Your guide to coastal bliss and culinary delights in San Luis Obispo, CA

San Luis Obispo is a scenic coastal destination in central California that has been touted as “the happiest place in America.” With nearly year-round sunshine, gorgeous views, and endless outdoor activities, it’s not hard to see why. Not to mention, it’s close to other popular beach towns, including Avila Beach and Pismo Beach, two places known for their stunning beaches and natural beauty.

SLO is an easily walkable town that is home to a thriving art scene, including the SLO Museum of Art. Downtown SLO offers an arts district that showcases local and international talent throughout the year, with approximately 100 unique pieces of public art currently on display.

When it comes to food and drink, this gem offers world-class wine country; daily farmers’ markets filled with the freshest produce from countless nearby farms; gastronomic establishments; freshly caught seafood on the coast; bakeries using locally sourced cereals; and more.

Here’s a mini-guide to get you started on your adventures in San Luis Obispo.

Madonna Inn

A visit to SLO wouldn’t be complete without a slice of the famous champagne cake at the famed Madonna Inn. This over-the-top property opened in 1954 and is known for its pseudo-Swiss Alps exterior and lavish common rooms accented with pink roses, hanging angels, Western murals, and hammered copper. Guests will be wowed by the hostel’s kitschy decor, all-pink dining rooms, and Instagrammable moments at every turn within its golden walls. The hostel has 110 themed rooms, a restaurant and a bakery.

Stop for lunch at the Copper Inn, which is decked out in copper accents, or for dinner at the famed Gold Rush Steakhouse, which is decked out entirely in pink and gold decor. At the Copper Inn, guests can choose from a wide selection of American classics for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They offer everything from hot and cold sandwiches to entrees such as roasted tri-tip or pasta of the day. At the steakhouse, patrons can order from a number of hearty dishes ranging from filet mignon and prime rib to lobster tail and spring lamb chops.

Above all, don’t miss Madonna Inn’s famous Pink Champagne Cake, an impressive three-layered white cake creation filled with almond-whipped Bavarian cream and fresh whipped cream.

Region

Located in downtown SLO is Region, a cozy and chic outdoor wine tasting room that offers dozens of local wines on tap and showcases a new local winery each week. Region also has a cool WineStation machine that lets you try a taste, half glass, or full glass to sample from over 50 local Sonoma County and San Luis Obispo County wines. Enjoy a drink or two with artisanal charcuterie plates and light bites.

Granada Hotel & Bistro

For a delicious dinner, make a reservation at the charming Granada Bistro. Inspired by the classic French bistro, this romantic restaurant modernizes traditional French cuisine and pairs it with a famous wine list from local producers, as well as classic cocktails. Main courses include the double-cut pork chop with apricot barbecue sauce and white cheddar grits; elote gnocchi; and crispy market fish could top the mushrooms.

Piadina

Located within the San Luis Obispo Hotel is Piadina, a farm-fresh Italian restaurant with a relaxed, casual atmosphere and al fresco dining. Inspired by Italy and the central coast, Piadina offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Appetizers include entrees made with produce like Bautista Farms Tomato Salad; berry salad and goat cheese; and asparagus fritti. Popular entrees include grilled wild Pacific swordfish with Sardinian couscous and herb-roasted chicken. Piadina also offers a selection of pizzas such as smoked salmon and caviar pizza or chicken bianca pizza.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

In 1772 the Spanish settled in what is now considered downtown San Luis Obispo. Their mission is still held in the center of town, providing a relaxing place to relax and reflect. Mission Plaza remains a central meeting place and hosts festivals, fairs, and other celebrations throughout the year. Good to note? Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa remains an active parish church.

chewing gum aisle

Just minutes from the mission is the famous bubblegum alley, one of the weirdest attractions in the area. Featured on National Geographic’s Strange Planet, Believe It or Not, Rippley, and the LA Times Weirdest Stops List, come here if you want to see thousands of chewing gum lines a 70-foot-long driveway wall .

Hotel Cerro

If you want to extend your stay in SLO, check out Hotel Cerro, an upscale, sustainability-focused boutique hotel in the heart of town. Within walking distance of the best of downtown, including the arts district, shopping and more, this luxurious property is an ideal base in town.

This 65-room property has a thriving culinary garden; a spacious outdoor courtyard with a fire pit and plush lounge seating; and a gorgeous rooftop pool terrace, where hotel guests can relax in lounge chairs and cabanas and take in views of the surrounding hills above the city center. Also on the property is a 4,000 square foot luxury spa offering a full range of treatments from facials and massages to scrubs and wraps.

At Hotel Cerro is SLO Brewery that offers customers an all-day destination for local cuisine. SLO Brasserie serves coastal California cuisine with an emphasis on local ingredients and incorporating international influences. Their cuisine uses ingredients from the bountiful agricultural life of the Central Coast, as well as produce from the hotel’s edible garden.

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