San Luis Obispo usually pops up on those “Most Livable Cities” lists that seem to be published by every group in the country. But you don’t have to be a resident to appreciate this California town’s many charms.
San Luis Obispo, or SLO as college students and Central Coast residents call it, is a place where considerable contrasts come together to create a unique environment.
--History: Founded as a mission in 1772, San Luis Obispo grew into a “real” town only after the completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1894. One of the oldest and most interesting buildings in town is the Ah Louis Store, built in 1874. It was headquarters for the Chinese workmen who dug the railroad tunnels north of town.
--Vitality: The core downtown area has undergone substantial revitalization to become one of the best walking, shopping and eating towns not only along the Central Coast but perhaps in all of California. Mission Plaza, a developed wooded creek and urban oasis, sits at the foot of the mission in the heart of downtown.
--Cal Poly San Luis Obispo: In Cal Poly’s case, a college contributes to the appeal of a town rather than detracting from it. There is an excellent performing arts center, on-campus hikes to places like Poly Canyon where architecture students build unusual habitats, and a student-run dairy which sells terrific cheese and ice cream.
Speaking of cheese and ice cream, SLO is also a haven for foodies and wine enthusiasts. Two distinct wine districts are nearby, one surrounding Paso Robles and another between San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande. And every Thursday night is the Farmer’s Market, one of the largest of its type in the state.