National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April, and this year marks the 150th anniversary of the tree planter’s holiday but did you know that you can celebrate Arbor day, every day in San Luis Obispo or SLO, California? If sustainability and investing In Our Planet is something you are passionate about, then read on…
For nearly 40 consecutive years, the city of San Luis Obispo along California’s Central Coast, better known as SLO, has been recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day SLO is taking its title to heart with its Keys for Trees initiative.
Keys for Trees & San Luis Obispo
Part of SLO’s strategic sustainability plan Keys for Trees sets aside a portion of the city’s hotel revenue from overnight stays and earmarks it for the continuous planting of trees. Their goal is to have 10,000 trees planted and flourishing throughout the city by 2035 to coincide with the SLO’s goal of being carbon-neutral. They have been hard at work planting trees already with their partners at EcoSLO.
Whether you book a hotel room for one or multiple nights in one of the 42 properties in town, you are helping to create a destination that offers cleaner air, cleaner water and a more biodiverse habitat long-term. A win-win!
A couple of years ago when we went on a trip to Santa Barbara, due to some last-minute changes we landed in the quaint San Luis Obispo airport instead. Rows of grapevines were visible as we got closer to landing and lavender plants welcomed us at the small airport. I loved their SLO CAL signage 🙂
We didn’t spend much time in town other than a quick lunch stop. But when planning another California trip this Spring, I looked up SLO again.
Things to do in San Luis Obispo (SLO)
If you are planning a trip to slow Cal and escape to SLO for a weekend, you can enjoy horseback riding, hiking on their many and easy to get to trails, enjoying farm-to-table cuisine and of course some excellent wine-tasting awaits you. You can even make an easy trip to Paso Robles, Pismo Beach or Hearst Castle.
SLO Coast AVA offers some of the coolest climates for wine growing in the region. They have some wonderful chardonnays and pinot noirs. Look for Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified vineyards when planning a visit. SLO’s wine-growing region has earned a reputation for being green as well.
Edna Valley wine legacy dates back to the Spanish missionaries, who planted vineyards as part of their 1772 Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa settlement. Families followed in their footsteps by practicing the art of winemaking. You will find that most of the vineyards in the valley are SIP certified. The designation requires vineyards to follow a strict sustainable practices program addressing a variety of factors including habitat, water, energy, soil, recycling, packaging, and much more.
Start with Tolosa Winery, Chamisal Vineyards, or Claiborne & Churchill Winery — a family run winery that specializes in premium dry wines. Be sure to make reservations in advance for one of the tasting experiences. There are many restaurants and tasting rooms in SLO where you can start your wine journey. Downtown SLO restaurant menus typically feature a farm-to-table menu, local craft beer, and Central Coast wines.
You are not too far from the beach as well. Avila Beach’s Instagram-worthy boardwalk, Pismo Beach’s pier and tide pools are only ten to twenty minutes from SLO, and so is Morro Bay.
Another way to enjoy the scenery around San Luis Obispo is by saddling up for a horseback riding adventure. There are over 1,000 acres of equestrian trails featuring sweeping views of SLO’s rolling hills, and state parks, and some views extend all the way to the Pacific Ocean!
Visit the Farmer’s Market
If you extend your weekend stay a little, you can enjoy their Farmer’s Market, one of the oldest in the country which happens every Thursday. San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market takes place in Higuera Street and spans 5 blocks of downtown. Apart from the season farm-fresh produce, and artisanal products you will find outdoor street cooking, vendors, and street performers. It is more like a street fair or festival than a Farmer’s market.
San Luis Obispo Bike Trails
The San Luis Obispo bike trails offer well-marked bike routes within historic Downtown and all the way out to Morro Bay. You can truly travel car-free while vacationing on the Central Coast! Plus there is art on the pavements of downtown SLO to enjoy while biking.
When walking through Downtown San Luis Obispo and on popular Higuera Street you can find many art galleries, like Hands Gallery and Just Looking Gallery, both local and world-renown artists.
SLO also has many public art and murals in the downtown area. Even the parking garage toll booths are wrapped in the latest murals from local artists. In February, artist Erin LeAnn Mitchell painted a series of murals, covering all four sides of the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art’s walls. San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA) has art for everyone to enjoy now, both indoors and outdoors!
Just like in Seattle, you can take a selfie at SLO’s Bubblegum Alley.
A cool exhibit I saw (online) at the San Luis Obispo Museum was by Philip Carey called “All the Circles From a Circular Journey”, 2018-2019, road maps, bottle caps, digital photos color Xeroxed onto Canson paper/cut out/mounted to toilet paper tubes, all mounted to 48” wooden circle.
For this exhibit, Carey collected circular items and photographs during a cross-country road trip. The resulting artwork is a series of layered circles featuring all circular imagery. This artwork, along with the other artworks included in “From a Commonplace”, uses paper as a primary medium. While the paper is easily discarded, it is often converted into something invaluable — a greeting card from a loved one, a childhood storybook, a train ticket from a trip abroad, said SLOMA about the installation.
Day trips from SLO
Just 45 minutes north of San Luis Obispo on Highway 1, you can explore the magnificent Hearst Castle, a California State Park. Marvel at the grand vision of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst with a tour of Hearst Castle, his luxurious estate turned museum, one of the world’s greatest showplaces.
Situated on what would eventually total about 250,000 acres of ranch-land, Hearst Castle was designed by the first licensed woman architect in California, Julia Morgan. She also designed another building in SLO, The Monday Club. This building which is over 80 years old is California-mission beige with clean, black metal frames and black metal front doors. Sleek moss spills over the bricks of the Spanish roof. Another remarkable site to check out while you are in SLO country!
How to get there
Situated directly between San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, California is easy to get to. You can fly into San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport from many major airports. Places like Dallas and Denver have non-stop service into San Luis Obispo Airport and several other destinations are reachable in just 1 or 2 stops.
I hope this article got you interested in planning a trip to San Luis Obispo and being part of their Keys for Trees program. SLO takes matters of the environment and climate seriously. We all should. Remember for every room booked, a portion of the room charge will go toward planting trees all over town in SLO CAL!
Images (except the Pismo Beach photo) courtesy of Visit San Luis Obispo