While California houses a large number of colleges and universities up and down the state, there are few towns that really exemplify what it means to be a small college town like San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly students seems to dominate the immediate population and can be found at almost any establishment within a 15-mile radius. Although it’s only about a three-and-a-half hour drive from Berkeley, the difference in tempo and temperament could not be much greater. The few blocks of downtown that are surrounded by miles of suburbia and farmland are a far cry from the citylike atmosphere of Berkeley.
Strolling down on the main road off the freeway, Marsh Street, you’ll immediately notice differences. After parking your car and walking out of the garage, which boasts an incredibly lower parking rate than anywhere in Berkeley (or the whole Bay Area, for that matter), we immediately spotted a running police motorcycle with an iPhone sitting on it — with no actual policeman in sight.
Aside from the (apparent) innocence of the streets, the whole area is pretty interesting. The streets are lined with quirky shops and locally run restaurants. If you walk around enough, you will run into the famous Bubblegum Alley. And the name pretty much says it all — it’s an alley where the walls are lined with layers upon layers of previously chewed gum. It’s quite the colorful display of disgustingness, but it’s undoubtedly unique. When walking down it, it is suggested to keep your arms and legs multiple inches from the bordering walls at all times.
While it may seem like there’s a fully functioning drive-in movie theater just to keep up the small, quiet town effect, it’s nonetheless still fascinating. Playing two movies every night for the unbeatable price of $7, this venue understandably draws quite the crowd of tourists in the summer. For those of us who hate being disturbed by surrounding audience members in an actual theater, the silence and solitary space of a car is extremely welcome. Not to mention that sneaking snacks in purses isn’t necessary.
Taking a visit to San Luis Obispo is highly recommended. If you have friends who go to Cal Poly, take advantage of them by commandeering their couch for a weekend so that you can enjoy the slow pace of the town and surrounding beaches (and their company, of course).
Contact Mackenzie Bedford at [email protected]