LA Times CA’s Best Experiences List Ranks Places in SLO County


Summer is right around the corner, and the Los Angeles Times recently published a list of California’s 101 Best Experiences so readers who want to stay local know where to go.

Writer Christopher Reynolds compared California to an iceberg: “There’s the tip, and then there’s the best part: the 87% that’s hidden below the waterline.”

“…After decades spent in California reporting on travel, the arts and the outdoors, the invisible 87% represents immense possibilities. That’s where the gold lies, beyond the selfie spots, mouse ears, the Golden Gate Bridge and the postcard from the Tunnel View parking lot in Yosemite,” he wrote.

“On this list, which is numbered but not ranked, there are no theme parks (but plenty of kid-friendly destinations), not many museums (because the best ones are easy to find), no pop- up made for Instagram”experiments,” Reynolds continued. “It’s a glimpse into my travelogue through the Golden State, a place easily glimpsed and misunderstood.”

Among all the possibilities, you can imagine how full this notebook could be.

But would you guess eight of them are in San Luis Obispo County?

From the massive elephant seals of San Simeon to SLO’s beloved downtown farmer’s market, here’s a look at some of The Times’ favorite attractions in SLO County.

Grab a bite to eat at the downtown SLO Farmers Market

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Shoppers buy fresh fruit at the Farmer’s Market in downtown San Luis Obispo on Thursday, June 24, 2021, in one of the event’s first full weeks since California reopened after the COVID-19 pandemic . Marc Nakamura nakamuraphoto.com

First on the list: the iconic Farmers Market in downtown San Luis Obispo.

Among SLO’s favorite pastime on Thursday nights, the Reynolds said it gives pedestrians “freedom to snack, sip, shop and generally spread out on Higuera Street.”

Other market highlights? All different food options available. The list paid homage not only to the ribs, pulled pork, corn on the cob and tamales that can be found while strolling through the downtown market; it also featured that quintessential Central Coast favorite: the tri-tip.

Before leaving, the Reynolds recommended also stopping at Bubblegum Alley, this side street decorated with bubblegum worth decades and love it or hate it, is almost as iconic of San Luis Obispo as the Farmers Market .

Wander the halls of the enigmatic Hearst Castle

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Cyclist/photographer Bill Franciscovich snapped this sunny view of Hearst Castle around 7:30 a.m. Dec. 1 during his regular commute on Highway 1. The State Park Historic Landmark is closed so teams can continue riding repair damage to access roads caused by decades of rain runoff and erosion. The castle is currently expected to reopen in March or April. Franciscovich wrote in an email response that in a whimsical moment he thought “who left the lights on?” But “seriously,” he explained in a more serious tone, “I thought William Randolph Hearst had chosen an ideal location; no matter how much surrounding fog (there is), it always looks like the sun is rising for the titan and the site he has selected. And, I also thought I hope the castle reopens soon so local hotels, restaurants, and businesses can continue to thrive. While business has picked up nicely after COVID, the castle attracts a ton of guests who spend the night spending money in the local economy. Bill Franciscovitch

One of the Central Coast’s most famous destinations, the iconic Hearst Castle, also makes the list.

Calling it the “mess” that set the standard for California’s many extravagant mansions, the Reynolds encourages readers to explore the extravagant San Simeon estate created for media mogul William Randolph Hearst, which inspired the famous movie “Citizen Kane” by Orson Welles.

A huge showcase of artwork, elaborate pools, gardens and wildlife (zebras!) that can be spotted off Highway 101, the once private estate designed by architect Julia Morgan is now a California state park.

After being closed throughout 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic and storm damage, Hearst Castle finally reopened in May to thousands of visitors curious to experience its eccentric wonders.

Walk between mist and sea along Moonstone Beach Drive in Cambria

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Moonstone Beach Drive offers scenic views like this. A popular viewpoint will be closed for three days on September 15, 16 and 19. Cambrian archival photo

Along the north coast is also another of the must-see destinations on the list: the beautiful and welcoming hamlet of Cambria.

Calling it a “coastal village of rocks and mist,” Reynolds recommends strolling along Moonstone Beach Boardwalk and admiring the beautiful rugged coastline full of rocks, wildflowers, pine trees and waves. breaking waves.

Camrbia’s main street is also worth a visit, with its fun shops, art galleries and delicious restaurants.

Reynolds shouted out the eclectic menu at Robin’s Restaurant and suggested readers try the creamy chowder at Sea Chest Oyster Bar and the beloved olallie berry pie at Linn’s Restaurant.

See Morro Rock rising from the sea

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Bundled up beachgoers silhouetted against a sliver of low fog during a recent sunset at Morro Rock. Danna Dykstra Coy dannajoyimages.com

A little further down the coast is another coastal attraction: the iconic Morro Rock.

Comparing it to Half Dome in Yosemite, Reynolds recommends visiting the “big rounded rock,” whether from the beach, from the dunes, or paddling in a kayak alongside adorable sea otters. , says Reyolds, is at sunrise, when Morro Rock is “nicely lit from the east, shaded surrounding waters.

Also highlighted were the Morro Bay Waterfront Galleries and Taco Temple, a local favorite famous for its mouth-watering fish tacos.

Be spooked by elephant seals at Piedras Blancas Rookery

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This weaned elephant seal enjoys a peaceful siesta in the sun at the colony of Piedras Blancas. Christine Heinrich

The massive, smelly, blubbery elephant seals near San Simeon also made the cut.

The seals, which Reynolds described as “as unsightly as they come,” move faster than you might think. And they always have something to do depending on the month, whether it’s frantic mating in winter or shedding in spring and summer. It’s normal (and scary!) to see these giants scurrying down the beach, often jostling any baby seals that get in their way.

Note to visitors to Rookery Piedras Blancas: Please stay at least 25 feet away from the seals.

Immerse yourself in a world of butterflies at Pismo’s Monarch Grove

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More western monarch butterflies have returned to the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove in 2021 than in the previous two years combined. The previous two years were among the worst years of population counts on record. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Although the monarch butterflies are only here during the winter, the Pismo Grove is also on the list.

From November to February, the modest stand of eucalyptus trees at Pismo Beach transforms into a magnificent habitat for thousands of colorful insects. Reynolds marveled at the way butterflies “flare orange hues” when the sun rises.

Unfortunately, recent years have shown a significant decline in butterfly numbers in the area, as monarch populations have continued to decline, but those that remain still create a beautiful sight each time they visit.

Discover crazy buildings at the Architecture Graveyard

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Cal Poly’s annual Design Village competition begins Friday, April 20, 2018, when students will design, build, and inhabit structures at Poly Canyon on the university’s campus in San Luis Obispo, California. The event is open to the public. Cal Poly

The only attraction on a college campus to make the list is Cal Poly, and that’s for the Poly Canyon Architecture Graveyard, where a mix of creative buildings and student-created artwork is a must-see. from California.

Reynolds highlighted the dreamlike nature of the structures and paid homage to Hay Bale Arch, which “looks like a whitewashed Gumby playing Twister”.

The newspaper identified the canyon as a favorite for hikers and cows, but missed the fact that it’s also an infamous drinking spot for Cal Poly students, who congregate at the shelter. metal structures of buildings.

Watch an unforgettable light show at Sensorio de Paso Robles

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Sensorio’s light field is made up of more than 58,000 rod spheres illuminated by fiber optic cables. Joe Tarica jtarica@thetribunenews.com

The last SLO County attraction on the list is also the newest: Sensorio Light Field in Paso Robles, which Reynolds called a “solar-powered superbloom.”

Since opening in 2019, Sensorio has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to stroll through the hills illuminated by more than 58,000 color-changing fiber optic bulbs.

If you haven’t since the attraction debuted in 2021, artist Bruce Munro added another fascinating feature called Light Towers – 69 columns made up of 17,388 illuminated wine bottles.

Reynolds particularly recommends arriving at sunset and enjoying a casual dinner of tacos, burgers, sandwiches, or dessert, as the colors of the glow-in-the-dark lights cast the hills and oak trees into silhouettes.

Mariana Duran is a reporting intern at the San Luis Obispo Tribune. She is a double major in Media Studies and Cognitive Science at Pomona College.

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