A Brief Guide to San Luis Obispo (SLO): The Heaven County of California

San Luis Obispo (SLO)

Nestled between San Francisco and L.A., San Luis Obispo (SLO) is an ideal gateway for everyone, be it the people who are looking to relax amidst nature or those who yearn to enjoy a buzz of activity. If you are a history lover, you can visit the heart of the city at the beautiful Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. If you are a peace lover, you can head to one of the wineries or take a drive to the beach. For kids, consider visiting the Children’s Museum or Skate Park.

When you’re there, don’t forget to stroll along the creek downtown as you’ll likely enjoy breweries, restaurants, wine bars, and shopping experience.


San Luis Obispo is at the heart of California’s magnificent Central Coast. It is approximately 200 miles north of Los Angeles and 220 miles south of San Francisco. Located just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, this city is surrounded by protected open spaces, vineyards, agricultural fields and is sheltered by volcanic peaks.


The climate of San Luis is something everybody loves! A perfect Mediterranean marine climate keeps the location quite warm during the day. The average temperature of the day is generally around 70°F. In the summer season, the temperature is around 60°F. The climate is mild and pleasant while daytime temperatures in winter tend to hover around.


With over 47,000 residents living within the city, SLO lists among one of the best places to live. It consistently ranks at the top for its quality of living.

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Facts about San Luis Obispo

Here are some of the key facts of the area;

  • SLO was founded by Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in 1772. He was the fifth of California’s 21 Spanish missions.
  • The downtown of SLO is just perfect for visitors as it is a humming, pedestrian-friendly zone that includes restaurants, shops, and galleries.
  • To make things more interesting, Thursday Night Farmers’ Market brings the lively community together by offering street food, crafts, barbecue, and live entertainment to San Luis Obispo’s Downtown.
  • For booze lovers, there’s San Luis Obispo Wine Country. It is just 15 minutes away south of Downtown, making every booze lover relish different varieties.
  • Located at the west end of the Mission Plaza on Broad Street, the SLO Museum of Art features a range of Californian-made visual arts. Entry to the museum is totally free and you can enjoy a wide array of mediums and styles.
  • San Luis Obispo has a California Polytechnic State University, named Cal Poly that includes more than 20,000 students. The university boasts a multitude of exclusive attractions including a fabulous Performing Arts Center, an open-space architectural graveyard of former student projects, and multiple stadiums to house their NCAA Division 1 sports teams. Also, the university ranks as the second-largest land-holding university in California.
  • Famous for its old-school appeal and massive outdoor screen, Sunset Drive-In is one of SLO’s classic attractions you cannot miss. Its tickets would cost $9 for adults, and for kids aged 5-11, the cost is just $4.


If you are an adventure junkie, a mountain biker, hiker, or cyclist, the location has a lot to offer. It has an abundance of trails maintained in the city’s parks, canyons, and mountains. When it comes to beaches, you can go whale watching, kayaking, boogie-boarding, and surfing.

For pure relaxation, you can visit local spas that are located in the area’s mineral-rich natural hot springs. Moreover, SLO features a host of options for recreational activities, including local golf courses, Cal Poly sporting events, and open spaces to relax.


In San Luis Obispo, you won’t find any difficulty in finding the right accommodation no matter how many members you are. Talk about places, you’ll likely to get small, independent inns, name-brand motels, romantic wine country B&Bs, and large chain hotels, that allow each traveler to feel at home.

What to do in San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo is a prominent stopping point that is equidistant from Los Angeles and San Fransisco, and this gateway appears in between their way. It is popularly known as the happiest city in the United States owing to 315 days of sunlight that it receives throughout the year.  Hence, this small town has a very comforting and cheerful atmosphere.

When in San Luis Obispo, tourists of all age groups can find something for themselves. The nature lovers can find ample of beaches and hidden spots; the adventure junkies can find different challenging treks; the pious individuals can find the peace of mind in missionaries; photo lovers can find different spots; history lovers can visit ancient buildings and museums, while others can enjoy sightseeing and roaming in the streets. 

1. Exploring Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Father Junipero Serra laid the foundation of this missionary in 1772. It was named after Saint Loius, who is the bishop of tollhouse in France. Father Junipero found the site as heavenly due to several reasons. Firstly, he found the climate at the site to be very serene. There was even availability of freshwater in the town. Furthermore, the father met an ethnic group of friendly Chumash, which further influenced his decision to choose this place for the missionary.

The tree-shaded San Luis creek mission is very large and complex. It has some features of typical Spanish missionary like porticoed arcades and lawn full of beautiful roses, oaktree, and dark purple grapevines. The floral motif on the walls and arches add to the appeal and makes the interior very bright and appealing. It is surrounded by a unique altarpiece and ceiling supported by high beams. These all together, create a serene ambiance. The Mass organized two times a day and sometimes on Sundays too.

There is a museum close to the missionary. The history lovers can visit the museum and learn about the history of Spanish missionaries. The museum also depicts the culture of native Indians who resided in those areas. There is even a gift shop in the vicinity where you can find intricately-designed jewelry, books, artworks and some artistic handicrafts.

2. Enjoying quality time in Pismo State Beach

The Pismo beach despite being located on the central coast gives the complete feel of Southern California. It takes 15 min from the main San Luis Obispo to reach this marvelous beach. Buses also ply to the location. The bus drops near a shopping mall, which takes another 20-minute walk to reach the destination.  There are ample of Cafes, Restaurants, Surf Shops and Hotels for the tourists.

This beach proves to be a great destination for all the sailing and kayaking lovers. There are even lifeguards to handle emergencies and to ensure safe water-adventures. The beach offers a handful of activities to the tourists including kayaking, scuba diving, surfing and whale-watching. If you happen to visit the place between October and February, you can notice the beautiful star-like butterfly clusters wrapped around the branches of eucalyptus.

3. Shopping and dining in Farmers’ Market

Farmer’s Market is a one-stop destination for shopping, dining and for enjoying. It is among the popular places in California. It is generally kept open for visitors between 6 pm and 9 pm every day excluding major holidays and days with bad weather. Every week, different cultural events are organized on Higuera Street that keeps everyone entertained. This place is also famous for serving a vivid variety of food. Here, you can find different food items from pizza to sushi to satiate your taste buds. The music played in the street adds to the ambiance and creates a festive aura.

4. Therapeutic soaking in Avila Valley Hot Springs

Avila Valley is situated a few miles from the beach. The place is popular among the tourists for its hot springs. It is believed that the springs contain mineral water that offers therapeutic health benefits. There is a thermal pool wherein tourists can soak themselves and experience ultimate rejuvenation. The place also has other amenities including camping sites, a picnic area, and cabins.

For those who love to be on farms, there is a place called Aviva Valley barn which sells organic and truly fresh homegrown fruits and vegetables. It has animal petting areas for children along with some bakeries and ice cream parlors.

5. Relaxing in Shell Beach

The shell beach has a truly inspiring coastal environment. It is a paradise for kayakers as its gentle water is something they always look for. The nearby pools are full of crabs and starfish that attract nature lovers. Furthermore, lucky visitors can also spot migrating whales, sea lions and friendly dolphins. It has blue-oceanic views along with its fishing cliffs and dazzling sunset points.

6. OHV-riding in Oceano Dunes

The area of ocean dunes spread over 1200 acres including 5 miles of sandy beaches and some seaside dunes, which are as high as 100 feet. Here, tourists can enjoy hosts of activities including surfing, bird-watching, camping, horseback riding, and fishing. There is a Vehicular Recreation Area where adventure seekers can get their hands on OHVs (off-highway vehicles). They can enjoy the adrenaline-pumping drive on the beach by riding an OHV. However, tourists need to attend ATV-safety training before that.

7. Activity-time for kids in San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum

If you are visiting San Luis with kids, then you ought to take them to the Childres’s Museum. The museum is ideal for children aged between 1 and 10 years. This extensive museum has three floors wherein children can indulge in a host of indoor activities. Learning-by-doing activities encourage curiosity, imagination, and creativity. The children can even participate in interactive role-plays and enhance their creativity. Furthermore, educational programs and field trips are also organized by the museum’s authority.

8. Trekking in Bishop Peak Hikes

Bishop Peak is a popular mountain in San Luis Obispo, especially among the daredevils. It has a peak of over 1500 feet. Bishop Peak is a perfect place for hiking. Its challenging trail begins with moderate walks and then takes you to steep uphill slopes. Those with great physical fitness can climb up the 2-mile trail and move to its apex within 2 hours. From the apex, one can witness breath-taking views of the city and coastline. There is another gentler and less-challenging trail with 2.7 miles round trip of felsam loop.

What county is San Luis Obispo In?

San Luis Obispo is situated in southern California. It is a small town set in the central coastal area of California in the USA. The place lies just 11 miles west to the Pacific Ocean. SLO is a midpoint between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is 310 km away from it while San Francisco is just 370 km away from SLO. The place mostly experiences the Mediterranean type of climate. It has three national protected areas while around 5 marine-protected areas. It is a beautiful place to visit as it has a friendly environment and vivid locations suitable for all age groups. The place has a serene environment and is a must-visit for lovers of tranquillity.

Where is San Luis Obispo

“Prince of the Missions” better known as San Luis Obispo, is a small town located in the state of California in the USA. It is situated in Southern California’s Central region. The Pacific Ocean is at a distance of around 18 km west of the city of SLO. It is halfway amidst the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles. SLO is around 162 miles away from Los Angeles and around 231 miles away from San Francisco. The town is very beautiful and it has a serene ambiance. It is best known for its contemporary artists and the fresh farmers’ market.  Since it receives sunlight for more than 315 days, it is popularly known as the happiest city of the USA.

What are the fun things to do in San Luis Obispo?

Falling right between two famous areas of California, San Luis Obispo has always been the best mid tourist place for the travelers. As the site is highly known for its night markets, Cath Poly students, and beach culture, there are hundreds of fun things to be done in this place.

Go for Fishing and Camping at Lopez Lake

One of the famous water areas of the place, Lopez Lake, offers fantastic fishing and water camping opportunities. The tourist can even experience jetski, windsurf, and kayak sports activities. For the food lovers, there are shops nearby along with bars and grills.

Shop at Farmer’s Market

For those who are fond of farmland products, there is a Farmer’s Market which is open every Thursday from 6 to 9 pm. There are over 120 stalls in the market with different things to display from street food to farmland products. These products include handmade pasta, jam, jellies, and many other grown products. Well, there is more to this! Live bands along with those yummy pizzas, sushi, and other delicacies make the evening more enthralling.

Trekking to the Bishop Peak

If you are an adventure junkie, then SLO is surely a paradise. The place is blessed with one of the best trekking and hiking peak, Bishop Peak. With breezy air and challenging track,  it will surely offer you the best trekking experience of your entire life.

Relive the moment at Leaning Pine Arboretum

For those who have an interest in new species of plants, this place is perfect. Situated to the north of Cal Poly University’s campus, Leaning Pine Arboretum is a tree garden which is laid in an area of 5 acres. It comprises of varied plants’ species primarily found in California’s Central Coastal region. In addition to it, people can enjoy a romantic walk amidst the greenery and enjoy some peaceful time together. The area is surrounded by coastal mountains, which adds more to its beauty.

Enjoy the fun kid activities at San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum

The San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum offers the best and fun learning experience to the children with its amazing exhibits. It is a three-floored museum with a play area for children up to 10 years of age. The place is so interactive that even the adults are seen enjoying and participating in the activities with their kids.

Visit San Luis Obispo Museam of Art

Lying around the Mission Plaza, San Luis Obispo Museum of Art has excellent works of Californian artists. This work usually has wondrous paintings of fascinating designs offering a deep understanding of the artwork. Furthermore, the museum frequently organizes film nights, concerts, and many exciting cultural events for its visitors.

Drive ATV at Oceano Dunes

You might have always dreamt of riding ATVs. So, the Oceano Dunes in San Luis Obispo gives a chance of riding ATV on sandy dunes with proper safety and training in the area of 1200 acres. At this place, tourists can enjoy other activities like horse riding, fishing, camping, surfing, and bird-watching.

Attend the festivities and fun water sports at Avila Beach

Be it any season, a visit to Avila Beach can never be worthless for the tourists. Avila Beach is one of the famous beaches in San Luis Obispo after Pismo Beach. Here, tourists can easily enjoy sunbathing, boardwalk, surfing, sailing, kayaking, and many other water sports. Nearby the ocean, there lies terrace restaurants which offers a delicious variety of food for all the food lovers.

When it comes to events, you can enjoy many of them. In the month of May, tourists can enjoy the Blues Festival. Then, from July to August, there comes Festival Mozaic and the Central Coast Shakespeare Festival. Lastly, in October, there is the famous Open Studios Art Tours, where all the local artists join and entertain the people with their amazing songs.

Plan a Food Tour at Best Local Restaurants

San Luis Obispo is highly recognized for its incredible varieties of food offered by the sweet and loving people around. When in SLO, you must go for a Downtown San Luis Obispo Food tour. Here you can enjoy beers, wines, SLO food, especially Firestone Grill and other varieties of food in the local restaurants.

Breathtaking exploration of Hearst Castle

Don’t get deceived by the name as it isn’t one of those ancient Castle. Instead, it is a striking and lavish home belonging to the well-known newspaper tycoon, W.R. Hearst. It is believed that Mr. Hearst spent his entire income and savings in building this home, after which he was left with nothing. The home has impressive sculptures, art collections, big living rooms, and a superb pool. Furthermore, the alluring garden adds to the amazingness of the trip to this place.

Trip to Montaña de Oro

Exploring a beach while hiking to the mountains! Doesn’t it look amazing? That’s what you’ll experience at Montana de Oro. To all the adventure lovers, the place offers an opportunity of trekking to the hills of the beach, Montaña de Oro brings in complete fun and amusement for the hikers. There, you won’t just enjoy trekking, but also a day along the beach with your loved ones.  

Enjoy a day with Elephant Seals

The name might look a little weird, but they are actually friendly, funny and unique creatures found on the beaches of San Luis Obispo. These creatures got this name after their long noses, just like the elephant’s trunk. It is quite exciting to watch them as they play and lounge with each other on the sand.

Enjoy a romantic movie date at Fremont Theatre

Fremont Theatre is one of the oldest theatres in San Luis Obispo built-in 1941. The place is immensely popular among the lovebirds as they can enjoy quality moments in the theatre while enjoying their favorite film. In addition to movies, even live shows are organized here. The ceilings of the theatre are known to have amazing swirls, which is the main attraction of the place.

Enjoy at the Performing Arts Centre

The melody enthusiasts can find their true love in SLO as they can attend a concert at the Performing Arts Centre. This center organizes musical events round the year with genres ranging from classical to contemporary. If your luck is always in your favor, you can even get a chance to participate in the musical activity of your favorite band.

What Flights Fly Out of San Luis Obispo?

Though San Luis Obispo is a small town, it is a chief tourist destination of the USA. Hence, it has one airport to ply tourists to and fro SLO. It has a public airport which is known as the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. There are two runways on the airport and many more facilities like restaurants, general aviation parking spots and many more. There are four airlines that offer services at the airport. Hence, four flights fly out of San Luis Obispo. The first one, Alaska Airlines offers flights that fly to Portland, San Diego, and Seattle. The second is the American Eagle that flies to Dallas or Fort Worth and Phoenix- sky harbor. Next is the Contour Airlines that travel to Las Vegas. The last one is the United Express that flies to Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

What is San Luis Obispo known for?

San Luis Obispo is a unique and well-known tourist attraction in California. It isn’t just famous as a halfway point of San Francisco and Los Angeles, but there are several areas and activities that are popular in SLO.

One of the things due to which this place is extremely popular among holidaymakers is its Farmer Market on Higuera Street. This weekly market is precisely one of the unique and unusual things in entire California. Most of the tourists choose to reside in this place on Thursdays, just to witness the delicious street food which includes sushi and pizzas.

The next most famous thing for which SLO is known is Pismo Beach. This beach offers a host of activities including adventure sports and cultural events. It is a paradise for the water lovers as it offers an opportunity of not only sailing and kayaking but also Scooba diving in the right weather conditions. Furthermore, the tourist can enjoy the many cultural events, including music festivals in October. As compared to other months of the year, it is best to visit the place in October if you want to witness some unseen natural beauties like a cluster of Monarch butterflies. Starting from late October to February, the sightseers can enjoy the butterflies flying around the eucalyptus branches around the beach.

Lastly, for night lovers, this place is well known for street foods, malls and enticing evening beach walk. Apart from it, city center restaurants offer amazing delicacies to the vacationers.

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