Discover San Luis Obispo's relaxed, bohemian sensibility on a weekend getaway

San Luis Obispo is a charming college community on the Central Coast where visitors are encouraged to slow down and enjoy all that the city has to offer: good food, good vibes, sunshine and a healthy lifestyle.

Downtown is the place to be, thick with tree-lined streets, stores, bars and restaurants. There's also the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and a meandering creek ideal for rock hopping. And although chain stores are popping up like whack-a-moles, SLO retains its bohemian flavor and cool village atmosphere despite the construction.

The bed

We wanted to stay at the boutique Granada Hotel & Bistro downtown, which has a chic vibe to go along with its exposed brick walls, wood floors and custom artwork. Unfortunately, it was booked that weekend.

Road trips: where to go and what to know

But no worries — we ended up at our old standby, Quality Suites, five minutes from downtown. If you're looking for value and space, this is a great option.

Every suite has two rooms, one with beds and one with a pullout sofa. Guests get a cooked-to-order breakfast, and the nightly happy hour in the lobby has free beer and wine.

The meal

For one meal, we hit an old favorite, Big Sky Cafe, and had buttermilk fried chicken salads and biscuits.  The next night, we tried Sidecar Cocktail Co., where we shared small plates. We also had great clam chowder at Splash Cafe, a casual fish-centric venue with two SLO locations.

The find

When we weren’t eating, we were checking out places such as Captain Nemo Games & Comics  and Cheap Thrills Records,  which share space in a converted muffler shop.

Both stores have stacks and bins of new and used stock for casual and serious fans: comic books, graphic novels, board games, trading cards, action figures, videos and DVDs at Captain Nemo; and CDs, cassettes, EPs, singles, 7-inch records, 8-track and vinyl music offerings at Cheap Thrills.

Lesson learned

And here's another tip: Don’t jump on the 101 Freeway in a rush to get home. Instead, take the wine trail that starts just outside the city limits and ends in Arroyo Grande.

The trail winds though classic California open space. Some of the better known vintners include Edna Valley and Claiborne & Churchill. Info and map at SLO Wine,

Miles one way from downtown L.A.

About 210


Granada Hotel & Bistro,; Quality Suites,; Big Sky Cafe,; Sidecar,; Splash Cafe,; Captain Nemo Games & Comics,; Cheap Thrills Records,; Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa,

Have an incredible road trip story or a useful tip? Share your memories and suggestions with us in the comments.

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette


June 20, 2016, 7:00 a.m.: This article has been updated throughout.

This article was originally published February 18, 2016 at 12:20 p.m.