Local Atmosphere

San Luis Obispo, CA
Tuition (in-state)
$19,071 ($8,043)
Admission Difficulty
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4 Recent Alumnus

Local Atmosphere: The local atmosphere at SLO (San Luis Obispo) is a perfect match for me. It consists of a stress-free atmosphere, all the way maintaining interesting complexities within the town to fulfill every person's lifestyles.

5 College Senior

Local Atmosphere: I have completely fallen in love with San Luis Obispo and it will be hard to leave when I graduate

4 College Senior

Local Atmosphere: Very much a college town. SLO is great at catering to students.

5 College Sophomore

Local Atmosphere: SLO has mountains and beaches.

4 College Sophomore

Local Atmosphere: SLO is an awesome town. It is a very small town, but if you enjoy the outdoors, you will really come to appreciate it. There are many beautiful hikes and outdoors activities to do that will make you appreciate the city so much more.


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Student Author OverviewWhat's This?

Amy Herman
Burbank CA
Liberal Studies
Grad Year
View all previous student authors

San Luis Obispo is a small beach town on the coast of California. People are generally extremely easygoing and relaxed, and the pace of life is much slower than in San Francisco or Los Angeles. There are lots of small businesses around, and it's definitely easy to feel like a part of the community. San Luis Obispo does have a permanent population of adults and families, and the two aren't always respectful of each other's desires, though everyone seems to get along, for the most part. The only other college in the area is a community college—Cuesta College. 

There are increasing numbers of homeless people in the downtown area, but they are mostly friendly. Otherwise, San Luis Obispo is an extremely safe community. Neighbors generally watch out for each other. Whether or not students were athletic before coming to Cal Poly, they will inadvertently become more outdoorsy. It's nearly impossible not to. Nearly everyone tries kayaking, rock climbing, or surfing during their time at Cal Poly. There are always opportunities to enjoy the beautiful outdoors and great weather, either alone or with friends.

Facts & Statistics

Fun Local Trivia
  1. Every Thursday evening, Higuera, one of the main streets in town, closes down for one of the biggest farmers' markets in California. It includes music, produce, crafts, and barbecues.
  2. Every year from October through March, the San Luis area (especially Pismo Beach) is host to thousands of Monarch butterflies, who consider this area to have the perfect climate for wintering in.
  3. One weekend in April, parking lots, driveways, and the town square downtown are roped off for the annual I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival. Artists gather with colored chalk to paint beautiful masterpieces on concrete.
  4. San Luis is home to the elegantly quirky Madonna Inn. Each of the 108 guest rooms in this historic hotel is individually decorated with its own theme and color scheme. The men's bathroom in the lobby alone is worth the visit—for gentlemen and ladies alike!
  5. San Luis was born when Father Junipero Serra founded the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in 1772. The original mission is now the centerpiece of downtown San Luis.
Notable Natives
  • Zac Efron – actor
  • Jack Kerouac – writer
Local Slang
  • AG: Arroyo Grande
  • Farmers': The weekly farmers' market held every Thursday on Higuera Street, downtown SLO
  • The Grade: Steeply inclined, dangerous section of 101 just north of SLO that has been under construction for the past decade (and probably the next decade, as well)
  • The PAC: Cal Poly's Performing Arts Center
  • SLO: Common abbreviation of San Luis Obispo
Points of Interest
  • Avila Beach
  • Bill Roalman (Morro Street) Bicycle Boulevard
  • Bishop Peak
  • Bubblegum Alley
  • Hearst Castle
  • Madonna Inn
  • Montaña de Oro
Shopping Centers
Madonna Plaza Shopping Center
Movie Theaters
Fremont Theatre
1035 Monterey St.
San Luis Obispo
(805) 546-8600
Movie Theaters
The Movie Experience 7 at Downtown Centre
888 Marsh St.
San Luis Obispo
(805) 546-8600
Movie Theaters
Palm Theatre
817 Palm St.
San Luis Obispo
(805) 541-5161
Movie Theaters
Sunset Drive-in Theatre
255 Elks Lane
San Luis Obispo
(805) 544-4475
Distances to Nearest Major Cities
  • Los Angeles: : 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • San Francisco: : 4 hours

Student Polls

Rate the local atmosphere on the following topics    Based on 142 responses

Very poor
  • Cost of living
  • Dining
  • Friendliness of locals toward students
  • Museums/cultural attractions
  • Nightlife
  • Parking
  • Parks and recreation
  • Professional sports
  • Safety
  • Scenery
  • Shopping
  • Transportation

What is the local atmosphere like at your school?    Based on 138 responses

  • 2% Painfully remote.
  • 2% In or near a big city, but there's not much to do off campus.
  • 16% Small town with plenty of charm.
  • 76% Vibrant college town. There's no big city, but there are plenty of things to do off campus.
  • 4% City living at its finest. There's always something fun and interesting going on.

What is the proximity to other universities? Is there much interaction?    Based on 138 responses

  • 37% There aren't any nearby schools.
  • 22% There are nearby schools, but students do NOT interact much.
  • 41% There are nearby schools that students often interact with.

Can you see yourself living here after graduation?    Based on 137 responses

  • 19% No way.
  • 56% Maybe, if I could find a good job.
  • 25% Totally.



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