Everybody's favorite small Calif. city
WHERE: San Luis Obispo, Calif., college town, voted a "most livable city" and home of the famously quirky Madonna Inn, offers another attraction for visitors: a super lively Farmers Market.
Each Thursday around 5:30 p.m. six downtown blocks of Higuera Street, between Osos and Nipomo streets, are blocked off to traffic to make room for barbecued ribs, freshly picked produce, arts and crafts, live entertainment, and more.
An event since 1983, the market is at its peak in midsummer, with roughly 50 farmers and 70 other vendors, attracting some 20,000 shoppers downtown. Next to the farmers' territory are flower sellers, ethnic foods, artists and craftsmen, political groups and war protesters, among others. You'll find the market mascot in a bear outfit. At 6 p.m. at the toot of a whistle, selling begins.
San Luis Obispo, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, has long been a stopping point for travelers. In fact, the word motel was coined here when the Motel Inn of San Luis Obispo was established in 1925. Since then, the pleasant year-round climate and pretty sceneryhave made the city a favorite on California road trips.
WHAT TO BUY: Whatever tempts your taste buds. Cherries are particularly fine during summer months.
WHAT ELSE TO SEE: The flamboyant Madonna Inn, a famous local landmark, was established by Alex Madonna in 1958. The inn is a monument to kitsch with each of the 109 rooms following a different theme. The Fremont Theater is a historic Art Deco theater from the 1940s that still plays first-run movies on the huge screen. Murals adorn the walls of the main theater, where neon swirls light the ceiling. Another destination is Bubblegum Alley. Since about 1960, people have been sticking their chewed gum on the walls of this alley. A doctor's office on the corner of Santa Rosa and Pacific streets is one of very few commercial buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
San Luis Obispo is around 200 miles north of Los Angles on Highway 101, 12 miles inland from the Pacific. San Luis Obispo Farmers Market is open 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays. www.downtownslo.com/farmers.html.