Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Campus Visits: Share Your Tips & Recommendations

Did you recently visit Cal Poly State University at San Luis Obispo? Share your experience with the community! Post your review in the comments below.

Some ideas for what to share:

  • When did you visit?
  • Where did you stay? Would you recommend it?
  • Where did you eat? Did you try any local specialties?
  • How did you get there? What’s the best transportation mean to get to-from the campus?
  • What was the campus vibe?
  • What did you think of the dorms?
  • What are some must-see things in or around campus?
  • How were the school facilities?
  • Did you like it more or less than you thought you would? Why?
  • Did anything surprise you?

We’d love to hear any tips or recommendations you can share for people planning their visit!

I actually just got back from San Luis Obispo two days ago, although I was not specifically visiting Cal Poly. But I loved the city! I stayed at the Madonna Inn which is pricey but so nice, with great heated pool and two hot tubs. They also have on site horseback riding which was fantastic. There seems to be a big beach/surfer culture in the city which we liked as well. And so many green areas for hiking and getting outdoors. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of public transportation - I think we saw exactly one bus in the three days that we were there. There are likely more, but coming from the Bay Area where we have lots of buses and trains, the public transportation certainly seemed lacking. One of our Uber drivers actually mentioned that a lot his rides are Cal Poly students and, here’s something that you might want to be aware of, he said that day drinking is a popular activity among students, so he gets called for a lot of pick ups for that and, according to him, that’s actually the bulk of Uber income. Obviously, this is just the view on one Uber driver, so take it with a grain of salt, but something to possibly be aware of. The overall atmosphere of the city is quite laid back in the way that beach-type towns tend to be. I think it would really be a great place to go to college.


Have one son who graduated and one current son there.
-Where to stay - we have Hilton points so we stay at the Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, and lately, The Kinney. Hotels are not cheap. Sometimes we’ve stayed in Pismo or Arroyo Grande during big events.
-Where to eat - Tri Tip is a specialty of the California central coast so you should try it while you are there. We always try to hit Firestone Grill when we visit. Other places to try in downtown SLO are: Breakfast Buzz, Eureka, Ribline (not in downtown). In Pismo Beach we like Hoagies for tacos. SLO has a ton of great restaurants so if you check Yelp you’ll find lots of options. The Campus Market on campus has great tri tip if you are there on a Wednesday. (check for the days it’s there.)
-How to get there - drove from Orange County. We had our sons take the train back and forth to campus.
-Campus vibe is busy when the kids are around. If you talk to the kids they’ll tell you it’s not a competitive atmosphere like you’ll find at a UC. Cal Poly fosters a cooperative spirit in the kids.
-Dorms are a mix of brand new Yakitutu and older buildings. The upperclassman apartments in Cerro Vista and Poly Canyon Village are nice.
-Campus has a mix of older and new buildings. Get a tour of the Rec Center if you can. It’s a beauty and you’ll be jealous of your student.

If your child gets in I’d encourage you to go to the Open House and don’t miss the admitted students day on Friday and the club showcase on Saturday. It’s your big chance to talk to current students and get a feel for the type of kids your kid will interact with. Try to hit the Farmers Market.

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We visited in August and stayed at San Luis Creek Lodge. Loved it. Also loved Scout Coffee.

We’ve also stayed at San Luis Creek Lodge and enjoyed it. Request a room in the back as the front rooms can get noisy.

Daughter is a graduating Senior this year. My husband and I love SLO - we went to see live music at Barrelhouse Brewing when we were there with our daughter touring the campus in 2019 and I don’t know if it was the beer, or the band, or both, but we decided SLO is just magical and are super glad she chose to go to Cal Poly.

We have stayed at the Avenue Inn Downtown SLO (clean, no frills, a couple blocks from downtown - haven’t been in a rush to stay there again, but it was fine and the price was right for a quick trip); The Garden Street Inn (Feels more like a B&B, close to/pretty much in downtown, super cozy and great breakfast - would absolutely stay there again); La Quinta Inn and Suites SLO Downtown - super close to campus; very clean, nice rooms - would absolutely stay again); Apple Farm Inn - we stay here most often because it is clean, affordable, very close to campus and the folks that work there are always very nice - maybe a little dated, but that doesn’t bother us at all)

Food - SLO isn’t really known for its fabulous food (especially coming from the many and varied choices of the Bay Area), but there are some solid choices. If you want the student vibe, go to Woodstock’s - alway reliable, decent pizza and beer choices and open late - which is key for us, since we are usually coming from a Cal Poly choir performance); Sally Loos is great for breakfast, the “Sally’s Waffle” is amazing - for breakfast/lunch we also have enjoyed Big Sky Cafe. Libertine Brewing is great. And last, but definitely not least, one of our absolute favorite places is High Street Deli - some of the best sandwiches we’ve ever had. “Its just a sandwich”, you say - but no, it is not. You will just have to try it yourself to understand.

Campus vibe is great - feels very laid back and lively. My daughter lived in Yakitutu her freshman year and it was pretty fantastic, and then Poly Canyon Village her Sophomore year - it was a great place to live as a second year - more independence than the dorms, and just enough supervision, but not quite off-campus living. Allowed her to cook and take care of an apartment before moving off campus as a third year. My high school senior son attended an engineering camp on campus last summer and stayed in a dorm in South Mountain (aka the red bricks) - he loved it.

Rec center is fantastic (as are all of the CSU campus rec centers); the Performing Arts Center is beautiful and I will miss going to choir performances there :frowning:

On campus, go visit the Arboretum - its super cool and unexpected!

SLO is awesome - enjoy your visits, everyone!

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We did not need an overnight stay for our early Nov 2022 General Info Session & (Student-Led) Tour of Cal Poly SLO.

(We held off on the Department specific tours as S24 did not know what his major/career interest is. We hope to sign up for Department specific tour in the Fall 2023 before he applies!)

I was impressed that tour confirmation email included a Pre-Campus Video playlist with tours of inside the dorms, rec center, etc. as the Student-Led tour was all outside.

Cal Poly SLO students seemed genuinely happy. The tour guide said the best thing about Cal Poly SLO is the people. As a friend of the tour guide walked by, the tour guide asked, “What is the best thing about Cal Poly SLO?” The friend answered, “The people!”

Both S24 and S27 were impressed and said that Cal Poly SLO’s info session and on campus tour were the “best” of the 5 tours (others included 3 UCs and Occidental College during Thanksgiving break). (The 3 UC visits were during the T.A. strike so it brought the distinction that Cal Poly SLO undergrad classes are taught by professors whereas the UC undergrad classes rely heavily on T.A.s front and center.)


If your student has already been offered admission, I would highly recommend joining the Cal Poly SLO Mustang Parents facebook group. Tons of great advice on all topics related to Cal Poly!


Update: My S24 remains undecided so we have scheduled 2-3 College Specific tours at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO) to complement the general campus tour.

The College-specific in person tours are available now. (College-specific virtual tours also available.)

I only looked at Oct/Nov schedules and it appears that College of Engineering (Mondays 2pm-4pm or Fridays 9am-11am), College of Business (Mondays 10:10am-11am or Fridays 1:10pm-2pm) and College of Science & Math (Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:10am-11am).