Artsy Weekend in San Luis Obispo
Arts & Culture
Road Trip Travel
In recent years, San Luis Obispo has grown from a sleepy college town has grown into a sustainably-minded city that's the cultural hub of California's Central Coast and a great weekend getaway option halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. When I lived in LA, I loved traveling driving up with family and friends on historic Highway 1 to enjoy the surrounding wine region, natural beauty and super walkable downtown with lots of fun public art. SLO is one of the best biking cities in the country and they are aiming for communitywide carbon neutrality by 2035.
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Where to stay in San Luis Obispo
Located in downtown SLO, Hotel Cerro boasts a rooftop deck, a trendy French restaurant, an open-air cafe and a full-service spa.
Hotel San Luis Obispo
Trendy hotel with updated rooms, complimentary bike rentals and an outdoor pool in SLO. It has High Bar, the rooftop bar that includes a bocce court and Chef Ryan Fancher’s vegetable garden. The property also has a full service Spa, Sol Spa.
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Things to do in San Luis Obispo
Hike Cal Poly’s Design Village
Seniors at the College of Architecture and Environmental Design have been building permanent structures dotting the hilly landscape here since the 1960s. The entire hike is a modern 2.5 miles with 300 feet of elevation gain and more than 20 eclectic dwellings to explore along the way.
Rent a Bike
San Luis Obispo is one of the best cities in the United States for cycling, according to PeopleForBikes. There are several options for bike rental around town, and it's a great way to explore while being active. Hotel SLO offers complimentary bike rentals for all guests.
Take a pottery class and learn to make a vase, cup, bowl or ceramic succulent planter with the talented Adriana Lemus of Night Owl Pottery. She regularly hosts workshops around town at wineries, tasting rooms and Hotel San Luis Obispo.
This small but stellar museum is certainly worth a stop, and admission is complimentary. You won't need more than 45 minutes to enjoy the frequently rotating exhibitions since there are only three exhibits available at a time. Even the building exterior is a work of art, completely redone by a new muralist each year. First Fridays are always fun with local wine and live music.
This historic landmark was a Chinese-American general store in the 19th century and now world-class party planners Amber Karson and Emily Butler have turned it into a colorful gifting emporium. It's the perfect place to stop for greeting cards or put together a customized gift basket.
Dallidet Adobe and Gardens
This California landmark is open to the public with free admission on weekends April through October. The garden is beautiful, with lots of edible ingredients used when they host private events. No surprise – it's a very popular wedding venue.
This is a great place to shop for a gift that gives back, with makers represented from all around the world. You'll find everything from Ghanaian bean-to-bar chocolate and Peruvian hand-knitted finger puppets to letterpress cards made in Rwanda and the Philippines.
This record store has been in business for more than four decades and as named one of the best record stores in the country by Rolling Stone. Definitely a place to find hidden gem vinyls and geek out over music.
This community space regularly hosts art classes, poetry readings and performances, and is home to an art gallery, artist studios and coffee shop.
Place to eat & drink in San Luis Obispo
Breakfast & Lunch
Big Sky Café – A pioneer of the farm-to-table movement when they opened 20 years ago, this all-day cafe is still a great choice for a hearty brunch with local eggs and produce. Get the polenta fries to share to begin and you can't go wrong with the hefty breakfast burrito, egg scrambles or salad and pozole lunch combo. They're great at all accommodating vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diets here too.
Scout – My favorite coffee shop in town with a great selection of housemade pastries. They even make their own syrups in house with intriguing options like honey lavender, raw sugar whiskey and wilderness – a blend of maple, citrus and Douglas fir.
Ox + Anchor – Located within Hotel San Luis Obispo, this is one of just two Michelin-recognized restaurants in town. The goat cheese croquettes drizzled with lavender honey, ahi tuna tartare and baked Alaska are must-try signature dishes. The wine list is very reasonably priced too.
Nate's on Marsh – All your favorite Italian classics under one 1908 colonial bungalow roof, from bolognese and carbonara to meatballs and spumoni ice cream cake. Owner Nate Long describes the restaurant as "spaghetti cowboy" with Italian and Western inspiration, plus a little inspo from Long's favorite restaurant – The Polo Bar in New York. This is the hottest new restaurant in town and the cozy atmosphere and stellar service live up to the hype.
Mistura – The bright flavors and theatrical tableside presentations at this contemporary Peruvian restaurant are fun and unique. Try the beef heart anticucho skewers if you're feeling adventurous, and you can't go wrong with any of the seafood ceviches and tiraditos.
Dunites Wine Company – There are lots of tasting rooms around town, but this is one of my favorites for a variety of small production wines, plus hard cider on tap. It's pet-friendly and there are rotating exhibitions by local artists on the walls. Plus, the people here are so nice and it's a chic place to rest after a day out exploring.
Region – There are more than 50 local wines on tap here, so it's a great place to get a full taste of everything San Luis Obispo has to offer.
Krobar Craft Distillery – If you prefer cocktails to wine, this new distillery makes excellent whiskey, vodka and gin and a mean espresso martini. They even make boozy ice cream infused with their spirits, which is my favorite way to get buzzed in summer.
Mama Ganache – Fair trade and organic chocolate bonbons and barks, with plenty of vegan options. The burnt almond butter and ginger cardamom are my favorites.
Proof & Gather – This perfect stop for a sweet afternoon pick me up. Their scones and financiers are delightful and they have unusual cookie flavors like espresso snickerdoodle and olive oil lemon rosemary.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check my guide, A Girl's Getaway Guide to San Diego.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to California.