California’s Central Coast: San Luis Obispo

Finally, last to be featured in our journey to California’s Central Coast is the town of San Luis Obispo.

San Luis Obispo was founded in 1772 by Father Junipero Serra and has the distinction of being one of California’s oldest communities.  Referred to as “SLO” by the locals, the city is the county seat of San Luis Obispo County and the home of California Polytechnic State University. This college town was named the happiest city in America by author and researcher Dan Buettner in his book, THRIVE. There is so much to choose from between hiking, biking, beaches, daily farmers markets, wine tasting, shopping or just spending time relaxing  that it is easy to understand why this is the happiest town in America.


Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Hundreds of years after its founding, California’s 325th registered historical landmark , located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo, remains an integral part of the town and community that were built around it.  The mission serves as a fully functional Catholic church offering a variety of services.



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Downtown SLO

Downtown San Luis Obispo’s main charm is its abundance of late 19th century buildings with brick exteriors and ornate ledges. The downtown area consists of three main streets that run for several blocks: Marsh, Higuera, and Monterey. The most popular, of these is Higuera Street where the Downtown Center Mall is situated (893 Higuera St.).  The mall is an open-air pedestrian only area frequented by many Cal Poly students.

Every Thursday night from 6:00 – 9:00 PM on Higuera Street you will find the lively scene of the Farmers Market.  The market stretches for six blocks from Osos to Nipomo Street and includes everything from cooked ribs, to vegetable and flower stands to musicians entertaining the crowds.


Located just half a block north is another downtown mall called Court Street Mall. Here you will find a coffee shop, candy shop, frozen yogurt shop, Italian sidewalk café, Thai restaurant, and several popular chain stores.

California Polytechnic State University

Founded in 1901, Cal Poly had its beginning as a vocational high school.  Today, it is one of two polytechnic universities in the 23-member California State University system.

Cal Poly comprises six distinct colleges and offers 147 Bachelor’s degrees, 49 Master’s degrees and 7 teaching credentials.

Not many may know about Cal Poly’s tragic past.  On October 29, 1960, a chartered plane carrying the Cal Poly football team crashed upon takeoff from the Toledo Airport.  Of the 48 on board, 22 were killed, including sixteen football players.

Cal Poly also has a long list of notable alumni including “Weird Al” Yankovic and NFL Hall of Fame broadcaster, head coach and player, John Madden.


Every year Cal Poly enters a float decorated and designed entirely by students to the Tournament of Roses Parade

Every year Cal Poly enters a float decorated and designed entirely by students to the Tournament of Roses Parade

Cuesta College

Cuesta College is a public community college that came into being as the result of a 1963 county vote to form a community college district. In 1964, a limited number of evening classes were being offered at the California National guard facility, Camp San Luis Obispo.  In 1965 the school was officially named Cuesta College and ground breaking at its current campus location took place in 1970.

The school has a satellite campus known as North County Campus in Paso Robles.


Historic Chinatown District

San Luis Obispo’s burgeoning Chinatown was once situated along Palm and Chorro Streets.  Laborers arrived from China to help construct the Pacific Coast Railway and life revolved around the Ah Louis Store and other businesses which were owned and run by the Chinese.

Today, the Palm Street parking garage stands over what used to be SLO’s Chinatown and many relics unearthed from this period are displayed on the first floor of the garage.


Dallidet Adobe & Gardens

The Dallidet adobe was built in the 1830s by Pierre Dallidet and it was home to his family and descendants for over 100 years!  Today it is a State Historical Landmark and is maintained by the Dallidet Committee for the History Center of San Luis Obispo County.




SLO Wine Region

Winemaking is deeply rooted in SLO Wine Country, dating back to the 18th century with the founding of Mission San Luis Obispo. Here, the padres grew grapes and made them into sacramental wines.


A century later, commercial wine was produced from grapes grown at Rancho Saucelito in the upper Arroyo Grande Valley.  SLO Wine Country today is home to fewer than three dozen wineries.

History Center

The County Historical Society was founded February, 1953 resulting from the desire of Paul Dallidet, the last surviving son of pioneer French settler Pierre Dallidet, to preserve the adobe that his father had built in the 1830s. Paul agreed to gift the property to a non-profit historical society, to be created, with the understanding that he would be allowed to live there until his death.

With Paul Dallidet’s passing in 1958 the Dallidet Adobe and Gardens became available as museum space and house the documents and artifacts that were displayed during the Centurama of 1950 among other historical items.


SLO Performing Arts Center

Opened in 1996, the Performing Arts Center is a state-of-the-art performance facility located on the campus of California Polytechnic State University.


Madonna Inn

This landmark motel in SLO opened for business in 1958 and was the brainchild of construction magnate, Alex Madonna and his wife Phyllis. The property has 110 guest rooms and suites, each uniquely designed and themed.



Gold Rush Steak House

The Silver Bar

The Silver Bar

The anniversary room

The anniversary room

The old mill room

The old mill room


The inn's signature Pink Champagne cake

The inn’s signature Pink Champagne cake



Montana De Oro

Located six miles southwest of Morro Bay, Montana De Oro is one of the largest state parks in California.  The name “Mountain of Gold” comes from the golden wildflowers growing in the park.  The park features 8,000 acres of rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, hiking trails, biking trails, equestrian trails, coastal plains, streams, canyons and hills.

The park reserve was one of 48 California state parks proposed for closure in January 2008 as part of a deficit reduction program.  Due to public outcry, the park will remain open.


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  1. Wonderful pictures! I’ve always wanted to stay at the Madonna Inn since I saw it on an episode of “The Girls Next Door”. And I’d like to spend a day exploring San Luis Obispo since my dad graduated from Cal Poly. I did pass through the town earlier in the year but only had time to grab some clam chowder from a restaurant called Splash Cafe.

    1. Oh how cool! My husband graduated from Cal Poly SLO too! We had a fun time exploring all of his old haunts when we visited. I am sure you will have a blast too!

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