San Luis Obispo??
May 25, 2010 12:37 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite experiences in or around San Luis Obispo, CA?

I will be there soon, for a month. Looking for places, eats, etc that might even surprise a local. I'd like to surprise a special woman who lives there with something(s) which might surprise even her.

I just recently retired and live on the Idaho/British Columbia border in a log cabin. Thus, almost everything will intrigue/astonish me.

We are both in our early 60's. Pretty fit, but will have no bicycles, etc. We are both cerebral and enjoy all types of music and cultural stuff. We both have expansive palates, but have limited $$. I wouldn't mind an expensive dinner (casual) or two, but would love to eat "streetfood." All the streetfood here still has their legs attached.

We both gravitate toward the novel, the weird, the breathtaking. We are not "old farts."

So, given a radius of an hour's drive, where would you go, eat, experience? Thank you in advance.
posted by private_idaho to Travel & Transportation around San Luis Obispo, CA (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Nitt Witt Ridge!
posted by elsietheeel at 12:40 PM on May 25, 2010

Oh, and I suppose the Madonna Inn and Hearst Castle. Although she's probably already been to both if she's local. Lots of wineries in that area too, although that's probably not novel, weird, or breathtaking.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:43 PM on May 25, 2010

Wineries in and around SLO. You can noodle around links from that page to get a bunch more info. The expansive palate mention suggests that you might enjoy some of the (great) wine from this region.
posted by Danf at 12:56 PM on May 25, 2010

There are no shortages of good places to eat near SLO. Here's some of my picks:

Noi's Little Thai - A little tiny restaurant in Baywood Park, about 20 minutes away. Delicious, inexpensive, and hard to find. Barely any seating, so great for takeout. I recommend the curry of the day and the pad thai. Call in 20-30 min in advance. Closed Sundays. (~$10)

Taco de Mexico - (in SLO) My favorite Mexican restaurant in town, and I think the most authentic (obviously still Cali-Mex, but so good). Good portions and generous with the amount of meat in dishes. (~$7)

Big Sky Cafe - (in SLO) Healthy, fresh california-style cooking. Lots of fish and vegetable dishes. Good ingredients. ($10-$20 entrees)

Firestone Grill - (in SLO) The other side of central California cooking. Hearty Tri-tip and pulled pork sandwiches. Great burgers. Busy, sports bar atmosphere (~$10)

I'll add more stuff later, including things to do.
posted by JauntyFedora at 1:00 PM on May 25, 2010

You definitely want to go to Montana De Oro State Park near Los Osos. It's about a 15-20 minute drive out of San Luis Obispo towards the coast. You can just take Los Osos Valley Rd straight there, if I remember correctly. Lots of beautiful hikes to be had there.
posted by Zaximus at 1:04 PM on May 25, 2010

Seconding The Madonna Inn! Especially if you like kitschy outrageous glamor. I've heard they have the best steak dinner in town. Or you could just go have a drink.
posted by tacoma1 at 1:08 PM on May 25, 2010

Okay, this suggestion is two hours, but totally worth it - not only for the destination, but Route 166 is gorgeous; it goes over the Sierra Madre Mountains through the Los Padres National Forest.

Sagebrush Annie's.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:16 PM on May 25, 2010

Response by poster: Very cool! Thank you so much. Keep them coming.

As a point of reference, I have no interest in Hearst Castle or gawking at the rich. I'd rather watch the sea lions.

Ethnic food, music, readings? Indie film houses? Alternative lifestyle gatherings? MeFi meetups?

Thanks again.
posted by private_idaho at 1:47 PM on May 25, 2010

Ragged Point. They told me that You can see whales in season.
posted by notned at 2:00 PM on May 25, 2010

The elephant seals north of San Simeon are pretty fabulous, and the hike at San Simeon park (across hwy1 from the Castle) is breathtaking.

Or, up to Paso Robles and check out Studios On the Park

For (almost) street food, try the tacos al pastor at Los Robles Cafe

For a splurge, dinner at Thomas Hill Organics (reservations essential) or Basque food at 10th Street Cafe in San Miguel.
posted by snowymorninblues at 2:14 PM on May 25, 2010

From my friend:

Good fish and chips at Tognazzini's Dockside Cafe
Rent surfboards from the surfshop on the embarcadero
Avila beach- nice and secluded
Splash Cafe has great clam chowder
Check and see if there's an old movie playing at the Freemont
Best place for sushi in town is Yanagi
Madonna Inn
posted by emilyd22222 at 2:49 PM on May 25, 2010

As far as entertainment goes:

The Palm Theatre is in town playing 3 or 4 independent films at a given time. They're the first solar-powered movie theater in the country. Try their popcorn with the nutritional yeast on top.

The Sunset Drive-in is one of the few remaining drive-in movie theaters in the state, although the movies it shows are usually mainstream fare, they are still double features.

The Steynberg gallery has a cafe and the exhibitions and bands playing change fairly often.
posted by JauntyFedora at 3:06 PM on May 25, 2010

Seconding the Montana del Oro state park. If you can camp there, especially in one of the 'environmental' sites, you will not regret it. (Be sure to go to the campground that is south of los osos, not the one north of there.)

Also, I recommend an afternoon in Morrow Bay. Somehow that place seems to have avoided about 20 years of progress and development. In a good way. The thrift stores are almost all great, if a little overpriced.

Avoid Pismo Beach, unless you are into big trucks and atv's.
posted by palacewalls at 3:18 PM on May 25, 2010

I used to visit Pismo Beach (about 15 minutes south of SLO) about once every school quarter to get clam chowder in a breadbowl at Splash Cafe back in college. I also really enjoyed walking up and down the pier there. Beautiful and serene town.
posted by liquoredonlife at 3:21 PM on May 25, 2010

I haven't lived in SLO for over a decade, so I may be out-of-date, but my formative years were spent there.

Thursday's Farmer's Market will probably amuse you, not so much her. A place for street-food, if it hasn't changed.
The Palm Theatre is great for indie & foreign films.
Linnaea's Café used to have music and readings. It was very bohemian, but I gather it's calmed down a bit since. The desserts are great.
Avila Beach is nice, and Sycamore Hot Springs is a great place for a soak.
I'll second Big Sky for a nice meal. I love that place.
Kayaking in the Morro Bay estuary is nice, Montaña de Oro is right around the corner. (relatively)
Hike the Salmon Creek Trail up Highway 1.

I will politely keep my opinions about the Madonna Inn and the family that spawned it to myself.
posted by lekvar at 6:42 PM on May 25, 2010

I would make sure to see the butterflies.
Pismo State Beach is one of the largest monarch groves in the United States.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:45 PM on May 25, 2010

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