San Luis Obispo (aka SLO) has a reputation of being a laid-back college town that shuts down when the students leave town. But thanks to the revitalization work that’s been done by the city as well as the San Luis Obispo Collection, this quiet little town has transformed into a shopping and dining paradise that can compete with any upscale destination towns like Malibu or Carmel. The transformation is quite surprising, especially if you haven’t been to SLO in the past 4 years.
If you’re road tripping through California, a stop in SLO should be added to the itinerary. SLO, named on of the Happiest Cities in America is centrally located between San Francisco and Los Angeles off the 101. San Luis Obispo County is the third largest wine region in California. There are two distinct wine grape growing regions - Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo's Edna Valley - with more than 200 wineries featuring award-winning vintages and innovative wine grape growing techniques.
The area’s fertile landscape is ideal for winemaking, and SLO is surrounded by beautiful wineries that are minutes from downtown. One of the local darlings is Chamisal Vineyard, which is run by only 6 people—most of them being graduates from Cal Poly. Their tasting room includes a beautiful picnic area where families are encouraged to bring their kids to enjoy dining al fresco overlooking the vineyards.
Downtown SLO is a buzz on Thursday nights with the Farmers’ Market. Every Thursday from 6:00 -9:00 pm Higuera Street in the heart of Downtown between Nipomo and Osos is closed off to traffic and comes alive with hundred of vendors selling everything from organic fruits and vegetables to artists retailing their jewelry. The market even offers free bicycle valets, so you can ride your bike downtown and have it watched for you for free while enjoying the market.
Every Friday night in the Mission Plaza, from June 9 to September 8, the city hosts Concerts in the Plaza features free live music. Each week a winery and brewery sells their libations at the concert, so you can grab a glass of wine or beer and dance the night away.
Just across the street from the Mission Plaza is the thriving shopping district located in a six block by six block area that has everything from Lululemon, The Apple Store, Victoria’s Secret, to Barnes and Noble and Sephora. Every week, William Sonoma offers cooking classes, when I was there, they offered a free cupcake class for children. The area is also home to the first Jamba Juice, which was found by Cal Poly students as a school project.
For those who want to explore the area, the county of San Luis Obispo includes more than 80 miles of majestic coastline and 3,616-square miles of lush rolling vineyards, breathtaking landscapes, charming towns with award-winning breweries, wineries, and distilleries, and an abundance of outdoor recreation.
New Air Service: SLO CAL is now more accessible than ever with new nonstop flights to the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport from Seattle, WA and Denver, CO. The Seattle flight is offered daily via Alaska Airlines and began service in April 2017. The Denver flight, offered daily via United Airlines, began June 8, 2017.