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Downtown San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo, CA
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Downtown San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo California

Description

Downtown San Luis Obispo's main charm is the youthful energy of its college students and its bounty of ornate late 19th century buildings with brick exteriors and decorative cornices. The main street, Higuera Street, is narrow and lined with trees that provide welcome shade on hot days. On the west side of the street, indoor arcades filled with shops lead to the creek that fronts the mission. Here little restaurants offer outdoor seating beside the stone wall, pine trees, and lush vegetation that lines the creek. There is a feeling of being in Europe, especially once the mission bells start chiming! Try Bliss Cafe, at a perfect spot on the creek, where you can have vegetarian cuisine such as a Baja Chipotle salad that tastes delicious.
On the side streets are lovely coffee shops and cafes. Bowl'd offers acai bowls piled with fresh fruit, and fermented tea called kombucha. Scout Coffee is one of the prettiest coffee shops I've ever seen. To sit here looking out the huge picture windows is a true delight.
San Luis Obispo has a progressive government that discourages fast food restaurants and banned drive-thru restaurants. It was the first place in the world to ban smoking in bars, restaurants, and public places, which lead to bans in other places (yay for San Luis Obispo and fresh air!)
The San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission is right in downtown on the corner of Chorro and Monterey Streets and fronts a square filled with gorgeous yellow eucalyptus. The square is the town's focal point for festivals. In spring, check out the giant roses in the garden behind the mission. 
An upmarket area where Cal Poly college students hang out is Downtown Center Mall at 893 Higuera Street, where there is an open-air pedestrian-only area. You can eat at casual Solo's Pizza, which has some yummy and interesting twists on standard pizza recipes. There's a California Pizza Kitchen and Starbucks Coffee. Barnes and Noble Booksellers has two levels and a colorful kids section.
Half a block north is another outdoor mall called Court Street Mall. Sit at one of the tables in the alley and you feel like you're in Europe on a blissful summer's day. There's a coffee shop, cute candy shop, frozen yogurt shop with a zillion toppings, Italian sidewalk cafe, Thai restaurant, and popular chain stores.
If you're looking for a very lively scene, check out the Farmer's Market on Thursday nights from 6-9pm. It is on Higuera Street, the six blocks from Osos to Nipomo Street. Under big tents, all kinds of foods are cooked- ribs, moroccan wraps, you name it. There are also vegetable stands, flower stands, a balloon-bending man, activists educating anyone who will listen, and musicians. The street is closed to traffic which makes it nice to stroll along. You will pass the bubblegum alley, where people have been sticking their gum for years and there are many layers of the nasty stuff collecting there!
For history-lovers, head one block north of the mission, to 800 Palm Street, and you will see the historic Ah Louis store, a Chinese merchandise store from 1874 which served as a bank and post office for the Chinese immigrants who dug the eight tunnels through the Santa Lucia Mountain Range in the late 19th century. Notice its large bell outside. Or walk over to the Fremont Theatre at 1025 Monterey Street and enjoy its art deco exterior.
Walk over to the awesome San Luis Obispo Children's Museum and let your kids have a fantastic time in imaginary play. While in the area, drive your kids to the fun playground at Santa Rosa Park.
There are homeless people on Marsh Street and in the square that fronts the mission.

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Photo Gallery

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The lovely rolling hills that surround the small town of San Luis Obispo, as seen from Monterey Street.
The lovely rolling hills that surround the small town of San Luis Obispo, as seen from Monterey Street.
The yellow trunks of eucalyptus beside the mission.
The yellow trunks of eucalyptus beside the mission.
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
The historic Ah Louis Store, with its huge bell adjacent.
The historic Ah Louis Store, with its huge bell adjacent.
The bubblegum wall, in a grimy alley off of the Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo. Yuck!
The bubblegum wall, in a grimy alley off of the Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo. Yuck!
Ornate buildings on Higuera Street.
Ornate buildings on Higuera Street.
Farmer's Market on Higuera Street, the main drag in downtown San Luis Obispo.
Farmer's Market on Higuera Street, the main drag in downtown San Luis Obispo.
Bridge over the creek, on the corner of Higuera St and Nipomo Street.
Bridge over the creek, on the corner of Higuera St and Nipomo Street.
Indoor plaza that leads from the 700 block of Higuera Street to the creek that fronts the mission.
Indoor plaza that leads from the 700 block of Higuera Street to the creek that fronts the mission.
Lush area behind the stores on Higuera Street- accessed through one of the cute plazas that lead from Higuera Street to the mission and creek.
Lush area behind the stores on Higuera Street- accessed through one of the cute plazas that lead from Higuera Street to the mission and creek.
Walking the path to the mission.
Walking the path to the mission.
Looking way down to the creek between Higuera Street and the mission.
Looking way down to the creek between Higuera Street and the mission.
San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission- California missions are always lovely.
San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission- California missions are always lovely.
The spacious plaza in front of the mission, and the historic buildings on Chorro St.
The spacious plaza in front of the mission, and the historic buildings on Chorro St.
Statue of bears and a Chumash indian hunting for salmon, in front of the mission. San Luis Obispo used to be an area with an abundance of bears.
Statue of bears and a Chumash indian hunting for salmon, in front of the mission. San Luis Obispo used to be an area with an abundance of bears.
Handsome building at the 800 block of Marsh Street.
Handsome building at the 800 block of Marsh Street.
The masonic building on Marsh Street.
The masonic building on Marsh Street.
Interesting architecture on Higuera Street.
Interesting architecture on Higuera Street.
The tree-lined streets of San Luis Obispo.
The tree-lined streets of San Luis Obispo.
   

Directions

Exit Highway 101 at Marsh Street. Turn left on Chorro Street. Park along this street or any of the side streets. The parking is metered and all you need is a credit card.
Bliss Cafe, 778 Higuera St, SLO CA 93401, call (805) 547-0108.
Scout Coffee, 1130 Garden St, SLO CA 93401, call (805) 439-2175.

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Visitor Ratings

Overall Visitor Rating:


Bev
05/13/2016 16:08
Keep it a secret! It is the most beautiful, great weather place in the world. Why do you think one of the most wealthiest men in the WORLD chose this coast line to build his castle?

Joestone
10/05/2015 05:53
San Luis Obispo is one of the, if not the nicest town in California.
San Luis is a magical place.

Shawn
10/01/2009 14:19
I think I have memories of the place, kind of cloudy though- Cal Poly SLO '98

Gerrie
09/06/2009 21:53
SLO is the most beautiful town in California. I miss it.

Last Updated Wed, 13 Apr 2016 11:50:20 GMT