It’s no wonder the people here call it SLO. No one is in any hurry in the cafés or on the sidewalks, and certainly no one is in any rush to leave. The vibe is relaxed but not sleepy in the two-college town of 44,000, which has four surf shops but also a resident symphony. Strangers are genuinely friendly, always ready to talk about their favorite hiking trail or barbecue joint, or to point the way to the winery with the best Pinot Noir. It’s all part of the SLO life, that combination of good stuff that makes visiting here so nourishing to the soul. There’s plenty to go around, so come: Experience the SLO Life!
San Luis Obispo’s unusual natural beauty, along with its gentle climate, first attracted the Spanish padres to the area in the 1700s. In 1772 they built the fifth of California’s 21 missions here, on the banks of San Luis Creek, and named it Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Today, many consider this the most beautiful of the Spanish missions.
SLO’s once-dusty streets are now tree-lined and flanked by meticulously restored Victorian “painted ladies.” Old West buildings have been converted to bustling shops and restaurants, and Art Deco civic architecture stands downtown. A university and a college have brought cultural excitement in the form of numerous musical and performing arts groups; major touring shows regularly stop in SLO. A children’s museum, an art center and a history museum add to SLO’s cultural appeal, as do its many art galleries. At the Thursday Night Farmers’ Market, held year-round, growers bring the freshest produce and flowers to town and a multi-block party ensues, complete with street food, crafts vendors and live entertainment. Festivals and special events of all kinds take place on the plaza in front of the Mission year-round. Forty-five minute north, the art-and-architecture extravaganza known as Hearst Castle awaits.
South of town, a booming wine country has emerged. Some two dozen wineries produce critically acclaimed vintages in the Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley. Visitors can head out along the gorgeous country roads to sip their way through the vineyards, then return to town to savor everything from Santa Maria barbeque to Italian fritti.
For more information on San Luis Obispo, visit visitslo.com.