The Central Coast is often known for its excellent outdoor activities and natural beauty, which we’ve highlighted in previous blogs. However, did you know that we also have amazing cultural experiences, and a fascinating history to learn from? Today, we’ll highlight some of the most interesting local spots where you can learn all about the culture and history of San Luis Obispo county, entirely for free. All these are also mentioned in our 101 Reasons to Exit Highway 101 Guide, so read away!
41. Historic Village of Arroyo Grande
You’ll feel like you’re stepping back into another time of history in Arroyo Grande, a small community a little south of Pismo Beach. Authentic antiques stores, small-town restaurants, and the western architecture of its downtown all contribute to Arroyo Grande’s image as a welcoming town with an interesting, and historic past. Check out the swinging bridge in downtown Arroyo Grande, the last of its kind in California. It’s in the center of downtown and swings about 40 feet above a creek, making it a beautiful view and an unforgettable experience.
30. Historic Jack House and Gardens
Here’s another location that can feel like a time portal to another age, but it’s right in the heart of San Luis Obispo near the sights and sounds of downtown. The Historic Jack House and Gardens was built in 1880 by the Jack family, who were active in ranching, politics, travel, banking and land development and contributed greatly to San Luis Obispo culture. They lived in the two-story Victorian house for over 90 years and many of the family’s original decorations and possessions are still intact. Nowadays, the house is open for visitors to walk through and get a glimpse for life in the Victorian Era right here on the Central Coast. It’s also a popular spot for group events, such as weddings.
46. Historic Fremont Theater
The Fremont theater stands proudly on Monterey street in downtown San Luis Obispo, across from the SLO Courthouse. It is among the last Streamline Moderne theaters built by architect S. Charles Lee, and opened all the way back in 1942 right before the U.S. entered World War II. It had varied shows back in the day, with both moving pictures shows and live theater. And the theater is also a living testament to San Luis Obispo’s love of our history; developers wanted to raze it to install a more modern multiplex in the 1990’s, but public protest saved the theater and left it standing strong today.
78. California Missions
We are lucky enough to have access to two beautiful and well-preserved original California Missions here on the Central Coast. The First, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, offers daily mass, a beautiful garden, and often has cultural events on its plaza. Further north, a visit to Mission San Miguel is also a great idea. It was founded in 1797 in order to bridge the gap between Mission San Luis Obispo and Mission San Antonio. Spend some time taking a self-guided tours of either of these historic spots. The history of Spanish Missions along the coast of California is fascinating and you’ll surely learn something new about California and its storied past.