Enhance your Central Coast road trip by seeking out murals along the way – they reveal each community’s identity, history, and beauty.
Head west on Highway 118 and you’ll discover nine murals in downtown Santa Paula. Ann Thiermann – the artist of Our First Inhabitants: The Chumash Indians – hiked to the historic site of the Chumash Indian village of Sisa to get a sense of the landscape. In the mural, a Chumash grandmother tells her granddaughter the story of her people, going back thousands of years. Get the feeling as though you’ve stepped back into a simpler time when you see Main Street, Santa Paula, circa 1910.
Proceed north on U.S. 101 to Santa Barbara. Murals and street art abound in the Funk Zone – a 12-square-block mixed-use area near the waterfront, home to artists’ studios and galleries, wine-tasting rooms, eateries and more. The Santa Barbara Courthouse in Santa Barbara is a graceful 1929 example of Spanish-Moorish architecture. Inside, find hand painted murals on all four walls of the “Mural Room”, depicting Santa Barbara’s early history.
Continue north on U.S. 101 to Lompoc, known for its colorful flowers, but also for its equally colorful murals. They’re everywhere. The 40 murals on street corners, in alleyways, and on sides of prominent buildings have turned Old Town Lompoc into an outdoor art gallery. Take a self-guided tour of the murals and enjoy lunch, wine tasting, and antiquing along the way. Mural Maps are available at Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau.
Further north, and nine miles west of Santa Maria is Guadalupe’s Small Town Big Heart mural. Once the site of Far Western Tavern – an iconic Santa Maria Style barbecue restaurant – it now wears this mural, and is a popular photo spot for visitors.
In San Luis Obispo, there are quite a few murals to see, such as Movimiento Mundial at the public library, multiple murals within the two-story Kreuzberg coffee shop, and SLO Irresistible at Creamery Marketplace.
Just a short drive to the picturesque town of Morro Bay and 23 artistic murals that celebrate this maritime destination. Take a self-guided tour throughout the bustling downtown and waterfront areas. The murals depict life at the coast, sailboats and fishing boats, local wildlife, historic scenes and many other treasures. Download a walking map of the 23 mural sites.
And in San Simeon, enhance your art appreciation during the Cambria Art & Wine Festival in January. The weekend includes an art fair, gallery functions, the can’t-miss “Art of San Simeon Tour”, and of course tastings of the region’s world-renown wines.
If you continue north on U.S. 101 from San Luis Obispo, be sure to stop in Atascadero and see La Plaza Women’s Equality – referencing Atascadero’s history, which was founded as “The Women’s Republic”, a utopian community that championed women’s rights. And the beautiful Floating Umbrella Canopy hangs outside of LaDonna’s restauarant.
The story of rustic Paso Robles is told through Enjoy Paso, an eye-catching mural featuring classic local scenery, all surrounding a bold, fluid rendering of the word, “PASO”.
Continuing north on Hwy 1 will bring you into Monterey. 663 tiles of Monterey’s iconic mural at the corner of Del Monte Ave. and Pacific St. have been returned to their original location at the Monterey Conference Center. The 11 by 45-foot mural depicts 150 colorful scenes from Monterey’s history. The tiles were meticulously removed and restored while the Conference Center underwent a renovation.
Abbott Square in downtown Santa Cruz is a community gathering spot. Abbott Square Mural reflects a patchwork quilt blanket of cheery pinks, blues, and greens and represents the unique elements of the community’s culture, stitched together with the metaphorical thread that ties all of us together. The magical streets of Capitola Village are full of murals. Peek down the alley by Zelda’s and find a series of small murals. Or tiles lining the esplanade along the beach. And a mermaid, several stories high on Cliff Drive. For something truly special, be sure to see Bay in a Bottle – a 90-foot long “trompe l’oeil”-style mural depicting the ocean contained in a long clear tube, monitored by a scientist.
Known for garlic, downtown Gilroy’s iconic Garlic Capital of the World mural is a favorite spot for visitors. The charming downtown area also includes the Gilroy Historic Paseo, lined with murals bringing the city’s past to life, and a new Wineries of Santa Clara Valley mural that spotlights local wineries in the heart of California’s oldest wine-growing region.
California’s Central Coast consists of:
VENTURA REGION: Ventura County, Camarillo, Conejo Valley, Heritage Valley, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Simi Valley
SANTA BARBARA REGION: Santa Barbara County, Buellton, Carpinteria Valley, Lompoc Valley, Los Olivos, Santa Maria Valley, Solvang, Santa Ynez Valley
SAN LUIS OBISPO REGION: San Luis Obispo County, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Cambria, Cayucos, Grover Beach, Harmony, Morro Bay, Nipomo, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, San Simeon
MONTEREY BAY REGION: Monterey County, Santa Cruz County, Carmel, Gilroy, Hollister, San Benito
About Central Coast Tourism Council
The Central Coast Tourism Council (CCTC) is a non-profit organization comprised of Destination Management Organizations (DMOs; Convention & Visitor Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, etc.) throughout the California Central Coast. Comprised of tourism and hospitality professionals, the mission of CCTC is to jointly promote the entire California Central Coast as a destination. The four regions that comprise California’s Central Coast include Monterey Bay, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. The CCTC also serves as the Central Coast’s voice in Sacramento, and as a partner with Visit California’s global marketing and advertising campaigns.