One of the first Chinese to settle in San Luis Obispo was a Cantonese man named On Wong, better known as Ah Louis. He arrived in SLO in 1870 after an unsuccessful attempt at gold mining. He opened his shop at 800 Palm Street to serve the growing Chinese community, and the building still stands at this site today. He later organized labor parties to construct key roads and railroad tunnels in the area.
SLO's Chinatown sprang up around Ah Louis' store. Chinese residents called the area "Tong Yun Fow," or Chinese People’s City. The area grew to less than 400 Chinese by 1890, making up some 10 percent of SLO's total population.
Today, besides the Ah Louis building, a chop suey shop called Mee Heng Low, Chong's Candy Store, and a Chinese theater are the only remnants of this community. When the parking garage next to Ah Louis was constructed, students from Cal Poly did an archeology dig at the site, and on display on the back of the first floor are photos, stories, pottery, and foundations of one of the old buildings.
Hearst Castle was constructed from 1919 to 1947 by newspaper baron and former congressman William Randolph Hearst. The main structure, called Casa Grande, has over 60,000 square feet and features a huge medieval dining room, a pool designed after Roman baths, and a main sitting room full of European artwork. Guests were welcome at all times, and they could stay at one of the three guest houses, or they could take advantage of the Casa Grande's 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, and 19 sitting rooms, but there was no room service... all guests were expected to take dinner with Mr Hearst and the other guests in the main dining room. While staying at the house, visitors were welcome to use the Neptune Pool, a huge swimming pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean and framed with actual Greek ruins that Hearst imported from Europe, or they could enjoy the huge collection of animals at the world's largest private zoo. The buildings at Hearst Castle were designed by architect Julia Morgan.
Five tours of Hearst Castle are available: the experience tour for an overview, tour two for the upper floors, tour three for the north wing and Casa Del Monte, tour four for the gardens, and the evening tour. Guided tours are $20 to $30 per adult depending on the tour you choose and the season. Though some people recommend skipping the experience tour and moving on to tours two or three for a more in-depth look at the castle, we decided to try this basic tour to get a good background and overview of the facilities. We started at the Neptune Pool, went through Casa Del Mar, then entered Casa Grande to visit the main sitting room, the dining room, some guest rooms, the theater, and the Roman Pool. After the one hour and 45 minute tour, you may watch the National Geographic film on the building of the castle back at the visitors center. I thought this was a great tour for our first visit, especially as we weren't overly familiar with the background of the castle.
This is one of the stop we made along the way up to Monterey this past Labor Day Weekend. We thought since it would be interesting to see an apple orchard. Although we did not get to see one, we were able to taste one of the best apple cider ever at this little shop there. They offered apple cider, fresh popcorn, ice cream samples for all their guests. I was surprised that it was free when they offered it to us. They were both good. They offer a gallon of apple cider for sale to take home with you. They also made ice cream the old fashion way with a bucket and ice. They use the watermill as their electric source. The electricity is dependent upon how much water gets cycled through the mill. The host was kind enough to explain to us the mechanism behind it. The hosts were genuinely nice.
Since SLO is halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on Highway 101, it seems like a lot of the smaller bands play through here. However, there aren’t many venues in this town where shows can be held. One popular location, The Dwelling, was shut down a little while ago. Still, there are some okay places to catch a show.
Numbskull Shows (one local promoter) puts on punk-, emo- and indie-type shows—they have been bringing in independent hip-hop groups more frequently in recent years too. Bands that I’ve seen come through in recent years include Pretty Girls Make Graves, si*se, Flogging Molly, Bad Religion, the Hieroglyphics, The Aquabats, The Ataris, etc. Check the Numbskull website for a schedule of upcoming shows and for links to tickets. (Make sure you look at the SLO shows, as Numbskull promotes lots of shows all around Central California.)
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was the fifth of 21 California missions, and was founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1772. The oldest existing buildings were completed in 1794. The mission marks the mid point between the most southerly mission in San Diego and the northernmost mission in Sonoma. Like the other California Missions, this one was secularized after Mexican independence, and it fell into ruin by the 1850s.
From 1769 to 1823 Spain constructed 21 missions along the California Coast between San Diego and Sonoma. El Camino Real--the King's Highway--is a series of roads from San Diego to San Francisco which connected Spain's missions, 3 pueblos (or towns located in LA, San Jose, & Santa Cruz plus a 4th established by Mexico in Sonoma), & 4 presidios (at San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco) along the California coast. The first outpost on this trail--San Diego--was established in 1769 while the final mission at Sonoma was completed in 1823.
The missions were religious centers, run by a priest, for the purpose of converting the native population to Christianity. The presidios' main function was a strategic military fortification and barracks, primarily to prevent competing colonial claims from Britain or Russia along the California Coast. The pueblos were designed as towns to provide food & other support to the military presidios. The last piece of the intricate colonial structure of the Spanish was the ranchos which consisted of some 800 private plots of land land used for farming.
After Mexico took over the Spanish region of California in the 1830s the government secularized the missions and sold off their lands. The next 50 years saw many of the missions fall into ruin. In the late 1800s, the US government returned the mission buildings to the Catholic Church, and most have been rebuilt and restored. I have visited all 12 of the missions from San Luis Obispo north to Sonoma, and each is open and welcoming to the public, most with museums and beautiful gardens. While most of the missions offer free admission, some charge just for the museum and a handful charge visitors to view any part of the interior, even the church.
Local actors perform plays and musicals in this little community theatre. It really is little. I think a decent-sized car would have difficulties turning in it. The stage rises barely above floor level, and the audience sits around the stage in seats 2-4 rows deep. The intimacy can be refreshing, though, especially if you know someone in the act. The theatre is amateur (as in non-professional, not as in terrible) and not-for-profit, run by volunteers who really love what they do.
Dress was casual when I went. I’m not sure about all shows.
Although not in the immediate area Hearst Castle ,once the home of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst is approx 35 miles north on highway 1.It is an amazing set of buildings in an array of architectural styles.From Roman type pools to an Italian Campanile style tower.The basic tour is informative and visits most areas of the site.There are more
tours for returning visitors that focus on specific areas.We were lucky on the day we visited as the weather was glorious and the visiblity superb ,meaning the views across to the Pacific were stunning.However the next day it had become overcast and when we drove past the site on Highway 1 you couldn't even see the castle.
Every year, thousandsd and thousands of monarch butterflies flock to this grove of trees to mate. This year about 50,000 butterflies came, and there has been as many as 230,000. There is a little informational talk on butterflies at 11 and 2. Binoculars are placed at prime viewing spots. You see a plethora of orange wings flapping among the trees!!!! And it's free! From November to February.
California Polytechnic State University is one of America's top universities with superb programs in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, and Civil Engineering that rank among the best in the nation. This beautiful campus at the north edge of San Luis Obispo has about 20,000 students. Cal Poly's Mustangs football team plays in Division 1-AA (now the football championship subdivision) and has a monument at the edge of the stadium in memory of 18 team members who died in a plane crash in 1960. Notable Cal Poly grads include NFL Hall of Famer John Madden, MLB Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, and former astronauts Frederick Sturckow and Robert Gibson.
The Spice of Life Cooking and Wine Pairing class offers the opportunity to learn a variety of techniques for using spices and herbs to enhance flavors of food and wine. The class incorporates the flavors of the world in a three-course meal (appetizer, main course and dessert) with the option of adding a Central Coast wine pairing to the meal. With over 350 spices and herbs around the world, there is no better way to enhance your gourmet cooking skills. Each class will use hand selected farm fresh ingredients from the San Luis Obispo region and flavors from many regions around the world to enjoy an evening of fine food, wine and knowledge. There will be a different menu for every class and a complimentary recipe book for continued enjoyment of the home gourmet. Enjoy a trip around the world through the best food and wine that San Luis Obispo has to offer! Friday Nights 6-8pm and Sunday 12-2pm.
I know this sounds stange but you have to see the mens room in the Madonna Inn. If you're a woman, it's OK to send a male scout in first to make sure it's safe to enter. I have seem many a woman in here checking it out. It's just that good. Trust me.
It's like no other bathroom in the world that I know of. When you break the beam of light water trickles down the rock formation on the wall to wash your business away.
The Central Coast offers travelers access to some of the most pristine and wild coast line in California. Explore Montana Del Oro's tide pools, visit the elephant seals in San Simeon and marvel at the open cow pastures in Cambria.
Established in 1874, Ah Louis Store is the first Chinese store in San Luis Obispo County. It sold general merchandise and herbs and served as a bank, accounting house, and post office for the numerous Chinese coolies who dug the eight tunnels through the mountains of Cuesta for the Southern Pacific Railroad from 1884 to 1894.
Today Ah Louis Store continues to open. It's a California registered historic landmark.
Shell Beach is the "locals" beach on the Central Coast. You will find a lot of students and young people here, and there is no pier, and it's a bit of a hike from the parking areas down to the beach, but this really just helps keep tourists away. Many people bring their dogs down to the beach here, and there are no lifeguards, and police presence is rare, so it is much easier to drink and have a good time down at Shell Beach without being harassed. Some people try to surf here too, but there are much better spots around the Central Coast to catch some good waves. If it's a really hot day in San Luis Obispo, the weather should be perfect down at the beach. Tip: if it's foggy at Shell Beach (especially during the summertime), try going up the coast a couple of miles to Avila Beach, where they have many more days of sunshine than Pismo Beach or Shell Beach.
In front of Mission SLO you'll see a sculpture of grizzly bears. In fact, grizzly bears are an important part of Mission SLO's history. During the Mission's early years, the abundant grizzly bear population in the area saved Mission SLO and nearby missions from starvation. But I don't think there are grizzly bears around the Mission anymore.