Home > Where to Live Now > Why San Luis Obispo, CA, Is a Best Place to Live

Why San Luis Obispo, CA, Is a Best Place to Live

California’s oldest community is now one of its most unique and well-loved.

By Emily Handy on January 26, 2018

San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo / Photo courtesy Visit SLO

San Luis Obispo is nestled halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and its laid back California lifestyle and stunning natural beauty make it an obvious choice for our Top 100 Best Places to Live.

Life is a dream in San Luis Obispo (Or SLO). The city was founded in 1772 as the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Eventually, SLO became such a popular stop on U.S. Route 101 that the world’s very first motel, the Milestone Mo-Tel, opened up in 1925.

It’s no wonder that travelers wanted to make a pit stop in this radiant California city, which has carved out a reputation for being the happiest place in America. SLO sees on average 300 days of sunshine every year and with more than 30 miles of trails in the city limits alone, it’s a sun-soaked paradise for any outdoor lover. Plus, some of the most beautiful beaches are located in SLO, including the family-friendly Morro Bay and Cayucos with its sweeping views. Love wine? The warm and sunny climate also provides the perfect setting for more than 280 wineries.

Is This California Town the Happiest Place in America?

SLO is also home to the prestigious and nationally-ranked California Polytechnic State University, a university known for its School of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Its K-12 schools are also top-notch, with six of SLO County’s high schools rated among the nation’s best in 2016.

“Cal Poly and Cuesta College contribute to the youthful, creative and active vibe as well as a highly educated population,†said Vice Mayor Carlyn Christianson.

But although the city is extremely family-friendly, its university presence means there is an excellent culture and entertainment scene. Movies and theater are big here, as shown by the gorgeous 1942 Art Deco Fremont Theater and the incredible solar-powered Palm Theater. Each year, the city celebrates classical music with its Festival Mozaic, a week in July packed full of classical performances and experiences. The city shows off its quirkiness with its famous 70-foot-long Bubblegum Alley, where passersby stick their chewed gum along the walls.


Courtesy of Justin Meissen under a CC 2.0 license

Community is a big deal here. Whether you’re into hiking, wine, surfing, agriculture, theater or music, there’s a community for you in San Luis Obispo. In fact, its exercise community has actually been ranked by a Gallup-Sharecare poll as one of the happiest and fittest cities in America.

“People are drawn to San Luis Obispo because of the unique lifestyle that residents and visitors can both enjoy. Whether it is the easy access to miles of hiking and biking trails, walkable downtown or engaging arts scene, people fall in love with this place and play an active role in caring for it,†Christianson said.

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