The Wonderful World of San Luis Obispo, California
Updated: Aug 17, 2022
While I travel a fair amount, I don’t always feel a kinship with the places I go. But sometimes, there’s just this jolt, this realization that this place is somewhere magical. Somewhere I could be.
San Luis Obispo (let’s just call it SLO, shall we?) is one of those rare places for me.
Ready for another girl’s trip, I grabbed my compadre, Lori, and headed once again up California’s coast. We were excited to get away for a long weekend…until we hit mega traffic in LA. Ugg. It’s the only thing stopping me from going to Central Coast more!
After spending two hours in miserable traffic, we sped up and made it to our new traditional stop: Figueroa Mountain Brewery in Los Olivos. We discovered it on last year’s trip to Central Coast, so now it’s an indicator that we only have about another hour on our journey.
Finally, we arrived. Time for the fun to begin.
Where to Stay: Apple Farm Inn
Lucky me for being a travel blogger: The City of SLO hooked us up with a comped room at Apple Farm Inn (in exchange for media coverage). This place is right off of the interstate and couldn’t be cuter with its quaint country charm.
We were greeted with a glass of wine (hello!) and chocolate chip cookies, which ain’t a bad way to start a vacation!
The room exceeded my expectations: it was enormous and didn’t feel like a hotel at all. It even had an electric fireplace for instant ambience, as well as the beautiful croaking of bullfrogs in the nearby Millhouse to lull us to sleep.
What to Eat: Everything
I have to say, we didn’t have many memorable meals the year before on our girls’ trip, but SLO definitely impressed.
The first night, after exploring the cool Farmer’s Market, we ate at Blast 825 Pizza, mainly because they offer serve-yourself beer, and we girls love beer.
The pizza we ordered was garlicky and spicy. Like, really spicy. But it hit the spot. There’s definitely a ton of pizza joints in SLO, so pick yours.
This place is also next door to the oddly famous Bubblegum Alley. It’s just an alley covered with chewing gum, but trust me: you’ll want to take a photo there. The lighting is great for selfies!
We were treated to lunch at Luna Red by Jacqui from the City of SLO, which offered tapas-style delights, mainly Spanish and Mexican style. The food was impeccably prepared, and I’d love to return for brunch or dinner.
Our last great meal was at Flour House, which Lori had been eyeing since our first night. Since we’d already had pizza, we opted for pasta on our last evening. We started with fried cauliflower (perfectly seasoned) and a nice bottle of Italian red wine, and then shared the Paccheri and Bombolotti pastas.
What to Drink: Wine!
San Luis Obispo is wine country, and within 10 minutes, you’re at one of 30 wineries, all which produce stellar wine. Unfortunately, we waited until late in the afternoon, so didn’t have time enough to truly dedicate to trying them all.
Our first stop was Chamisal in Edna Valley. They’re known for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both of which tasted even better watching the golden sun lower over the vineyards.
Next we visited Chroma Vera’s tasting rooms, which specializes in handcrafted, small-lot wines from Spanish grape varieties. We needed a few bottles for a Spanish wine tasting we were attending back home, and this was the place to find them! We loved the Albariño and the Tempranillo Rosé.
What to Do: Shop & See
Downtown SLO is adorable. I laugh now, remembering that Lori figured we could get all our exploring and shopping done in half an hour! We spent all day Friday shopping and didn’t even see close to everything.
The first stop is the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. It’s one of the original 21 missions built in the 1800s, and deserves a quick walkthrough.
There’s a nice mix of chain stores and independent ones. There was a fun craft store called Beverly’s and the hippest general store, Summerland Co. But hands down, my favorite shop was Junk Girls. It’s got a great story: two women left their corporate jobs to create art and decor from found and vintage items. I talked to a few women that worked there and they were making keychains with spoons and gluing metal trinkets onto jewelry. I got so many creative ideas there!
Another must is to visit Madonna Inn. I’m not quite sure how to describe this historic inn, which has been in SLO since 1958. It’s whimsically tacky…though I don’t mean that derotagorily! The decor is out of this world, and I’m not surprised it’s a popular wedding destination.
San Luis Obispo is laid-back and delightful. I could see myself living there, which is saying a lot, since I’m pretty picky!