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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 its bounty of ornate late 19th century buildings with brick exteriors and decorative cornices. The downtown area consists of three main streets that run for several blocks: Marsh, Higuera, and Monterey. The most popular, Higuera Street, is sandwiched between the others. The streets are dark, narrow, and tree-lined, and have a run-down feel. The sidewalks especially are in bad need of a redo. There are some cute indoor plazas filled with shops that lead from Higuera Street to the creek that fronts the mission.
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 (yeh 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. Avoid the park by the restrooms because some gnarly characters hang out there.
An upbeat, more 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, Starbucks, and Mondeo Pronto, a casual sidewalk cafe that sells great wraps and fish with flavored rice. Barnes and Noble Booksellers has a colorful kids section and books on exploring Central California.
Half a block north of there is another wonderful downtown 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 famous 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 Childrens Museum and let your kids have a fantastic time in imaginary play. While in the area, drive your kids to the older but fun playground at Santa Rosa Park.

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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 onto Chorro Street. Park along the street and walk east- you will be in downtown.

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Visitor Ratings

Overall Visitor Rating:


Joestone
02/16/2011 22:35
"The most popular, Higuera Street, is sandwiched between the others. The streets are dark, narrow, and tree-lined, and have a run-down feel. The sidewalks especially are in bad need of a redo."

Are you serious?

San Luis Obispo is not run-down at all, it is one of the, if not the nicest town in California- bad choice of words.

San Luis is a magical place, very safe- not run down.

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.
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Last Updated Wed, 14 Nov 2012 14:46:08 GMT