This Central Coast Holiday Road Trip & Shopping Guide is all about San Luis Obispo and is filled with community traditions and small business highlights. Bring along visiting friends and family and enjoy earning bonus points at each Local Rewards location mentioned!
Here are 7 ideas for your itinerary from Theresa Binney and Ben Sjogren, our San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Campus Branch Managers:
1. Start With Coffee
“This is a great place to start the day, or get some mid-day refreshment. The iced mocha is a DELIGHT!” — Theresa
First stop? Coffee, obviously. Nautical Bean is a family-owned favorite. Come for the specialty espresso drinks, stay for the delicious breakfast and lunch. All four Nautical Bean locations participate in SESLOC Local Rewards, which means you earn bonus rewards points¹ when you use your HomeFREE Checking™ debit or Visa Signature Rewards® credit card. You can redeem your points for gift cards, cash back, and many more awesome rewards at seslocrewards.org², helping you stretch your holiday budget.
2. Celebrate Downtown
“There are so many fun activities downtown!” — Ben
Downtown SLO is truly the hub of holiday activity, starting on November 24th at noon when Santa himself rides into town to transform Mission Plaza into Holiday Plaza for the season. The free opening day celebration includes live music and a lot of fun, then stick around until 5 p.m. for the official ceremony to turn on the lights. The Holiday Plaza is complete with a 20-foot tree, light up displays, a carousel, Santa’s House, and a special mailbox for kids to post their holiday wish list to the North Pole.
The festivities continue on Small Business Saturday on November 25th, where your favorite downtown retailers are planning exclusive offers and free “Support Local” tote bags and buttons.
Head downtown on Friday, December 1 for the 47th Annual Holiday Parade — a dazzling spectacle featuring nearly 90 decorated floats, marching bands, vehicles, dancers, and more. It’s the the biggest holiday parade on the Central Coast!
There will also be a Hanukkah Celebration from December 7 through the 15, complete with menorah lightings, ceremonies, and celebrations in Mission Plaza.
3. Warm Up at Thai Delight Cuisine
“My absolute fave, on a cold day of shopping, is a warm bowl of PHO!” — Theresa
A long day of festivities calls for a tasty, rejuvenating meal. Look no further than Thai Delight, a family-operated restaurant serving up authentic Thai cuisine in downtown SLO. And since Thai Delight is a participating Local Rewards business, you’ll earn bonus rewards points on your purchase when you use your eligible SESLOC debit or credit card.
4. Check Out Whiz Kids
“This little store is a local treasure.” — Ben
Since 1987, Whiz Kids has been selling a curated selection of high quality toys, games, activities, & books. Plus, they offer free gift wrapping in their signature purple paper to help you save time, and since they’re a participating Local Rewards business, you can earn bonus rewards points on your purchase when you pay with your eligible SESLOC card. They are also committed to giving back, so shopping locally supports their donations to schools and nonprofits in our community.
5. Take a Stroll Through the Garden
“Love a little nature walk with family.” — Theresa
Visit the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden to enjoy a refreshing stroll through native plant habitats. Plan your visit for a Friday or Saturday evening to enjoy Nature Nights, which features light up art displays, sculptures, live music, and local beer and wine.
6. Wander Through the SLO Public Market
“This is a fun place to gather with family or friends — there’s something for everyone!” — Ben
The SLO Public Market houses a collection of small local businesses under one roof, many of which are participating Local Rewards businesses — which means you can earn bonus rewards points when you pay with your eligible SESLOC debit or credit card. Browse the SLO General Store for some unique, locally made gifts, and if you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to The Neighborhood Acai & Juice Bar, Todo Bueno, or California Tacos & Distillery.
7. Enjoy the World Famous Madonna Inn
“I like to stop by when I plan a shopping trip in SLO.” — Theresa
The Madonna Inn is world-famous for their unique style, and they’re well known for going even more all out for the holidays. Stop in and enjoy the extravagant spectacle, take some Insta-worthy photos, and maybe order a slice of iconic pink champagne cake. while you’re at it.
If you’re looking for more holiday inspo this season, check out our tips for taking a joy ride to other Central Coast locations. Or, check out the complete Local Rewards Business Directory here.