Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a guide, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in San Luis Obispo?”
In the American mind, California exists in two pieces: NorCal, the home of the foggy, tech-laden Bay Area with San Francisco as its epicenter, and SoCal, the bleach blonde home of smoothies and Hollywood, surfers and TikTok hype-houses. This guide is about neither. We are going to the middle of the state, the flyover part of California (if the state were to have one), to the central coast. In landscape, the central coast is as mediterranean as the United States gets, an arid green with brush, beaches, mountains and an emerging vineyard scene. In temperament, though, it’s still California, but in a small-town way, the way it was in the rest of the state before the bombardment of celebrities and elite app guys. And one of the Central Coast’s crown jewels, one of the best places to soak it all in, is San Luis Obispo.
About a decade ago, San Luis Obispo was deemed “the happiest place in America.” (Move over Disneyland.) It was founded in 1772, serves as the county seat for San Luis Obispo County and is home to California Polytechnic State University, better known as Cal Poly. Halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, known as SLO by locals (pronounced “slow”), is the quintessential central coast community, with delectable food, savory wines, funky stores for shopping, and a small walkable, bikeable city. There’s also a big emphasis on locally-sourced food and sustainability here, which we love. Read on to head into the hills of San Luis Obispo.