Three-and-a-half hours north of Los Angeles, the Happiest City in America — dubbed so by The Oprah Winfrey Show in January 2011 — is tucked away on California’s Central Coast, with sprawling Pacific coastline to the south and rolling green hills to the north. This eclectic town, with a population just under 50,000, is made up of a variation of folks, including long-time locals, families, retirees, young professionals and Cal Poly SLO and Cuesta college students.
San Luis Obispo County offers something for everyone, welcoming visitors and residents alike to partake in its expansive list of outdoor activities (hello beaches and hiking!), restaurants, coffee shops, wineries and breweries year-round. If you’re looking for a fun, relaxing, long-weekend getaway where you’ll feel like family and return home feeling refreshed, add SLO to the list. Pack your hiking shoes, bathing suit, jeans and jacket (it gets chilly at night!) and grab some friends to experience the beauty of the Central Coast.
Where to Stay
San Luis Obispo offers an extensive list of hotels, motels and inns to stay at throughout the expanse of the city. Among some of the most well-known and iconic hotels in SLO County is Madonna Inn. Each of its 110 guestrooms is unique in design, color and style. Whether or not you decide to stay at the stay at the pink inn, be sure to drop in for a slice of champagne cake and coffee — the pairing will not disappoint!
Other great hotels either in or close to downtown include the Garden Street Inn Bed and Breakfast (they allow pets!); Apple Farm Inn (dine at its restaurant and bakery and say yes to the Hot Apple Dumpling dessert); and Granada Hotel and Bistro, which is the only boutique hotel in downtown SLO.
If you and your travelers would prefer to stay closer to the beach and need a larger amount of space, homes are available in Pismo Beach, Avila Beach and Morro Boy via Airbnb.
Where to Eat
Breakfast: To get your morning started, have a hearty breakfast at Big Sky Café or a savory burrito at Breakfast Buzz. For the cinnamon roll lover, take a 15-minute drive down to Pismo Beach (early) in the morning and grab a doughy roll at Old West Cinnamon Rolls and eat it while overlooking the water on the Pismo pier. If you want a morning snack, stop in for a donut at local favorites Sunshine Donuts or SLO Donut Company, where you can decorate your donut with toppings.
Lunch: For the midday lunch break, stop in at Firestone Grill located at the top of downtown. Be sure to ask for extra barbecue sauce and ranch dressing to slather on some of the restaurant’s most famous menu items: the tri-tip sandwich, pig sandwich, steak cobb salad and seasoned fries. If in the mood for a sandwich, head on over to High Street Deli or Lincoln Deli for some tasty creations or make-you-own concoctions.
Dinner: After a day of fun in the sun, relax with a warm and healthy vegetarian meal at Natural Café; a fine dining Italian dinner at Buona Tavola; a hot bowl of clam chowder at Splash Cafe (if you have the time, order it to-go from the Pismo Beach location and sip while watching the sunset on a bench near the Dinosaur Caves); or made-from-scratch Thai at Noi’s Little Thai Takeout in nearby Los Osos (be sure to get there earlier in the evening as this is a local favorite and it sells out).
Where to Drink
For the caffeine lovers who enjoy trying mom and pop coffee shops, San Luis Obispo has you covered. Scout Coffee, Nautical Bean (try the maple muffin), Black Horse, Sally Loos, Kreuzberg and Linnaea’s are each unique to San Luis Obispo and offer cozy and warm atmospheres, ideal for reading, studying and catching up over a warm cup of joe.
If you appreciate the art of wine, spend a few hours at a local winery — Tolosa, Baileyana, Wolff and Edna Valley are just a few — to sip and taste with a picnic lunch. In the evening, enjoy some live music or performances with a beer in hand at SLO Brew, BarrelHouse Speakeasy or Marston’s.
If you’re looking for a fun, relaxing, long-weekend getaway where you’ll feel like family and return home feeling refreshed, add SLO to the list.
What to Do
When planning your trip to SLO County, be sure to arrive in town by early Thursday evening so that you can enjoy the weekly farmer’s market in downtown SLO. Rich with food, culture, music and people, the Higuera Street Thursday night gathering brings together the local community once a week in the heart of the city.
Throughout your weekend, be sure to stick your gum on the wall at SLO’s Bubblegum Alley; take a walk by the downtown historic Mission; snap a photo in front of the Fremont Theater; walk around Cal Poly’s campus; and lace up your running shoes to take in the sweeping views of the rolling hills and blue ocean from some popular hiking trails (Bishop’s Peak, Avila Ridge and Cerro San Luis are some popular lookouts).
For those seeking some outdoor adventure, drive 15 minutes south to both Pismo and Avila Beach and walk each of the piers. North county also offers a wide variety of sights and explorations, including Montana de Oro’s hiking trails and viewpoints; the landmark Morro Rock and kayaking in Morro Bay; wineries and restaurants in Paso Robles; and National and California Historic Landmark Hearst Castle in San Simeon, where visitors can take a tour of the grandiose museum.
PS. Catch a glimpse of SLO in this video, here!
Have you been to SLO?