San Luis Obispo is one of California’s most historic cities and a vibrant student town adjacent to Cal Poly. Known as SLO for short, the city of San Luis Obispo typifies the relaxed pace of life of San Luis Obispo County.
SLO was founded in 1772 by Spanish Franciscan priest Junipero Serra. Serra’s gorgeous mission church is one of 180 historic buildings spread across five designated historic districts. San Luis Obispo’s great downtown area is the oldest part of the city. Here you’ll find many shops and restaurants housed within beautifully preserved properties mostly built between the 1890s and 1910s. Highway 101 and California State Route 277 connect SLO with other communities throughout California’s Central Coast region.
San Luis Obispo features upscale homes within a short drive of the beach. The most sought-after properties include acreage country residences with sweeping views over rolling hills and the Pacific Ocean.
What to Love
- Charming homes in Etna Valley and the hills.
- Great historic downtown
- Cultural landmarks and attractions
- Upscale homes near the beach
People & Lifestyle
San Luis Obispo is a beautiful city featuring many buildings that date back to the 19th century. California State Polytechnic University adds youthful energy to the city. Residents also embrace an active outdoor lifestyle, and SLO is known as a great place for bicycling. In fact, SLO was one of the first communities in the United States to designate bicycles their own phase in the city’s traffic. On the first Thursday of each month, bicyclists gather at Mission Plaza to ride around town for The Bike Happening. With proximity to both beaches and wine country vineyards, this charming historic city has much to offer.
Dining, Entertainment & Shopping
The attractive streets of San Luis Obispo’s historic downtown district are lined with lots of great restaurants, shops, and cafes. Ox + Anchor
at the Hotel San Luis Obispo is a refined steakhouse that pairs mouthwatering prime meats and fresh seasonal ingredients with an extensive wine list. Buona Tavola
offers intimate Italian fine dining in a beautiful rustic setting decorated with plants. Novo
serves globally inspired cuisine alongside craft cocktails and an award-winning wine list in a stylish location featuring a creekside patio.
There’s also sushi and other authentic Japanese fare at Goshi
, tri-tip and Santa Maria-style BBQ at Old San Luis BBQ Company
, international tapas and live music at Luna Red
, and vegan fare at the hip creekside Bliss Café
. BlackHorse Espresso and Bakery
is a good place to start the day or take a break with some delicious coffee and sweet treats. At Libertine Brewing Company
, guests can taste barrel-aged wild ales made with ingredients and wild yeast strains native to the Central Coast region.
Just to name a few, there are many more great places to eat and drink that are not mentioned. For more information about entertainment in SLO, please visit San Luis Obispo.
Things to Do
The Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
is the centerpiece of San Luis Obispo’s historic downtown district. The Mission is open to the public every day of the year and offers guided tours of the church and garden. Nearby Bubblegum Alley
is a quirky landmark where an estimated two million pieces of gum cover the 15-foot high walls of a long narrow alleyway. Another offbeat SLO Town attraction is the Madonna Inn
, a kitschy 1950-era motel featuring 110 unique themed rooms.
The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art
exhibits contemporary Californian art and hosts a wide range of talks and events and 24 different exhibitions every year. For history lovers, the early 1900s Richardson Romanesque-style Carnegie Library is home to the History Center of San Luis Obispo County
Downtown San Luis Obispo has two landmark movie theaters. The 1940s Fremont Theater
is a beautifully preserved example of Art Deco architecture, while the low-budget arthouse Palm Theatre
was the first movie theater in the United States to be powered entirely by solar energy. Both movie theaters host screenings during the annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival
. The Performing Arts Center
on the Cal Poly campus features multiple venues with a diverse lineup of concerts and touring performances. On Friday evenings throughout the summer, Concerts in the Plaza
features free outdoor performances. San Luis Obispo also hosts the Festival Mozaic
classic music festival over two weeks between July and August. Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market
takes place every Thursday evening with fresh produce, delicious BBQ, specialty foodstuffs, and live entertainment.
San Luis Obispo is served by the San Luis Coastal Unified School District.
- Bishop’s Peak Elementary, Public, K-6.
- Los Ranchos Elementary, Public, K-6.
- Sinsheimer Elementary, Public, K-6.
- Laguna Middle, Public, 7-8.
- San Luis Obispo High, Public, 9-12.