If you are looking for a one-day escape, consider heading up to San Luis Obispo. It has options for everyone, whether you and your significant other are heading off for some time together, or you are just exploring with your friends. I know most UCSB students do not tend to travel to the home of Cal Poly. Don’t let sports rivalries stop you though, because SLO is definitely worth exploring.
The main drag in SLO is Higuera Street and is analogous to State Street. It is very pedestrian-oriented and riddled with shops and restaurants. Unlike State Street, though, where most everything is located on one long thoroughfare, the downtown district of SLO is spread out between Higuera and Marsh Street to the south and Monterey to the north. You can find sizable parking garages on Marsh and also on Palm Street.
When it’s time for lunch, you can find some wallet-friendly restaurants near campus, but don’t fall into the Woodstock’s rut, try something new. My favorite eatery is Firestone Grill. It generally is packed to the rafters with students on weekends because it serves a mean pulled-pork sandwich called “The Pig Sandwich.” In addition, the restaurant serves a number of standard grill-type foods, including burgers and fries. Be careful though, as timing is everything at Firestone’s, avoid stopping by at peak lunch and dinner times to avoid Disneyland-caliber lines. If you get hungry before two, and you want a turkey sandwich, head to the House of Bread for one of the best turkey sandwiches in existence, maybe even better than those of the immortal Silvergreens.
After lunch, head back to Higuera for more exploring and make sure to head all the way down to Cheap Thrills on the far end. It sounds sketchy, I know, but it is easily the highlight of any day in San Luis. With three floors of used and new music, DVDs, comic books and video games, Cheap Thrills has something for everyone. While you wander around this emporium of wares, you might be wondering where you too could get some spiffy posters, door beads or other decorations. For this you can travel to their sister store, The Sub, where they deal in all types of decorative items from wall size posters to giant dragons for your coffee table.
Before heading out of town, be sure to stop in at the monstrous Madonna Inn. Dinner here is far too expensive, but using the restroom is not. The Madonna Inn[[ok]] provides some of the most unique powder rooms on the planet. It is not uncommon to pass women coming out of the men’s room after gawking at the waterfall that doubles as a urinal in the men’s room. On your way out, consider swinging by the café to at least look at, or maybe even try one of their huge and delicious slices of cake.
Finally, after a fun filled day of buying or just browsing, depending on your level of self-control, you can head towards Avila Beach for a relaxing and romantic evening at the Sycamore Springs Resort. They have a number of small natural spring hot tubs that can be reserved by the hour. While the price is a little steep, it is definitely worth it as you are provided with a secluded tub underneath the oaks and with a view of the stars. Whether you behave yourself and keep those swim suits on is of course, none of my business.