Mission downtown SLO

In 1772, Spaniards decided to make a home in what we now consider downtown San Luis Obispo. The rich soil and temperate weather in the lush, green valley nestled in the rolling foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range offered ideal growing conditions.

They came and built a mission that is still standing today in the center of town. Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa remains a working parish church. San Luis Creek, the original water source for the mission and later the city, winds through Mission Plaza which remains a central meeting place and host of festivals, fairs, and other celebrations throughout the year. The Mission is the root of San Luis Obispo’s history and an ideal spot to begin your tour of historic SLO.

For gift shop, museum, docent tours and more information as well as times and addresses follow the More link below.

Starting in San Francisco, expanding to New York City and building a publishing empire that would span the globe, William Randolph Hearst decided to build his dream home in San Luis Obispo County. Makes perfect sense to any local. While he was jet setting (ok, prop plane setting) around the world, building newspapers in the heyday of print or enjoying a horseback ride near San Simeon, the man’s only boundaries were set by his checkbook, which also knew no bounds. There is a reason it’s not called Hearst Cottage. Hearst’s “simple summer home” comes fully loaded with golden swimming pools, guest houses and massive gardens overlooking expansive ranchlands and a rugged coastline. Where else can you get photo-bombed by a resident zebra.

Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument is 43 miles north of San Luis Obispo via Highway 1. Open daily except New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Tours leave at regular intervals from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Spring and fall also feature an evening tour that allows guests to experience the castle as one of Hearst’s guests would have. During the winter holidays, the castle and its docents are decked out for the season.

Recently featured on National Geographic’s Strange Planet travel trivia, Bubblegum Alley is one of San Luis Obispo’s funkiest attractions. Thousands of pieces of chewed gum line a 70-foot-long alley wall just off Higuera Street, between Garden and Broad streets.

Every Thursday evening for the past 30 years, San Luis Obispo has converted Higuera Street into what is now the second largest farmers’ market in the western United States. Six blocks are closed to host this street party featuring farm-fresh produce, flowers, down-home barbecues, handmade creations and engaging entertainers.

From 6-9 p.m., locals and visitors walk the street getting their weeks’ worth of produce, eating a meal that was flame-kissed just moments earlier and enjoying some family-friendly entertainment all in one spot. Most downtown merchants join in the festivities by extending their hours for evening visitors.

Each of the markets in the county is unique in its own right. Avila Beach and Morro Bay offer seafood in abundance. Whether you’re looking for it fresh off the boat or hot off the grill, it’s available on the waterfront. Templeton is known as the chef’s market. This is where locals sneak a peek at what their favorite chefs are picking up and get a preview of the menu for the week ahead. The San Luis Obispo weekend markets are a great place to chat up the farmers and learn from the growers themselves what the best cooking tips are for the seasonal produce. So no matter what day you arrive, you are guaranteed to find the freshest foods at one of our many markets and restaurants.

Click the More for a list of all the Farmers Markets in San Luis Obispo County

The historic Point San Luis Lighthouse and Light Station Park, built in 1890, enjoys dramatic vistas of the Pacific Ocean. The Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers offer docent-led interpretive tour to experience a rich history of the beautifully restored Lighthouse, the Hornhouse, and other structures.

Take a classic San Francisco style trolley from Avila Beach to the Lighthouse and step back in time. Tours operate every Wednesday at 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday’s at 12 p.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. Point San Luis offers private group tours, hosts private parties, and weddings. Point San Luis Lighthouse is a National Historical Monument that sits just a few miles outside Avila Beach, California.