40-Loved Hours up California’s Central Coast

40-Loved Hours up California’s Central Coast

Getting out of Dodge (aka LA) is always good for the mind and body. Similar to New York City, you can road trip to so many amazing spots within a three or four hour drive out of LA. It’s summertime and we wanted to stay cool. So, this past weekend, we packed up our rackets, and headed up the Central California Coastline to San Luis Obisbo, lovingly referred to as SLO. 

Depending on what time you leave (we left on Thursday, late morning), SLO is about a 4-hour drive north of the City of Angels. It may take you shorter as I drive like a grandpa...that is, your favorite grandpa. Unlike some other LA road trip destinations, like a drive out to Big Bear, this one felt relatively easy, mostly staying on the 101 the whole time and without any crazy traffic, windy roads or those switchback thingies.


Our First Stops:

 A couple of hours in, our bellies were calling, and we made a pit stop in the northern end of Santa Barbara. The google gods directed us to a random corporate park, where an awesome deli, aptly named Three Pickles (threepickles.com) stands. We knew we were in good company when we were greeted by a bandana-wearing girl who reminded us of Penny Lane from “Almost Famous,” and all the Grateful Dead memorabilia hanging on the walls throughout. The turkey and eggplant sandwiches absolutely hit the spot, and we were ready to keep on truckin’ up the coastline. 


Our next stop, Pismo Beach. Neither of us had ever been to Pismo/Pismo Beach. We got off the 101, and just followed signs to the state beaches. We rolled down the windows and could immediately feel the cool and breezy ocean air seep in. As we approached the entry to the beach and paid the $5 fee, we realized there was no parking lot. We followed the pick-up truck in front of us, and drove right onto the sand. A first in our lifetimes and we must tell you, that was pretty friggn’ cool. Our initial idea of jumping in the water and laying out on the sand for a couple hours was thwarted by the cooler temps and thick marine layer above us. So we put on our hoodies, and took a nice long walk up to the Pismo Beach Pier. We were blown away by the natural beauty of the beach, the giant jellyfish and driftwood plopped up along the coastline, and the human-sized pelicans flying above us, seeking out their next meal (hopefully not us!).


Both the pier and Downtown Pismo Beach are also natural beauties. Natural in that untouched, nostalgic 1950’s era, kind of way. We loved seeing the Airstreams on the pier, as well as all the old restaurant and surf shop signs. Right away, we could tell this is one of California’s very cool and a little less known, beach towns.


Arriving in SLO

We were energized from the brisk walk and ready to hit our final destination- SLO. As we took the 15-20 minute drive east towards SLO, the weather immediately changed and we lucked out with a clear blue California sky and 75 degree temps. As it wasThursday and not quite the weekend yet, we seamlessly checked into our hotel- The Kinney, in about 3 minutes, a record time worth noting. https://www.thekinneyslo.com/ 


Jazminn, the amazingly sweet and local-to-SLO woman who checked us in, told us we should definitely check out the Farmer’s Market downtown that evening. So, we got all settled in, took a 20-minute power nap and headed to the Farmer’s Market.


SLO Nights:

We could have walked downtown, but drove about a mile down Monterey Street to the Farmers Market. Downtown SLO was bustling and it felt like the entire city was there. https://downtownslo.com/farmers-market 

 We couldn’t quite decide what we wanted from all the great vendors so decided to just keep walking, take in all the scenery and build up our appetites for dinner at a restaurant. SLO is a slice of Americana. While walking around, you immediately take in the town’s energy and the feeling that the locals really care about this place. It shows in people’s smiling, happy faces, the clean streets and gorgeous buildings that house the well kept restaurants and shops. This is a special place, and in a very down-to-earth, non-pretentious kind of way.  



We noticed the restaurant, Brasserie SLO, located at the base of the Hotel Cerro https://www.hotelcerro.com/slo-restaurants/brasserie-slo/, and recalled one of our friends telling us to eat there. We had a very relaxing and great meal, sharing some delicious roasted figs, lemon thyme salmon and the half chicken. 


SLO JOE Mornings:

 It all starts with coffee.  


We walked down Monterey Street to Field Day Coffee: https://www.fielddaycoffee.com/ For starters, it seems like every establishment in SLO has a great physical space. High ceilings, good light, solid outdoor seating and easy parking. Field Day has it all, with these really cool modern day garage doors that create a totally open space. Their shop is really cute, with a great selection of apparel, stationary, totes and other gift items. Oh, and the coffee...Super fresh, delicious and served with a smile. We enjoyed just sitting out front, sipping our morning Joe, and taking in a SLO Friday morning.


SLO Tennis:

From there, we drove about ten minutes to Sinsheimer Park, and what an awesome park it is. https://www.slocity.org/Home/Components/FacilityDirectory/FacilityDirectory/18/1273 

There is a great town pool there, gorgeous ball fields, and a very cool sand slide and zipline for the kiddies. It was late morning (around 10:30-11) and 5 out of the 6 tennis courts were full. We jumped on court 2, tied up our laces and started to swing away. The courts are in great condition and would say they play pretty similarly to most of the public courts in LA. We loved the colors too!


 We met a great instructor, Julian Arnold, on the court next to us. Julian, who is local to SLO, but a former UCLA Bruin tennis star. He gave us some really good pointers to hit the ball sooner. If you guys are heading up to SLO and looking for a great lesson, hit up Julian at julianarnolduclatennis@yahoo.com  


Post Tennis Lunch in Morro Bay

 After tennis, we took a drive back to the coast, this time to Morro Bay. This coastal town is another throwback, lined with old motels and a fun strip of touristy shops and restaurants. The main attraction, the Morro Rock, which is actually a volcanic plug, is an amazing site. We were blown away at the sheer size of the rock and the big birds flying above us. Morro Bay is a fishing town through and through, so we headed for lunch...and got some poke bowls from Giovani’s Fish Market & Galley: https://www.giosfish.com/restaurants. We are pretty sure they didn’t catch the salmon out there, but the bowls were tasty and plentiful, and probably could have shared one.


After exploring Morro Bay, we drove back to SLO. We gave ourselves a tour of Cal-Poly State University, which was around the corner from our hotel. The campus is absolutely gorgeous, with modern glass buildings. We didn’t play tennis there, and don’t believe the courts are open to the public. They are gorgeous though and you can check them out here. https://gopoly.com/facilities/mustang-tennis-complex/10 

For dinner, we went back downtown and headed to famed Firestone Grill. https://www.firestonegrill.com/ The place was bustling, inside and out. It’s a super casual place where you order online and they call your number when it’s ready. The line moved quickly, and we ordered a tri-tip and a pulled pork sandwich, with some french fries. Both were ridiculously tasty and so cheap (our total bill was around $30). It was fun to sit outside, taking in another SLO night around nice people and a lot of college-aged kids. 


Post dinner, we walked around downtown and over the creek we didn’t notice the night before. The creek kind of reminded us of Downtown Austin. We heard music coming from the other side of the creek, so we followed it and saw there was a band playing. We caught the tail end of the music and then kept on walking. A really great store caught both of our eyes at the same time-Junkgirls: https://junkgirls.com/ Neither of us had ever been to a store quite like this one. It was part antique store, part new stuff that looked old and all just very cool and interesting. We have been meaning to practice our wood games, so we bought these really amazing green Wilson woodies. Thank you Junkgirls!

Our final stop of the night was for ice cream, next door from Junkgirls, at McConnell’s: https://mcconnells.com/pages/find-us#shops. McConnelles is a Central Coast mainstay with roots in Santa Barbara. We got the peanut butter, chocolate and banana flavor which literally are my favorite flavors combined.


SLO Saturdays

It was our last few hours in SLO. We decided to check out another coffee spot this time, also on Monterey Street, called Skippers Brew. We followed that by heading to the other side of the parking lot over to Hoagies for a breakfast burrito bigger than our tennis racket heads. https://www.skippersbrew.com/ followed by sharing a giant sized breakfast burrito next door at Hoagies: https://hoagiesca.com/ . Both absolutely hit the spot and we were ready to play some more tennis. We headed back to the park and lucked out by jumping right on a court again. Our tennis games were feeling good, taking in Julian’s advice on hitting the ball a little sooner.

SLO is an awesome town and we would highly recommend checking it out. You might not want to come back. Like most great places, SLO is all about the good things in life. They take their food, coffee, beer and wine plus all the outdoor activities very seriously here, but again, not in a pretentious way. It’s just normal up there. It is really a special place to live, go to college or just visit for a couple of days. We will be sure to be back soon.