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San Luis Obispo

About halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo spreads out below gentle hills and rocky extinct volcanoes. Its main appeal lies in its architecturally diverse, pedestrian-friendly downtown, which bustles with shoppers, restaurant goers, and students from California Polytechnic State University, known as Cal Poly. On Thursday evening from 6 to 9 the city's famed farmers' market fills Higuera Street with local produce, entertainment, and food stalls.

San Luis Obispo is the commercial center of a wine region whose appellations (Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley) stretch west toward the coast and east toward the inland mountains. Many of the nearly 30 wineries here line Highway 227 and connecting roads. The region is known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, although many wineries experiment with other varietals and blends. Wine-touring maps are available around San Luis Obispo. Many wineries charge a small tasting fee; most tasting rooms close at 5.

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