San Luis Obispo, with its small-town, Californian charm, offers heritage sites, outdoor adventure and a thriving arts scene.
San Luis Obispo, roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, impresses visitors with its scenic setting. Here, the natural beauty of California is visible in vineyards, mountains and the nearby Pacific Coast. The town was raised around the mission of Father Junípero Serra, which was established in 1772. Today the downtown area presents a well-preserved collection of Victorian homes and historic landmarks.
All the main attractions of San Luis Obispo are closely grouped around downtown, so it’s easy to get around on foot. Set out to discover centuries-old landmarks, such as the house of Pierre Hyppolite Dallidet, the town’s first winemaker.
Learn about the town’s modern history at the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. This active church also has a museum that illustrates the history of Native Americans and Californian missionaries. Surrounding the site is Mission Plaza. In summer, this is one of the venues of the Festival Mozaic, a popular chamber music festival. While in this area, visit San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. Free events, such as the I Madonnari chalk art and Art After Dark open-house festivals, take place here.
To the north of town is Leaning Pine Arboretum, part of California Polytechnic State University. Here you can see displays of regional plants as well as Australian, Chilean, Mediterranean and South African varieties. Check out the views from the nearby Bishop Peak Trail.
Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the hiking and biking trails of Montana Oro State Park to the west of town. To the east, Lopez Lake has trails for all fitness levels.
Be sure to visit the pier and restaurants at San Luis Obispo Bay and Avila Beach, which are just a 15-minute drive from the town center.
San Luis Obispo’s food and drink scene promotes homegrown produce, and a farmer’s market takes place every Thursday on Higuera Street, the main shopping area in town. Sample barbecued tri-tip beef, a traditional Californian dish, while you watch street performers and local bands. Wine connoisseurs will appreciate the wineries in nearby Edna Valley, just 10 minutes from the town center.