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Where to Shop, Eat, and Play in San Luis Obispo, America's Happiest City

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Here in Cali, we get daily reminders of how lucky we are to be living in the Golden State, from waking up to 80+ degree weather to discovering secret vintage stores to indulging in late-night taco trucks. But a quick trip to nearby San Luis Obispo has given us a whole new reason to love the best coast.

Adjacent to the ocean (Avila Beach) and lush canyons, and smack dab in the middle of Central Coast Wine Country, this smallish college town (home to Cal Poly) has the best of all worlds, making it an ideal spot for a weekend getaway from the big city. Even the three-hour trip North on the 101 is chock-full of California's greatest hits: ocean views, wild poppy fields, and vineyards.

After a recent weekend of wine sipping, sun soaking, and shop hopping, we thought it only fair to share with you some of the best attractions of SLO, a city that Oprah calls one of the country's happiest.

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1. Madonna Inn

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100 Madonna Road
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
(805) 543-3000
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This sprawling hotel compound is notorious for its kitsch factor: outlandishly decorated theme rooms, rock waterfall urinals, and pink (owner Phyllis’ favorite color) everything including walls, chairs, tennis courts, and even the sugar for your morning coffee. Beyond the extreme aesthetic opportunities (photo shoot material abound!), the hotel has practically everything you need for a great vacation including a glorious infinity pool, horseback riding, bike riding, a formal dining area as well as a cute coffee shop where you can pick up a slice of their signature pink champagne cake. (And then there are the start of the art toilets the hotel recently put in...)

2. Ruby Rose

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1335 Walker St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 545-7964
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For a vintage shop so stocked to the gills with goodies, Ruby Rose is perfectly edited. The cozy boutique features true vintage by way of sixties/seventies era home décor items and perfectly weathered boots alongside used contemporary clothing and accessories with vintage appeal. This is the perfect spot to find that breezy, boho, white linen dress you’ve been searching for and a funky turquoise ring to boot.

3. Left Field

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1242 Monterey Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 542-9633
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More is more at Ruby Rose’s Monterey Street neighbor Left Field, a shop specializing and greenery like indoor plants, succulents, and air plants and quirky goodies for your home. We ogled the bevy of geodes and snapped up ceramics by local artist Sara Schultz. This place is a colorful haven for anyone looking to jazz up practically any indoor or outdoor space.

4. Sunset Drive-In Theater

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255 Elks Ln
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 544-4475
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Flashback to the fifties with this old school drive-in movie theater where locals and visitors alike get their double-feature fix. Sunday mornings the space transitions into a swap meet where for a measly $1 ticket fee, you can score used and vintage treasures like the wayfarer sunnies and studded moto jacket we were lucky enough to spot.

5. Granada Hotel & Bistro

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1126 Morro St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 544-9100
Visit Website
Smack dab in the heart of SLO’s downtown, this boutique hotel and bistro has a somewhat masculine elegance with its exposed brick, iron details, and lush textiles. Spend a night or two in one of the romantic, loft-style rooms or just pop into the bar for a glass of locally sourced red wine red or a classic cocktail in the handsome bar.

6. Scout Coffee Co

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1130 Garden St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 439-2175
Visit Website
Husband-and-wife owners Jon and Sara Peterson have a coffee pedigree that includes time spent doing marketing/sales with Verve Coffee Roasters. Their passion for brew shows in their sunny shop where they feature beans by SLO’s own HoneyCo Roasters, sparking Pear Green Tea for the sweltering days, tasty baked treats (including an infamous almond croissant with blackberry filling), and well-edited merch. Cute college co-ed baristas never hurt either.

7. Avila Beach

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404 Front St
Avila Beach, CA 93424
(805) 550-3347
Visit Website
Just a hop, skip, and jump away from SLO’s main drag, wiggle your toes in white sand, watch epic sunsets, and enjoy a classic seafood dinner on the pier. Avila is a quintessential California beach town complete with quaint shops decorating the boardwalk and some serious sea lion watching.

8. Peloton Cellars

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470 Front Street
Avila Beach, CA 93424
(805) 720-5226
Visit Website
In California’s Central Coast, there is no shortage of quality wine. Tasting rooms, wineries, and vineyards are practically around every corner which makes choosing just one a nearly impossible task. To kill a few birds with one stone, stop by Peloton’s sweet little tasting room when you make a visit to Avila Beach. Winemaker Bill Kesselring is an avid cyclist, and his love of bicycles is evident throughout the shop (even the label!). Staff is super friendly and informative, guiding you through a tasting that for us included a butterscotch-y Chardonnay and a smoky, spicy Syrah. Let this be your pre-sunset watching spot for a truly memorable beach experience!

9. Fanny Wrappers

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799 Higuera St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 543-0185
Visit Website
Sure the mannequins here look like they are about ready to turn into 80’s era Kim Cattrall, but this hilariously-named lingerie boutique is totally up to date with all your unmentionables needs. Classically sexy brands like Natori and Wacoal are alongside funky, So Cal brand Private Arts. Price points and sizes both have impressively wide ranges here and let’s just say Fanny Wrappers doesn’t stop at apparel for all your, er, bedroom needs.

1. Madonna Inn

100 Madonna Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
This sprawling hotel compound is notorious for its kitsch factor: outlandishly decorated theme rooms, rock waterfall urinals, and pink (owner Phyllis’ favorite color) everything including walls, chairs, tennis courts, and even the sugar for your morning coffee. Beyond the extreme aesthetic opportunities (photo shoot material abound!), the hotel has practically everything you need for a great vacation including a glorious infinity pool, horseback riding, bike riding, a formal dining area as well as a cute coffee shop where you can pick up a slice of their signature pink champagne cake. (And then there are the start of the art toilets the hotel recently put in...)
100 Madonna Road
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405

2. Ruby Rose

1335 Walker St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
For a vintage shop so stocked to the gills with goodies, Ruby Rose is perfectly edited. The cozy boutique features true vintage by way of sixties/seventies era home décor items and perfectly weathered boots alongside used contemporary clothing and accessories with vintage appeal. This is the perfect spot to find that breezy, boho, white linen dress you’ve been searching for and a funky turquoise ring to boot.
1335 Walker St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

3. Left Field

1242 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
More is more at Ruby Rose’s Monterey Street neighbor Left Field, a shop specializing and greenery like indoor plants, succulents, and air plants and quirky goodies for your home. We ogled the bevy of geodes and snapped up ceramics by local artist Sara Schultz. This place is a colorful haven for anyone looking to jazz up practically any indoor or outdoor space.
1242 Monterey Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

4. Sunset Drive-In Theater

255 Elks Ln, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Flashback to the fifties with this old school drive-in movie theater where locals and visitors alike get their double-feature fix. Sunday mornings the space transitions into a swap meet where for a measly $1 ticket fee, you can score used and vintage treasures like the wayfarer sunnies and studded moto jacket we were lucky enough to spot.
255 Elks Ln
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

5. Granada Hotel & Bistro

1126 Morro St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Smack dab in the heart of SLO’s downtown, this boutique hotel and bistro has a somewhat masculine elegance with its exposed brick, iron details, and lush textiles. Spend a night or two in one of the romantic, loft-style rooms or just pop into the bar for a glass of locally sourced red wine red or a classic cocktail in the handsome bar.
1126 Morro St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

6. Scout Coffee Co

1130 Garden St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Husband-and-wife owners Jon and Sara Peterson have a coffee pedigree that includes time spent doing marketing/sales with Verve Coffee Roasters. Their passion for brew shows in their sunny shop where they feature beans by SLO’s own HoneyCo Roasters, sparking Pear Green Tea for the sweltering days, tasty baked treats (including an infamous almond croissant with blackberry filling), and well-edited merch. Cute college co-ed baristas never hurt either.
1130 Garden St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

7. Avila Beach

404 Front St, Avila Beach, CA 93424
Just a hop, skip, and jump away from SLO’s main drag, wiggle your toes in white sand, watch epic sunsets, and enjoy a classic seafood dinner on the pier. Avila is a quintessential California beach town complete with quaint shops decorating the boardwalk and some serious sea lion watching.
404 Front St
Avila Beach, CA 93424

8. Peloton Cellars

470 Front Street, Avila Beach, CA 93424
In California’s Central Coast, there is no shortage of quality wine. Tasting rooms, wineries, and vineyards are practically around every corner which makes choosing just one a nearly impossible task. To kill a few birds with one stone, stop by Peloton’s sweet little tasting room when you make a visit to Avila Beach. Winemaker Bill Kesselring is an avid cyclist, and his love of bicycles is evident throughout the shop (even the label!). Staff is super friendly and informative, guiding you through a tasting that for us included a butterscotch-y Chardonnay and a smoky, spicy Syrah. Let this be your pre-sunset watching spot for a truly memorable beach experience!
470 Front Street
Avila Beach, CA 93424

9. Fanny Wrappers

799 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Sure the mannequins here look like they are about ready to turn into 80’s era Kim Cattrall, but this hilariously-named lingerie boutique is totally up to date with all your unmentionables needs. Classically sexy brands like Natori and Wacoal are alongside funky, So Cal brand Private Arts. Price points and sizes both have impressively wide ranges here and let’s just say Fanny Wrappers doesn’t stop at apparel for all your, er, bedroom needs.
799 Higuera St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401