San Luis Obispo, also referred to as “The Happiest City in America”, is a quaint town located on the Central Coast of California. Nestled amongst rolling hillsides (that boast a bevy of award-winning wineries), San Luis Obispo is not only home to one of the top agricultural colleges in the country (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo), it is also rich in California history and culture (as evidenced by Mission San Luis Obispo). In addition to offering visitors and residents a plethora of outdoor activities and leisurely outings in it’s rural countryside setting, SLO is just a short drive away from coastal cities (like Pismo Beach) that overlook the majestic Pacific Ocean.
Featured in this San Luis Obispo Travel Guide (Spring Edition) are several fabulous places to visit while traveling through this charming region.
San Luis Obispo Travel Guide
Lodging in San Luis Obispo
Known for it’s relaxed, casual atmosphere which encourages visitors to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, San Luis Obispo (and it’s surrounding cities) offer several lodging options ranging from romantic inns to luxurious resorts.
If your vision of the ideal weekend is to settle into a cozy bed & breakfast, then you will instantly fall in love with the Apple Farm Inn, located in the heart of San Luis Obispo. This picture-perfect inn embodies the true spirit of Americana. Featuring lush gardens, traditional decor, and adorable finishing touches, the Apple Farm Inn & Restaurant is a must-see for anyone visiting this area. Not to mention, the Apple Farm Restaurant offers a plethora of delicious meals and desserts to indulge in.
Just a short drive away, Pismo Beach boasts panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean. Perched above the ocean and nestled amongst a grove of swaying Palm Trees, the Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa offers visitors a luxurious and exclusive retreat to call home for a weekend (or longer). The spectacular hotel also indulges every epicurean-lover’s ultimate fantasy – a water-front indoor/outdoor restaurant that specializes in delicacies (like Oysters).
Restaurants & Lounges in San Luis Obispo
A memorable fine dining experience encompasses 3 key components: a beautiful atmosphere, fantastic service, and exceptional food.
A restaurant that lives up to these requirements is Novo Restaurant Lounge, based in downtown San Luis Obispo. Not only do they offer an enticing selection of appetizers and entrees, their captivating atmosphere sets the mood for amour. During Spring’s starry nights, opt to be seated on Novo’s creekside patio (set underneath majestic oak trees and twinkling lights). And when the dinner hour is over, don’t head home just yet. That’s when the after-hours scene starts to heat up. Novo’s indoor space turns into a trendy, upscale lounge (complete with flowing libations and DJ’d music).
If you’re in the mood for a change of ambiance, take a stroll down from Novo to their sister restaurant/lounge (conveniently located just a street away) called Luna Red. This sultry, Mediterranean-style hotspot features live music on the weekends, perfect for dancing and mingling with friends (both old and new).
Wine Tasting in San Luis Obispo
When the weather is warm and the sun is shining, there’s no better way to spend the day than to explore San Luis Obispo’s wine country. Three of the area’s best wineries are Chamisal Vineyards, Baileyana Winery, and Talley Vineyards.
Featuring some of the area’s most incredible tasting wines, Chamisal Vineyards captures the essence of what makes San Luis Obispo a renowned wine destination. Established in 1973, this historic 80-acre property was the first vineyard planted in the Edna Valley, and is also SIP Certified (Sustainability in Practice). Known for their attentive service, beautiful atmosphere, and delectable wines (including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, and other varietals), Chamisal Vineyards truly gives wine aficionados the indulgent experience that they seek. Wine Club Members are always treated to an exclusive tasting experience on Chamisal’s private patio that overlooks the winery’s sprawling vineyards. While visitors and guests can enjoy a relaxing day wine tasting on Chamisal’s garden-flanked front patio or rustic indoor tasting room.
Set amongst a manicured garden and old schoolhouse, the Baileyana Winery (owned by Niven Family Wine Estates) offers guests the opportunity to relax in style in a warm and inviting atmosphere. With it’s fun-filled bocce ball courts, lush grassy knolls, and stunning rose garden setting, Baileyana strikes the perfect chord when it comes to leisurely San Luis Obispo outings. Baileyana’s hospitable personnel create a congenial atmosphere, encouraging guests to enjoy their experience. NFWE is considered “one of the most innovative family-owned wine companies in America”, and does this by creating a diverse range of wines, sourced from a single cool-climate estate. These wines are offered in the way of 6 distinct brands, including: Baileyana, True Myth, Tangent, Trenza, Cadre, and Zocker. Creating everything from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir and Riesling to Grenache Blanc (and everything in between), the winery’s expansive collection of brands ensures that every visitor will find something to savor.
Based in nearby Arroyo Grande, Talley Vineyards offers estate bottled wines that span three generations of families. This family-owned and operated winery specializes in estate grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which are the sparkling gems of this wine region. Founded in the 1980’s, Talley Vineyards has quickly grown to become a renowned destination for wine lovers both near and far. The year-round farming and wine-making team harvest the grapes by hand, and meticulously process small lots of fruit, with the intention of yielding the best wines. The team’s hard work and exhaustive labor results in a truly phenomenal collection of delectable wines. Aside from the beautiful property, the winery’s friendly and knowledgable staff make any visitor’s experience truly memorable.
Leisure Activities in San Luis Obispo
Aside from eating, drinking, and being merry, San Luis Obispo offers a variety of other leisure activities. Between hiking, bicycling, meandering through the daily farmers markets, and shopping, there’s so much to do in San Luis Obispo.
If your idea of relaxation is some retail therapy, head down to Higuera Street (located in downtown SLO) for a day of shopping at trendy boutiques, such as Ambiance and Avanti. Carrying designer apparel (like J. Brand, 7 For All Mankind, and Michael Stars), you’re sure to find a new treasure at any of these stylish stores.
If browsing through unique artwork is what peaks your interest, swing by Just Looking Gallery to learn about the stunning art created by renowned local and international artists and graphic illustrators. Respected as one of the “premier galleries in the country, featuring original works, limited edition prints and one-of-a-kind sculptures”, this sensational gallery exhibits a range of interesting pieces, including retro pop artwork to vintage 1930’s style posters.
However you decide to enjoy your vacation in this friendly, activity-oriented, leisure destination, you’ll quickly realize why it’s called “the happiest city in America”.