48 hours San Luis Obispo

A new tradition: February vacations

My fiancé’ birthday is in January, Valentine’s Day is in February, and my birthday is in March. To celebrate these events, we’ve decided to try to schedule a trip somewhere new.

This year, he planned a getaway in San Luis Obispo, which is halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles in the Central Valley & Central Coast of California. I previously talked about exploring the Central Coast—Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur—in other posts.

Room 203, Wilhelm Tell · Madonna Inn

Madonna Inn

We stayed at the *eccentric* Madonna Inn. The 100+ rooms all have themes. We stayed in Room 203, Wilhelm Tell. The main dining areas are decked out to the nines, and their specialty is a pink champagne cake—a white cake with layers of Bavarian cream and whipped cream, topped with pink frosting curls. It’s fluffy and delicious, and I’d say you can’t stay at the Madonna Inn without trying some. Their main dining area is fun and lively—a live band plays at night, couples dance. The food is good, and portions are huge. We ate there one of the nights, deciding that we wanted the full Madonna Inn experience.

Restaurant Scene

We also explored downtown San Luis Obispo, or SLO. It’s a vibrant university town, full of rowdy 18–22 year olds, and this weekend night was no exception. We ate at Novo Restaurant Lounge, which has a pretty outdoor seating area right on the creek that runs through town.

We had brunch and boozy breakfast cocktails at Sidecar. They had a bright pink/purple beet drink that was named for Dwight Schrute (and Jim Halpert’s impersonation of Dwight) “Bears · Beets · Battlestar Galactica”. It doesn’t appear to be on their menu anymore, but I highly recommend the Bloody Mary.

“Mini Moo: One” on the San Luis Obispo Cow Trail

We explored the art and the Cow Trail in downtown SLO (yes that’s actually a thing) and checked out Bubblegum Alley. Cool to see, but it’s disgusting. From there, we wine tasted our way through the San Luis Obispo wine trail. Our first stop was one of our favorites, Kynsi.

We discovered Kynsi Winery on our first trip to SLO in December 2015. We revisited stopped at a few others in the area both in downtown SLO and in wine country, had dinner at the Madonna Inn, watched people dance to the live band, enjoyed the hot tub with views of the rolling hills in the valley, headed to Hearst Castle on our way out of town at the end of the weekend.

Hearst Castle is definitely worth a visit if you’re driving the coast of California. It’s high up on a hill full of zebras, horseback riding trails, vineyards, gardens, epic landscaping and architecture, and it’s filled with all kinds of beautiful art from around the world. The tour is worth it to learn more about the backstory of the design and construction of the estate. After the tour, we enjoyed flights of beer at Firestone Walker in nearby Paso Robles.


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