The Beauty of
San Luis Obispo Discover why this coastal town is known as the Happiest Place in America! â€œFrom picture-perfect weather to tasty cuisine, award-winning wines, breathtakingly beautiful hiking and soft sandy beachesthere is something for everyone here in San Luis Obispo!â€? - S.L.O. Chamber of Commerce
an Luis Obispo (Spanish for St. Louis, the Bishop) is a city in California, located roughly midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on the Central Coast. The city, referred to locally as SLO or “San Luis,” is the county seat of San Luis Obispo County and is adjacent to California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly). As of the 2000 census, the city population was 44,174. The city is home to San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport which offers private and commercial air service to several major cities in the west. Amtrak provides daily rail service here as the terminus of the Pacific Surfliner line and a stop on the Coast Starlight line. Greyhound also maintains a bus terminal in San Luis Obispo. Public transportation includes the city-wide SLO Transit bus lines as well as the county-wide SLO Regional Transit system. Rideshare encourages the use of the local public transit, as well as carpooling and biking.
“San Luis Obispo was the first American town to ban indoor smoking in all locations, including bars and restaurants.” Cycling is occasionally used as a mode of transportation in San Luis Obispo. Bike lanes are maintained on a few of the streets and the number of bike stands are increasing, especially in the downtown area.
Mountain Biking in Cerro, photograph by Julia Hickey
The Neptune Pool at Hearst Cast
Parking in the downtown area can be a challenge for those interested in finding a spot directly in front of their final destination. The city provides parking in three multistory parking structures throughout downtown at: Chorro and Marsh street intersection; Palm Street between Chorro and Morro streets; on Palm Street between Chorro and Osos streets. Street parking downtown is metered. The structures are free for the first hour and 75 cents per hour thereafter. Because of San Luis Obispo’s location halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it has long been a stopping point for travelers. In fact, the word motel was coined here when the Motel Inn of San Luis Obispo was established in 1925. Since then, the pleasant year-round climate, pretty scenery, and well-preserved, walkable downtown have made the city a tourist destination in itself. Downtown San Luis Obispo is centered around the carefully restored Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, originally built in 1772. It is one of the best preserved examples of Spanish Mission architecture and among the oldest buildings in California. Its bells are unique in that, unlike 2
other California missions, the bell ringer stands in
tle, photograph by Michael Darter
the bellroom with the bells when ringing the cadences. The downtown area also boasts many eclectic shops and boutiques. Another big tourist attraction is Hearst Castle, the vast estate of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, 43 miles to the north of San Luis Obispo. The Madonna Inn is another famous local landmark. Established by Alex Madonna in 1958, the inn is a famously eccentric building known for its generous helping of pink, wildly kitschy decor, themed guest rooms, and a waterfall urinal in a men’s restroom. The Fremont Theater is a historic Art Deco theater from the 1940s. It has appeared in many movies including a three second clip in My Blue Heaven. One famous tourist destination is Bubble Gum Alley. Since about 1960, people have been sticking their chewed gum on the walls of this alley located on Higuera Street, between Broad and Garden streets. Bubble Gum Alley has even appeared on national television. Another big attraction is the development of Edna Valley into a well-known wine region. Just south of the city, people can spend an afternoon wine tasting sev-
eral wineries in the area with a very short drive. Some of these wineries have won awards and acclaim for their vintages. The wine region extends north beyond Paso Robles (30 miles north) and Santa Ynez (70 miles south). A field station of the Marine Mammal Center is located in San Luis Obispo to support sea rescue and beach stranding rescue operations for this section of the California coast. One of the main draws is Farmers’ Market, a large festival held downtown on Higuera Street every Thursday evening year-round from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.. About three-quarters of a mile of the street is closed to cars. Live entertainment is featured and local farmers and vendors sell goods and produce. The Farmers’ Market was created in 1983 to make use of downtown streets blocked off to end a tradition of teen/collegiate cruising. Farmers and vendors were allowed to set up between barricades as a way to bring people back to the downtown area. Later, all traffic was blocked off, making the downtown Farmers’ Market one long “mall,” even rerouting part of a state highway to accommodate the street closures. The Farmers’ Market brought a great deal of revenue and has become internationally known. San Luis Obispo has been home of several other events, including a stop on the way of the Olympic Torch, the Tour of California bicycle race, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, as well as a longstanding Christmas Parade. A Mardi Gras parade that was well attended has been fraught with difficulties related to crowd control and alcohol consumption. Debate about the cost of the parade, and the associated crowd control, continues.
Holiday Parade, photograph by David Middlecamp
360° panorama at Montaña De Oro, cou
Mardi Gras has not been the only local event reined in after gaining acceptance. Cal Poly’s open house, Poly Royal, was held every April until a 1990 riot of drunken revellers, many visitors to town, caused damage throughout residential neighborhoods and the business district. The university cancelled the event for several years before reintroducing a scaled-down Open House. While Poly Royal welcomed the community for hikes, carnivals, “magic” shows put on by the Chemistry Department, and other public performances, the revamped version is designed for students and parents.
“City ordinance prevents businesses of any sort (including fast-food restaurants) from constructing new drive-up or drive-through windows or services.” Jamba Juice, famous for its fruit smoothies, was founded in this town. Formerly called Juice Club, Jamba Juice is now a national chain. Although Juice Club was not a Cal Poly senior project as some claim, three of the four co-founders, Joe Vergara, Kevin Peters, and Linda Olds did graduate from the university. Jamba Juice still exists at the original Juice Club location: 17
Chorro Street #C. City ordinance prevents businesses of any sort (including fast-food restaurants) from constructing new drive-up or drive-through windows or services. Two branches of one local bank are the only locations in the entire city with drive-up service; their drive-up service existed before the ordinance became law. The dentist office on the corner of Santa Rosa and Pacific streets is one of very few commercial buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A horse race on turf named the San Luis Obispo Handicap is run at the Santa Anita Park in honor of this city. San Luis Obispo was the first American town to ban indoor smoking in all locations, including bars and restaurants.
Bubblegum Alley, photograph by Keith Byrd
urtesy photograph of Gregg M. Erickson
Map of the West Coast of California, particularly the city of San Luis Obispo, provided by Microsoft Corporation
So next time your traveling across the state, be sure to stop in the lush hills of San Luis Obispo! 5