The morning I visited Arroyo Grande, I didn’t know what to do.
I moved and moved and moved but certain individuals kept following me.
This is going to sound strange. The individuals I am referring to were not human. Ok, I was being chased by roosters. I do not know how to explain it but they were after me.
While walking around, I stopped by to take pictures of the creek which bisects the village. Suddenly, I heard my husband saying: “Ruth, watch out!”
One of the roosters was getting really close to me. I moved to another spot but he changed course and kept moving towards me. Then, two more entered the scene and appeared to be interested in me too.
Yes, I ended (kind of) running away since those roosters were determined to jump over me (or something like that). I do not have to say that I was the joke of my husband for more than a month. He kept screaming “Rooster” out of the blue during our Central Coast road trip.
But, let’s forget for a moment about the individuals that were following me and let’s divert our conversation towards The Village of Arroyo Grande. Shall we?
About Arroyo Grande
Arroyo Grande is an incorporated city in San Luis Obispo County and it is part of what is known as the Five Cities (with Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, Oceano and Shell Beach).
The area where the city stands today has a history dating back to the Chumash and the Portola Expedition.
The events that shaped the “modern” face of the area started when a man from New York, called Francis Ziba Branch, saw the land for the first time during a hunting expedition. His marriage to a lady called Maria Manuela Carlon entitled him to file a claim for a land grant (California was still part of Mexico during that time).
The family named their land Rancho Santa Manuela and establish a cattle ranching operation. They had success during the Mexican American War period. With time, they had financial difficulties and ended up selling their land.
Today, many of the structures built during the time of the Branch family survive. The heart of Arroyo Grande is known as Old Town or The Village. Of course, the principal road is called Branch Street.
Things to Do in Arroyo Grande
Arroyo Grande offers award-winning wines, family-friendly festivals, summertime concerts, and close proximity to open spaces great for hiking, biking, boating, and camping.
Here are my recommendations on things to do in Arroyo Grande.
Cross the Swinging Bridge
The swinging bridge was originally constructed in 1875 by the Short family, whose land was divided by the Arroyo Grande Creek. The bridge spans a total length of 171 feet and is suspended 40 feet above the creek.
It’s owned and maintained by the City of Arroyo Grande and is the only one of its kind in California. The bridge was damaged by a falling tree in March 1995. With strong community support, it was completely restored two months after the incident.
Yet Another Bridge to Admire: Bridge Street Bridge
This historic bridge, dating from 1908, also crosses the Arroyo Grande Creek. This is a stronger structure decorated with flowers and painted with bright colors.
Heritage Square Park
Most of the historical buildings in town are located around this park. Many are house museums which preserve artifacts from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The Heritage House (garden and museum) was built in the late 1800s. The museum has an interesting collection of period clothing, photographs, and kitchen items
The Santa Manuela Schoolhouse was built in 1901 and is the last remaining one-room schoolhouse in San Luis Obispo County. The original location of the building is now under the waters of the Lopez Lake (was built before a dam was constructed in the area).
The Barn Museum houses a variety of antique vehicles and agricultural artifacts from the South County area. It also houses vintage printing presses and other interesting exhibits.
The IOOF Historic Hall was formerly the meeting place of the International Order of Odd Fellows (they base their thoughts and actions on healthy philosophical principles).
The Patricia Loomis Historical Library and Resource Center (located at Ruby’s House) focuses on providing materials for historical research and reenactments.
The Gazebo in the middle of the park is used for concerts, festivals, and other activities.
Keep your eyes peeled while walking around the park. Try to spot Victorian houses and other historical structures.
Have Ice Cream at Doc Burnstein’s
Honestly, we cannot talk about Arroyo Grande without mentioning this place. I actually read about The Village for the first time when I spotted an ad featuring Doc Burnstein’s mad scientist holding pink ice cream.
This old-fashioned ice cream parlor serves delicious hand-crafted ice cream. They have scrumptious flavors such as sea salt caramel, Motor Oil (dark chocolate & Kahlua), pecan praline and Butterfinger Blast
Kids (and adults) love to see the model trains running around the parlor and party room.
The business has extended to San Luis Obispo and Orcutt but this will always be an Arroyo Grande place.
Stroll Branch Street
As I mentioned, this is the main street in The Village. This is where you are going to find restaurants, cafes, specialty boutiques, specialty food stores, and antiques.
I loved this street. There are a lot of creative businesses presenting beautiful concepts. Make some time to visit stores such as Apropos, Village Antique Mart, Chic Interiors, Village Papery, and Chameleon Style.
I loved this street. There are a lot of creative businesses presenting beautiful concepts.
Shoot the Murals
Murals around town recount the story of the area and pay homage to their agricultural roots.
Some businesses in the area are painted with original and cute designs.
Spot the Signs
What is a little town without funky and bizarre signs? Well, looks like the residents of Arroyo Grande have a good sense of humor.
Sip Good Wine
Arroyo Grande has its own American Viticultural Area (16 miles long). The terrain is made of sedimentary and volcanic soil over bedrock.
Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Rhône varietals are grown on the higher elevations. The cooler mid-valley vineyards are home to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varieties.
Done not miss the opportunity to visit these wineries and tasting rooms:
Phantom Rivers – Beautiful tasting room in the village (open Thursday – Monday) serves Pinot Noir, Roussanne, and Chardonnay
Timbre Winery – Serves (and sells) Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made with grapes from Santa Barbara County. They prepare hard cider too.
Qupe & Verdad – The tasting room in The Village serves wines from two different labels (both are owned by the same couple). Qupe works with French varietals and Verdad with Spanish ones.
Laetitia – This is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the area. The tasting room is located in the middle of the estate vineyard, on a hill, surrounded by picnic areas, bocce ball courts, and a walking trail. This place can be directly accessed from Hwy 101.
Talley Vineyards – People rave about this place. It is a little out of the way but I recommend visiting to escape to nature.
Attend an Event
During the year, Arroyo Grande has events such as the Orchid Show (April), Strawberry Festival (May), Roll Out the Barrels (June), Arroyo Valley Car Show (July), Harvest Festival (September) and Christmas Concert & Parade. It would be fun to mingle with the locals and get to know the area better.
Every Saturday afternoon a farmers market is set up Olohan Alley at The Village.
As mentioned, The Village is an ideal place for shopping. However, if you need a supermarket, convenience store, movie theater, bank or gym, you can stop by the Five Cities Center. This place has all you need for the beach or camping.
Arroyo Grande Restaurants
Arroyo Grande may be small but it does not lack in terms of restaurants. There so much good stuff to have here. Here are some places to try:
Klondike Pizza – This place serves pizza in an Alaskan atmosphere (owners actually met at Klondike). Get ready to try the big selection of pizzas (some include reindeer sausage), huge burgers, chicken Cordon Bleu and salads. This is a family favorite in the area.
Old Village Grill – This business claims to have the best burgers and sandwiches in town. The public seems to agree since they battle the lines to get the delicious charbroiled burgers. They also serve Philly cheesesteaks, pastrami melts, and BLTA sandwiches.
Palo Mesa Wood Fire – I am not a big fan of pizza but Arroyo Grande makes me crave this dish. I have to add another pizzeria to the list. Do not be fooled by Palo Mesa’s simple menu. This place delivers huge flavor on every single pie. Got for the Marinara, Margherita or Bianca (white sauce).
Jaffa Café – This café serves shawarma, gyros, kabobs, hummus, baba ganoush and more. Pay them a visit since the good is super tasty. They have a location in San Luis Obispo too.
Mason Bar and Kitchen – This is a stylish place to have brunch and dinner with friends. They serve small plates, salads, and entrees such as Osso Bucco and crispy duck breast
Outside the village, you will find restaurants such as:
Ember – This highly recommended establishment serves wood-fired food. Their dishes include roasted stuffed quail, spicy lamb, and grilled ribeye
Frutiland – Good place to get tacos!
Lopez Lake – This recreational area, located 10 miles from Arroyo Grande, counts with a lake, marina, cabins, campsites, picnic area, hiking trails, and adventure park. It is an ideal place to stay one day or two.
Los Berros Road – A drive south on Los Berros Road will take you to The Gardens at Peacock Farms, Peacock Cellars, and Windmill Farms.
Huasna Townsite Drive – Drive through an agricultural valley to a historic site
If we are talking about things to do in Arroyo Grande, we have to talk about its adjacent and nearby towns.
Arroyo Grande is located close to the beaches of San Luis Obispo County. Therefore, it makes complete sense to add one or more beach towns to a visit.
There are many great options. Chose the one that fits your preferences.
Pismo Beach (4 miles) – This town is famous for its piers, gorgeous cliffs, clam chowder, monarch butterfly grove, and beach camping. You can drive your car over the sand in a nearby area.
Avila Beach (10 miles) – This is one of the hidden gems of the California Coast. Come here to enjoy wine tasting rooms, hot springs, an aquarium, fishing, kayaking, and hiking. This is one of my favorites places to visit!
Morro Bay (30 miles) – Nature lovers, listen to this, you have to visit Morro Bay! This town is known for its huge rock (a volcanic plug), bay and abundant wildlife.
Cayucos (34 miles) – This fun, small town offer relaxation, smoked tacos, and brown butter cookies. I cannot choose which of those is better so, I prefer to have them all.
Cambria and San Simeon (48 miles) – These two places are a bit further but they are totally worth the drive. Do not miss Hearst Castle, the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas and the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk.
How to Reach Arroyo Grande
Arroyo Grande is situated halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Village is an ideal stop for any road trip along California’s Central Coast (is off the 101 Freeway).
The place is very close to Pismo Beach and Avila Beach. It can be a nice alternative to the beach scene.
To learn more about the historical buildings and exhibits, visit this page.
More of Southern California
Find out how to spend one fun-filled day in Los Angeles
Get inspiration by reading my Los Angeles Ultimate Bucket List
Have you been? What are your recommendations for things to do in Arroyo Grande?
P.S. Here are some pictures of the rooster that chase me. I think they are kinda, sorta famous because they appear in almost every page related to Arroyo Grande.
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