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San Luis Obispo Things to Do: 59 reviews and 106 photos

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Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo
Cal Poly

California Polytechnic State University is one of America's top universities with superb programs in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, and Civil Engineering that rank among the best in the nation. This beautiful campus at the north edge of San Luis Obispo has about 20,000 students. Cal Poly's Mustangs football team plays in Division 1-AA (now the football championship subdivision) and has a monument at the edge of the stadium in memory of 18 team members who died in a plane crash in 1960. Notable Cal Poly grads include NFL Hall of Famer John Madden, MLB Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, and former astronauts Frederick Sturckow and Robert Gibson.

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Nov 16, 2008
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The Mission - San Luis Obispo

The Mission

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was the fifth of 21 California missions, and was founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1772. The oldest existing buildings were completed in 1794. The mission marks the mid point between the most southerly mission in San Diego and the northernmost mission in Sonoma. Like the other California Missions, this one was secularized after Mexican independence, and it fell into ruin by the 1850s.

From 1769 to 1823 Spain constructed 21 missions along the California Coast between San Diego and Sonoma. El Camino Real--the King's Highway--is a series of roads from San Diego to San Francisco which connected Spain's missions, 3 pueblos (or towns located in LA, San Jose, & Santa Cruz plus a 4th established by Mexico in Sonoma), & 4 presidios (at San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco) along the California coast. The first outpost on this trail--San Diego--was established in 1769 while the final mission at Sonoma was completed in 1823.

The missions were religious centers, run by a priest, for the purpose of converting the native population to Christianity. The presidios' main function was a strategic military fortification and barracks, primarily to prevent competing colonial claims from Britain or Russia along the California Coast. The pueblos were designed as towns to provide food & other support to the military presidios. The last piece of the intricate colonial structure of the Spanish was the ranchos which consisted of some 800 private plots of land land used for farming.

After Mexico took over the Spanish region of California in the 1830s the government secularized the missions and sold off their lands. The next 50 years saw many of the missions fall into ruin. In the late 1800s, the US government returned the mission buildings to the Catholic Church, and most have been rebuilt and restored. I have visited all 12 of the missions from San Luis Obispo north to Sonoma, and each is open and welcoming to the public, most with museums and beautiful gardens. While most of the missions offer free admission, some charge just for the museum and a handful charge visitors to view any part of the interior, even the church.

Address: 782 Monterey Street, SLO, CA

Directions: Downtown at Palm and Chorro, just one block from Higuera

Phone: (805) 543-6850

Website: http://www.missionsanluisobispo.org/

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated May 3, 2008
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Ah Louis Store - San Luis Obispo

Ah Louis Store

SLO's Old Chinatown

One of the first Chinese to settle in San Luis Obispo was a Cantonese man named On Wong, better known as Ah Louis. He arrived in SLO in 1870 after an unsuccessful attempt at gold mining. He opened his shop at 800 Palm Street to serve the growing Chinese community, and the building still stands at this site today. He later organized labor parties to construct key roads and railroad tunnels in the area.

SLO's Chinatown sprang up around Ah Louis' store. Chinese residents called the area "Tong Yun Fow," or Chinese People’s City. The area grew to less than 400 Chinese by 1890, making up some 10 percent of SLO's total population.

Today, besides the Ah Louis building, a chop suey shop called Mee Heng Low, Chong's Candy Store, and a Chinese theater are the only remnants of this community. When the parking garage next to Ah Louis was constructed, students from Cal Poly did an archeology dig at the site, and on display on the back of the first floor are photos, stories, pottery, and foundations of one of the old buildings.

Address: 800 Palm Street

Directions: Located behind the Mission at Palm & Chorro Streets.

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated May 3, 2008
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The main sitting room - San Luis Obispo

The main sitting room

Visit nearby Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle was constructed from 1919 to 1947 by newspaper baron and former congressman William Randolph Hearst. The main structure, called Casa Grande, has over 60,000 square feet and features a huge medieval dining room, a pool designed after Roman baths, and a main sitting room full of European artwork. Guests were welcome at all times, and they could stay at one of the three guest houses, or they could take advantage of the Casa Grande's 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, and 19 sitting rooms, but there was no room service... all guests were expected to take dinner with Mr Hearst and the other guests in the main dining room. While staying at the house, visitors were welcome to use the Neptune Pool, a huge swimming pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean and framed with actual Greek ruins that Hearst imported from Europe, or they could enjoy the huge collection of animals at the world's largest private zoo. The buildings at Hearst Castle were designed by architect Julia Morgan.

Five tours of Hearst Castle are available: the experience tour for an overview, tour two for the upper floors, tour three for the north wing and Casa Del Monte, tour four for the gardens, and the evening tour. Guided tours are $20 to $30 per adult depending on the tour you choose and the season. Though some people recommend skipping the experience tour and moving on to tours two or three for a more in-depth look at the castle, we decided to try this basic tour to get a good background and overview of the facilities. We started at the Neptune Pool, went through Casa Del Mar, then entered Casa Grande to visit the main sitting room, the dining room, some guest rooms, the theater, and the Roman Pool. After the one hour and 45 minute tour, you may watch the National Geographic film on the building of the castle back at the visitors center. I thought this was a great tour for our first visit, especially as we weren't overly familiar with the background of the castle.

Address: 750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, CA 93452-9740

Directions: The visitors center is located just off Highway 1 in San Simeon, about halfway between LA and San Francisco. From the visitors center, the only way to get to the mansion is on a guided tour which has tour buses that take you to the castle.

Phone: 1-800-444-4445

Website: http://www.hearstcastle.com/

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 26, 2008
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The mission gardens are open to the public - San Luis Obispo

The mission gardens are open to the public

Take a short Drive to San Miguel Mission San Miguel Mission Review

Mission San Miguel Arcangel in the town of San Miguel is located bout 35 miles north of San Luis Obispo. Established in 1797, this was the 16th of the 21 Spanish Missions in California that stretch from San Diego to Sonoma. The site was chosen as an almost exact halfway point between Missions San Luis Obispo to the south and Mission San Antonio to the north (now on Fort Hunter Liggett near Jolon). Local natives painted the frescoes on the inside walls of the church, and they exist in their original state, having never been retouched. After the Mexican government secularized the missions in the 1830s, the last priest left San Miguel in 1840, and the mission buildings were used by the local community as a shopping center. The Catholic church regained control of Mission San Miguel in 1878. Today San Miguel is one of just four mission operated by Franciscans, the order that founded the original 21 missions.

The church building and surrounding area are currently closed to visitors. An earthquake in December 2003 created major cracks in the structure, but it has been temporarily shored up while funding is raised for reconstruction. The museum, gift shop, and mission gardens reopened in 2006.

Address: 775 Mission Street, P.O. Box 69, San Miguel, CA

Directions: Just off Hwy 1 in San Miguel. Signs clearly mark the route.

Phone: (805) 467-2131

Website: http://www.missionsanmiguel.org/

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 25, 2008
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Bubblegum Alley - San Luis Obispo
Bubblegum Alley Bubblegum Alley Review

I'm going to go out on a limb and say Bubblegum Alley is one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen. Tens of thousands of pieces of used bubblegum squished onto the walls of this narrow alley make me wonder what kind of germs are meeting and mutating ready to leap onto unsuspecting passersby. Even worse than the gum are some of the other odds and ends hanging on the wall such as condoms...yuck.

Some of the gum is just stuck on the wall at random, while much of it says a short message or even could be considered art. Some people use gum to hang notes or even coins, other write their fraternity letters, and other draw American flags or martini glasses.

Overall, its fascinating but disgusting!

Address: 781 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo

Directions: Located in a small alley off Higuera Street.

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Jan 21, 2008
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San Luis Obispo Creek - San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo Creek

Mission Plaza San Luis Obispo Creek Review

Created in 1968 this two block area in downtown San Luis Obispo provides open space, walking trails, seating areas, fountains, historical buildings, and museums. Besides the Mission, other attractions include the Arts Center, Historical Museum, Children’s Museum, and an old adobe.

We stopped here twice, once at night and once during the day. Our night visit was quiet and peaceful except for a few local hoodlums hanging out down along the creek. Our daytime visit showed us a better view of the historic architecture, and the area was much busier, mostly with people visiting the mission. Also in the daytime there were some kids playing in the creek and a guy with a guitar just strumming away.

Website: http://www.ci.san-luis-obispo.ca.us/missionplaza.asp

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 21, 2008
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