Nestled between the Coast Range, the Pacific Ocean, and Wine Country, San Luis Obispo County is the perfect weekend getaway in California. We spent two days enjoying the beauty, signature attractions, and dining of the region to see why it’s been called “America’s happiest city”. From the breathtaking landscape to the diverse activities, we fell in love with San Luis Obispo County.
We checked in to La Cuesta Inn upon arrival. It’s a boutique hotel in the city offering a unique combination of comfort, convenience, and hospitality. It was the little touches at the hotel that really made me feel like I was home. They had fresh cookies and drinks at the front desk along with cozy seating. The rooms offered toothbrushes, razors, specialty soaps, and make-up removers. A local bottle of wine was waiting for me and I drank it with my friend on the cute patio. I felt like I was in my backyard. In the evening, we enjoyed the free DVDs offered in the lobby. There were a lot of choices for all interests. (Ok, maybe not all interests.) Athena and I chose a family-friendly movie about a dog and cuddled up in bed to watch it. In the morning, the complimentary breakfast really hit the spot. There were breads, fruit, drinks, and spreads. It really did feel like I was waking up in my own home and grabbing a bite to eat before hitting the road.
There are tons of dining options in San Luis Obispo but I was told I couldn’t leave without trying Old San Luis BBQ. It’s a “hole-in-the-wall” restaurant with the best BBQ in town. I ordered the Chicken Sandwich and a Hand-Scooped Milkshake. The portions are huge and you could easily share but I quickly learned what makes everyone so happy. It was delicious. I didn’t think you could get good BBQ like this on the west coast. I felt like I was back in North Carolina at our favorite local shop. We dined on family-style benches and rustic wooden tables. It was the atmosphere that I missed the most from North Carolina and it was recreated here.
We were already downtown and another signature attraction was just around the corner. Recently featured on National Geographic’s Strange Planet travel trivia, Bubblegum Alley is one of the funkiest attractions in San Luis Obispo. Thousands of pieces of chewed gum line a 70-foot-long alley wall just off Higuera Street, between Garden and Broad streets.
That guilty look on Athena’s face is because she swallowed her chewing gum before she could stick it on the wall at Bubble Gum Alley. Round two was more successful.
Pretty to look at,
not nice to touch,
but in your belly is too much.
My favorite stop in San Luis Obispo County is Hearst Castle. William Randolph Hearst’s publishing empire spans the globe and his dream home spans the mountains in San Luis Obispo County. Hearst’s “simple summer home” includes golden swimming pools, guest houses, and massive gardens overlooking expansive ranch lands and a rugged coastline.
On our tour of Hearst Castle, we experienced what it was like to be a guest of W. R. Hearst. We explored his personal collection of rare and ancient works of art, encountered the majesty and beauty of this historical treasure first-hand, and envisioned jumping in the massive pool. It took a lot of convincing to keep Athena from jumping in. What else would a pool be doing there if it wasn’t for us to swim? While I loved her rational, I figured our visit would be short lived if we starting swimming in the pool. I don’t imagine it was heated either so we had a few reasons not to take the leap.
Only a few minutes up the street from Hearst Castle is yet another really cool find. Elephant seals can be seen at a rookery near the Piedras Blancas Light Station in San Simeon. More than 7,000 elephant seals live at the rookery, which is open daily. Bluffs to the north and south of the parking lot are the recommended vistas for viewing the seals, but you can see them as you’re driving along the highway as well. It seems like you’d have to go someone like South Georgia to find so many elephant seals yet they were right here in my own state. California really does have everything.
With San Luis Obispo County as the starting point, the opportunities were endless. We were just getting going when we had to leave. On our next stop, we want to indulge in the wine culture and get in a few hikes. There aren’t enough hours in the day in this state. With constant sun, great dining, an abundance of nature and adventure, and the most spectacular scenery, we’re all happy here.