San Luis Obispo County Welcomes Your Furry Little Friend
San Luis Obispo County, which is located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles along Highway 101 and Highway 1, demonstrated the dog-friendly nature of its community when it invited six photojournalists to experience the county with their dogs and cameras. I was excited to explore the happiest city in America, as determined by author and researcher Dan Buettner in his book “Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way.”
Our itineraries were booked with walks on beaches and quaint strolls in a carefully preserved and thriving 19th century downtown centered around a meticulously restored 18th century mission, as well as visits to a small but thriving art gallery scene and a large and growing collection of top-quality wineries. San Luis Obispo and its neighboring communities boast extraordinary resources for hiking, mountain biking, sea kayaking, swimming, and surfing.
I met my fellow travelers for lunch on the rooftop terrace at SeaCrest Ocean Front Hotel in Pismo Beach. We enjoyed world famous clam chowder from Splash Café and discussed the recent Pismo Beach dog-friendly initiatives with Suzen Brasile from the Pismo Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau.
We were then shuttled around San Luis Obispo by Ray Shalhoub, who was a historian of San Luis Obispo, or “SLO” as the locals call it. Ray works with Breakaway Tours and chauffeured us the entire duration of our trip. Our first stop was downtown Pismo Beach where we were let loose to run on the beach with our pooches.
The next stop was downtown San Luis Obispo where we visited the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, which is the hub of visual arts in San Luis Obispo County and a beacon of fine art exhibitions on the Central Coast. (Thank you Karen Kile, executive director of the SLO Museum of Art, for the tour of the museum.)
While in downtown we visited Bubble Gum Alley, where we all left a piece of gum. We also visit the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and San Luis Creek.
We later arrived at Luna Red to eat dinner with our pooches at the hottest restaurant in the heart of SLO. Luna Red displayed a warm and delicious menu of tapas and global creations, and our menu featured an array of Luna Red favorites. We satisfied our palette with Clayhouse Adobe Red, a floral red wine by a local, award winning Paso Robles winery. It was a wonderful Zinfandel-based blend with effusive aromas of cherry spice, blackberry, and pepper and hints of brambles and plum.
The courses consisted of a chopped salad with citrus vinaigrette; a wild fish ceviche with red onions, cilantro, tomato, avocado, lime juice, and corn tortilla chips; and a smoked paprika hummus plate with red quinoa, tabbouleh, tzatziki, marinated olives, flatbread, and cucumber chips.
For the second course we dined on chorizo-stuffed dates, black bean and avocado fritters with paprika salt and lime, and cornmeal crab fritters with avocado remoulade.
Our final stop before heading back to the SeaCrest Hotel was to Grover Beach for a bonfire, s’mores, and drinks. Grover Beach is a quiet town located off Highway 1 offering a variety of recreational activities, including golfing and horseback riding.
Beach Butlerz set up the bonfire pit with a good supply of seasoned firewood, luxe beach chairs, a cabana, tiki torches, and a 12-foot-tall teepee decked out with plush pillows and all the fixings.
After that it was off to the hot tub to close out the night and get ready for Day Two!
I’d like to give special thanks to our dinner guests, Noreen Martin, CEO of Martin Resorts, chairman of the San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau, and commissioner of Visit California, and Chantal Lavoux-Guy, sales and marketing director of Martin Resorts. I would also like to thank Molly Cano, tourism manager for the City of San Luis Obispo.