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The Best Museums To Visit in San Luis Obispo

The Best Museums To Visit in San Luis Obispo

We’ve compiled a list of the best museums to visit in San Luis Obispo so you don’t miss out on any of them when you’re in town!


5 min read

March 19, 2022

Arts, culture, history, and natural beauty meet at the seaside destination of San Luis Obispo. While there is a lot to see and do in this Central Coast town, its museums often tend to steal the spotlight. Offering a variety of enriching and educational experiences, the coolest San Luis Obispo museums are your gateway to local art, innovation, and history. Not sure which ones to check out? Here are all the S.L.O. cultural centers that’ll take your trip to the next level.

The Best San Luis Obispo Museums to Check Out

The San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum inspires learning through play with interactive exhibits and programs in the arts, sciences, and humanities.

San Luis Obispo Children's Museum

Address: 1010 Nipomo Street, San Luis Obispo

Want to instill an appreciation for museums in your children? Start the journey by taking them to facilities dedicated to fostering curiosity and a love for learning in kids. One such establishment is the San Luis Obispo Children's Museum. Having first opened its doors in 1990, the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum has since undergone major renovations, completely reinventing its vision and structure over the years. 

Today, this San Luis Obispo museum has a goal to be accessible to as many children as possible and it does everything possible to get there. The three floors and outside playscape that make up the San Luis Obispo Children's Museum are jam-packed with exhibits for children ages 1–10 and fit up to 50,000 people at a time. The museum also invites children and families to explore, discover, and learn through hands-on exhibits and programs and activities scheduled throughout the week.

Emphasizing exhibitions by contemporary California artists, SLOMA offers youth and adult art classes, lectures, film nights, concerts, and more.

San Luis Obispo Museum of Art

Address: 1010 Broad Street, San Luis Obispo

The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art has a very direct mission: to provide and promote visual arts experiences for people of all ages and backgrounds. Using the mediums of exhibition, education, creation, and collaboration, this S.L.O. art center manages to engage a community of creatives and curious minds to pay attention to local and international art.

Considered the heart of the California Central Coast art community, the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art also acts as a vital link to the cultural life of the region. Its free admission and downtown location in Mission Plaza also help its goal of being accessible to all. Visit and you’ll find exhibitions heavily emphasized by contemporary California artists. Want to get more involved? The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art also offers youth and adult art classes, lectures, film nights, trips, concerts, and art events. No matter who you are or what you do, the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art has an interesting way to engage you.

Art Center Morro Bay

Address: 835 Main Street, Morro Bay

Art lovers have another must-visit San Luis Obispo art gallery to add to their itinerary: Art Center Morro Bay. Located in historic Downtown Morro Bay, this incredible spot has become a hub for fine art in the California Central Coast.

Holding eight to nine shows each year, this awesome art museum gives visitors plenty of opportunities to expand their directory of regional and local artists. Visit, network with other creatives, and purchase beautiful paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, jewelry, cards, and more beautiful pieces displayed through an array of venues.

The History Center of San Luis Obispo County is a non-profit museum and research room promoting the appreciation of SLO County history.

San Luis Obispo County Historical Museum

Address: 696 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo

Formerly known as the San Luis Obispo County Historical Museum, the History Center of San Luis Obispo County is a must-visit spot. Including a gallery, research room, and book store in the historic Carnegie Library building and the Dallidet Adobe and Garden, this San Luis Obispo museum offers quite a lot to explore for history buffs.

Tour the history center and walk through the gardens that are open seasonally. If you want to access files and documents located in the research room, make an appointment in advance by email and enjoy.

The Paso Robles Pioneer Museum offers collections, displays, and education to preserve the history of this California Central Coast city.

Paso Robles Pioneer Museum

Address: 2010 Riverside Avenue, Paso Robles

Time travel seems possible when you step into the Paso Robles Pioneer Museum. Housing a wonderful collection of visual and written history, this San Luis Obispo museum gives you a peek into life in a small California town during the pioneer days in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Until the construction of a freeway in the 1950s, Highway 101 went through Paso Robles on the main street. To commemorate the fact, you’ll find an authentic El Camino Real bell from the freeway on the grounds of the museum. You’ll also be able to see a centuries-old jail door, replicas of jail cells, and a schoolhouse, among other cool historical artifacts.

San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum

Address: 1940 Santa Barbara Avenue, San Luis Obispo

The famous San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum was founded to preserve and present the railroad history of California, with an emphasis on the Central Coast. By collecting, restoring, displaying, and operating historic railroad equipment on its premises, this awesome San Luis Obispo museum sparks an interest in train and railway transportation even in the most disinterested visitor.

While you’re at the San Luis Obispo Railroad museum, check in on the process of the Central Coast Model Railroad (CCMR). Upon completion, this 1200-square-foot model railroad will visually set the context within which local railroads operated. Depicting portions of the Southern Pacific and the entire Pacific Coast Railway, this huge model will definitely spike up the museum’s reputation as one of the best railroad museums in California.

The Estrella Warbirds Museum is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of military aircraft, vehicles, and memorabilia.

Estrella Warbird Museum

Address: 4251 Dry Creek Road, Paso Robles

The Estrella Warbird Museum is an aviation museum in Paso Robles dedicated to the restoration and preservation of military aircraft, vehicles, and memorabilia. Having long been one of the fastest-growing nonprofits in Central California, this San Luis Obispo museum named after the Estrella Army Airfield features a constantly growing display of many historically significant memorabilia to admire and learn about.

Jeeps, sidearms, early-year aircraft, antique ambulances, bombardier sites, modern missiles, and fighter jets recently retired from active duty—the things you’ll come across at this San Luis Obispo museum span years and categories. Through the preservation of equipment and memories of those who came before, this S.L.O. museum has a goal to honor the men and women who are serving, have served, and/or sacrificed their lives in the military.

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