There are many things for tourists to discover around SLO
The city of San Luis Obispo has many faces. It is the seat of county government, a business and shopping center, and a traditional college town.
To sample the SLO life, as locals refer to their environment, put on your walking shoes and start at the San Luis Obispo de Tolosa mission, the fifth in the mission chain in California.
San Luis Obispo is alive with history and a walk around downtown will expose you to many structures from the early days.
Some must sees are the Ah Louis Store at 800 Palm Street. Constructed in 1874, it was the supply station for Chinese laborers who built the railroad tunnels through the mountains of the Cuesta Grade. Sinsheimer store with an iron front, built in 1884, is at 849 Monterey Street. The Jack House at 536 Marsh Street was built in 1875 and is often open for tours. State Historical Landmark Dallidet Adobe at 1185 Pacific Street is open Fridays from 10am-1 pm
Visit the San Luis Obispo County Historical Society Museum on Monterey Street where an extensive collection of area artifacts are displayed.
The museum is housed in the original Carnegie Library built in 1905 with granite from Bishop Peak, one of the legendary seven sisters. The sisters are a chain of volcanic peaks stretching from the city to the ocean at Morro Bay along Highway 1.
Drive across town to visit an architectural wonder, the Madonna Inn. Built by the late rancher, Alex Madonna and his wife, Phyllis, it sits in pink splendor by the side of Highway 101, exit Madonna Road.
Horses graze in the white-fenced fields on the property. A quality restaurant is on site and touring the public rooms is a must. You can see the dining room, the wine cellar and be sure not to miss the men’s restroom. Even women should take a peek to see the waterfall urinal.
The Inn has 109 theme-based rooms and a stay here might have you sleeping in the Safari Room, or the Caveman Chamber, or even the Old Mill Room with its own waterfall. A new addition to the property is the convention center where many special events take place.
After touring the Madonna Inn drive over to the largest open space in the city, Laguna Lake Park at 504 Madonna Road. Here there are picnic tables and barbecues, large grassy areas, and of course, the lake. Feeding the many domestic and wild ducks and geese is a popular pastime.
There is a nice walking trail along the lakeshore and a launching ramp for kayaks and canoes. Boating on the lake is fun, but best done in the morning hours before the winds come up.
A visit to California Polytechnic University’s agricultural center makes for an interesting time. Here there is a full-scale working dairy with Jersey and Holstein cows. There is also the swine unit, horse unit, and chicken house as well as the CalPoly farm. Students in the agricultural division supply produce and dairy products to many local families as well as local supermarkets.
Plant aficionados will enjoy seeing the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden on Highway 1 at Dairy Creek Road in El Chorro Regional Park. The gardens are a lovely quiet place to stroll or sit and meditate. Mediterranean plantings as well as California Natives are part of the landscape and a new educational facility is on site where a variety of programs take place. For more information, call SLO County Parks at (805) 781-5930. — Ruth Ann Angus
If you are traveling to San Luis Obispo for a trip or vacation, let this tourist information help guide your way. We hope you enjoy your stay and use our San Luis Obispo Travel Guide!
San Luis Obispo Travel Guide recommendations
Antiques on Monterey – Offering a wide selection of jewelry, furniture, silver, toys, glassware, pottery and many other unique items. Layaway and gift certificates. Open daily from 11-5:30. Free parking. 1599 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo, CA (805) 783-1599.
The Gallery at the Network – Downtown gallery featuring over 40 artists. A fun way to experience handmade, exceptional artwork by award-winning artists of the central coast. 778 Higuera St., Ste. B, near the Mission in San Luis Obispo. (805) 788-0886
Festival Mozaic – Five centuries of music on the Central Coast. Engaging musical experiences centered on great works of chamber music, featuring our Festival’s nationally-renowned guest artists. festivalmozaic.com (877) 881-8899.
San Luis Obispo Symphony – Come for the view, stay for the music. Presenting classical concerts and popular music events throughout San Luis Obispo County for over 51 years. 75 Higuera St., slosymphony.com, (805) 543-3533.
Buona Tavola – Antipasti, hand crafted pastas, generous main courses and truly inspired desserts, such as Chef Varia’s famous tirami su. The highest quality and freshest foods. 1037 Monterey St. Open for lunch 11:30am-2:30pm Open for dinner 5:30pm to 9:30pm. btslo.com, (805) 545-8000.
Creekside Brewing Co. – Enjoy hand-crafted brews and scenic creekside views at this local favorite. Pub-style comfort food, local beers and wines, in addition to a full bar. Banquet room and catering available. Serving lunch and dinner. 1040 Broad St., (805) 439-4200.
Eureka! Gourmet Burgers & Craft Beer – A burger-centric gastro pub with a cult following. Known for unique burger and salad creations and sought after craft beer and whisky selections. Full menu until close. Open 7 days a week. 1141 Chorro St., Downtown San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. (805) 903-1141.
Louisa’s Place – Voted “Best Breakfast” in town. Family-style restaurant serves up a large selection of delicious meals for breakfast and lunch. Come and treat your taste buds. 964 Higuera St., (805) 541-0227.
Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates – Handmade organic fair trade chocolates right here in SLO. An excellent choice of holiday gifts for friends, family and for yourself! Enjoy a delicious truffle, cup of hot chocolate or a chocolate shake while you shop. Mon–Wed 10-6, Thur–Sat 10-9, Sun 11-5. 1445 Monterey St,(805) 782-9868.
Powell’s Sweet Shop- Walk down memory lane. Powell’s offers nostalgia with candy, flavored popcorn, gelato, novelty items, and sodas. Stop by and sample their daily offerings! 1020 Court St, (805) 543-7933
Splash Cafe & Artisan Bakery – Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Comfortable, affordable & delicious. Full service bakery. Open daily 7 a.m.-8:30 p.m. 1491 Monterey St. (805) 544-7567.
Farrell Smyth, Inc. – Serving the real estate needs of San Luis Obispo County since 1978. Residential, commercial, investment, relocation services, property management and rentals. (805) 543-2172.
Finders Keepers – Fabulous designer fashions at incredible prices. Casual to elegant. Browse through gently used fashions from designers like Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vutton and more. Open Mon. to Sat., 10am-5 pm Located in the center of downtown at 1124 Garden St. between Marsh & Higuera. (805) 545-9879.
Romp Italian Boots & Shoes – From well-known, established brands to fresh-on-the-scene designers, Romp offers a selection of footwear, handbags, and accessories that would make Carrie Bradshaw purr. Romp owner and buyer, Karen English, tours Italy and beyond, searching out footwear artisans and designers that meet her tough standard. 714 Higuera St. (805) 545-ROMP.
Whiz Kids – Celebrating over 25 years offering out-of-this-world toys. Science & nature, Lego, music, arts & crafts, music, games, books, and much more. Mon- Sat 10-6. 3979 S Higuera St. (805) 547-1733
Related articles on visiting San Luis Obispo
- Explore SLO County wine
- Check out the local brewery scene
- Enjoy the San Luis Obispo Symphony
- Taste Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates
- Taste wine at Autry Cellars
- Visit Laetitia Vineyards
- Tour SLO Botanical Gardens
- Visit Mission San Luis