Explore CSan Luis Obispo California

Attractions


Attractions & Tours in SLO CAL

Explore some of the best tourist attractions and tours in California right here in San Luis Obispo County where the abundant rich history and natural wonders allow you to go whale watching one day and tour a castle the next. From historic landmarks, family-friendly attractions and museums to adventurous wine tours, interactive farm tours and captivating culture tours, there’s something to satisfy any interest here in SLO CAL. 

Begin your discovery today!

Aquariums and Zoos

Come face-to-face with creatures of all kinds at SLO CAL’s aquarium and zoo. Capture the kids’ attention with a visit to these community treasures that showcase animals of both sea and land.

Perfectly located in Avila Beach, Central Coast Aquarium invites visitors to learn about local marine wildlife. Get up close and personal with purple sea urchins, hermit crabs and sea stars that live in the touch tanks of this educational-based aquarium. Other exhibits feature sharks, a red octopus, jellies and more. Staff and trained volunteers gladly answer questions about the animals and ocean environment.

Just steps from the beach and a playground, the aquarium makes for a great addition to a day in Avila Beach. Pop in when you need a quick break from the surf, and learn a bit about the wonders of the ocean, which happens to be just outside.

In Atascadero, an intimately sized Charles Paddock Zoo welcomes animal lovers of all ages with exhibits that house hundreds of animal species from around the world. With the zoo dedicated to the conservation of local and exotic species, you may just encounter animals you haven’t seen before. The zoo’s rare Malayan tiger is always a favorite, and other animals delight as well, such as red pandas, tortoises and toucans.

Avila Beach

Tucked way into the coastal cove of San Luis Obispo Bay, Avila Beach is a small seaside town with big-time charm. A relaxed escape with multiple beaches and piers, this oasis is your hub for a variety of things to do. Take your time to browse the boutique shops, sip the local vino, and soak in the natural hot springs. Whether from a beach blanket, kayak, trail, or the patio of a waterfront eatery, there might not be a better spot in The Land of SLO CAL to take in the ocean views. And get ready to reach the peak of bliss with beach yoga or spa treatments inspired by the soothing sea waters. 

Venture a short distance away from town to explore the area’s farm roots. Swing by See Canyon, home to U-pick orchards, family-owned farm stands and lush local vineyards. The farm-fresh fare you’ll find at Avila Barn alone is sure to fulfill any foodies’ wildest fantasies. Avila Beach is such a secluded oasis, it’s hard to believe the town is only three miles (4.5 km) off Highway 101, and just down the road a piece from bustling Downtown San Luis Obispo.

Atascadero

Next time you’re up in The Land of SLO CAL heading between Paso Robles and Santa Margarita, try not to blink. Or else you just might miss the little town of Atascadero. What it lacks in size it makes up for in fun and friendliness. Chat up any local, and they’re sure to give a smile and directions to the many parks and hiking trails among the rolling hills dotted with oak trees. And the family-friendly downtown offers all kinds of casual eateries perfect for unwinding and reconnecting with loved ones.

Go ahead, make a day of it. Take the kids to the zoo for visit with a Malayan tiger, pack a picnic for the Sunken Gardens, tour the town’s majestic 1918 City Hall, or sip some world-class wine, cider and craft beer in the tasting rooms. Hit the links, frisbee-style with a round of disc golf, and go for a stroll around pristine Atascadero Lake Park. The options are as wide-open as the gorgeous landscape out in these parts.

Historic Attractions and Museums

Discover the stories of the past with a visit to SLO CAL’s many historic attractions and museums.

For history buffs, SLO CAL is a dream. Two beautifully preserved missions—Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and Mission San Miguel—entice visitors to learn about the early days of California, Spanish missionaries, Native Americans and the intersections of these groups. In Nipomo, the hidden gem of the Dana Adobe engages travelers with its 130 acres of peaceful, preserved land. The adobe, a California Historic Landmark, and its surrounding land showcase the history, heritage and culture of the county’s rancho era.

Both Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo offer a glimpse of the past with well-preserved houses and gardens. In Arroyo Grande, a house and garden displays collections of period clothing, photograph and kitchen items.  Likewise, a house and garden in San Luis Obispo transports guests to the Victorian days with its careful renovation and original furnishings.

San Simeon boasts a unique window into history with the great estate of Hearst Castle. Built by art collector and newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, Hearst Castle features not only a vast collection of primarily European art, but stunning Mediterranean Revival architecture and gardens as well. Every room transfers visitors to a bygone lifestyle.

Several museums emphasize other aspects of history. A museum in Paso Robles focuses on the restoration and preservation of military aircraft, military vehicles and memorabilia. A railroad museum in San Luis Obispo preserves the railroad history of California and the Central Coast, and a small historical museum in Templeton houses local memorabilia and photographs.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

About

A gem among the historic Spanish California missions, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is must-see for history buffs, family vacationers, and California tourists of all kinds. Watch the video to see SLO's charming downtown area, where visitors can choose from a variety of restaurant and shopping establishments. Founded in 1772 and built on its current foundation in 1792, the still active Mission church lies at the center of modern-day downtown San Luis Obispo on a traffic-free block on Palm Street between Chorro Street and Broad Streets. Just outside the Mission lies the open community park and San Luis Creek, an area called Mission Plaza, which faces the bustling shopping and dining district of downtown and hosts many community events such as free summer Concerts in the Plaza. History The fifth California mission founded by Father Junipero Serra, the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was named after Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse, France. The vestibule (added in 1820) and other expansions and restorations have been made to allow for the growing number of parishioners in the Mission. Free daily public tours of the mission at 1:15 Mon-Sat and 2:00 pm Sunday, meeting at front steps of church. No reservations needed. No tours on Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving day. Visit the official website for current schedules and more information: www.missionsanluisobispo.org.

San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum

About

The San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum was founded as a regional, non-profit educational museum for the public benefit. We are preserving the railroad history of California and the Central Coast by collecting, restoring and displaying artifacts, as well as operating historical railroad equipment.

Highway 1 Road Trip

Routinely named one of the world’s best scenic drives, San Luis Obispo County’s 80-mile (128 kilometers) stretch of Highway 1 is all about the landscapes, from the majestic rocky shore off Ragged Point all the way down to the wild, windswept dunes of Oceano.

These views of the prime Pacific coastline are prized, loved and highly photographed by locals and visitors alike. An endless list of activities are available along Highway 1 in SLO CAL. Spot passing whales and dolphins from the shore or aboard a watching tour. Laugh at the seals and otters playing amongst the surf. Marvel at the arts and antiques around every corner inside of Hearst Castle. Learn to surf the waves or paddle through sea caves. No matter what you choose, adventure along the 'Pacific Coast Highway' in SLO CAL for the California road trip of a lifetime!

As you cruise Highway 1 with the salty ocean air filling your car, you'll experience a road trip like no other. And no road trip is complete without a playlist curated just for your SLO CAL adventure. Click here to listen to the playlist now! 

Highway 1 is closed 4mi north of San Simeon to 16.4 miles south of Big Sur due to rockslides. 

For information on road closures, check the CalTrans-District 5 websiteCaltrans map and the Caltrans District 5 Twitter page

Oceano

In The Land of SLO CAL, nestled along the Pacific ridge, is a place where the rubber meets the sand. The Highway 1 coastal community of Oceano is home to the only beach in the whole entire state that you can drive on. Feel free to explore this sandy shore by car, ATV, dune buggy or horseback. Just a short hike away, you’ll discover a wonderland of untouched, undulating golden hills. At a whopping 18 miles long, The Oceano Dunes are the largest dunes complex in California. Is easy more your speed? Then you’ve come to the right beach town. Spend your days in the sun, your afternoons fishing in the surf, and nights huddled around a crackling bonfire. It’s the kind of vacay where your entire family can get on board. Speaking of on board, both grown-ups and kids will enjoy the historic Oceano Train Depot — along with all sorts of entertainment and casual dining options just waiting for you in this seaside town. 

Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area

About

One of several off-highway vehicle (OHV) areas administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) offers visitors recreational activities such as swimming, surfing, surf fishing, camping and hiking.

 



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