Summer Lovin’ in SLO: Summer Things to Do in San Luis Obispo, CA


Residing on California’s Central Coast lives San Luis Obispo, a sweet town full of laid-back charm. With blue water close by, luscious peaks, a lively downtown, and farmland and vineyards in its backyard, this city has something for everyone. With the warmer months fast approaching, we’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in San Luis Obispo this summer. Whether you’ve lived in San Luis Obispo (or SLO) for a while, are visiting, or are looking to buy a home in San Luis Obispo, rent an apartment here, or even rent a house in SLO, you’re sure to find something to add to your summer to-do list in this Redfin article. 

Landscape view of San Luis Obispo looking over homes with peaks in the distance

1. Catch a show at the Fremont Theater

The ultimate summer SLO evening includes a show at the iconic Fremont Theater. A San Luis Obispo cultural landmark, this venue is known for its gorgeous architecture, seating capacity, and impressive performances. The Art Deco theater “has evolved into a versatile venue, accommodating a wide range of events, including concerts, comedy shows, film screenings, and community gatherings,” notes In805. With its legendary history and architectural heritage, the Fremont Theater has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making it a protected landmark. Paying a visit to see the recognizable building and catching a show is a summer must, especially for music and theater lovers.

2. Fresh finds at the farmers market

One of the top San Luis Obispo musts is the iconic Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market happening every Thursday evening on Higuera Street. “This weekly night market is a community staple, offering five blocks of over 100 vendors selling fresh produce, famous barbecue, delicious meals, crafts, and baked goods, with live entertainment at every intersection,” says Rachel Lackmann, the marketing manager of Downtown SLO. With so much to choose from, this farmers market is a SLO staple for a reason. The market is really the perfect place for those wanting to support small businesses and connect with the local community.

Tents line Higuera Street in Downtown San Luis Obispo for the weekly farmers market. a summer thing to do in San Luis Obispo
Photo courtesy of Downtown SLO

3. Perfect day trip to Pismo Beach

Only 15 minutes away, Pismo Beach makes the perfect day trip. Known for its gorgeous coastline and cute beach town, Pismo Beach offers much to enjoy with its iconic pier, beautiful sights, tide pools, and of course lying in the soft sand. Since you’re guaranteed to work up an appetite from exploring and sunbathing, we recommend stopping by Splash Cafe for a bite to eat. 

Splash Cafe uses fresh ingredients with rich flavors from the sea and a dash of tradition to make their renowned meals. They’re especially known for their award-winning clam chowder that comes in a sourdough bread bowl which not only is delicious, but makes the perfect beach day meal. Marketing director Heather Hansen says it best: “A visit to Pismo Beach isn’t complete without indulging in this savory delight at Splash Café, a true taste of the Central Coast beloved by locals and visitors alike.”

4. Sip and savor in San Luis Obispo

For those of age, exploring the local vineyards near San Luis Obispo is the ideal summer activity. Only a short drive from the downtown, several wineries and vineyards litter the outskirts of SLO.

Third Wheel Tours offers an unforgettable wine tour through San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, a neighboring town ridden with the best vineyards. “Discover the region’s rich history, indulge in exquisite wine tastings, and soak in breathtaking landscapes as you adventure through picturesque vineyards and charming towns,” says sales director AJ Mara. Their curated tours promise a truly premier experience through the wine world of California’s Central Coast. 

If you’re more of a choose-your-own adventure type, Cali Coast Wine Country offers a great guide of all things wine on the California coast. In fact, Liz Dodder Hansen of Cali Coast Wine Country finds San Luis Obispo “one of the most interesting and coolest wine regions in the world.” Whether or not you prefer white or red, Liz says that both “chardonnay and pinot noir dominate this region, but albariño, riesling, grenache, and syrah also thrive.” 

If we haven’t hyped it up enough, San Luis Obispo really is the perfect place for a summer wine tour. Tour or not, you’re sure to enjoy sipping on a glass in the California sun whether you’re solo traveling through, are on a romantic date, or with a group of friends.

Three women and a dog sit overlooking a vineyard tasting wine at Edna Valley, a summer thing to do in San Luis Obispo
Photo Courtesy of Liz Dodder, Cali Coast Wine Country

5. Urban farming in Downtown SLO

Try stepping into the vibrant world of urban farming! Whether you’ve just moved to SLO, are a current resident, or are visiting (and potentially looking to move), consider making an impact on the community’s food landscape. Urban farming provides great hands-on experience to learn about agriculture, the local environment, sustainable living, and offers great community connection.

City Farm SLO is a nonprofit, regenerative farm located in the heart of San Luis Obispo. Their focus is on “empowering the next generation through sustainable agriculture and farm-based education” which they achieve through their many programs and events. One of their most popular events is the annual Sheep Shearing Shindig which has sheep shearing demonstrations, hands-on carding, felting, and spinning, local eats, hayrides, and more. Whether you’re attending an event, booking a private tour, or hosting a gathering on the farm, City Farm SLO offers a great blend of education and community.

Located in City Farm SLO is Our Global Family Farm which is a prime example of regenerative agriculture and urban farming in action. One of their main causes is honoring Indigenous cultures which can be seen by their Food Forest permaculture where they grow food crops from all over the world year-round. Although available to the public every Sunday, we recommend attending one of their monthly multicultural potlucks to learn more about the farm and connect with others about horticultural traditions and culture over food made and grown with love.

6. Unwind near the creek

Whether or not it’s 5 o’clock, we recommend winding down at Sidecar in Downtown SLO. Their gorgeous creekside patio is a great way to end the day with a craft cocktail in hand. They have a great drink selection full of unique yet approachable flavors with a nationally recognized cocktail program. Director of operations Lauren Christensen really says it best: “It doesn’t get much better than enjoying a crisp drink in the shade on a warm day while the gorgeous San Luis Creek babbles below.”

Food and cocktails on a table overlooking the San Luis Creek at Sidecar, a summer thing to do in San Luis Obispo
Photo courtesy of Sidecar

7. Shop for new decor

If you’re looking to decorate your new house or apartment with a special art piece, stop by  EDNA Contemporary in Downtown SLO. They have an “exceptional selection of paintings, photography and sculpture by emerging to mid-career artists,” describes artist and director Sheryl Chesnut. Their relaxed and personal environment truly breaks down the traditional barriers to art, allowing everyone to enjoy whether that be in a private appointment or home visit. They also host fun openings monthly for an opportunity to appreciate the current works on display and connect with artists and fellow viewers alike over the unique contemporary pieces.

8. Day trip to Morro Bay

Only 20 minutes from San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay makes a great day trip for those yearning for a taste of that California coastal charm. At the heart of the bay lies Morro Rock, an iconic volcanic peak, which offers a picturesque summer California view. Chef Michael Avila of Novo Restaurant & Bar says “If you’re new to the area, you’ve got to get outside. One of my favorite ways to do that is by surfing and hiking,” and recommends Morro Rock in particular. If surfing and hiking aren’t your speed, Chef John Pilling of Luna Red Restaurant & Bar says that “if you love to golf, we have some beautiful courses in the area like the Morro Bay Golf Course.” Whether you take a trip to Morro Bay for the cute beach town, surfing at Morro Rock, whale tour, or golfing – Morro Bay is the perfect summer day destination to beat the heat.

Two female surfers walking on Morro Bay while the sun shines, a summer thing to do in San Luis Obispo

9. Stay local and relax

For an idyllic summer staycation, we recommend a stay at the Bees Knees Fruit Farm. Just a handful of miles outside of Downtown SLO, this estate has a gorgeous living space and is close to several classic SLO activities and attractions. The country house on the farm features two main levels and beautiful rooms for the perfect cottage core excursion. Outside, the farm has several fruits like mirabelle plums and vegetables grown year round available for guests to pick during their stay. A stay here truly makes the air feel softer with the blossoming trees and sound of buzzing bees.

10. Shop local in Downtown San Luis Obispo

If you’re attending your first SLO party or planning the twentieth bash at your place, the Ah Louis Store in Downtown San Luis Obispo is a must. Located in one of San Luis Obispo’s most historic buildings and adorned with original fixtures and floors, this shop combines a love for darling goods and SLO history. 

Curated by Karson Butler Events, chief creative officer Emily Butler notes of the gift shop’s local wines, greeting cards, and gifts – perfect for all occasions whether you’re shopping for a birthday or hosting a house-warming party. Although not a summer activity, Emily highly recommends paying the store a visit in November and December to see the building is “adorned with holiday delight” and shop their extensive selection of ornaments. 

Storefront of the Ah Louis Store, a historical building home to a great gift shop – a summer thing to do in San Luis Obispo
Photo courtesy of Ah Louis Store

11. Chilling crime tour

For a unique spine-chilling adventure, consider adding a true crime tour to your summer to-do list. Mystery Loves Company’s ghost and true crime walking tours offer “a fun and quirky way to dive into the city’s history” to uncover “fascinating tales of its most notorious residents while exploring hidden corners you won’t find in the guidebooks,” says research and horror buff Katy Nicholson. Whether or not you’re a true crime junkie, the tours are more than enjoyable and promise laughs, surprises, and maybe even a ghostly encounter – even if it’s not Halloween-time.

12. Best summer activities at Montaña de Oro State Park

It wouldn’t be a California summer to-do list without mentioning a hike. Jennelle Lynn of Jennelle Lynn Art recommends immersing yourself in the beauty of the central coast at Montaña de Oro State Park. Only 15 miles away from San Luis Obispo, Jennelle notes the park’s stunning “walks along bluffs overlooking the ocean, different hikes for all skill levels, camping, [and] a great place for a picnic.” Whether you’re stopping by for a solo hike, family picnic, or couples camping, this park is the place to be this summer in SLO. 

A hiking trail with luscious hills at Montaña de Oro State Park, a summer thing to do in San Luis Obispo

 

13. Ultimate farm-to-table experience

New for both locals and new residents, the SLO Ranch Farm Marketplace is the place to be. Their new center highlights the local bounty of San Luis Obispo and features a marketplace, restaurant, agriculture processing site, retail stores, and a historic center. They’re looking to host several events throughout the year as well, so we recommend keeping connected to not miss out. Especially for those who love that farm-to-table experience, this spot is perfect for shopping, eating, connecting with local farmers and artisans, and celebrating the beautiful SLO region. 

14. Adventure in Paso Robles

Paso Robles, a town 35 minutes away from SLO, offers more than just wine tasting. Margarita Adventures has an assortment of fun tours for all ages ranging from zipline tours to escape rooms. They also have educational nature tours, eBike tours, and the option to combine any activity with the neighboring Ancient Peaks Winery next door. Located on the Santa Margarita Ranch, you can have an adventure-filled day amongst the most beautiful California backdrop. Still located in the San Luis Obispo Country, a trip to Paso Robles and Margarita Adventures will evoke that nostalgic camp-like summer magic. 

15. Delightful dine at local spots

From cozy cafes to trendy taverns, San Luis Obispo offers a range of eateries perfect for foodies, those just grabbing a bite to eat, and everyone in between.

A beloved Downtown SLO gem is Black Sheep Bar & Grill, cherished by locals and tourists alike. Voted time and time again as the “Best Bar in SLO,” this place is a must, especially if you like mac and cheese. Their iconic mac and cheese has been voted the best in SLO county with its baked top and perfect noodle-to-cheese ratio. Not only do they offer a variety of mac and cheese variations, but they also serve “handcrafted cocktails and delicious comfort food in a warm setting with European vibes” says owner Myriam Olaizola. 

Nestled between bustling downtown and luscious wine vineyards is San Luis Obiso’s historic Railroad Square, a commercial hub during the 1950s. Currently, Italian restaurant Cafe Roma resides there, famous for their authentic cuisine and intimate atmosphere. This spot runs deep with tradition as seen with their delicious handmade pasta and locally sourced ingredients. Whether you choose to dine inside their Tuscan dining room, old-world cocktail bar, or scenic shade-covered patio, you’re sure to feel transported to Italy while eating old Rizzo family recipes and sipping on wine from local small vineyards.

Street view of Black Sheep Bar & Grill with bikes out front, a summer to do in San Luis Obispo
Photo courtesy of Black Sheep Bar & Grill

 

16. Satisfy the coffee craving in Arroyo Grande

Another great little day trip is Arroyo Grande, a charming little town on the California coast, just south of Pismo Beach. A temperate summer day calls for a leisurely stroll through the downtown to browse the local boutiques, antique shops, and local eateries. One stop to add to your Arroyo Grande list is Tribe Coffeehouse, a third-wave favorite nestled in a quaint house on Grande Ave. Their menu is full of seasonal and signature lattes, housemade cold brews, and locally sourced pastries. This cozy spot makes the perfect stop whether it’s after a hike along the scenic Bob Jones Trail or before a stop at Pismo Beach for the sunset. 



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