California Dreaming: Your Guide to the Central Coast

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California may be one of the most popular states to visit in the US, but the Central Coast is still severely underrated.  Next time you’re California dreaming, let your mind wander over to San Luis Obispo. Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo is a charming oasis of rolling hills, untouched beaches, and world-class vineyards. Fly into the SLO Regional Airport to set off for the ultimate California road trip through SLO County. From the historic city of Paso Robles to the surfer’s mecca of Pismo Beach, the pristine nature of Morro Bay to the laid-back beaches of Cambria, there’s something for every type of traveler. Read on to learn why you should skip SoCal this summer and discover SLO Cal instead.

To Stay

An old lodging sign

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Madonna Inn (San Luis Obispo)

Each of the 110 rooms at the Madonna Inn are individually themed, and the boutique property is the hotelier version of Epcot — whether you wish to stay in Austria or Spain is entirely up to you. The hot pink tennis courts are equally Instagram-worthy, as well.

Alegretto Vineyard Resort (Paso Robles)

Immerse yourself in the lush environs of Paso Robles wine country at the 20-acre, Tuscan-style Allegretto Vineyard Resort. Tour the extensive art collection and embark on a healing journey at the world’s first Sonic Labyrinth. 

White Water (Cambria)

The laid-back ethos of Cambria is reflected in the architecture and ambiance of White Water. A sophisticated seaside property overlooking the majestic and unspoiled Moonstone Beach, the decor is inspired by the local terrain.

Where to Eat

Delectable looking mushroom pasta

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Giuseppe’s Cucina Rustica (San Luis Obispo)

Guiseppe’s Cucina Rustica is a Central Coast staple serving farm-to-fork cuisine in San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach.

Restaurant at Niner Wine Estate (Paso Robles)

The Niner Wine Estate Restaurant serves local ingredients alongside family-owned estate wines on the seasonally-inspired menu in Paso Robles..

Splash Cafe (Pismo Beach)

Splash Cafe has been making a splash in Pismo Beach for decades, and for good reason — order the clam chowder to see what the fuss is about.  

Grassy Bar Oyster Company (Morro Bay)

Grassy Bar is a family-owned oyster bed in Morro Bay, where the estuary meets the salty waters of the Pacific, creating the perfect habitat for these marvelously delicious mollusks. 

Linn’s Fruit Bin (Cambria)

Order the Olallieberry Pie, a local specialty, at Linn’s Fruit Bin in Cambria, which specializes in — you guessed it — fresh fruit, preserves, and jelly.

Where to Drink

Four freinds raising a toast

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Oak and Otter Brewing Co.

SLO Cal may be better known for its wine, but there’s also a thriving craft brewery scene waiting to be discovered — check out the Oak and Otter Brewing Co for a taste of the local hops.

Bang The Drum Brewery

Local brews aren’t the only thing on tap at Bang The Drum Brewery in San Luis Obispo — the bar also offers live music, trivia, and salsa dancing. 

Where to Visit

The Montaña de Oro Bluffs

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Peruse around Downtown SLO

Leave your mark at Bubble Gum Alley, a 70-foot alleyway adorned with more than two million pieces of gum. Visit the historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, catch a film at the Sunset Drive-In movie theatre, and shop the SLO County Farmer’s Market (established in 1978).

Wine tasting 

Though the Central Coast wine region remains under-the-radar at the moment, it’s unlikely to stay this way forlong — particularly when the historic city of Paso Robles offers such scenic vistas and serious vintners as Niner, and Daou. Other wineries to visit include Saucelito Canyon and Claiborne and Churchile in San Luis Obispo.

Hiking

Hike the gorgeous sand dunes, rolling hills, and coastal cliffs of the Central Coast. Montaña de Oro Bluffs is a must-do trek, as is Reservoir Canyon and Bishop's Peak in San Luis Obispo, and Pismo Preserve in Pismo Beach.

Hearst Castle 

A visit to San Luis Obispo is incomplete without a pilgrimage to Hearst Castle, the legendary San Simeon estate that inspired Citizen Kane. 

Beaches 

Drive Highway 1 to California’s most beautiful beaches along the Central Coast. Pismo Beach is a surfers paradise, while Avila Beach is a bastion of small-town charm. Morro Rock Beach in Morro Bay is a wildlife haven (expect an abundance of sea otters), while Cambria’s Moonstone Beach is a secluded paradise overlooking the Pacific.

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