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San Luis Obispo

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San Luis Obispo

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San Luis Obispo [18] is a city in San Luis Obispo County in the Central Coast region of California.

San Luis Obispo from the air; Cerro San Luis (the hill for which the city is named) is on the right


San Luis Obispo is often referred to by its initials "SLO" (often pronounced "slow") or "San Luis." Just 20 minutes north of Pismo Beach on Highway 101, SLO is the mid-point between Los Angeles (200 miles south of SLO) and San Francisco (230 miles north of SLO) and has also been known as the one of the best "one tank" stopovers between the two cities.

  • San Luis Obispo Visitors Center, 1039 Chorro St. (in downtown San Luis Obispo), (805) 781-2777, [1]. Sun-Wed 10a-5p; Th-Sat. 10a-7p. The San Luis Obispo Visitors Center has visitor information and special deals for restaurants, hotels, events and more. You can also purchase a city map, visitors guide and event tickets, and pick up some San Luis Obispo souvenirs.

Get in

By plane

San Luis Obispo has a one terminal airport. Scheduled flights are available to and from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Phoenix on United [19] (operated by SkyWest [20] as United Express) and USAirways [21] (operated by Mesa [22] as USAirways Express). Due to rising energy costs, both Delta and American have announced they will unfortunately no longer be serving San Luis Obispo. Prices start around $200 for a ticket purchased separately, but are much less expensive when combined with flights going through San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Air Charter or air taxi is another alternative, where you can catch flights to San Diego for the weekend, or to any large or small airport. Air charters and air taxis fly point-to-point, at the departure time, departure airport, and arrival airport of the passengers' choosing. Prices start around $150 for a seat on flights that might already be going to your destination, or go from $1,000 to $10,000 or more for a custom-chartered flight where you hire the aircraft to fly you directly to your destination, any time you want to go. On-demand flights, and seats on flights already chartered to/from San Luis Obispo are offered by Pacific Air Taxi [23]. Air taxi flights have a much shorter check-in time (typically just 15 minutes) than larger airlines, so you can just arrive and go. Travel time for an air taxi flight is usually 80 minutes from SLO to Sacramento.

By train

Amtrak [24] runs its Coast Starlight train through San Luis Obispo a couple times a day and also offers bus service to areas statewide including the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and the Central Valley. Make sure you leave plenty of time because it can take up to 7 hours to get to SLO from San Francisco and 8 hours to get to SLO from San Diego. Trains traditionally would run notoriously late, but with recent improvements to Amtrak's agreements with freight trains the service has improved remarkably as of recent.

By bus

Greyhound [25] also offers bus routes into SLO. Once again set aside time because the trips can be long but Greyhound is one of the cheapest ways to go.

In addition to Greyhound service, San Luis Obispo County's Regional Transit Authority [26] provides bus transportation from as far south as Santa Maria up to San Simeon and San Miguel in the north.

By car

Since San Luis Obispo is home to the first ever motel (The Milestone Mo-Tel) it is definitely a car town. Both Highway 101 and Highway 1 run through town, with the two overlapping from San Luis Obispo until they split again further south in Pismo Beach. Highway 1 runs north through Morro Bay while the 101 runs north through Atascadero and Paso Robles.

Get around

SLO does have a city and regional transit system [27] but ends its service at 10 p.m. on the weekdays and even earlier on the weekends. A trolley links some of the hotels on Monterey street to the downtown area, but it operates very short hours and does not travel to much of the city. Having a car is unfortunately the easiest way to get around town and the areas surrounding San Luis Obispo, but many locals opt to use travel by bike within the city.


The infamous wall of gum
The Madonna Inn's ornate exterior
  • Make sure you go downtown and take a look at Bubble Gum Alley and leave some of your own chewed gum behind. Located on the south side of Higuera Street between Broad St and Garden St, it's one of the popular destinations for people visiting SLO.
  • Check out the eclectic Madonna Inn [28] to see the Pink Room and the famous mens bathroom's waterfall. Located just south of downtown, it can be reached either by the Madonna Rd. exit off the 101 or by taking Higuera Rd south and turning right onto Madonna Rd.
  • San Luis Obispo is home to one of California's Catholic Missions, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. The Mission is situated in the middle downtown on Chorro St and Monterey St, with its main courtyard interrupting Monterey St for a full city block. It is part of the Mission Plaza development, which incorporates San Luis Creek and a number of stores and restaurants. Walk from the Mission to the creek and up to one of the restaurants for a bite to eat.
  • Depending on the season, college basketball, baseball, volleyball, soccer, and football games can be seen at the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), in the hills on the northern end of town. Games are generally $5 for non-Cal Poly students.


Waves crashing at the Montana de Oro State Park
  • Take some time to walk around the downtown area. It's changed rapidly over the past decade with the introduction of new developments and larger chain restaurants/stores, but still maintains a wonderful small town feel with the addition of pedestrian corridors between streets where you'll find a bustling popular of locals hanging out. On Thursday evenings head downtown on Higuera St for the weekly farmers market where bands, college students, and local farmers pack the streets for several blocks to create one of the best known farmers markets in California.
  • There are many places to hike and mountain bike in San Luis Obispo. The Santa Lucia mountains and the "Nine Sisters" offer many beautiful views of the city and the countryside. The two most popular hikes are Bishop Peak (no bikes allowed) and Madonna Mountain (multiple biking trails). If you're interested in other mountain biking trails around the county check out the list at CCCMB, a volunteer organization that creates and maintains trails countywide.
  • Montana de Oro State Park. Located 10 miles west of San Luis Obispo just beyond the town of Los Osos, the state park's name means "Mountain of Gold" and is filled with scenic views of coastal mountains and the Pacific Ocean to back it. Despite being a smaller state park, it's filled with an abundance of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails both along the ocean along the bluffs and inland into the coastal peaks. It also reigns as a popular out-and-back destination for the many road cyclists in the within the county.
  • Walk or bike to Poly Canyon. Located on the north east side of the Cal Poly campus. Poly Canyon is a hilly, open, grassy area where many Cal Poly engineering and architecture students have constructed senior projects. The road up can be reached by taking the main road towards the Poly Canyon Village housing complex and taking a right before the road dips down the hill on a smaller road with a gate that quickly turns to dirt/gravel. Public vehicles are not allowed to drive on it, though be alert for university vehicles travelling up and down on occasion and student runners/cyclists.
  • Kayaks and other outdoor gear can be rented at reasonable prices by students and the public from Poly Escapes on the Cal Poly campus. Kayaking is possible in many places in the county, but the most exciting place to kayak is between Shell Beach and Pismo Beach where there are sea caves you can explore. There are guided tours of the so-called "Dinosaur Caves" available from several kayak rental shops in Pismo Beach.
  • San Luis Obispo Children's Museum, Nipomo and Monterey. The Children's Museum is an interactive, family experience, inspiring learning through play. Great for families with young children. []
  • See a movie downtown at the Fremont Theatre or The Palm Theater. The Fremont is located downtown on Monterey St and has become an instantly recognizable landmark with its vivid neon signage. The beautiful classic main theatre room is used primarily for the largest movie being screened while the rest are shown in smaller modern theaters built in a hidden addition. The Palm Theatre is a local movie theatre that instead showcases the very best of Independent, Foreign, Art House, and Mainstream Cinema. Located downtown on the corner of Palm and Broad, it is an easy walk and located next to two of the main parking garage facilities. The theater also boasts being one of the first fully solar-powered and plays host the annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival [29].


San Luis Obispo has a wide range of both local and chain stores at which to shop. In general the majority of local stores can be found downtown mixed in with smaller chains, while the larger box stores can be found in the two sprawling developments near the corner of Madonna Rd and Los Osos Valley Rd.

  • Downtown San Luis Obispo has many chain stores located along the main Higuera St and the pedestrian developments that branch off including The Gap, Pottery Barn, Victoria's Secret, The Apple Store, Sephora, Urban Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, etc.
  • Tom's Toys is a locally owned toy store that resembles something out of a movie. Filled to the brim with toys that you'll likely recognize for your childhood, it's a fun place to visit both for small children and nostalgic adults.
  • Cheap Thrills & Recycled Records [30] is best described as nerd heaven. They have a large selection of new & used music, videogames (ranging from current systems back to the Atari), table-top games, comics, model supplies, and more.
  • Boo Boo Records [31] is a long-time local music store that features a large selection of both CDs and vinyl records. They also frequently sell tickets to a few local venues and occasionally host small indie shows within the store. The store is located near the corner of Osos St and Monterey St.


This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget $10 or less
Mid-range $10–20
Splurge $20 or more


  • Nona's Italian Deli Located within Sidewalk Liquor Store on the corner of Osos and Pismo Street, Nona's Deli serves a delicious meatball sandwich called the Godfather. Eat your sandwich across the street, in the shady, green grass of Mitchell Park.
  • Thai Classic, 1011 Higuera St., +1-805-541-2025. One of the most authentic and tastiest Thai restaurants on the Central Coast. Meals are very moderately priced, ranging from $6 to $12. Any dish can be ordered spicy, on a scale from 1 to 5, 5 being the spiciest and not for the faint of heart. Dine in or take out.
  • Splash Cafe, 1491 Monterey St., (805) 773-4653, [2]. Su-Th 7am-8:30pm, Fri-Sat 7am-9:30pm. The hippest and best bakery and breakfast/lunch joint in town. Excellent baked goods and seafood lunches. Award-winning clam chowder. Check out the upstairs chocolaterie after your meal! ===Mid-Range=== * <eat name="Big Sky Cafe" alt="" address="" directions="1121 Broad St" phone="+1-805-545-5401" email="" fax="" url="" hours="M-W 7am-9pm Th-F 7am-10pm S 8am-10 pm Su 8am-9 pm" price="$10-15">Voted best in SLO many times over, this warm and casual eatery features fresh local food and wines and a wonderfully attentive staff. Easily the best value in town.
  • Firestone Grill, corner of Higuera and Osos. Known locally as the best Tri-tip sandwich in the State of California. A must have for anyone who wants to understand West Coast BBQ.


  • Novo Restaurant And Lounge, 726 Higuera St, (805) 543-3986, [3]. Open until midnight on Saturdays, with last reservation time 9:30pm. Check out the basement area (quite romantic atmosphere). $$$.


  • Bars The downtown area has numerous bars along Higuera street south of Santa Rosa ave, owing to the large student population. They are all an easy walk (or stumble) from one another. These start to become active around 10:00 pm and on weekends will generally be quite busy up until 2:00 AM. Options range from Martini lounge to Irish pub to wannabe LA nightclub.

  • Wine Tasting There are several award-winning wineries in SLO county, many of which offer free wine tasting. Brochures to guide you through the area are available all over town, but they are actually unnecessary. Simply drive on 101 into Paso Robles and turn on Highway 46 (either direction). There will be wineries on either side of the road. There are also a number of wine tasting bars in downtown SLO.
  • Linnaeas Cafe At long-standing downtown institution, they have a wide variety of teas along with the usual cafe fare. The large patio and garden out back is an excellent place to relax, and the back room often hosts musicians and poetry readings. Delicious dinner is served five nights a week. Monday is waffle night. Wifi is available for free.
  • Downtown Brewing Co, 1119 Garden, 805.543.1843, [4]. 2 story old brewery, has at least 10 homebrews from Ipa, honeyblonde, blueberry.. best brews in town.. Happy Hour m-f 3:30 - 6:30 half price and good late night specials during the week too!Also has lots of live music, from rock to reggae.. calender @


The cafe at the Madonna Inn

Hotels along the entire California coast get booked up every weekend during the summer. Be sure to make reservations if you intend to stay in San Luis Obispo on a weekend in the summer.

  • La Cuesta Inn, 2074 Monterey St (right off US-101, onto Monterey St.), +1-805-543-2777, [5]. checkin: 3pm; checkout: 12 noon. A gem: $130/night for a large clean room with 2 closets, two sinks, king bed, balcony, DVD player, coffee maker, mini-fridge, free continental breakfast with waffle maker, and free DVD rental from the lobby. $130/night.
  • Courtyard San Luis Obispo, 1605 Calle Joaquin Rd, 1-805-786-4200, [6]. One of the Marriott hotel chains; clean, spacious rooms and pleasant staff, as expected from a large mid-range company. $205.
  • Petit Soleil Bed & Breakfast, 1473 Monterey St, +1 805 549-0321. A touch of European charm in the heart of San Luis Obispo. The 16 room inn offers an amazing gourmet breakfast as well as complementary wine tasting and appetizers in the evening. $150.
  • Apple Farm, 2015 Monterey St, +1 805 544-2040, [7]. An upscale country style hotel with small but charming rooms and a wonderful restaurant that serves large, hearty breakfasts. $205/night.
  • Hostel Obispo, 1617 Santa Rosa St, +1 805 544-4678, [8]. A Hosteling International youth hostel with a homey feel, located within easy walking distance of downtown. $40/night.
  • Best Western Royal Oak Motor Hotel, 214 Madonna Road, +1 805 544-4410 (+1 800 545-4410 (toll free), fax: + 805 544-3026), [9]. An average motel with simple, clean, comfortable rooms in a convenient location. $165/night.
  • Holiday Inn Express, 1800 Monterey Street, +1 805 544-860, [10]. A reliable chain hotel with clean, comfortable rooms and a warm, friendly, helpful staff. $180/night.
  • Garden Street Inn, 1212 Garden Street, +1 805 545-9802 (fax: +1 805 545-9403), [11]. A bed and breakfast with 9 guest rooms and 4 suites. A little expensive for the level of luxury, but it is the only lodging in the heart of old-fashioned downtown San Luis Obispo. $180/night.
  • Madonna Inn, 100 Madonna Road, +1 800 543-9666 (, fax: +1 805 543-1800), [12]. A fun and crazy theme-room hotel on the side of the road. Don't miss the cafe, if only for an overpriced breakfast, or the pool/hot tub. Have a wander around the grounds and peek in at the rooms. $235/night.
  • Motel 6 San Luis Obispo North, 1433 Calle Joaquin, +1 805 549-9595, [13]. A 1-star, no-frills motel with decent-sized, clean rooms. $60/night.
  • Motel 6 San Luis Obispo South, 1625 Calle Joaquin, +1 805 541-6992 (fax: +1 805'' 547-1152), [14]. Very much a budget hotel. Don't expect luxury, or even function, necessarily, but the price is right! $45/night.
  • Quality Suites, 1631 Monterey St, +1 805 541-5001, [15]. A very nice 3-star hotel, with a 5-star level of luxury and service. $225/night.
  • Best Western Somerset Inn - San Luis Obispo, 1895 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, 805-544-0973 - [email protected], [16]. Located in San Luis Obispo, California, Best Western Somerset Inn is a newly-renovated hotel for vacation and business on California’s Central Coast, featuring stylish, comfortable accommodations, modern lifestyle amenities, meeting space and California vacation packages.
  • Peach Tree Inn, 2001 Monterey St, 8055433170, [17].

Get out

Routes through San Luis Obispo
SalinasAtascadero  N noframe S  Pismo BeachSanta Barbara&#13;
MontereyMorro Bay  N noframe S  → Merges with US 101.pngGrover Beach

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!