When travelling to a famous international destination, we tend to have high expectations. Breathtaking views! Great food! Cultural exchanges with friendly locals! But too many times, our lofty aspirations are met with the harsh reality of dirty, overcrowded streets and pricey hotels. Local flavor? It's nearly impossible to find in many of the world's most touristy destinations. That's why we've created Journi Guides.
Journi Guides tell you where to beat the crowds, experience something authentic, and get the best 'gram of your life.
Check out this week's Journi Guide below to get our top recommendation of places you might not have heard of, but definitely should get to know.
We'll give it to you in movie terms. Santa Barbara is home to Meryl Streep's character in It's Complicated—an upscale dream of Nancy Meyers interiors, fresh-baked croissants (pronounced in proper French), and a wardrobe replete with Eileen Fisher linen.
But San Luis Obispo, about two hundred miles north of Los Angeles on the 101, is best known to some as a pet of Cher's in Clueless. Accordingly, it's a charmingly kooky destination full of surprises and kitsch, and of course, plenty of natural beauty. Here are the spots to hit.
The Pink Palace
A reliquary of garish kitsch, the Madonna Inn quickly became a cultural landmark on California's Central Coast shortly after opening its doors in 1958. Writer Umberto Eco described the decor in the motor lodge—which features 109 rooms, a bakery, and a restaurant—as if an architect "swallowed an overgenerous dose of LSD and began to build a nuptial catacomb for Liza Minelli." There is a lot of pink and a waterfall urinal in the men's lobby restroom.
Despite repeated cleaning efforts, Bubblegum Alley is still, well, a sticky 65-foot long alley plastered with bubblegum. It's the kind of thing that has to be seen in order to understand the full glory of the intersection of disgusting and astounding.
The Architectural Graveyard
An outdoor experimental construction lab for the students of California Polytechnic State University, this nine-acre park in the hills is home to a grabbag of abandoned architectural styles—atomic '60s-style structures and hobbit holes alike.
Catch a Movie Under the Stars
If you're a Californian who loves her car—and who doesn't—plunk down $9 and pull into the movies at Sunset Drive-In. And it doesn't cost a penny more to recline your seat and stick around for the second feature.
A Cinnamon Roll the Size of Your Head
Here's the recipe for the perfect morning: Grab your third wave coffee—homemade almond milk, nitro cold brew, expertly pulled shots on the Marzocco—at Scout or Ascendo. Then head to Old West Cinnamon Roll ("Worth the calories!" declares one reviewer) for a "not too sweet" treat that's "soft and springy from the outer rim to the innermost coil." Added heartwarmer: the company was started by Betty Clemens in the 1970s, in search of a second career after her husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The 89-year-old still stops in regularly today. Take one roll to the beach and share with someone you love.
Sink into the Hot Springs
Book a private hillside tub at the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa, available to soak in by the hour as you gaze up at the treetops. Traveling with a posse? The waterfall lagoon can accommodate up to twenty of your closest friends.
We're in favor of the offbeat and the unexpected. If that's how you travel, too, then you'll definitely want to skip the obvious options and seek out San Luis Obispo's under-the-radar charms.