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Our 10 favorite things to do in San Luis Obispo

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is the anchor to Mission Plaza and the heart of the city.
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is the anchor to Mission Plaza and the heart of the city. The Tribune

1. Catch a movie at the Sunset Drive-In

Drive-in theaters are increasingly rare in America. Cozy up in the comforts of your vehicle and take advantage of San Luis Obispo’s Sunset Drive-In Theatre for some good old-fashioned movie-watching.

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There’s nothing like watching a movie at the Sunset Drive-in. File photo The Tribune

2. Hike to the top of Bishop Peak

Bishop Peak in San Luis Obispo features spectacular views and a challenging workout. The tallest of the Nine Sisters, representing the local volcanic peaks, Bishop Peak is a 1,546-foot, 20-million-year-old rock. The 3.5-mile round trip starts from a trailhead at Highland Drive. For a steeper climb, try the entrance off Foothill Boulevard.

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Hiking down from Bishop Peak on a chilly Saturday afternoon are, from left, Cristian Beltran, Jose Hernandez, Sebastian Ramirez and Ramon Yanez, all are from Paso Robles. Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

3. Make your mark on Bubblegum Alley

Perhaps one of the most bizarre, disgusting or fascinating attractions of the city, depending on perspective, Bubblegum Alley is a wall adorned by chewing gum on the 700 block of Higuera Street in the heart of downtown. Visitors can enjoy making their mark, discovering messages and designs, or simply viewing the gum graffiti that has been featured in television shows, news programs and periodicals worldwide.

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San Luis Obispo tourists take photos of themselves in Bubble Gum Alley. Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

4. Shop for fresh produce at Farmers Market

The Farmers Market takes place every Thursday, barring rain or major holidays, downtown on Higuera Street from 6 to 9 p.m. Farmers offer a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Try a free sample and check out the variety of music and other entertainment that accompanies the multi-block row of vendors between Nipomo and Osos streets.

Scenes from the Downtown San Luis Obispo Farmers Market, which runs year-round. There's music, barbecue and, of course, fresh fruits and vegetables.

5. Dig into a tri-tip sandwich

Those looking for a bite have good options for tri-trip, whether it’s Firestone Grill, Old San Luis Barbecue Company, the Rib Line BBQ, F. McLintocks, Laguna Bar and Grill, or other venues of choice. Firestone is an established hangout for Cal Poly students and grads.

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Firestone Grill’s tri-tip sandwich with fries and BBQ sauce.

6. Take a break at Mission Plaza

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was built in 1772 by Father Junípero Serra. The historic building at 751 Palm St. is an architectural gem where visitors can attend Mass, take a tour, or stop in at the museum and gift shop. Its plaza also is the core of many popular city events — Concerts in the Plaza, the Jazz Festival, Dia de Los Muertos and the annual street painting festival, to name a few.

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Arist Sharyn Namnath, left, and her sister Andrea Johnston finish the border of her work “The Wolf of Gubbio & St. Francis” during the 2010 I. Madonnari Festival at Mission Plaza. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

7. Enjoy a movie at the Fremont Theater

Catch a show or movie at the historic art-deco-style theater at 1035 Monterey St. It is among the last Streamline Moderne theaters, which emerged in the 1930s. The facility was built by architect S. Charles Lee and opened in 1942. It’s also a venue for the annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.

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The Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

8. Eat cake or stay overnight at the Madonna Inn

Often one of the first attractions that catches people’s eye as they drive through San Luis Obispo is the Madonna Inn. It’s home to the popular pink champagne cake. You can stay overnight in one of the themed rooms, such as the Austrian Suite or Rock Bottom, or make a daytime visit to the restaurant for a steak or the dance floor to listen to live music multiple nights a week.

The pink chocolate tastes the same as the cream-colored white chocolate, but it went on a five month hiatus from the Madonna Inn. The chocolate is back and being shaved and added to cakes.

9. Relax beside San Luis Creek

San Luis Obispo Creek runs through the heart of downtown. Looking to stretch your legs after a meal at a nearby eatery or meditate on a rock, this spot offers natural beauty, especially after a rainy winter.

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Jordan Chestnut of San Luis Obispo sketches while sitting beside San Luis Obispo Creek. Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

10. See a show at the Performing Arts Center

Located on the Cal Poly university campus, the Performing Arts Center offers state-of-the-art acoustics and multi-level seating to showcase a wide variety of music and other entertainment. Opened in 1996, it hosts well-known orchestras, bands, speakers, dancers and more.

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The Los Osos Middle School Stage Choir performs at the 2013 Central Coast Spring Choral Festival at the Performing Arts Center at Cal Poly. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

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