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San Luis Obispo

Almost midway between LA and San Francisco, at the junction of Hwys 101 and 1, San Luis Obispo is a popular overnight stop for road-trippers. It also makes a handy base from which to explore coastal towns Pismo Beach, Avila Beach and Morro Bay, as well as Hearst Castle. SLO may not have any big-ticket sights, unless you count the Spanish-Colonial mission and, perhaps, the kooky Madonna Inn. But this refreshingly low-key city does have an enviably high quality of life, helped along by CalPoly university students who inject a healthy dose of hubbub into the streets, bars and cafes. Thursdays are great time to be in SLO – the farmers market turns downtown’s Higuera St into a party with live music and sidewalk BBQs.

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