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20 Things to Do under $20 in San Luis Obispo


Traveling on a shoe-string budget? Not a problem in San Luis Obispo! SLO has countless fun (and tasty!) things to do that won’t break the bank.

I’ve rounded up 20 things to do under $20 in San Luis Obispo that you can enjoy any time of the year. Just think, with all that money you’re saving you can come back to SLO for another getaway in no time! 

1. Whether you enjoy a daily latte or if a simple cup of coffee is more your style, I highly suggest you hop on the café style walking tour through Downtown San Luis Obispo. SLO is full of adorable coffee shops plus one-of-a-kind drinks and eats that you won’t want to miss out on. 

2. Sample SLO Donut Company’s finest donuts – Maple bacon, doofles, vegan, cereal covered ones and even gluten-free donuts! Be sure to grab a milk or cup of coffee (see above) to wash down those sugary sensations, too.

3. With various trail intensities and lengths, you can embark on one of the many hikes in San Luis Obispo that fits your schedule or fitness level. After your outdoor adventure, stop by one of the top 5 sandwich shops in SLO to refuel and treat your taste buds.

4. Stroll through the world-famous Thursday night Farmers’ Market in Downtown San Luis Obispo and eat everything your heart desires. Some of my favorites include the roasted corn-on-the-cob, Mama’s Meatballs lasagna and Sugar Lips’ fresh mini donuts. While in the heart of Downtown SLO, don’t miss out on making your mark on the iconic Bubblegum Alley, too.

5. Tap into your creative side and visit San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, commonly known as SLOMA, which features contemporary art plus ever-changing exhibits. Admission is free, but donations are always welcome. You can even plan your visit around Art After Dark, a free event that takes place on the first Friday of every month. Galleries and non-traditional art venues open their doors to the community and visitors alike to enjoy the finer things in life.

6. Got some young ones with you? Visit the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum, featuring fun, interactive exhibits and hands-on programs. It’s free for those 2 and under and $8 for adults and children.

7. Discover the hidden gems of Cal Poly’s campus including the Architecture Graveyard, the Shakespeare Press Museum, the Leaning Pine Arboretum and many more.

8. While touring Cal Poly, enjoy a round of bowling at Mustang Lanes, located in the University Union. Rates are $20 per hour per lane or $4 per game per person—you choose!

9. Hop on the San Luis Obispo Beer Trail with a hand full of breweries conveniently located right in the heart of Downtown San Luis Obispo! Purchase a pint or a flight at one of the local breweries. I personally adore Central Coast Brewing’s Chai Blonde Ale and BarrelHouse Brewing Company’s Snake Bite Cider.

10. With multiple music venues around town, you can catch a concert in San Luis Obispo pretty much any time of year! If you’re visiting during the summer, I highly suggest you attend Concerts in the Plaza, a free concert series featuring local bands every Friday night in Mission Plaza.

11. Looking for some good old-fashioned family fun? Visit Avila Valley Barn, offering seasonal, u-pick opportunities, mouthwatering bakery items, a petting zoo and even hay rides.

12. Indulge in a few (or all) of the top 10 eats in San Luis Obispo from Madonna Inn’s legendary pink champagne cake to SLO Do Co’s maple bacon donut. Can you tell I have a sweet tooth? Discover the complete list today, featuring sweet and savory eats.  

13. Experience wildlife at your fingertips by visiting Charles Paddock Zoo with acres of parks and nature reserves. Admission is only $7 for adults 12 and over, $6 for seniors 65+ and $5 for children 3-11.

14. Grab takeout or sandwiches from a local shop and enjoy a picnic in Mission Plaza. A few of my favorite lunch spots include Giuseppe’s To-Go, conveniently located less than a block from the mission, and Gus’s Grocery. After lunch, tour Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and travel back in time circa 1772. The mission offers free, docent-led tours every day, happening at 1:15 p.m. Monday through Saturday and at 2:00 p.m. on Sundays.

15. Test your endurance with the Tri-Tip Challenge! Hike the three iconic peaks of San Luis Obispo and indulge in a mouthwatering tri-tip sandwich from Firestone Grill, featured on our top 10 SLO eats. The reward of these breathtaking views and delicious eats are all well worth the sweat—I promise!

16. Cheer on the Mustangs at a Cal Poly game of your choice! Tickets are typically under $10 for children and under $20 for adults, making it fun for the whole family. Depending on when you visit, you can choose between Football, Soccer, Volleyball, Basketball, Wrestling, Baseball and Softball.

17. Tune into a double feature at the iconic Sunset Drive-In, one of the only drive-in theaters in California. Movies are rolling 7 nights a week at a very reasonable ticket price of $8 for 12 and up, $4 for 5-11, and free for those 4 and under. This is the perfect family-friendly activity or even date night! 

18. Sip your way through San Luis Obispo wine country and enjoy a tasting (or two), which cost an average of $10 per tasting. Some of my personal favorites are Chamisal and Claiborne & Churchill. If you’re looking for more suggestions, check out this list of off the beaten path wineries in SLO.

19. Treat yourself to a cocktail at one of these happy hour spots in San Luis Obispo!

20. Relax and unwind with a sweet SLO sunset at an iconic view spot in San Luis Obispo. Afterwards, enjoy a farm-to-table meal at a local restaurant.

Start planning your San Luis Obispo vacation and sprinkle in these inexpensive, but memorable experiences throughout. Don’t forget to #ShareSLO your fun on social, too. Enjoy!


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© 2008 Bonnie Carroll, All Rights Reserved