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The Ultimate Guide to Visiting San Luis Obispo

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting San Luis Obispo

We’ve put together the ultimate guide to visiting San Luis Obispo for you to experience the region in the best way possible.

Roubina Al Abashian


5 min read

March 11, 2022

Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains is the charming Central Coast town of San Luis Obispo. With pristine nature, historic architecture, and unique attractions, this college town is the perfect spot for a quick and laid-back weekend getaway. Not sure what to do in San Luis Obispo? Here are all the fun things you shouldn’t miss. 

What To Do In San Luis Obispo: Attractions

No other mission has a belfry and vestibule like the Mission of San Luis Obispo.

1. Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Location: 751 Palm Street

As the fifth oldest in the Golden State, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was named after Saint Louis, the bishop of Toulouse, France. A fun fact about this California mission is that its walls are about 60 feet high. This is in accordance with the Vatican law that states that a mission’s walls should be as high as the local trees—in this case, it was pine trees. When visiting the L-shaped mission, check out the beautiful gardens, tour the church grounds, and purchase a souvenir from the gift shop. 

2. Bishop Peak

Location: Bishop Peak Natural Area

The trail leading to Bishop peak is a sunrise hike in the Golden State you don’t want to miss. The 3.4-mile hike leads you toward the tallest volcanic plug among the Nine Sisters. Its rocky crown, resembling a bishop’s miter, earned it the name Bishop Peak. Don’t rush to wrap up your hike—stick around to watch the city come to life with the first rays of the sun illuminating S.L.O. 

The walls of Bubblegum Alley in Downtown San Luis Obispo are covered with used bubble gum.

3. Bubblegum Alley

Location: 733 Higuera Street

Who could possibly imagine that an alley covered in chewed bubble gum could be a top attraction? In S.L.O., anything is possible. If you ever wonder what to do in San Luis Obispo today, start with chewing gum, heading to the alley, marking your presence, and snapping a few photos—this weird place in California is one of the most Instagrammable spots you’ll ever come across.  

4. The Dorn Pyramid

Location: 2966 South Higuera Street 

In 1905, lawyer Fred Adolphus Dorn lost his wife and newborn during childbirth. In their honor, he erected a pyramid tomb with the words “DISTVRB NOT THE SLEEP OF DEATH” engraved on the front. The mausoleum is located in Odd Fellows Cemetery waiting to be sealed once all Dorns lay to rest. Creepy is the least we can say about this S.L.O. hidden gem

What To Do In San Luis Obispo: Food

Located at Madonna Inn, the Alex Madonna's Gold Rush Steak House is a landmark destination for its whimsical decor and classic menu.

5. Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steak House

Location: 100 Madonna Road

Madonna Inn is one of the most iconic attractions in San Luis Obispo, boasting bold decor and striking features. The hotel just so happens to also be the home of Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steak House, which is a diner with pink plush interiors and flowers all around. Don’t let the kitschy accents fool you, this S.L.O. diner serves delectable meals. Give their shrimp cocktail and swordfish steak a try—you will love every single bite. 

6. Petra Mediterranean Pizza and Grill

Location: 1210 Higuera Street

Wish to indulge in Mediterranean food with an American twist? Head over to Petra Mediterranean Pizza and Grill. This spot stands out thanks to its freshly baked pita, which you can smell as soon as you set foot into the restaurant. Even though choosing out of their long menu might get a little confusing, the gyros and falafel platters are always a safe bet. 

7. Luna Red

Location: 1023 Chorro Street 

Luna Red makes it to every San Luis Obispo travel guide, and since it serves delicious international cuisine, it’s easy to see why. This affordable restaurant has paella dishes to die for—the big del mar paella includes a combination of rockfish, shrimps, clams, and scallops. But forget all that on Tuesdays, because you know you’ll be ordering tacos.  

What To Do in San Luis Obispo: Activities

The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art is an art space featuring painting, sculpture, and photography exhibits by regional artists.

8. Visit the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art

The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art is the beating heart of the Central Coast’s arts and culture scene. Located in Downtown S.L.O. this is where the old and the new meet to display Californian art to tourists and locals alike. Visit this free art gallery to get acquainted with different styles of art, join one of the classes, or attend a discussion.

9. Explore the Historic Downtown

One question you don’t see anyone asking is, “What is there to do in Downtown San Luis Obispo?”Almost everything worth doing and seeing is located in the gorgeous and vibrant hotspot. Streets lined with tall trees and Spanish buildings guide you to the coolest shops, trendy eateries, and top-notch museums. If you’re not sure where to start, Higuera Street is the way to go—the restaurants here face the gorgeous San Luis Obispo Creek. 

10. Tour the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum

Get ready to peek into S.L.O’s historic railroad district at one of the most exciting railroad museums in California. The San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum features a large display of artifacts and exhibits including vintage cars and the Central Coast Model Railroad. The latter is a 1,200-square-foot model, which once ran through the Central Coast, taking visitors like yourself to this idyllic destination. 

What To Do in San Luis Obispo At Night

The Downtown SLO Farmers Market is an open-air market held every Thursday evening, with local farm stands, street food, and live music.

11. Find Great Deals at the Downtown SLO Farmers Market

No need to wonder what to do in San Luis Obispo at night on Thursdays. The answer is simple—visit the Downtown SLO Farmers Market on Higuera Street, which is held weekly between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Join the locals as they search for the freshest produce, enjoy the music, and indulge in mouth-watering street food. 

12. Catch a Flick at the Palm Theater

It’s one thing to watch a film in a regular theater and a completely different experience viewing it at America’s first movie theater run by solar energy. Built in 1975, the Palm Theater showcases a variety of independent, mainstream, foreign, and arthouse movies every night. If you’re planning a unique rendezvous in California, the Palm Theater will definitely land you a second date.

13. Prepare Yourself For A Challenge At The Puzzle Effect

Is there anything else to do in San Luis Obispo, California? One thing’s for sure—there’s always a puzzle that needs to be solved. If you and your friends are up for a challenge, visit San Luis Obispo’s premier escape room, Puzzle Effect, for a good time. Choose one of the four distinct storylines, search for clues, and try to escape before you run out of time.

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