visit some of the most famous features such as the waterfall in the men’s bathroom, the Pink Room and the walk-in fireplace. Each of the 110 guestrooms has a whimsical design. It also has two award-winning restaurants and offers a luxurious spa experience. It considers itself the gateway to the Central Coast Wine Country, but that could be said about any accommodation you chose in SLO.
• Another over-the-top famous attraction in SLO is Bubblegum Alley. Students have been sticking already chewed gum on the walls of this narrow alley since the end of World War II. Some just push in blobs of gum, others create images, and some of the locals tried to remove it, but to no effect. Today, it is a famous feature of the town having been mentioned in several newspapers, TV shows, novels, songs and other media. While some locals consider it an eyesore, others are happy that it increases foot traffic to the downtown area. In whichever way you view it, you can rest assured that it is steam cleaned once a month.
• If you would like a private and possibly romantic experience, then the Sunset Drive-In is for you. On the other hand, it is also a great place to take children. Either way, you are on your own with a traditional concession stand nearby and two new-release movies to watch or not as you please.
The Great Outdoors
San Luis Obispo is perfectly situated for limitless outdoor adventure. Just a few miles away you can experience some of California’s most beautiful lakes and forests in the Los Padres National Forest and Montana de Oro State Park. The nearby beaches provide endless water sports including kayaking, surfing, windsurfing and parasailing. Whether you want to spend hours in the wilderness or zip line over the countryside, you will find what you are looking for.
After Dark Entertainment
You will have a wide selection of after dark entertainment from the open-air amphitheater in Paso Robles to the Performing Arts Center in Cal Poly’s campus. San Luis Obispo has several state-of-the-art theaters that provide high-quality entertainment throughout the year including family-friendly shows especially for children. If clubbing is your thing, try the BarrelHouse Speakeasy, Blast 825 Taproom and The Library. Whether is it a club or restaurant, you will find the one you like the best.
San Luis Obispo is tucked away between several ancient volcanoes and the Pacific Ocean. It is next to some of the best agricultural land in the world where grapes are grown and wine is produced. The town has a lively atmosphere, day and night, and has a lot to offer anyone looking for a getaway vacation. The above suggestions have given you a tiny peek into what is possible in this vibrant and attractive town. There is much more to see and do, as you will soon discover when you take your first steps in this wonderland on the Central Coast of California. +