That listful feeling: Staff tips on things to do on the Central Coast



Breathe a little air

Welcome to the hiking capital of the world. Well, maybe it’s not, but there are so many trails that head into the hills from SLO Town that it certainly feels like the opportunity to get out in nature couldn’t be better anywhere else. 

The 2.8-mile out and back Bishop Peak makes New Times Best Of list year after year, and the number of people who head up that boulder- and oak-covered morro prove it. As do the recently updated rules and fines SLO City Council passed this year—for good reason, too. It seems like every hiker that needs to be rescued, needs said help from Bishop Peak. Don’t get drunk before you hike, stay on the marked trails, and you should be fine. 

Reservoir Canyon is a 4.9-mile out and back trail that takes hikers up past a tree-swing to a summit pathway that traverses the top of the ridgeline looking south and west over the city of SLO. Want to miss the crowds? Brave that hangover: Get up early.

The Irish Hills on the southern edge of SLO have plenty of trail options. The Prefumo Canyon trailhead is a great place to take off from, with a 3.15-mile out and back hike to a point that, on a clear day, shows off Morro Rock. 

And then, there’s always Cerro San Luis, more commonly known as Madonna. The main trail starts a short walk from SLO’s downtown, and a trip to the summit is approximately 4 miles out
and back.

Looking for something a little shorter? Head for El Chorro Regional Park and make your way to Eagle Rock. You can take the short route, a 1.4-mile round trip hike, or the long route through
a miniature oak forest, which is an approximately
2 to 2.5-mile loop.

And guess what? All these hikes are dog friendly! Just don’t screw it up for everybody else. Keep your dog on a leash or under strict voice command and clean up that poop. We don’t want any renegades giving the city or county an excuse to ban our four-legged friends.

Need to get out of SLO? Head north to Big Sur and stop along the way. There are plenty of signed hiking trailheads with pullouts along Highway 1.

—Camillia Lanham

The price is right: A guide to free, low cost, and DIY resources in SLO

Galleries and cafés open their doors to art enthusiasts the first Friday of every month for Art After Dark. Walk or bike from exhibit to exhibit and check out local art at local businesses. Happens in downtown SLO from 6 to 9 p.m., and it’s free!  

Living the good life in SLO means riding a bike. What’s that? You don’t have a bike? Quick! Get to the Bike Kitchen! Get a used bike for cheap, build your own bike from used parts, or fix your existing ride. Use the bike shop all day for a $5 to $10 donation. It’s located at 860 Pacific St., right on the bike boulevard. 

Join the monthly roving bike party called Bike Happening. It’s a 15-year-old tradition in which locals don costumes, decorate their bikes, make some noise, and parade through town on bikes. Do obey all traffic laws, wear lights, and be nice to cars. Don’t call it bike night (every night is bike night). Meets at 9:30 p.m., first Thursday of every month at Mission Plaza. 

Get creative, meet creative people, and learn how to use awesome tools—welders, saws, laser-cutters and more—at SLO MakerSpace, located at 3988 Short St. (behind Trader Joe’s). 

Kylie Mendonca

Have your parents treat you ... to a fancy, delicious dinner

Novo at 726 Higuera St. is amid the hustle and bustle of downtown SLO, offering seasonal fare in a hip setting. If you’re looking for your folks to foot the bill, be sure to use fun foodie terms like “California chic,” and “worldly cuisine” to lure them in.

Did you ever want to be a cowboy when you grew up? If you did (and even if you didn’t) make your parents take you to The Range at 22317 El Camino Real in the small town of Santa Margarita. This rustic restaurant’s got great cuts of meat (including elk) and country music on the sound system. Yee Haw! 

Ember at 1200 E. Grand Ave. in Arroyo Grande, dishes up fancy food cooked in a rustic style (i.e. over hot coals in a wood-fired oven). The menu changes monthly, so there’s always a reason to bring your parents back to eat (and pay for) a great meal over and over again.

Watch the waves pound the cliffs from The Ventana Grill’s dining room, located at 2575 Price St. in Pismo Beach. The grill has Latin-inspired food and a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. The breathtaking view is so stunning your parents won’t even notice you nudging the check over to their side of the table when the meal’s over. 

Tell your parents that the word “Gaucho” means “cowboy” before you take them to the Fish Gaucho, a California/Mexican style restaurant at 1244 Park St. in Paso Robles. It will show them you’ve learned something in college and that those years of work and worry over you weren’t a complete waste. They’ll be so grateful, they’ll surely foot the bill. 

—Chris McGuinness

Coffee is love; coffee is life

Linnaea’s is the OG SLO coffee shop. It’s got healthy vegan and vegetarian food, famous waffles, and a wonderful back patio. It has lots of tables, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll get any work done. Linnaea’s is for social butterflies at 1110 Garden St. 

Check out the best art in SLO while sipping coffee with local movers and shakers at Steynberg. It’s got a light food menu, a good selection of tea, and lots of tables to work or meet with a work-minded group at 1531 Monterey St.

Want an amazing meal with your cup of brew? Sally Loo’s has fresh, local food that will rock your world. Oh, and the coffee’s good, too. Just don’t try to work there during meal times or weekends, because the spot at 1804 Osos St. is a zoo.

Bello Mundo makes the world better one cup at a time. This place offers great coffee with a conscience and a mission to build community. So, put down the computer and meet your neighbor at 980 Monterey St.

At Kreuzberg coffee is cool, but beer is better. This café has both. Decent food, lots of nooks and crannies to explore and study in. Occasional rock shows and hip baristas. If I were cooler, I might hang out at 685 Higuera St.

Scout has world-class coffee, awesome milkshakes, sticky-buns, and a beautifully designed shop. Not a great place to work, but a great place to sip a cappuccino, look sophisticated, and be seen through windows that open onto the sidewalk at 1130 Garden St.

—Kylie Mendonca

Get out of your comfort zone, get out of SLO

The Vista Lago Adventure Park located about 40 minutes south of SLO Near Lopez Lake is sure to bring out the high-flying daredevil in you. The park features four zips lines—some as high as 40 feet—and four different “challenge” rope and obstacle courses of varying difficulty.

Stand-up paddleboarding is all the fun of kayaking without the comfort of sitting down! And what better place to take up a paddle and bask in the beautiful ocean scenery than Morro Bay, about 13 miles northwest of SLO? There are several rental companies in town, and prices vary.

Looking for a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of campus? Take advantage of the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa located near the naturally occurring mineral hot springs in Avila Beach.

Off-road enthusiasts from all over the country come out to Oceano Dunes SVRA, a 5.5-mile stretch of sandy beach, which is the only California State Park that allows vehicle driving on the beach. The dunes are located 3 miles south of Pismo Beach.

Sick of staring at your tiny dorm room? Why not take in the ostentatious glitz and glamour of late newspaper mogul and all-around rich dude William Randolph Hearst’s mansion in San Simeon. There are multiple tours of the massive estate that is Hearst Castle to enjoy, if you don’t mind making the hour-long drive north from SLO. 

Chris McGuinness

Got culture?

Stretch out that pinky finger and prepare to “open your mind.” SLO has a pretty good art scene, and also has some good music rolling through—sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing where to look. Check out the arts section in New Times for weekly schedules and previews.

Two long-time locally owned cafés feature both live music and art, and have food and drink. Linnaea’s Café is a bit quainter and has a nice garden patio in the back, while Steynberg Gallery has a little more space to wiggle.

Kreuzberg, CA is somewhat newer to the scene. It isn’t just a coffee shop; they also have a lounge off to the side, which hosts music, art, and stays open a bit later to serve you great food and drinks. So head over there and get some drinks after you leech off their Internet for five hours.

To go more traditional, head up to the SLOMA, art speak for San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. They have some really cool showings, host events, and occasionally have music. They’ll be hosting the reception for our Winning Images photo contest in November.

If you want something less traditional and more off-the-wall, make your way out to Left Field Gallery. Pick up the Sept. 17 New Times to read more about them in our annual Autumn Arts issue.

—Jono Kinkade

Food and drink 

There are great deals and better drinks out there waiting for you. We realize many of you aren’t 21, yet, so we thought we’d throw in a few places that have good, cheap food, too. We also realize that you newbie 21-year-olds might feel better in the morning if you remembered to actually eat something.

Black Sheep Bar & Grill is a happy hour standard. Also check out Buffalo, their sister establishment around the corner.

Marston’s Bar & Grill has killer tacos on Tuesdays, and good grub deals on other weekday evenings.

Bull’s Tavern has a great happy hour, strong drinks, and on Wednesdays they do two-for-ones, so you can double fist to your heart’s content and won’t be the only one doing it anymore!

If you feel like getting a little bit fancier—like Iggy Azalea, ya’ll—and want to eat and drink something of a finer persuasion, go right across the street to Luna Red for its all day happy hour on Thursday, where drinks and a limited bar menu are available for $5—or, slurp down $1 oysters on Wednesdays.

Want to get a bit more classic, without feeling the pain of inflation? Sidecar offers great deals on their cutting-edge cocktails during a late afternoon/early evening happy hour. 

—Jono Kinkade

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