SLO Secrets: The Sunset Drive In

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The Sunset Drive-In in San Luis Obispo stands as a classic memorial of simpler times. This theatre conjures up the potential for memories of balmy summer nights (or even winter nights… because SLO luckily doesn’t get too cold!) spent under the clear sky with car windows wide open, enjoying the breeze as your stereo speakers let in the radio frequency sound of the cinema’s current features.

It was originally built way back in the 1950’s, and still retains its retro charm with old-fashioned commercials, a an old-style snack shack, and pink neon sign proudly facing 101 North to draw in movie goers seeking a nostalgic atmosphere.

Be prepared that Sunset only accepts cash for tickets and concessions. It’s a great place for a deal, to be able to see two movies for the price of one. Also, try to get to the cinema a bit early because the line of cars waiting to get in can run out long onto the street on a busy night.

So, if you’re seeking a fun place for a date night with a retro charm or a fun night out with friends, find a car with a great big backseat or a truck bed, some comfy blankets and get ready for a night of watching a movie in the cinema under the stars.

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Luna Red in SLO’s Legendary Happy Hour

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I love happy hour, and I LOVE sangria. Luna Red in downtown SLO combines the best of both worlds. At their happy hour from 3-6pm every day (yes, EVERY day!) they offer $6 drink specials and tapas. What are “tapas” you ask? Keep reading 😉 Because this restaurant features a menu with an authentic Spanish taste which brings me straight back to my study abroad term in Barcelona.  

They offer both indoor and outdoor seating (with heat lamps outside in the colder months) and an outdoor bar. There’s something special about sitting outside on their patio on a warm SLO day underneath the twinkling string lights and brightly colored umbrellas. You enjoy a prime view of the San Luis Obispo Mission de Tolosa which is right next to the restaurant, as well as the babbling waters of the adjacent creek.

 

If you’re interested in an eatery where you can go family style and share a variety of different appetizers and combinations, then this is the right place. Their bacon wrapped dates are legendary among the  SLOcals and the paella portion size is large enough to feed you and your best three friends, at least.

They feature a diverse enough cocktail selection to keep you coming back again (and again and again) for more, but like I said I’m a sucker for their classic red sangria.

 

Luna Red has special deals available almost every day of the week, in addition to their everyday happy hour. The vibrant and lively atmosphere is present no matter what time or day of the week you decide to go.

 

An additional quality I appreciate about this restaurant is their value of the local culture. They recruit local artists for live music on Friday and Saturday nights and use products from local farms to support the agricultural industry on the Central Coast.

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The easiest place to leave your car while you’re at Luna Red is the parking garage on Palm Street which is about 300 yards away from the restaurant and easily walkable to get to. Right now as of 2018 the first hour in the garage is free and after that it’s $1.25 per additional hour.

So go grab some of your friends who enjoy sangria almost as much as I do, and check out the artsy ambiance of this little slice of Spain right in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo.

SLO Secrets: Prefumo Canyon Road

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I’m starting a new category! It’s called “SLO Secrets.” They’re places and experiences you might not have heard about unless someone who lives in the San Luis Obispo area gives you a secret tip 😉 My first SLO Secrets post is on Prefumo Canyon road, which in my opinion is one of the most grand views in SLO of the  entire San Luis Obispo county and coastline.

 

I usually start the drive up Prefumo Canyon Road on the Los Osos Valley Road connecting side near Target, and then just turn back and come down the same way to get back to SLO. If you want to, you can take the road all the way to connect to See Canyon Road and end up in Avila Beach.

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This drive takes you along the crest of the mountain to view 360 degrees of breathtaking sights including Morro Rock and all of the rest of the nine sister mountains. The trip is not a long one but make sure to take your time and go slow, because it can get pretty windy, twisty, and has seen landslide damage in the past couple years of wet winters.

Prefumo Canyon Road is the perfect place for a sunset picnic or sweeping SLO valley views.

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My family enjoyed an Easter dinner sunset up at the top!

I have linked to an informational video by SLOAmbassadors on youtube if you’re interested in checking out the scenery before you go, and the map below shows the route along Prefumo Canyon Road from LOVR to See Canyon in Avila 🙂

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Pecho Coast Trail Hike and San Luis Lighthouse Tour

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The Pecho Coast Trail is located in Avila Beach and features gorgeous scenic coastal views of Avila and the Pacific Ocean. It has been open for guided hikes since 1993 and is located on PG&E property, and is a joint partnership between PG&E, the California Coastal Commission and the Port San Luis Harbor District, so it can only be accessed through reservations by a guided hike which are available to do in the morning on  Wednesday for 20 people and Saturday for 40 people. Reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made on the PG&E website. This hike will ultimately take you to the Port’s Historic Point San Luis Lighthouse where you can learn the history of the property on a docent-led tour for a $5 donation.

When you arrive to Avila, there is plenty of free parking at the pier where it’s a short walk along the road to the group meeting spot at 8:45 a.m., the Fisherman’s Memorial in Port San Luis Harbor. Here, the docents will have you sign a waiver of liability and explain the itinerary of the hike. Make sure to pack some water and sunblock because even if the weather is foggy when you start the hike as it often is on the Central Coast, it will most likely warm up and be sunny by the time you leave the lighthouse.

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The journey is not a particularly strenuous trek as there’s only around 400-500 feet of elevation gain, but be warned that the first part of the hike has sudden steep elevation changes as well as poison oak/tics on the trail to be mindful of. On the way up, the docent will stop the hike about every ten minutes to recollect the group and explain some of the historical and geographical information of the area.

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Summer on the Central Coast = Morning fog!

The first part of the hike is a short steep climb up to a road that the trolley takes visitors on to the lighthouse. You’ll hike about half a mile along that paved road stopping along the way to be educated on the geology, biology, and history of Avila and the Pecho Coast Trail including the three piers which are visible from the access road. The closest pier is the Harford Pier at the Port San Luis, then the pier which is owned by Cal Poly for marine science purposes, and finally the Avila Pier in the distance. After walking for a bit more along the paved section of the hike, you’ll reach the official entrance to the Pecho Coast trail and descend down the bluff of the hillside. There are stairs built into the hill to make it easier to walk down.

The trail passes through an oak grove with a plaque dedicated to Patsy Stow Stebbins who was a key player in negotiating the creation of the Pecho Coast Trail and a fighter for Coastal California public access her whole life. California Coastal Access signs (a footprint with an ocean wave) can be found all over California by the beach and inform visitors and residents of places that they can gain public access to the coast. Now that I know what the sign means, I’m noticing its presence everywhere!

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After more hiking along the gorgeous views of the coast, the docent will take time to explain the history of whaling in Avila and of Smith Island which is a rock just off the coast that somehow at one point housed five families (yes, on a rock in the ocean!). Then you’ll begin the final descent down the stairs where you’ll cross the same service/trolley road from earlier in the hike.

After you cross the trolley road you will have reached the trail’s end at the Point San Luis Obispo Lighthouse grounds. There are restrooms and a water fountain as well as a gift shop with small snacks and trinkets available for purchase. The grounds are free to explore once you’re there, but in order to go inside for a tour it’s a $5 donation fee which goes toward the preservation and restoration of the property. In my opinion it was completely worth it to pay the five dollars to hear the incredible history of the lighthouse.

This restored lighthouse is a two story Victorian style building which was officially decommissioned in 1974. It has been remodeled to look like it would have looked like when it was built and used back in 1890. The first building you’re taken to is the fog signal building. It’s home of the horn that was used to signal ships when the light could not reach them. You’ll get to see the extremely cool “fourth-order Fresnel lens.”

The lens is an impressive two and a half feet tall and is displayed on a turret that rotated back when it was in operation. It’s a beautiful piece of engineering and amazing to think about how important its purpose was when it was in operation. Fun fact: Different lighthouses use different intervals of time in which the beam of light rotates out to sea, to use as a signal for their specific location. For example, this lighthouse at Avila signals every 30 seconds which is how the sailer would know where he was out in the ocean: he would count the number of seconds between each beam and check his log to see where he was according to that interval of time. In 1890 this lens would send beams of light 17 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean.

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Climbing into the lighthouse tower is a tight squeeze!
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The view from where the Fresnel lens was located

I don’t want to give too much information about the tour away because you should definitely go take it yourself and learn all of this exciting information, but these are some photos of the inside of the lighthouse where the lighthouse keeper and his family would have lived.

Kitchen

Bedrooms

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Dining Room

Sitting Room

If you’re just wanting to tour the lighthouse without hiking the Pecho Coast Trail, tours are offered year round on Wednesdays at 12pm and 1 pm and on Saturdays at 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for kids 12 and under. Children under 3 are free. The tours last about 1hr and 45 minutes, and the cost of the tickets includes the trolley ride to the lighthouse. Hiking the Pecho Coast Trail is free, with a $5 donation upon arrival to the lighthouse for a a tour. After the trek and those gorgeous views of the Central Coast ocean, you’ve earned it!

Here’s a map to the trailhead. Parking is located near Fat Cats Cafe, in the shipyard. Happy hiking!

Bucket List #25: Graduate, Get a Degree and Live Happily Ever After

I graduated on Saturday. When I first started this blog, graduation seemed like a million years away. But the day inevitably came, and now I could write an entire book on the things I learned in my four years of college (maybe someday I will!), most of which weren’t even taught to me in the classroom. I managed to narrow it down to only five.

Here are five of the most important lessons that I feel that I got in my time at Cal Poly… without opening an overly priced textbook.

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1) You will need to work your booty off: College is HARD. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone complain about how they “never studied in high school and got straight A’s” then came to Cal Poly and had to actually study to get a passing grade on a test or essay, I could’ve used it to pay my entire college tuition, So, work hard (and play hard), and don’t give up just because you’re facing a new challenge. For example, I studied a lot for my botany class but I do not remember any of the information from it when we’re hiking and my mom asks “What plant is that, Molly?!”

2) But don’t work too hard: because you only get to enjoy college once. Finding a balance between getting the kind of grades that satisfy you, and having the best overall college experience (yes, pint night $3 beers on Tuesday nights downtown is an extremely important experience) is by far the most important thing that I learned in my time at University. You’re going to remember the nights out with your friends making legendary memories together more than you’ll remember what you got on a grade in Calc 2 second quarter your first year. Hopefully.

3) Because there’s NOTHING glorifying about sacrificing your mental or physical health for a grade:  Eat food and get adequate sleep. Seriously, there’s nothing that annoys me more than someone who is attempting to *brag* about how they haven’t eaten since yesterday or only slept for 2 hours last night. In the long run it’s habits like these that are only going to hurt you. Yes you will inevitably have some late nights studying or make some decisions which may impact your health in a negative way (college kids CAN get hangovers contrary to popular belief), but no one wants to make a negative impact on their health for the entire rest of their life by permanently damaging their body/mind by repeatedly making poor decisions while they’re still in college, right? Yes you’re young, but get some rest, fuel yourself properly, and you’ll thank yourself later.

4) Don’t be afraid to fail: Okay so don’t go failing your classes and say “Molly said don’t be afraid to fail” because what I mean by that is you shouldn’t be afraid to try something new out of the fear of failing. Failure is how we learn. Learning is how we grow. Failure is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently. So go ahead and try the intramural soccer team even though you haven’t played since you were seven. Put yourself out there to do something out of your comfort zone. And don’t take anything too personally if it doesn’t work out.

5) Friendships may come and go, but you’ll always have your own independent self to rely on: I’ve enjoyed making friendships with a lot of amazing people in my time at Cal Poly. Some of these friendships have faded or been outgrown, but some of them I know will last for the rest of my life. I’m so grateful to be surrounded by these amazing people. But one of the most important lessons I have learned in college is that you need to learn how to take care of and count on yourself. There are going to be times that you will have to learn how to be alone. And being alone doesn’t mean “lonely,” it’s an opportunity for growth and self discovery. 

Peace out Cal Poly! I’ll be back to visit, soon ❤

Lincoln Market Deli: Loaded Tater Tots, Delicious Sandos, and Local Groceries

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I can’t believe I waited until my last week in SLO to visit Lincoln Market Deli. Because I liked it so much that on that day, I went twice… (once to get a sandwich and once to get some locally sourced charcuterie meat and cheese for a beach picnic 😉 )

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YuMMMMmmmm

Lincoln Market Deli has a prominent history in the city of San Luis Obispo. It was originally built in 1941 and known as “Ellsworth’s Market,” the San Luis Obispo’s original grocer and butcher. Nowadays their market features delicious make-and-order hot and cold deli sandwiches, refrigerated products including bliss cafe desserts, beer and cider on tap, and so much more.

If I were to have to pick my favorite part of Lincoln Deli it would be challenging. But I think I would have to go with the lazy/funky and chill atmosphere which is so truly a local “San Luis Obispo” feeling. Even their craft beer and wine selection is incredibly diverse and primarily local. In fact, the market is mostly locally sourced items from their meats, to their cheeses, to their cal poly eggs, even to the wine from the Edna Valley. Locally made artwork is displayed for purchase.

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One of Lincoln Deli’s unique features includes a “tater tot” nacho menu with a generous selection of tot nachos buried in toppings like bacon, jalapeños, onions, cheeses of course, and so much more. As if that’s not enough to choose from, don’t forget to check out their SECRET MENU 😉 

There are usually plenty of seats available at tables to eat inside, as well as on their outdoor patio to soak up the sunshine on a warm SLO day. Taryn and I ate outdoors and watched the bustle of the busy intersection on the corner. I enjoyed a turkey sandwich with all the fixin’s and added avocado on marbled rye… it was stuffed full. I couldn’t even finish the whole thing. We also got Golden State hard ciders which are available on tap and they came out in really cute mason jars to drink.

The deli is located in a residential area, right on the corner of Broad and Lincoln Street off the 101, at the base of Madonna mountain. It’s open from 8am-7pm Monday-Saturday and closes at 6pm on Sundays.

Hearst Castle: Upstairs Suites Tour

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If you want to take a trip to a life experience straight out of The Great Gatsby, visit and tour the Hearst Castle. It’s a National Historic Landmark and a California Historic Landmark perched high atop a hill in San Simeon on the Central Coast of California with an incredibly interesting history behind it. It’s no wonder that this estate is the Hearst “Castle” because it does feel like some place from fantasyland.

I recommend that you make reservations before you go, because at peak tourist times time slots for tours can fill up. Also bring an extra layer because our tour guide told us that the temperature change between the top of the hill and the bottom can be pretty drastic!

The estate was designed by a close friend of newspaper owner William Randolph Hearst’s, architect Julia Morgan, between 1919 and 1947 as a whimsical residence for Hearst himself. In its prime in the 1920’s and 30’s it was a highly coveted place to receive an invitation to, for Hollywood stars and political figures because lavish parties and debauchery were the norm every night on this mountain, safe up away from the real world down below.

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The estate is adorned with magnificent historic art pieces from all over the world and features 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world’s largest private zoo which was once a home to exotic animals as well like lions (sometimes they startled the guests…). Zebras can still be seen roaming the grounds even today. The estate was never fully complete in Hearst’s lifetime due to his innate perfectionism, of design. For example, the famous Neptune Pool was rebuilt three times before Hearst was satisfied.

For going on the tour, park at the big lot at the base of the grounds and go into the building with a multitude of stores and gift shops (even a professional photo taking opportunity) before you head up to the castle. A group shuttle bus will drive you up from the visitor’s center to the castle itself and during the 5 mile ascent you listen to a recording of Alex Trebek explain the history of the Castle and what you’re viewing on the mountain. The view of the ocean and the central coastline is impeccable.

Conner and I chose to take the “upstairs suites tour,” rather than the traditional “grand rooms tour,” because I did some research online and learned that it was a more intimate experience with a smaller tour group which even showed off Hearst’s own bedroom. In this 60 minute tour we were able to see Doge’s Suite, the Library, The Gothic Suite, Duplex Bedrooms, Celestial Suite, Gardens, Neptune Pool (which at this time June 2018 is empty of water) and the Roman Pool. The guide was incredibly knowledgeable and had so much passion for the history of the estate which made the experience enjoyable. Below is a slideshow with photos of every room we saw:

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My only regret is not doing the tour earlier in the day so that we could have more time to enjoy the gardens and the grounds. We did one of the last tours of the day at 4:10pm, and we didn’t have much time to explore the grounds or watch the included movie afterward since the “twilight” experience tours started soon after our own and we had to leave.

My favorite part of the tour was the absolutely incredible view 😉 I also really enjoyed the Roman Pool, which was unreal in its level of beauty and intricate detail.

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To book your tour for Hearst Castle, visit their website. Tours are currently 25 dollars per person for adults and 12 dollars for children, with an 8 dollar reservation fee. Check out the rules of the ground here and be sure to appreciate every second of your experience perched atop the mountain with the best view on the Central Coast!