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Introducing San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo (SLO; sun loo-iss obispo), inland from the coast, is a lively yet low-key town with a high quality of life and vibrant community spirit. Many people find its balance of urban pleasures and relaxed rural charm an ideal balance.

Like so many California cities, it grew up around a mission founded in 1772 by Padre Serra, which is still an active parish today. SLO is also home to the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), which is renowned for its ‘learning by doing’ approach to education. Its 17, 000 students inject a healthy dose of hubbub into city streets, pubs and cafés during the school year.

Thursday is a good day to visit SLO, when the famous farmers market (5-9pm) turns Higuera St near Mission Plaza, the main drag, and adjacent lanes into a giant street party. Barbecues belching smoke, strolling families and live music and entertainment make this one of the liveliest evenings you’ll have anywhere in California.

SLO’s reasonably priced accommodations and proximity to beaches, state parks and Hearst Castle (45 miles north on Hwy 1) make it a good Central Coast inland hub. It has long been a favorite stop-off for people making the journey between San Francisco and LA.